Individual differences in undergraduate essay-writing strategies: A longitudinal study
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- Torrance, M., Thomas, G.V. & Robinson, E.J. Higher Education (2000) 39: 181. doi:10.1023/A:1003990432398
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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