Working memory in written composition: A progress report


  • Ronald T. Kellogg
  • Alison P. Whiteford
  • Casey E. Turner
  • Michael Cahill
  • Andrew Mertens



sentence generation, working memory, written composition


A model of how working memory, as conceived by Baddeley (1986), supports the planning of ideas, translating ideas into written sentences, and reviewing the ideas and text already produced was proposed by Kellogg (1996). A progress report based on research from the past 17 years shows strong support for the core assumption that planning, translating, and reviewing are all dependent on the central executive. Similarly, the translation of ideas into a sentence does in fact require also verbal working memory, but the claim that editing makes no demands on the phonological loop is tenuous. As predicted by the model, planning also engages the visuo-spatial sketchpad. However, it turns out to do so only in planning with concrete concepts that elicit mental imagery. Abstract concepts do not require visuo-spatial resources, a point not anticipated by the original model. Moreover, it is unclear the extent to which planning involves spatial as opposed to visual working memory. Contrary to Baddeley’s original model, these are now known to be independent stores of working memory; the specific role of the spatial store in writing is uncertain based on the existing literature. The implications of this body of research for the instruction of writing are considered in the final section of the paper.



How to Cite

Kellogg, R. T., Whiteford, A. P., Turner, C. E., Cahill, M., & Mertens, A. (2013). Working memory in written composition: A progress report. Journal of Writing Research, 5(2), 159–190.