Research

Using Research to Inform Theory and Practice:

As part of our mission to contribute to the intellectual and creative activities of the university, the Writers Workshop engages substantially in writing center and writing studies research. This robust scholarly activity takes place in a variety of ways, including via undergraduate and graduate courses on writing centers and writing tutoring (taught by Dr. Carolyn Wisniewski); via collaborative studies conducted by the Writers Workshop’s administrative team; and via empirical research projects led by our current and former consultants. Across our scholarship, we seek to cultivate knowledge aimed at informing writing center theory and practice, both in our local context and through presenting our work in local, regional, national, and international conference venues.

We’re Currently Researching:

Online Writing Tutoring

While writing centers have long practiced online tutoring–and our need to provide and understand effective online services has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic–little empirical work actually compares one-to-one tutoring across face-to-face and online sessions. Building on prior research conducted by current and former Writers Workshop consultants (see Wisniewski, Carvajal Regidor, Chason, Kranek, Groundwater, Mayne, & Middleton, 2021), our writing center is in the process of researching how tutors and students experience a range of consultation modes (live online, asynchronous online, and in-person). In carrying out our mixed-method comparative approach, we aim to add to existing scholarship and to improve our own writing center pedagogy. Learn more about how our prior research has informed our current practice in this College of Liberal Arts and Sciences spotlight.

Novice Writing Teachers’ Development of Effective Response Strategies

Dr. Carolyn Wisniewski, Director of the Writers Workshop, is continuing her research “Novice Writing Teachers’ Development of Effective Response Strategies,” which examines how graduate instructors from across the disciplines learn about and provide response to student writing.

Undergraduate Research in WRIT 300: Issues in Tutoring Writing:

Every fall, undergraduate students in WRIT 300: Issues in Tutoring Writing complete small-scale, empirical research projects as part of their training to work in the Writers Workshop. Previous student research has touched upon topics as varied as engineering students’ motivations for writing center use, how multilingual students’ language backgrounds impact perceptions of tutorial success, and how directive and non-directive tutoring practices take shape in writing center talk.

Example flyer for undergraduate student presentations            Example flyer for undergraduate student presentations

Our undergraduate students have also gone on to present this work via UIUC’s Undergraduate Research Symposium, which takes place in April of each year, as well as at national conferences and in writing center journals.

Undergraduate researcher at poster presentation
Carolyn Wisniewski, Director, and Brendan McGovern, undergraduate consultant, next to Brendan’s poster at the 2019 Undergraduate Research Symposium

Publications:

Brendan McGovern. “The Writing Center’s Role in Disciplinary Writing Development: Enhancing Discourse Community Knowledge through Metacognitive Dialogue.” Praxis: A Writing Center Journal (forthcoming 2022).

Allison Kranek and María Carvajal Regidor. “It’s Crowded in Here: ‘Present Others’ in Advanced Graduate Writers’ Session’s.” Praxis: A Writing Center Journal (2021).

Carolyn Wisniewski, María Carvajal Regidor, Lisa Chason, Evin Groundwater, Allison Kranek, Dorothy Mayne, and Logan Middleton. “Questioning Assumptions about Online Tutoring: A Mixed-Method Study of Face-to-Face and Synchronous Online Writing Center Tutorials.” Writing Center Journal (Spring/Summer 2021).

David Ward, Carolyn Wisniewski, Susan Avery, and Kirsten Feist. “Unifying Academic Research and Writing Services: Student Perspectives on a Revised Service Model.” Journal of Academic Librarianship (2020).

Sarah Patrick. “Chinese International Students’ Reactions to Tutor Talk: Using Scaffolding Strategies to Support Language Acquisition in the Writing Center” in Praxis: A Writing Center Journal (2020).

Olivia Buck. “Students’ Idea of the Writing Center: First-Visit Undergraduate Students’ Pre- and Post-Tutorial Perceptions of the Writing Center.” The Peer Review (2018).

National and Local Conference Presentations:

“Animal Co-Workers and Makeshift Desks: The Impacts of Work-from-Home Conditions on Writing Center Practices” (Bri Lafond), “Retheorizing Writing Center Spaces and Collaborative Practices through Medieval Scriptoria” (Liz Matresse), and  “‘Helpful, Compassionate, Above & beyond’: Creating Community through Dialogic Tutoring Practices in Online Consultations” (Carolyn Wisniewski). 2021 International Writing Center Association Annual Conference.

“‘Present Others’ in Writing Center Graduate Sessions” (María Carvajal Regidor) and “Support and Solidarity: Graduate Writers’ Use of Writing Center-Sponsored Graduate Writing Productivity Groups” (Allison Kranek). 2019 International Writing Center Association Annual Conference.

“Comfort, Confidence, and Chinese International Students’ Reactions to Scaffolding Strategies in the Writing Center” (Sarah Patrick). 2019 International Writing Center Association Annual Conference.

“‘It is just as effective and much easier’: A Comparative Study of Face-to-Face and Synchronous Online Tutoring” (Carolyn Wisniewski). 2019 International Writing Center Association Annual Conference.

“Preliminary Discussion of ‘Present Others’ Research” (María Carvajal Regidor and Allison Kranek). Big Ten Academic Alliance Writing Center Directors’ Meeting.

“Beyond Tutor and Writer: Figures ‘Present’ in Writing Center Consultations” (María Carvajal Regidor and Allison Kranek). 2018 Gesa E. Kirsch Graduate Student Symposium.

“Influences of Writing Center Tutoring on Disciplinary Teaching Assistants’ Response to Student Writing” (Carolyn Wisniewski). 2018 Conference on College Composition and Communication.

“Implementing and Assessing Synchronous Online Writing Tutorials” (Dorothy Mayne, María Carvajal Regidor, Lisa Chason, Logan Middleton, and Carolyn Wisniewski). 2017 International Writing Center Association Annual Conference.

“A Mixed-Method Study of Face-to-Face and Synchronous Online Tutoring” (Carolyn Wisniewski, Allison Kranek, and Evin Groundwater). 2017 International Writing Center Association Annual Conference.

“First-Visit Students’ Pre- and Post-Session Perceptions of the Writing Center” (Olivia Buck). 2017 International Writing Center Association Annual Conference.

Example undergraduate research poster
Laura Bjankini’s poster on The Effects of Questioning as Educational Scaffolding in Writing Center Conferences

Awards and Grant Funding:

Eva Cornman was awarded the 2021 Undergraduate Research Symposium’s Outstanding Presentation in Learning and Human Development for her presentation  “The Role of Disciplinary Expertise in Shaping Undergraduate Tutor’s Confidence in Writing Center Sessions.”

Kat Williams was awarded the 2021 Undergraduate Research Symposium’s Outstanding Honorable Mention in Multidisciplinary Approaches to COVID-19 and Its Impacts for her presentation “2020 vs. The Writing Tutor: Online Learning, Collaboration, and the Writer’s Responsibility.”

Jackson Esela was awarded the 2020 Undergraduate Research Symposium’s Poster Presentation in Education, Social Sciences & Human Behavior for his presentation “Promises Kept: Approaching Writing Center Expectations in Vulnerable Student Populations.”

Allison Kranek and María Carvajal Regidor‘s manuscript “It’s Crowded in Here: ‘Present Others’ in Advanced Graduate Writers’ Sessions” won the Illinois English Department’s Honorable Mention in the 2020 Mary Kay Peer Essay Award contest.

Dan Zhang was awarded a Winter 2020 Ben Rafoth Research Grant by the International Writing Centers Association to support her study “Expanding the Discourse: Embodied Communication in Writing Tutorials.”

María Carvajal Regidor was awarded a 2019 Future Leaders Scholarship by the International Writing Centers Association to recognize her leadership skills in writing center research and administration.

Carolyn Wisniewski and Kristi McDuffie were awarded a 2019 Provost’s Faculty Retreat Grant to support “Innovative Student Learning through Embedded Online Writing Support,” a collaboration between the Writers Workshop and Undergraduate Rhetoric Program that integrates online writing tutoring within the newly developed online RHET 105 course.

Bruce Kovanen was awarded the 2018 Ben Rafoth Graduate Research Grant by the International Writing Center Association. This grant will help fund Bruce’s study “Interactive Organization of Embodied Action in Writing Center Tutorials.”

Carolyn Wisniewski was awarded a 2018 research grant from the Council of Writing Program Administrators for her study “Novice Writing Teachers’ Development of Effective Response Strategies.”

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