New Directions in Writing Theory
|•||Research on the role of working memory in Writing|
|•||Studies of the efficacy of freewriting|
|•||Proposals to use activity theory as a framework for understanding the context of Writing|
There is no underlying theme that unifies these three lines of research except for their potential for expanding our understanding of Writing. Working memory is essential for the functioning of the cognitive processes involved in Writing. Studies of freewriting may tell us how to use Writing to improve thinking. Activity theory may help to make sense of the complex social and environmental factors that influence Writing. These topics are being pursued by different research communities in different parts of the world. Research on working memory in Writing is being carried out by psychologists in the United States, the United Kingdom, and France. Studies of freewriting, which started in English departments in the United States, are currently being carried out psychologists in the United Kingdom. Proposals for applying activity theory to Writing are being most actively discussed in English departments in North America. What I present is a snapshot of these three lines of research, with some suggestions about where they may be heading.
Anyone who has composed a brilliant sentence and then forgotten the end of it before it could be committed to paper has experienced one of the problems that limited memory creates for writers. In this section, I discuss research on the multiple roles that working memory can play in Writing. Psychologists introduced the concept of working memory to describe the limitations that we experience in performing a variety of tasks that require memory. For example, we are very likely to run out of memory resources when we are asked to remember a list of 10 items or to multiply two three-digit numbers without the aid of pencil and paper.