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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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8. An Agenda for Writing Center Research


c h a p t e r e i g h t An Agenda for Writing Center Research Defined originally as service rather than research units, writing cen- ters and the professionals who work in them have struggled over the years to find ways to incorporate research systematically into already daunting instructional and administrative loads and sometimes fis- cally uncertain futures. (Kail, 2002, p. 315) We conclude this volume by discussing research questions about writing center practice that have yet to be investigated, selected from each chapter of the book. We propose approaches, methods, and data analysis possibilities for each of these questions. We discuss how continuing to develop a coherent empirical research agenda will prepare writing center researchers to sit at the academic “head table” (Harris, 2000) and to engage in evidence-based practice in the writing center. Research Basics in Evidence-Based Practice Research questions arising from our discussion of approaches and methods in RAD research are not so much empirical as they are visionary. Following Drake (2009), we asked them in Chapter 2 but in the opposite order: B&T Final_B&T fin 6/19/12 3:21 PM Page 170 AN AGENDA FOR WRITING CENTER RESEARCH | 171 1. Who gets to decide what counts as evidence? The “who,” we believe, will increasingly be fellow writing center re- searchers, conference organizers, and publication editors. No longer will professionals in this field remain satisfied with “comparing notes” about “our writing centers” at conferences; instead, we will want to hear...

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