A critical review of the logics of inquiry in studies of early writing development


  • Sinéad J. Harmey
  • Ian A. G. Wilkinson




early writing, logics of inquiry, research methodologies, review, writing


Comprehensive descriptions of early writing development are needed to adequately inform instruction and intervention and yet knowledge about how early writing develops is fragmented. This paper provides a critical review of longitudinal studies of early writing development with specific attention to the logics of inquiry used. Twenty-seven studies of children up to age 10, spanning 34 years from 5 countries, are included. Researchers’ theoretical framing, research questions, definitions of writing, study designs, time span, analytic procedures, measurement or classification of writing, key findings, and attention to context or instruction are examined. Findings show that definitions of writing vary considerably or, in some instances, are nonexistent. These definitions have implications for the research designs and measures used, and how data were classified. Many studies describe developmental trends in a global way but few describe how the development occurs or goes awry. Few studies examine cognition in conjunction with context. Similarly, few studies present strong theoretical orientations toward writing with coherent connections between problem formulation and design, measures, or classifications used. Recommendations for future research are provided.



How to Cite

Harmey, S. J., & Wilkinson, I. A. G. (2019). A critical review of the logics of inquiry in studies of early writing development. Journal of Writing Research, 11(1), 41–78. https://doi.org/10.17239/jowr-2019.11.01.02