In one of our previous posts, we reviewed research about a way to assess whether students are considering their audience as they write; in this post, we review research about how students can enhance their consideration of their audience in their writing.
This research is less recent than some of the studies we reviewed in other posts, but its conclusions are worth highlighting. Linda Carey, Linda Flower, John R. Hayes, Karen A. Scrivener, and Kristina Haas from Carnegie Mellon investigated how planning can affect writing quality.
The researchers assigned a writing task to 7 novice writers and 5 expert writers. All 13 writers were to write to the same audience. As the writers completed their writing task, they were asked to speak their thoughts out loud so the researchers could capture their thought processes. Any thought processes that occurred before the writers wrote their first complete sentence were considered statements related to planning.
The researchers analyzed the planning statements for content, for persuasion (purpose, audience, and organization), and for other goals. After the writers composed their documents, the quality of the documents were evaluated for audience adaptation, clarity of purpose, and structure.
The results indicated that writers who planned for all three persuasive elements—purpose, audience, and organization—produced higher-quality documents. Further, writers of high-quality documents tended to plan more overall. Notably, these results transcended expertise, as three novice writers and three expert writers achieved the highest quality scores.
The results indicate that if we can help our students plan more for purpose, audience, and organization, their writing will likely reflect greater attention to those persuasive elements. And in my experience, greater attention to those elements translates to higher-quality writing.
To help my students plan for persuasive elements, I encourage them to analyze these elements using the PACS framework. In addition, when they organize information, I encourage them to not only categorize the information but also sequence the information so it meets the audience’s needs and is sensitive to the purpose of the document. Finally, I use case studies to build a rich situation so students have a purpose and audience to respond to.
What strategies do you use to help your students plan for persuasive elements? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below.
Source: Center for the Study of Writing
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