Academic journal article International Journal of English Studies

A State-of-the-Art Review of the Real-Time Computer-Aided Study of the Writing Process

Academic journal article International Journal of English Studies

A State-of-the-Art Review of the Real-Time Computer-Aided Study of the Writing Process

Article excerpt


Writing researchers have developed various methods for investigating the writing process since the 1970s. The early 1980s saw the occurrence of the real-time computer-aided study of the writing process that relies on the protocols generated by recording the computer screen activities as writers compose using the word processor. This article reviews literature on that approach to studying the writing process. The article begins with defining the real-time computer-aided study of the writing process, tracing its historical development, and explaining the advantages it offers, then it gives a brief description of the software that has been used in the computer-aided writing process research and discusses the ways of analyzing the logged data, and it ends with overviewing the computer-aided writing process research.1.

KEYWORDS: Writing process, keystroke logging, computer-generated protocols, computer-based writing, writing strategies, computer-based revision, real-time writing, writing research


Writing is a cognitively demanding process in which a lot of strategies are used. The 1970s and 1980s witnessed a shift in teaching writing from emphasis on the product of writing activities to emphasis on the process of developing that written product. The emergence of the process movement in both first language (L1) and second language/foreign language (L2/FL) writing was influenced by some early research on L1 composing, specifically Emig's (1971) seminal study and Flower and Hayes's (1981) cognitive model of writing. These early studies have indicated that writing is best understood as 'a set of hierarchical and recursive thinking processes' guided by the growing network of goals generated or adapted by writers (Flower & Hayes, 1981: 366). The assumptions underlying writing process research are that examining students' written products tells us very little about their instructional needs and that effective teaching of writing needs to be based on knowing how writers compose their texts. By investigating the writing process, researchers try to find out how writers develop their texts and what kind of strategies, i.e. planning, retrieving, reviewing, monitoring and revising, they employ while composing. Writing process research can inform us about the strategies used by good and poor writers and the different thinking patterns involved in composing the text, and about the difficulties students may encounter while composing; thus we can adapt our teaching methods to meet students' writing needs. Pedagogically speaking, assessing the writing process, which is a main component in writing process instruction, is of utmost importance as it can be used for raising their consciousness about good writing strategies and for training students in using them.

Since Emig's (1971) seminal work on the writing processes of her twelfth grader subjects, increasing attention has been given to investigating the way writers compose their texts. The early writing process studies that occurred in an infrequent and rare way in the 1970s paved the way for a growing number of studies on the area since the early 1980s and until the present time. This growing number of studies on students' writing processes has informed researchers (i.e. Bereiter & Scardamalia, 1987; Chenoweth & Hayes, 2001; Flower & Hayes, 1981; Grabe & Kaplan, 1996; Kellogg, 1996) in building their own theories or models of the cognitive process of writing. The massive shift from focusing on the product approach to the process approach in writing research was also accompanied by incorporating new research methods in the writing area. Writing researchers have developed different methods and techniques for collecting and analyzing the writing process data, including the think-aloud method, writers' retrospective accounts stimulated by their texts or the video or audio recording of the writing session, questionnaires, process logs, text analysis, naturalistic observation, video-based observation, and the real-time computer-aided study of the writing process which is an observation-based method. …

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