ReVisualizing Composition: Mapping the Writing Lives of First-Year Writing Students
Visit website  

Revisualizing Composition: Mapping the Writing Lives of First-Year College Students was a research project that examined what college students are writing, where, with whom, and the technologies involved. The study focused on a national survey of students enrolled in writing classes at a sample of US postsecondary institutions. We constructed a purposive, stratified sample in an attempt to match the demographic profile of US college students (those enrolled in both four-year and two-year institutions in 2010) and identified institutions for recruitment that had enabled us to construct such a reasonable sample.

Please access the full white paper here: writing lives of college students.

Writing practices and technologies have changed considerably over recent years. Given these changes, we know that contemporary college students are highly literate. Working from the assumption that students lead complex writing lives, this study is interested in a broad range of writing practices and values both for the classroom and beyond it, as well as the technologies, collaborators, spaces, and audiences they draw upon in writing. Initial findings include the following:

• SMS texts (i.e., texts using short message services on mobile devices), emails, and lecture notes are three of the most frequently written genres (or types) of writing

• SMS texts and academic writing are the most frequently valued genres

• Some electronic genres written frequently by participants, such as writing in social networking environments, are not valued highly

• Students’ write for personal fulfillment nearly as often as for school assignments

• Institution type is related in a meaningful way to the writing experiences of participants, particularly what they write and the technologies used

• Digital writing platforms—cell phones, Facebook, email—are frequently associated with writing done most often

• Students mostly write alone, and writing alone is valued over writing collaboratively

These findings shed light on the writing practices and values of contemporary college students. In particular, these findings point to the pervasiveness of writing in the lives of our participants and the importance of hand-held devices like mobile phones as a writing platform. Our findings also raise a number of questions related to how students experience, use, and value new writing technologies and environments in the larger context of their writing lives.