Research on Writing Centers–Some Essential Studies

Lisa_professional_portrait_2011,_Nancy_FroehlichLisa Ede directed Oregon State University’s Writing Center from 1980 to 2010.  She retired from OSU at the end of fall term 2013. You can read a graduate student’s history of OSU’s Writing Center here.  Lisa also was a co-director of the 2007 and 2008 IWCA Summer Institutes and a leader at the 2006 Institute and has published several articles on writing centers.  
The post below is an excerpt from a talk that Ede gave at the Canadian Writing Centres Association Conference this past spring. Ede’s talk focused on the role that collaboration can play in energizing writing center communities. As part of that discussion, Ede emphasized the strong research tradition that both grows out of and supports the daily work of writing centers. In order to convey a rough sense of this tradition and show its development over time, Ede constructed a chronologically organized list of important book-length contributions to writing center studies. In this excerpt Ede introduces this list, which begins with the earliest monograph that Ede found and continues to the present. Here is Ede’s discussion of the list and the list itself.

I should mention two caveats about this list. I hope to explore the reasons why collaboration is a particularly enabling term and construct for those of us who work in writing centers, wherever they are located—in the US, Canada, or around the world.

I decided to construct a chronologically organized list of important book-length contributions to writing center studies. The list begins in 1984 with the earliest monograph that I found and continues to the present.

I should mention two caveats about this list. The first is that while I think this list includes most important book-length studies that in one way or another focus on writing centers, I cannot claim that it is comprehensive. The second is that because this list does not include articles, book chapters, or other briefer studies, it is only the tip of the iceberg, as it were. To get a full sense of research on writing centers, you would need to turn to the contents of such journals as The Writing Lab Newsletter (founded in 1976 and recently renamed WLN: A Journal of Writing Center Scholarship), The Writing Center Journal (founded in 1980), and Praxis: A Writing Center Journal (founded in 2003). Writing center research is also published in a variety of journals that focus more broadly on work in rhetoric and composition—journals such as College Composition and Communication, College English, WPA: Writing Program Administration, and similar venues.

If you study this list, you’ll notice that in the early years the publications focus on pragmatic issues, like writing center theory and administration or the writing conference. There is also an interest in documenting existing writing center structures and practices, as evidenced by the 1993 collection Writing Centers in Context; Twelve Case Studies. Other early efforts focused on developing book-length guides that could be used to structure and support the training of tutors. The Practical Tutor, the first such guide, appeared in 1987. Other guides followed, including Leigh Ryan’s The Bedford Guide for Writing Tutors, which first appeared in 1994 and has gone through six editions since that time—the last three coauthored with Lisa Zimmarelli. In many writing centers, these guides play a central role in the training and mentoring of tutors.

It’s interesting to note that as early as 1995 there was an effort to consolidate and define the field of writing center studies. Evidence for this is Christina Murphy and Joe Law’s 1995 Landmark Essays on Writing Centers; Christina Murphy, Joe Law, and Steve Sherwood’s 1996 Writing Centers: An Annotated Bibliography; and Bobbie Bayliss Silk’s 1998 The Writing Center Resource Manual. In different but related ways each of these works demonstrates the growing confidence of scholars in writing center studies.

If you have skimmed all four pages of the handout, you’ve probably noticed that edited collections have played a particularly important role in writing center research. I would venture to speculate—and it is speculation—that there are several reasons for this. Writing center faculty are, first of all, busy people. Even if they are in a position where scholarly publication is a part of their job description (and many writing center faculty are not), they’re juggling multiple demands. But more importantly, writing center faculty and staff in my experience are outcome- oriented. The flexibility that edited collections afford allows researchers to address current issues in a timely fashion. Hence the existence of themed collections focused on such topics as online writing conferences and centers, writing centers and writing across the curriculum programs, ESL writers, high school writing centers, writing centers and racism, writing centers and new media, and so forth.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s there were some important developments in writing center research. In 1999 the first single-authored scholarly monograph in writing center studies appeared: Nancy Grimm’s Good Intentions: Writing Center Work for Postmodern Times. I personally find Grimm’s book as relevant today as it was when it was published, for it argues that writing center faculty and staff need to consider what constitutes best practices not just from a pragmatic perspective but from theoretical and ideological perspectives as well. Other books that emphasize theoretical and ideological critique followed, including the The Politics of Writing Centers (published in 2001), Noise from the Writing Center (published in 2002), The Everyday Writing Center: A Community of Practice (published in 2007), and Peripheral Visions for Writing Centers (published in 2013).

In the last five years or so, there has been increasing interest in empirical research—whether quantitative, qualitative, or both—in writing center studies. Two recent books both demonstrate and explore this interest. Jackie Grutsch Mckinney’s 2016 Strategies for Writing Center Research takes readers through the entire research process—from constructing a research proposal to conducting the research, analyzing and interpreting your data, to sharing your research. Jo Mackiewecz and Isabelle Kramer Thompson’s 2014 Talk about Writing: The Tutoring Strategies of Experienced Writing Center Tutors is an example both of empirical research in action and the benefits of this research.

 

1977

Laque, Carol Feiser, and Phyllis A. Sherwood. A Laboratory Approach to Writing. NCTE, 1977.

 

1982

Harris, Muriel, editor.  Tutoring Writing:  A Sourcebook for Writing Labs.  Scott, Foresman, 1982.

Steward, Joyce S., and Mary K. Croft. The Writing Laboratory: Organization, Management, and Methods. Scott, Foresman & Co., 1982.

 

1984

Olson, Gary A., editor.  Writing Centers:  Theory and Administration. NCTE, 1984.

 

1985

Clark, Beverly Lyon.  Talking about Writing:  A Guide for Tutor and Teacher Conferences.  U. of Michigan P, 1985.

Clark, Irene L.  Writing in the Center:  Teaching in a Writing Center Setting.  Kendall/Hunt, 1985.  (2nd ed. 1994.  3rd ed. 1998.  4th ed. 2008.)

 

1986

Harris, Muriel.  Teaching One-to-One:  The Writing Conference.  NCTE, 1986.

 

1987

Meyer, Emily,  and Louise Z. Smith.  The Practical Tutor.  Oxford UP, 1987.

 

1989

Farrell, Pamela B.  One.  The High School Writing Center:  Establishing and Maintaining One.  NCTE, 1989.

 

1993

Flynn, Thomas, and Mary King, editors. Dynamics of the Writing Conference: Social and Cognitive Interaction. NCTE, 1993.

Kinkead, Joyce A., and Jeanette G. Harris, editors.  Writing Centers in Context:  Twelve Case Studies.  NCTE, 1993.

 

1994

Maxwell, Martha, editor. When Tutor Meets Student, 2nd ed. U Michigan Press, 1994.

Mullin, Joan A., and Ray Wallace, editors.  Intersections:  Theory-Practice in the Writing Center. NCTE, 1994.

 

1995

Murphy, Christina, and Joe Law, editors.  Landmark Essays on Writing Centers. Hermagorus, 1995.

Murphy, Christina, and Steve Sherwood, editors.  The St. Martin’s Sourcebook for Writing Tutors.  Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1995. (2nd ed. 2003, 3rd. Ed. 2008, 4th ed. 2011.)

Stay, Byron A., Christina Murphy, and Eric H. Hobson, editors.  Writing Center Perspectives. National Writing Center Association P, 1995.

 

1996

Murphy, Christina, Joe Law, and Steve Sherwood.  Writing Centers:  An Annotated Bibliography.  Greenwood , 1996.

 

1998

Capossela, Toni-Lee.  The Harcourt Brace Guide to Peer Tutoring.  Harcourt Brace, 1998.

Haviland, Carol Peterson, Maria Notarangelo, Lene Whitley-Putz, and Thia Wolf, editors.  Weaving Knowledge Together:  Writing Centers and Collaboration.  National Writing Center Association P, 1998.

Hobson, Eric H., editor.  Wiring the Writing Center.  Utah State UP, 1998.

Silk, Bobbie Bayliss, editor.  The Writing Center Resource Manual.  National Writing Center Association P, 1998.

 

1999

Barnett, Robert W., and Jacob S. Blumner, editors.  Writing Centers and Writing Across the Curriculum Programs:  Building Interdisciplinary Partnerships.    Greenwood, 1999.

Coogan, David.  Electronic Writing Centers:  Computing the Field of Composition.  Ablex, 1999.

Gillespie, Paula and Neal Lerner.  The Allyn and Bacon Guide to Peer Tutoring.  Allyn and Bacon, 1999.  (2nd ed. 2004.  Revised and republished as The Longman Guide to Peer Tutoring in 2008.)

Grimm, Nancy Maloney.  Good Intentions: Writing Center Work for Postmodern Times.  Heinemann-Boynton/Cook, 1999.

Podis, Leonard A., and JoAnne M. Podis, editors.  Working with Student Writers:  Essays on Tutoring and Teaching.  Peter Lang, 1999.

 

2000

Briggs, Lynn Craigue, and Meg Woolbright, editors.  Stories from the Center:  Connecting Narrative and Theory in the Writing Center. NCTE, 2000.

Rafoth, Ben, Editor.  A Tutor’s Guide:  Helping Writers One To One.  Boynton/Cook, 2000.  (2nd ed. 2005)

Inman, James, and Donna M. Sewell, editors.  Taking Flight with OWLS:  Examining Electronic Writing Center Work. Erlbaum, 2000.

 

2001

Barnett, Robert W., and Jacob S. Blumner, editors.  The Allyn and Bacon Guide to Writing Center Theory and Practice.  Allyn and Bacon, 2001.

McAndrew, Donald A., and Thomas J. Reigstad.  Tutoring Writing:  A Practical Guide for Conferences.  Boynton/Cook, 2001.

Nelson, Jane, and Kathy Evertz, editors.  The Politics of Writing Centers. Heinemann-Boynton/Cook, 2001.

 

2002

Bouquet, Elizabeth.  Noise From the Writing Center.  Utah State UP, 2002.

Gillespie, Paula,  Alice Gillam, Lady Falls Brown, and Byron Stay, editors.  Writing Center Research:  Extending the Conversation.  Erlbaum, 2002.

 

2003

Pemberton, Michael A. and Joyce Kinkead,  editors.  The Center Will Hold:  Critical Perspectives on Writing Center Scholarship. Utah State UP, 2003.

 

2004

Bruce, Shanti and Ben Rafoth, editors.  ESL Writers:  A guide for Writing Center Tutors. Boynton/Cook, 2004.

 

2005

Elmborg, James K. and Sheril Hook, eds. Centers for Learning: Writing Centers and Libraries in Collaboration. Association of College and Research Libraries, 2005.

 

Spigelman, Candace, and Laurie Grobman,  editors.  On Location:  Theory and Practice in Classroom-Based Writing Tutoring.  Utah State UP, 2005.

 

2006  

Graves, Roger, and Heather Graves.  Writing Centres, Writing Seminars, Writing Culture:  Writing Instruction in Anglo-Canadian Universities.  Inkshed, 2006.

Murphy, Christina, and Byron L. Stay,  editors.  The Writing Center Director’s Resource Book.  Erlbaum, 2006.

 

2007

Geller, Anne Ellen, Michele Eodice, Frankie Condon, Meg Carroll, and Elizabeth H. Boquet.  The Everyday Writing Center:  A Community of Practice.  Utah State UP, 2007.

Macauley, Jr., William J., and Micholas Mauriello, editors.  Marginal Words, Marginal Work?  Tutoring the Academy in the Work of Writing Centers. Hampton P, 2007.

 

2008

Barnett, Robert W., and Jacob S. Blumner, editors.  The Longman Guide to Writing Center Theory and Practice.  Pearson, 2008.

 

Bruce, Shanti, and Kevin Dvorak, editors.  Creative Approaches to Writing Center Work.  Hampton P, 2008.

Nicolas, Melissa, ed. (E)Merging Identities: Graduate Students in the Writing Center. Fountainhead, 2008.

 

2009

Lerner, Neal.  The Idea of a Writing Laboratory.  Southern Illinois UP, 2009.

Ryan, Leigh, and Lisa Zimerelli.  The Bedford Guide for Writing Tutors.  4th ed., Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009.

 

2010

Denny, Harry C.  Facing the Center:  Toward an Identity Politics of One-To-One Tutoring.  Utah SP, 2010.

Hewitt, Beth L.  The Online Writing Conference:  A Guide for Teachers and Tutors.  Boynton/Cook, 2010.

Sheridan, David M., and James A. Inman, editors.  Multiliteracy Centers:  Writing Center Work, New Media, and Multimodal Rhetoric. Hampton P, 2010.  

 

2011

Archer, Arlene, and Rose Richards, editors.  Changing Spaces:  Writing Centres and Access to Higher Education.  SUNMedia, 2011.

Fels, Dawn, and Jennifer Wells, editors.  The Successful High School Writing Center:  Building the Best Program with Your Students.  Teachers College P, 2011.

Greenfield, Laura, and Karen Rowan, editors.  Writing Centers and the New Racism:  A Call for Sustainable Dialogue and Change.  Utah UP, 2011.

Murphy, Christina, and Steve Sherwood, editors.  The St. Martin’s Sourcebook for Writing Tutors, 4th edition.  Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011.

Mauriello, Nicholas, William J. Macauley, Jr., Robert T. Koch, editors.  Before and After the Tutorial:  Writing Centers and Institutional Relationships.  Hampton P, 2011.

 

2012

Babcock, Rebecca Day.  Tell Me How It Reads:  Tutoring Deaf and Hearing Students in the Writing Center.  Gallaudet UP, 2012.

Babcock, Rebecca Day, and Terese Thonus.  Researching the Writing Center:  Towards anEvidence-Based Practice. Peter Lang, 2012.  

Babcock, Rebecca Day, Kellye Manning, Travis Rogers, Courtney Goff, and Amanda McCain.  A Synthesis of Qualitative Studies of Writing Center Tutoring, 1983-2006.  Peter Lang, 2012.

Schendel, Ellen and William J. Macauley, Jr.  Building Writing Center Assessments That Matter.  UP of Colorado, 2012.

 

2013

Grutsch McKinney, Jackie.  Peripheral Visions for Writing Centers.  Utah State UP, 2013.

 

2014

Lee, Sohui, and Russell Carpenter.  The Routledge Reader on Writing Centers and New Media.

Routledge, 2014.

Mackiewicz, Jo, and Isabelle Kramer Thompson, editors.  Talk about Writing:  The Tutoring Strategies of Experienced Writing Center Tutors.  Routledge, 2014.

 

2015

Corbett, Steven J.  Beyond Dichotomy:  Synergizing Writing Center and Classroom Pedagogies.  The WAC Clearinghouse and Parlor Press, 2015.

Fitzgerald, Lauren, and Melissa Ianetta.  The Oxford Guide for Writing Tutors:  Practice and Research.  Oxford UP, 2015

Rafoth, Ben.  Multilingual Writers and Writing Centers.  Utah State UP, 2015.

 

2016

Grutsch McKinney, Jackie.  Strategies for Writing Center Research.  Parlor P, 2016,

Monty, Randall W.  The Writing Center as Cultural and Interdisciplinary Contact Zone.  Palgrave/Macmillan, 2016.

Caswell, Nicole, Jackie Grutsch McKinney, and Rebecca Jackson. The Working Lives of New Writing Center Directors. Utah State UP, 2016. [Forthcoming]

 

2017

Babcock, Rebecca Day, and Sharifa Daniels, editors.  Writing Centers and Disability.  Fountainhead P, forthcoming 2017.

Mackiewicz, Jo.  The Aboutness of Writing Center Talk:  A Corpus-Driven and Discourse Analysis.  Routledge, forthcoming 2017.

Know of another publication that should be added to the list? Comment below!

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