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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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7. A Sample Research Question: What is a “Successful” Writing Tutorial?


c h a p t e r s e v e n A Sample Research Question: What Is a Successful Tutorial? “We can help you to be a better writer.” This writing center slogan displayed on posters across a college campus implies a theory of de- velopment that writers can indeed become “better” and provides an assurance that the writing center is an environment that promotes such development (Carroll, 2002, p. xi). Just what is a “successful” writing center tutorial? For many of us, the answer is, “We know it when we see it.” Our knowledge is tacit. But we must have some idea since the multitude of tutoring manuals, workshop, and conference presentations exist for some purpose—and it is certainly not to fail at supporting writers, but rather to suc- ceed. But succeed at what? Here are some conceivable (positive) outcomes: • Satisfying the tutor, the writer, or both • Satisfying the course instructor • Engaging in meaningful interaction about writing with a peer • Creating better writing • Creating a better writer • Helping the writer revise his/her project for the better • Identifying writing skills that are transferable to future projects • Helping the writer get a better grade on his/her project B&T Final_B&T fin 6/19/12 3:21 PM Page 143 • Creating incentives for a repeat visit by the writer • Creating incentives for instructors to refer more students to the writing center And certainly there are more. A second important question: How many of these outcomes can be investigated empirically? And...

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