The Conference asks: what is the state of the art in writing research today? What are the driving research questions? From which disciplinary frames? Using which diverse methods? Informing local practice in what ways? Engaged via which 21st century digital tools, global contexts, and language realities?
These questions are taken up by scholars from multiple disciplinary perspectives. Our purpose is to create the opportunity for an important moment in the field, a focus on the diversity of research traditions, questions they try to answer how these traditions should speak to each other. A focus on research traditions, methodologies, and methods in writing research from many disciplinary perspectives should, in part, broaden what “doing writing research” means.
In 1966 as now, there is this simple truth: writing well matters, and it matters in institutions of higher education across disciplines and around the world. Yet how writing instruction should work best, why it matters, and just what writing well is, remain the site of controversy, study, and discussion. Studying these questions using a range of methods drawing from the sciences, the social sciences, the humanities, and interdisciplines is needed now more than ever.
Those methods have been unevenly discussed and taught in writing studies in the past decades: less than we might hope in some contexts, while deeply studied but not widely shared in others. In addition, scholars using methods from different disciplinary grounds or across national borders have rarely worked together.
The attendees of the 1966 Seminar represented a broad range of disciplines and backgrounds, which was part of what led to its depth and rich results. We will seek to match that disciplinary diversity and to broaden the diversity across other borders in our focus on the methods used to productively study writing and writing instruction.
Disciplines as different as anthropology, geography, creative writing, neuroscience, psychology, education, literacy studies, didactics, applied or computational linguistics, modern languages, political science, history, digital humanities, English, or cultural studies deeply influence and inform writing research. Methods today might include those in the social sciences (such as ethnography, social analysis), sciences (such as eye tracking, keystroke logging, cognitive research), humanities (such as textual analysis, archival study), or unavoidably interdisciplinary domains, with fertile future possibilities for intersecting, inter-informing methods and frames.
The focus on research will also connect the event to current topics worldwide, such as evidence-based decision-making, the value of the humanities, big data research, the usefulness of writing knowledge, writing in relation to post-college demands, and interdisciplinary innovation. We will focus on the diversity of research traditions, the questions they try to answer, and how they should speak to each other.