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Degree Programs

University Writing Program

Research and Other Initiatives

In addition to conducting annual assessments of WRIT courses, by scoring and analyzing a random sample of some 120 student portfolios, the Writing Program conducts basic and applied research in writing. Following are brief descriptions of selected projects.

Longitudinal Study of Writing

A four-year longitudinal study of 10% of the class of 2010 began in spring 2007, when we began collecting data from a group of first year students at the University of Denver whose writing, writing experiences, and writing attitudes we would follow and interpret until graduation. Our goals were fairly open-ended: describe the amounts and kinds of writing and writing experiences of DU undergrads and interpret the effects and implications of what we learned. From all the students enrolled in WRIT 1133, the spring-quarter required writing course, we randomly selected 130 students whom we invited to participate in the study.

Fall leaves by JMac

In exchange for a $75 honorarium paid each quarter (increased to $95 in years 3 and 4), participants agreed to complete a quarterly questionnaire, upload writings, and be interviewed annually. About 75 students provided data for 7 or more quarters. In the end, 59 students completed all phases of the study before graduation. We have presented findings from the study at the Writing Research Across Borders Conference and the Conference on College Composition and Communication.


Electronic Portfolio Research

From 2008 to 2011, a team of writing program faculty participated in Cohort V of the Inter/National Coalition for Electronic Portfolio Research. Team members learned more about the use of ePortfolios in composition and conducted several research projects to answer questions about how we can use our WRIT portfolios to foster student learning and professional development. We shared our findings with the faculty and with our coalition peers at regular cohort meetings. Our final report to the coalition, along with a number of documents and presentations related to the initiative, is available under the Electronic Portfolio Research tab on the Writing Program Portfolio site.

Error Analysis

In the fall of 2007, we analyzed errors in a random sample of 215 papers from a corpus of 700 papers written by first-year students at the University of Denver, using a taxonomy mainly based on work by Andrea Lunsford and Robert Connors. Papers came from a wide range of courses across the disciplines at DU; none came from writing or composition courses. These 215 papers contained 330,803 words, in 17,606 sentences, an average of 18.79 words per sentence, an average paper length of 1538.6 words. Ten trained raters, all lecturers in the DU writing program, analyzed and reported errors. One finding is that students made an average of 1.5 errors per 100 words. This counters conventional lore that student writing is rife with error.

Writing in the Majors Project

In the fall of 2007, the University Writing Program undertook the Writing in the Majors Project (WIMP) to gain a clearer understanding of writing practices and expectations across campus. Generally speaking, this project sought, in conjunction with faculty from various departments, to provide descriptions of (rather than to give suggestions regarding) writing by students within particular majors. Toward this end, syllabi were gathered, sample student writing was reviewed, faculty and student surveys were administered, and faculty and students were interviewed. Undergraduate students from each major were also selected to gather research. They were provided a small stipend in order to become a member of each research team, and they contributed to the data by interviewing classmates in their major.

Out of the projects emerged a series of reports between 15-30 pages, a copy of which was delivered to the respective departments, and a copy of which is housed in the Writing Program. Departments who agreed to collaborate in these projects included History, Economics, Philosophy, Music, Communications, Chemistry, Religious Studies, and Political Science.

Multimodal Writing Initiative

In the summer of 2009, Doug Hesse, Jennifer Campbell, David Daniels, Alba Newmann Holmes, and Jennifer Novak, funded by a CTL grant, formed a committee to research the state of multimodality in the field and explore options for integrating multimodal components in WRIT classes. The committee's research and suggestions were presented in a report that can be found on the Writing Program Portfolio site along with additional documents related to the initiative. Pilot multimodal sections of 1122 were offered in winter 2010. We conducted a pre- and post-survey to assess the pilot, and the survey results and analysis are also available on Portfolio. The committee determined that the program should continue to foster multimodal instruction and activities, but should not institute a program-wide multimodal requirement at this time. As an outgrowth of these efforts, Jennifer Campbell created the Multimodal Writing Resources wiki to host articles, technical resources, and assignment ideas for using multiple modes and media in WRIT courses.