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Researching the Writing Center

Towards an Evidence-Based Practice

Rebecca Day Babcock and Terese Thonus

Researching the Writing Center is the first book-length treatment of the research base for academic writing tutoring. The book reviews the current state of writing center scholarship, arguing that although they continue to value anecdotal and experiential evidence, practitioner-researchers must also appreciate empirical evidence as mediating theory and practice. Readers of this book will discover an evidence-based orientation to research and be able to evaluate the current scholarship on recommended writing center practice. Chapters examine the research base for current theory and practice involving the contexts of tutoring, tutoring activities, and the tutoring of «different» populations. Readers will investigate the sample research question, «What is a ‘successful’ writing consultation?» The book concludes with an agenda for future questions about writing center practice that can be researched empirically. Researching the Writing Center is intended for writing center professionals, researchers, graduate students in English, composition studies, and education, and peer tutors in training.


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1. Theory, Practice, and What’s In Between: Writing Center Scholarship 1 Overview of the Book and Chapter 1 1 Assessment and Research and Assessment Again 4 Who Are Writing Center Scholars? 6 A Brief Overview of Writing Center Scholarship 8 A Call for Empirical Research 21 2. Research Basics in Evidence-Based Practice 23 Evidence-Based Practice Across the Disciplines 23 Approaches and Methods 31 Research Ethics 33 Research Approaches and Data-Gathering Techniques 35 Analytical Methods: Quantitative and Qualitative 42 Conclusion 56 3. The Contexts of Tutoring 58 Surveys of Writing Centers 60 Writing Center Location and Space Design 63 Institutional Positioning 66 Writing Center Administration 67 B&T Final_B&T fin 6/19/12 3:21 PM Page vii Writing Center Collaborations 69 Tutors: Background, Training, and Effectiveness 71 Service Mode 77 Expectations 80 Certification/Accreditation of Centers 82 Recommendations for Practice 85 4. Tutoring “Different” Populations 86 Basic Writers 87 Writers with Disabilities 92 Second-Language Writers 96 Graduate Students 106 Recommendations for Practice 109 Conclusion 109 5. Tutoring Activities 111 Speaking 111 Listening 115 Reading 116 Writing 117 Revision Talk and Meta-Discourse 118 Recommendations for Practice 120 6. The Details? They Matter 121 Session Focus and Format 121 Interpersonal Interactions 124 Negotiation 127 Politeness and Directiveness 130 Paralinguistic Features 135 Recommendations for Practice 142 7. A Sample Research Question: What is a “Successful” Writing Tutorial? 143 Success in Academic Tutoring 145 Definitions of Success in Writing Center Work 151 Conclusion 168 8. An Agenda for Writing Center Research 170 Research Basics in...

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