Sommers and Saltz: Harvard Freshman Writing Study

Blog » Sommers and Saltz: Harvard Freshman Writing Study

Posted on 17 Apr 2013 18:49

In Nancy Sommers and Laura Saltz’s paper, The Novice as Expert: Writing the Freshman Year, Somemrs and Saltz study a large sample group of freshman students from the class of 2001 at Harvard University. Their study is primarily qualitative, as they gather primary documents like papers and professors’ feedback, and try to reach a conclusion about freshman writing through close analysis of this data. However the study also contains some quantitative elements, like bi-annual surveys filled out by the sample group of students.

In using this mixture of qualitative and quantitative methodology, Sommers and Saltz seek to understand how freshman view college writing and what factors affect their writing development over their four years in college. By gathering primary data like students’ papers, they are able to compare the techniques that made certain students successful and others fall behind. Interviews and surveys allow them to gauge the importance the students place on writing freshman year. These interviews and surveys also illuminate the differences in opinion on writing between successful freshman year writing students and less successful students. By collecting all this data Sommers and Saltz hope to determine what separates successful college writers from unsuccessful college writers.

This particular research methodology would not be very efficient for my own writing studies research project. The methods employed by Sommers and Saltz were designed to gather large amounts of data over a long period of time; while they had four years to carry out their research, I will have less than four weeks. Additionally, their methodology attempted to gather a wide range of general data about freshman writing. My own research studies project will need to be extremely focused, and therefore so will my methodology.

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