AcaWriter: A learning analytics tool for formative feedback on academic writing


  • Simon Knight
  • Antonette Shibani
  • Sophie Abel
  • Andrew Gibson
  • Philippa Ryan
  • Nicole Sutton
  • Raechel Wight
  • Cherie Lucas
  • Ágnes Sándor
  • Kirsty Kitto
  • Ming Liu
  • Radhika Vijay Mogarkar
  • Simon Buckingham Shum



feedback, genre theory, learning analytics, rhetorical moves, writing, writing analytics


Written communication is an important skill across academia, the workplace, and civic participation. Effective writing incorporates instantiations of particular text structures - rhetorical moves - that communicate intent to the reader. These rhetorical moves are important across a range of academic styles of writing, including essays and research abstracts, as well as in forms of writing in which one reflects on learning gained through experience. However, learning how to effectively instantiate and use these rhetorical moves is a challenge. Moreover, educators often struggle to provide feedback supporting this learning, particularly at scale. Where effective support is provided, the techniques can be hard to share beyond single implementation sites. We address these challenges through the open-source AcaWriter tool, which provides feedback on rhetorical moves, with a design that allows feedback customization for specific contexts. We introduce three example implementations in which we have customized the tool and evaluated it with regard to user perceptions, and its impact on student writing. We discuss the tool's general theoretical background and provide a detailed technical account. We conclude with four recommendations that emphasize the potential of collaborative approaches in building, sharing and evaluating writing tools in research and practice.



How to Cite

Knight, S., Shibani, A., Abel, S., Gibson, A., Ryan, P., Sutton, N., Wight, R., Lucas, C., Sándor, Ágnes, Kitto, K., Liu, M., Vijay Mogarkar, R., & Buckingham Shum, S. (2020). AcaWriter: A learning analytics tool for formative feedback on academic writing. Journal of Writing Research, 12(1), 141–186.