At the time (1963 - 1978), looking at writing as a process rather than product seemed to be a magic bullet. And it did spark a change in emphasis, shifting us away from surface features and towards how things get done. It sparked a flurry of empirical research into how students and expert wrote and theory building on the nature of the process(es) of composing. But the complex, recursive process became linear in the classroom as it was made into a formula to suit a curriculum and a course pattern. Process was reduced to recipe. Observations on how people composed became curricular prescriptions. Doomed from the start.

The Givens in Our Conversation


Recall from last week: rhetoric had been reduced to style
Process study and research tries to revitaize invention by bringing a consideration of how into comp theory - and the focus is on description rather than prescription: how do people compose rather than how ought they compose?

Splits out into how do experts v students compose? which opens to theorizing.

The movement in the field is from the literary reflection towards the empirical and case study.

Murray, "Teach Writing as Process, Not Product"

Amazingly high level of generalization of process. more cheerleading and encouraging teachers to step out than anything else

For instance, what is Murray grounding his ideas in?
doesn't cite anyone - assume he's working off his own considered work but he's not writing with that limitation
where does he get those numbers?
on what does he base his assertions about exploring for truth?

The article now looks pretty naive. Murry's article is a picture of what becomes the Romantic-Expressivist position in comp theory.

Gradin, S L. Romancing Rhetorics: Social Expressivist Perspectives on the Teaching of Writing. N.p.: Boynton/Cook, 1995.

Berkenkotter, Carol. "Decisions and Revisions: The Planning Strategies of a Publishing Writer." CCC 34 (1983): 156-168. Study of Don Murray writing using protocol analysis.


Gradin, S L. Romancing Rhetorics: Social Expressivist Perspectives on the Teaching of Writing. N.p.: Boynton/Cook, 1995.

Berkenkotter, Carol. "Decisions and Revisions: The Planning Strategies of a Publishing Writer." CCC 34 (1983): 156-168. Study of Don Murray writing using protocol analysis.

Emig, "Writing as a Mode of Learning"

With Murray, it was about the discovery of voice, self, truth: expressivist. That's what teaching is for. With Emig, it's about learning in general - about English, or placing the role of writing in teaching subjects.

As she writes in her conclusion, her research and work is a first effort to make a case for writing as a mode - means, or manner - of learning.

Draws on psych, phil, neuro- and chemical psychlogy. Vygotsky, Moffett - another scholar of writing - and the essay is heavily end noted. Emig points to a new kind of study in writing.

What she gives us are a list of features where writing and learning intersect, and a chart of her argument. Stated this way, others can build on her first pass, and teachers can test and refine assertions in classrooms. Some of her ideas become givens - mostly in the chart.

But, Emig's approach is arhetorical. That is, it's not grounded in choices we make while writing, doesn't consider the nature of that web of connections. It tries for a universal again - even recoils at language and knowledge are personal constructs.


Emig, Janet. The Web of Meaning: Essays on Writing, Teaching, Learning, and Thinking. Upper Montclair: Boynton; Cook, 1983. Print.

Emig, Janet. The Composing Processes of Twelfth Graders. Urbana: Ncte, 1971. Print. NCTE Research Report No. 13 .

Moffett, James. Teaching the Universe of Discourse. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1968. Print.

Perl, "Composing Processes of Unskilled College Writers"

1979 from research in 1975-6
Bringing scientific method to the ideas of process.

Enter the empirical. This is a research study, not a work of literature or late night reflection. It starts to up the ante on how arguments and knowledge will be made in the field. It demonstrates that this kind of research can be done, that composing is not a mystery but it is an observable behavior, and that observing it can tell us something about how people go about writing.

Significant is that the inexperienced writer is shown to be not lazy or inattentive but unpracticed. Problem is that the premise of illiteracy still lingers.

Perl states the importance of her work on the last section. She's very aware that she's creating knowledge.

She states the need for finer ways of capturing the processes so we can spot patterns, the need to look at non-average writers; and a need for a replicable and significant method for rendering process - a rendering that brings out useful patterns, patterns we can build on further. She's one of the first to bring social scientific method to researching how people compose. That empirical method is considered more valid than anecdotal observation, intuition, prescriptions (use an outline to organize) outside the small enclave of literature studies. She uses the conventional headings and method of research study rhetorically to gain validation. Uses speak-aloud protocols. Her study leads her to be able to construct a couple of hypotheses about process, p 34. These hypotheses can now be tested and refined.

Her results and method become part of our givens.

This is also what phd candidates do. This is her diss study.

She spends a section on miscue analysis and demonstrating how errors occur and can persist. That error is not really oversight or laziness. We see the same reading in in other studies. She takes the time to detail some of the kinds of problems that arise.

Last section, she points up some implications for us.

We now have to contend with what she finds in our consideration of writing and writers and in our generalizations about writing for pedagogy.


Later, Perl will apply what she finds to the classroom -
Perl, Sondra. "Understanding Composing." The Writing Teacher's Sourcebook. Ed. Gary Tate and Edward P J Corbett. 2nd ed. New York: OUP, 1988. 113-118. Print.

Shaughnessy, Mina. Errors and Expectations: A Guide for the Teacher of Basic Writing. New York: Oup, 1977. Print.

Sommers, "Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers"

Sommers looks at smaller aspect of process than Perl. Again, we see a case of how knowledge is built in a discipline. Opening move is to read, see a gap, then work in the gap. Revision.

Sommers has more of an agenda than Perl. She wants to correct the direction practice has taken. Does some theorizing up front, and then uses empirical research to support theory and develop it further.

She's working against the reduction of process to linear and staged, which how it had been taught, and how it is modeled in Rohman and in Britton. The lingering myth in the process is that writers go forward, never back. That would be nonlinear - non-rational - and developmentally backwards. She's working against the idea that good writers are efficient and get the right ideas in the right words on the first pass.

She's also building on lingering ideas in Emig - that writing is a mode of learning. The need at this point is how to explain that.

Sommers presents far less evidence to substantiate her claims characterizing writers and how they think and act. Less detail here, so we have to trust what she found in these 9 x n papers. But the genre of the research study generally guarantees her evidence is good, and her study is repeatable.

As Perl illustrates an empirical research approach, Sommers uses case study, drawn from ethnography. Case study interview gives us data that suggests how participants understand phenomena, that we can triangulate with other observational data in order to develop an ontology. So, like Perl, Sommers brings new kinds of information and methods to the table.

Case study lets Sommers move towards theorizing readily, as she does pp 46-7, and 49-50. That beneath the method of revising is a model of language and the student: meaning is communicating what is already present. That revision is driven by "inspiration" rather than rhetorical or semantic need. That these observations suggest that the students have been taught a linear model of thesis first.

As with Perl, Sommers's work begins to make more complex the view of the student writer not so much as inefficient or untutored as too efficient in a insufficient model. Their lack is a lack of teaching.

More on theorizing: Sommers attaches her consideration of evidence - her interp of the significance of the evidence - to Barthes's literary conception of written language, and Saussure. This goes a step further than Perl does, and into an area that others in problem-solving cognition area don't go into at all. For Flower and Hayes el al, the material language is inert.

Contrast inexperienced v experienced to get to the idea that
Student v Experienced
This is Sommers's classification of the subjects. It is an appropriate distinction as the categories are mutually exclusive and developmentally progressive. That is, once a student moves into the expert realm, she no longer writes as a student.

Look at and discuss her implications about teachers, teaching, the nature of writing and language and the position of correctness that we implicitly teach. Compare the two final paragraphs of each section: students and experts.

Approachs to discussion

One way to see the differences between these works is to imagine the writing classroom based on the ideas of each.

General discussion

How do any or some or these change your sense of composing? how does that sense stay the same?
On what do you ground your sense of process? hearsay? direct report? protocols?
How do you know the earth isn't flat?

On teaching

Given this knowledge about process, how do we teach composing? do we aim influence the process somehow? If we do, how?

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