The USF Writes research team is dedicated to sustainable research, conducted programmatically and pedagogically. Related to pedagogical use, (link to pedagogy page), USF Writes provides a rich data warehouse of instructor feedback and formative rubric use, as well as student writing, including drafts and completed assignments.

For researchers, the data warehouse in USF Writes becomes a principled way to use innovative techniques to study socio-cognitive and socio-cultural patterns in student writing and instructor feedback. The data housed in USF Writes is rapidly becoming one of the largest corpora of first-year student writing in the world.

While the research potential of data collected within USF Writes is vast, our orientation is quite specific: We seek to understand student writing better so we can develop new ways of teaching based on formative feedback to student writing.

Key questions under investigation in first year composition (FYC) include:

  • Impact of task-specific rubrics in self-efficacy, self, peer, and expert review
  • Corpus analysis of formative comments posted by peers and expert review in response to task specific rubrics
  • Relationships of scores and comments to criterion measures, including assignment grades, course grade, performance in other FYC courses, and GPA
  • Roles of formative feedback in student retention and predictive analytics

USF Writes also houses a growing corpora of student work in professional and technical communication (PTC) that give researchers in PTC insights that the field has not previously had.

Key concerns being investigated in PTC include:

  • Role of self efficacy and self-regulation in student success
  • Analysis of attention to audience and purpose as found in linguistic, cultural, and substantive language-use patterns
  • Textual elements and linguistic markers in report writing
  • Cohesive patterns of integration of visual and design elements in reports

In terms of research, USF Writes is designed to provide the kinds of information currently found in The Journal of Writing Analytics and similar empirical journals.

Research Ethics and Protocols

The research on the USF Writes data warehouse is covered by an existing Institutional Review Board protocol (STUDY2887, see note 1 below).

Students and instructors select to either opt in or opt out for their anonymous work to be used for research purposes. Below are the key paragraphs about how data is used.

  • Student confidentiality: Your research has been approved for a specific design regarding textual analysis, and you have agreed to confidentiality of information within the database. Nevertheless, the text you will analyze may contain information that might be of a personal nature to the student writers. As such, you agree not to quote directly any detailed blocks of text that contain such information. If a block of text is required to support the claims made in your findings, you agree to submit that text to me for my review before peer review and subsequent publication.
  • Data use and re-use: Your research has been approved for a specific research project. Should you want to use the data again in another capacity, please notify us. Relatedly, this data has been released to you and/or your research team. It is not to be distributed to any other parties for any reason.

In addition to IRB standards, we also employ a strict ethic to ensure that student’s work can never be identified or traced back to an individual student. Researchers are only given non-identified data and any lengthy student quote must be approved by the research committee before it can be used in any public way (such as in a publication or presentation).

Request access to data

To request access to data from the USF’s writing data warehouse, please complete the data request form and send to the current chair of the research committee, Lisa Melonçon.

 Note 1: 
When we talk of research on this page, we are discussing a research study, which is something entirely different from program evaluation. Data from USF Writes is also used in program evaluation as a way to ensure that our designed curricula is meeting the needs of students and other programs on campus. All student and instructor data can be used for these internal purposes. However, when generalization inferences are the intended use of data collected in USF Writes, then the IRB comes into play.