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Writing in the Disciplines: An Analysis of the Demands of College Writing Tasks
Georgia Educational Research Association Conference
  • Jinrong Li, Georgia Southern University
  • Xiaomei Song, Georgia Southern University
Room 218
Proposal Track
Research Project
Session Format
Preferred Time
Friday afternoon

Writing has long been considered as one of the most relevant indicators of academic success in college, and yet it is also shown to be challenging for many college students. The primary reason underlying its challenging nature is the complex intellectual and cognitive involvement academic writing in college entails. To better help prepare students for these challenges, studies have investigated the types and characteristics of college writing tasks. In particular, studies based on frameworks from English for Specific Purposes (ESP) and writing assessment focus on the classification of writing tasks in terms of their genres and the cognitive and rhetorical demands they place on students (e.g., Hale et al., 1996; Pillai, 2014; Zhu, 2004). Although these studies have provided insights on the key dimensions of college writing tasks, further research is needed in order to better understand the genre expectations and cognitive demands of these writing tasks as reflected by the writing prompts and assessment instruments. Therefore, the current study examines prompts and assessment guidelines for 36 college writing tasks collected from different disciplines in a medium-sized southeast university in the United States. Using a qualitative deductive coding procedure, we examine the nature and characteristics of the writing tasks and compare the expectations and cognitive demands that writing tasks from different disciplines place on the student writer. Data analysis revealed similarities and differences of the expectations and demands between disciplines. Pedagogical implications for writing college tasks are discussed.

  • college writing tasks,
  • analysis of writing prompts,
  • cognitive and rhetorical demands
Symposium Year
Citation Information
Jinrong Li and Xiaomei Song. "Writing in the Disciplines: An Analysis of the Demands of College Writing Tasks" (2015)
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