Discussed during the TLC Workshop, “First-Year Writing and Expert Writing: What Linguistic Patterns in Student and Published Writing Tell Us About Academic Arguments and Student Writing Needs,” October 1, 2014. Presented by Dr. Laura Aull, Department of English.
Since the 1890s, the lament that college students cannot write has appeared regularly in popular media. First-year college writing courses are one response to these claims, and they continue to be important sites of writing development for both under-represented and traditional students. But because of historic separations between U.S. linguistics and rhetoric-composition, these first-year courses and the research that informs them tend to focus little on linguistic patterns in student writing. As a result, we have little knowledge of shared language-level patterns in first-year student writing and how they are different than what professors expect. Based on a corpus linguistic analysis of over 19,000 first-year college essays with attention to institutional context and writing assignments, this presentation by Dr. Aull outlines important patterns related to certainty, scope, and evidence in academic arguments which are significantly different than patterns in a large database of expert academic writing. The presentation closes with implications for university writing instruction and assessment.