Higher Education

, Volume 39, Issue 2, pp 181–200 | Cite as

Individual differences in undergraduate essay-writing strategies: A longitudinal study

  • Mark Torrance
  • Glyn V. Thomas
  • Elizabeth J. Robinson
Article

Abstract

Analysis of questionnaire responses describing thewriting processes associated with a total of 715essays (term papers) produced by undergraduatepsychology students identified four distinct patternsof writing behaviour: a minimal-drafting strategywhich typically involved the production of one or atmost two drafts; an outline-and-develop strategy whichentailed content development both prior to and duringdrafting; a detailed-planning strategy which involvedthe use of content-development methods (mindmapping,brainstorming or rough drafting) in addition tooutlining, and a ``think-then-do'' strategy which,unlike the other three strategies, did not involve theproduction of a written outline. The minimal-draftingand outline-and-develop strategies appeared to producethe poorest results, with the latter being more timeconsuming. The detailed-planning and ``think-then-do''strategies both appeared to result in better qualityessays, although differences were small. We analysedthe writing strategies for a subset of these essaysproduced by a cohort of 48 students followed throughthe three years of their degree course. We found someevidence of within-student consistency in strategy usewith on average two out of every three of a student'sessays being written using the same type of strategy.There was no evidence of systematic change in writingstrategy from year to year.

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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark Torrance
    • 1
  • Glyn V. Thomas
    • 2
  • Elizabeth J. Robinson
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of Behavioural SciencesUniversity of DerbyUK
  2. 2.School of PsychologyUniversity of BirminghamUK

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