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Special issues

The Journal of Writing Research welcomes proposals for special issues within the scope of the journal. Please, download the 'procedure for special issues’ for more details.


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How to report instructional interventions in writing research?
Guest editors: Fien De Smedt (Ghent University | Belgium) & Renske Bouwer (University of Antwerp | Belgium)

To improve students’ writing skills, instructional programs should consider both the focus of instruction (i.e., what is taught) and the mode of instruction (i.e., how it is taught). In research on effective writing instruction, numerous meta-analyses have already identified several effective writing interventions (e.g., Graham & Perin, 2007; Koster, Tribushinina, de Jong, & van den Bergh, 2015). However, these interventions are often described rather broadly and therefore it is difficult to gain insight into the crucial ingredients determining the effectiveness of an intervention (Graham & Harris, 2014; Rijlaarsdam, Janssen, Rietdijk, & Van Weijen, 2016).

Getting grip on the content of evidence-based writing programs is important in two ways. First, in light of replication, instructional writing researchers need to know how to operationalize the focus and mode of instruction. Second, in light of dissemination and implementation in educational writing practice, evidence based writing practices should be clearly translated into teaching and learning activities.

To move the field of research on writing instruction forward, it is of high importance that writing interventions are reported in a more systematic way, by establishing a set of principles to report interventions in writing research. For instance, Rijlaarsdam et al. (2016) designed a reporting system in which researchers are asked to identify and specify:
(a) design principles,
(b) learning activities, and
(c) instructional activities underlying the learning activities.

In this way, the transparency of the independent variable in writing intervention studies is improved, which facilitates the communication, comparison, and replication of writing interventions.

The aim of this special issue is to establish a blueprint on how to report writing intervention studies in research papers. We invite a broad range of intervention studies aimed at learning to write to provide an analytic description of how didactical principles are operationalized into an instructional writing program. We are specifically interested in intervention studies from different countries, including different didactical practices (e.g., strategy instruction, peer interaction, genre instruction, observational learning), different types of students (e.g., struggling writers, regular writers, L1/L2 learners), and different contexts (e.g., primary or secondary grades, academic writing, professional writing).


Towards a blueprint for successful collaborative writing in educational and professional settings
Guest editor: Elke Van Steendam, Faculty of Applied Linguistics, KULeuven, Campus Brussels

Peer collaboration in writing has been shown to be effective for Learning to Write and Writing to Learn (Graham, McKeown, Kiuhara, & Harris, 2012; MacArthur, Schwartz, & Graham, 1991; Onrubia & Engel, 2009; Storch, 2005; Yarrow &Topping, 2001). That is why collaborative writing is often implemented in educational contexts. However, not only in educational contexts but also in professional contexts (academia, policy making, administration, journalism) collaborative writing has become common practice. Very frequently, written documents are the end-product of a collaborative process involving multiple actors, writers and readers ( e.g. research articles; group proposals, public policy documents; journalistic texts (Perrin, 2011; Lowry, Albrecht, Nunanmaker, & Lee, 2003; Sleurs, Jacobs, & Van Waes, 2003).

However, for peer collaboration to have a positive effect on either writing or learning outcomes, a few conditions need to be met. One of the crucial factors determining the effectiveness of peer collaboration in revision in an educational context for example is instruction and/or support (Min, 2005; Van Steendam, Rijlaarsdam, Sercu, & Van den Bergh, 2010). Another important component for peer collaboration in writing may be group composition (Patchan, Hawk, Stevens, & Schunn, 2012; Van Steendam, Rijlaarsdam, & Van den Bergh in press).

It is the complex interplay of individual, collaborative and contextual factors in collaborative writing and revision that we want to look at in this special issue. More specifically, the special issue aims at providing an overview of the most recent findings about collaborative writing and revision. Collaboration is conceptualized as either pupils or students, from primary school children to higher education students, or adult professionals writing (planning, composing, revising) collaboratively, either in a face-to-face context or online (via e-learning). We welcome both quantitative and qualitative studies that investigate peer collaboration in the context of writing (planning, drafting, revising) in three domains: Learning to Write in L1 and L2, Writing to Learn and Workplace Writing (technical and professional communication). Studies on Learning to Write and Workplace Writing should include the effect of peer collaboration on the writing product and/or writing process and writing-to-learn studies should (also) test the effect on learning processes and/or outcomes (domain knowledge). Additionally, also studies which shed light on methodological issues are invited. Ideally, the different contributions will result in a blueprint for effective and efficient collaborative writing.

We are especially interested in studies investigating one or more of the following:

  1. effective instructional strategies and/or scripting in collaborative writing;
  2. (effective) interaction (interactional patterns) in collaborative writing;
  3. effects of group composition in collaborative writing ;
  4. effects of individual characteristics in collaborative writing;
  5. effects of task (e.g. task complexity) on collaboration processes and quality of processes and the resulting writing product;
  6. any combination of one or more of the previous factors.

For more information download the pdf or contact the guest editor: Elke Van Steendam, KULeuven - Belgium. >

Intervention studies in writing-to-learn: Effects on comprehension, domain-specific learning outcomes and meaning making processes
Writing-to-learn refers to the act of writing as learning activity aimed at increasing students’ learning in content areas. The premise of writing-to-learn is that writing is not a communicative tool only, but also an epistemological tool for acquiring knowledge, developing understanding, and improving thinking skills. This ‘learning through writing’ can be applied in all subject areas – ranging from science to literature – and at various educational levels. This special issue presents contemporary research about writing as a learning activity and aims at providing an overview of effective use of writing to enhance learning. It also focuses on the implications for educational practice: how can the results of the intervention studies be applied in classrooms?

The papers in this special issue address three themes:

  1. Intervention studies that examine the effects of writing on different forms of comprehension in various subject areas (e.g., biology, philology).
  2. Intervention studies in several subject areas that examine the effects of writing on different learning outcomes (e.g., historical reasoning, science learning).
  3. Studies on meaning making processes that address constructing patterns of meaning while writing and give for instance insight how the meaning making process is influenced by the language of writing and by type of planning procedure.

For more information you can contact the guest editors: Martine Braaksma or Gert Rijlaarsdam, University of Amsterdam


Special issue: Writing and Translation process research - Bridging the gap
During the past decades, a lot of research on text-production processes has been carried out in the disciplines of writing and translation. Theoretical reflections about both the internal cognitive processes and the external processes of both disciplines have helped understanding how writers and translators work and think from the moment they receive the task till the final text product is reached.
The research which has been carried out in the two fields shows that there is a notion of commonalities between them. Both in the results reached and in the methods applied.
From an ontogenetical perspective, writing and translation share typical features of process organization, such as knowledge acquisition, planning, composition and validation. When taking a close look at the process phases, one finds identical process elements such as the main stages of the processes. From a sociological perspective, both disciplines draw on similar resources and aids and extrinsic motivational cues are similar in both fields.
From a methodological perspective, a number of research methods, such as key-stroke logging, screen capture, eye tracking, verbalization, observation and retrospection, has been applied in both fields in research settings resulting in data sets for both qualitative and quantitative analysis. In spite of these similarities, it still appears that little work has been done at the intersection between the two fields to make these similarities explicit.

In order to close this gap, we invite contributions from the two disciplines that can help enlightening and bridging the overlap and, thus, bridge the gap between them. Contributions can present empirical work and results, conceptual/theoretical analysis or methodological issues.

For more information: Helle Dam-Jensen or Carmen Heine, Aarhus School of Business, Denmark


Special Issue: Redesigning Peer Review Interactions Using Computer Tools
Peer review has long been a component of writing education, although often informally implemented in classrooms with mixed results. More recently, web technologies have enabled more regular use of formal peer review methods in a broad cross-section of classes across many disciplines. This transition enables computers to play new roles in writing, now supporting the peer review process rather than just the writing process. With new computer tools, for example, the following elements can be changed: how reviewers are matched with authors, how reviewers interact with each other, how reviewers interact with authors, how instructors interact with reviews, how instructors interact with other instructors about writing assignments, and how authors provide feedback on the reviews.
Submissions are to be made through the online system for the Journal. Include "Special Issue-Peer Review" at the front of the paper title.

More information about the guest editors:
Christian Schunn | Kevin Ashley - University of Pittsburgh | Ilya Goldin - Carnegie Mellon


Special issue: Gender and Writing
You are invited to submit a 1000-word proposal for reports of empirical studies, conceptual papers, review papers, or meta-analyses that approach the topic of gender and writing from a range of disciplines (e.g., social, cognitive, developmental and educational psychology, psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics and applied linguistics, learning and teaching, information and communication technology, etc.). Examples of possible themes are:

  1. theoretical perspectives in gender in writing research
  2. research on gender and writing using a socio-cultural theoretical lens
  3. gender comparisons of writing using cognitive and developmental lenses
  4. research on gender and writing using applied linguistics lenses
  5. gender research with respect to the teaching and assessing of writing
  6. gender research on writing using information and communication technology

For more information, please contact the guest editors of this special issue, Judy Parr (University of Auckland | New Zealand) and Shelley Stagg Peterson (University of Toronto | Canada).


Special issue: Exploring a Corpus-Informed Approach to L1 Writing Research
Publication expected: Summer 2010

Corpus methods are new to the field of L1 writing research and there has been no comprehensive discussion of the work in this area. The aim of this special JoWR issue, therefore, is to bring together teachers and researchers from a myriad of perspectives in an effort to explore the emerging field of corpus-informed L1 writing research.

We invite papers covering a range of related topics, including discussions of the development of large, small, and parallel writing corpora; papers exploring the kinds of questions examined via corpus research (e.g. diction and style, citation practices, usage, stylistic variation and its relationship to author gender, etc.); papers examining corpus methods (e.g. frequency lists, concordancing, examination of sociolinguistic variables, etc.) in the context of L1 writing research; explanations of current and ongoing research; as well as discussions of the critiques surrounding a corpus-informed approach to L1 writing research and the corpus-inclined researcher's response to them. Authors are asked to write papers for a broad audience including readers with little or no corpus study familiarity.

More information: download (pdf)
Guest editor: Stephanie A. Schlitz, Assistant Professor, Bloomsburg, PA

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