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Methods in Writing Process Research

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Edited By Dagmar Knorr, Carmen Heine and Jan Engberg

Methods for studying writing processes have significantly developed over the last two decades. The rapid development of software tools which support the collection together with the display and analysis of writing process data and new input from various neighboring disciplines contribute to an increasingly detailed knowledge acquisition about the complex cognitive processes of writing. This volume, which focuses on research methods, mixed methods designs, conceptual considerations of writing process research, interdisciplinary research influences and the application of research methods in educational settings, provides an insight into the current status of the methodological development of writing process research in Europe.
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Between experience and empirical research: Writing process counseling as a natural setting for writing process research

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This article unlocks and refines a particular pedagogical setting for future research into academic writing processes. The presentation is based on my experience in counseling academic and scientific writers (novices to experts) at German universities who struggle with real-life academic writing tasks. The line of reasoning will show: 1. From the pedagogical point of view, there is much more involved in an academic writer’s overload than can be described in terms of current empirical writing process research. 2. From the perspective of empirical research, the pedagogical setting of writing process counseling provides data that promise new insights into the complex interplay of social and individual aspects of writing processes. 3. From a theoretical point of view, describing mental activity during writing processes as rational activity builds a conceptual bridge between socio-cultural and individual-psychological approaches to research into writing processes.

Researchers, educators and writers in the field of academic and scientific writing2 would agree that there is much more to the academic writing process, as we know it from experience, than has been revealed by empirical research to date (see e. g. Emerson 2011). This gap is not surprising. Academic writing is a complex, ← 59 | 60 → dynamic, long-term and an extremely knowledge transforming3 individual mental activity that is embedded in specific socio-cultural contexts. How can this huge phenomenon be captured coherently with empirical research methods?

In order to find valid insights, empirical research methods have to reduce the complexity of writing processes, which, inevitably, leads to a...

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