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


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.


Longitudinal Study Individual Difference Systematic Change Questionnaire Response Content Development 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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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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