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Stanford Study of Writing

Stanford Study of Writing

Written by Henry Cohn-Geltner
May 21, 2010

“Students consistently told us that ‘really good’ or ‘the best’ writing is writing that is performative, that makes something happen in the world”

The Stanford Study of Writing tracked the development of writing practices of Stanford students during their undergraduate and early post-graduate years in a longitudinal study that took place over the course of a five-year period.

The researchers were looking to address new issues in communication and student writing, based on the influence of new technology in their lives in and out of the classroom.  The researchers were hoping to deliver a number of different outcomes:

  • Provide an overview of student writing at Stanford
  • Trace progression of students’ writing from university to professional careers
  • Improve the course offerings in writing at the university
  • Contribute to existing scholarship in the area of development of undergraduate writing

Throughout the five-year period, students submitted writing that they completed for all of their classes, and as much of their out-of-class and extracurricular writing as they wanted to submit.  The samples, which span a wide range of forms, from e-mail (print), multimedia presentations (video and audio), and lab reports (static images), surveys, interviews, and student reflections, demonstrated that extracurricular writing became and remained extremely important to the participants.  Not only did they value the process of writing, but came to understand that writing could be a way to organize a large amount of information, as well as create new knowledge.

Some of the students served with the researchers as panelists at conferences, lectures, and as authors.  Throughout this process they authored a CD documenting their experiences.

The principal investigator, Andrea Lunsford, discusses the role of digital literacy in the lives of students at Stanford and the impact it has on their writing. 

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