2013 Summer Seminar for Composition Research

"Data-Driven Inquiry: Process, Methods, Results" 

Dartmouth College's Institute for Writing and Rhetoric, in collaboration with the Council of Writing Program Administrators, announces its third annual two-week Research Summer Seminar, July 28 - August 9, 2013.

For the schedule of final presentations by seminar participants on August 8th & 9th, click this link to download a PDF.

Seminar Details

Dates and Location

Third Annual Summer Seminar for Composition Research 
"Data-Driven Inquiry: Process, Methods, Results" 
July 28 - August 9, 2013
at Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH

Purpose and Focus

The program is designed to support members of our field who would like to engage in different kinds of research but have not had the opportunity to develop their expertise in understanding, choosing, and using particular research methods, effecting quantitative and qualitative analysis, carrying out critical analysis with (and of) statistics and statistical software, and preparing for publication of research. Research is broadly—and provisionally—defined here as systematic or replicable inquiry in response to a research question that can generate interpretable data, inquiry that is grounded in previous research and designed to extend existing knowledge and, through scholarly publication or other public contribution, to be extended itself. This year's focus will be on data-driven research: process, methods, results.

Program Leaders

Charles Bazerman, Cheryl Geisler, Christina Haas, Neal Lerner, Chris Anson.

Program Features

The program's key on-site features will include:


  • Overview: major theories and research methods, formulation of feasible research questions, gaps in composition's current research landscape, definition of research and its relationship to assessment.
  • Workshop: situating individual projects within these paradigms and drafting literature reviews.


  • Overview: data treatment and analysis, focused on coding options, systematic treatment approaches, key software options and uses.
  • Practice session: data analysis in small groups.
  • Workshop: developing preliminary coding schemes for participants' data.
  • Discussion: participants' data collection, questions they can ask of the data, what that shows about what else they need to know, and how to obtain it.



  • Overview: understanding and using parametric and non-parametric statistics.
  • Workshop: statistical analysis  - what do we really need to know?
  • Discussion: case study, critiquing existing empirical work.



  • Overview: strategies for addressing challenges to research in specific institutional contexts; case study.
  • Workshop: individual plans for completing participant projects.



  • Discussion: issues in ethical research; case study.
  • Discussion: issues in ethical research; case study.



  • Presentation of participants' projects.


Additional Information

The specific program will be tailored to the research projects defined by applicants. The work of the group will begin in the February-July 2013 period: forming a cohort, distributing readings, sharing information about projects, preliminary guidance from team leaders on IRB contact and data collection. This will be followed by a virtual seminar in advance of the summer seminar to discuss methods for further data collection: what else researchers might need to know and how to obtain it.

Peer review and consultations with team members will be ongoing throughout the seminar, starting with an initial meeting and ending with presentation of projects during the final two days.

Participants will leave the summer seminar with a concrete plan for completing the project they bring to the program, as well as an ongoing support network, including the program cohort and the team members.

Who Should Attend

We welcome new and seasoned composition teachers and WPAs from all types of institutions and writing positions, including two-year and four-year colleges and universities, writing centers, writing across the curriculum programs, or centers for teaching excellence. Participants may be researchers looking to expand their repertoire of methods, or new researchers. We encourage research teams to apply.


Program fee (includes all materials, access to the library and Internet while at Dartmouth)

  • $1500


Housing* for the full seminar term (single rooms in dormitories)

  • $750 approximate, including a $100 credit towards meals in College facilities

Athletic passes to all facilities; on-campus parking

  • $5 a day each (as needed)

* The housing/meal plan is optional. The housing cost is an estimate based on 2012. Dartmouth is reviewing its summer housing and has not yet released actual fee structures for 2013.

We will offer a $100 discount on the fee for 2013 CWPA conference attendees.

About Dartmouth

Dartmouth is in Hanover, NH, a beautiful New England town. Dartmouth offers an excellent summer location, with serious facilities, resources, and a work atmosphere, alongside recreational and cultural events for off-time: hiking, lakes, bicycling, concerts, films, speakers, and performances. There are many day care/summer camp opportunities for participants who might want to bring family; we'll provide a directory. Dorms can accept non-seminar participants.

Access to Dartmouth is quite easy from Boston Logan (Dartmouth Coach is direct to campus every 2 hours). There are also flights into Manchester NH or Lebanon NH and Burlington VT, and an Amtrak train, Greyhound bus, and Dartmouth Coach from NYC.


  • Deadline for applications: December 17, 2012.
  • Notification of acceptance: January 2, 2013.

To download this announcement as a printable document, click here (PDF) (MSWord).

To download the 2013 application, click here (PDF) (MSWord).

For More Information: Please write to Christiane Donahue ([email protected]) with any questions.

Previous Seminars

Participants' Commentary

"This is the best opportunity for professional development I have had since graduate school. I feel like you've given me both the direction and confidence I lacked."

"This was the most significant professional development experience I have had. It is a perfect experience for young to mid-career professionals."

"I learned more in those two weeks than I learned in my graduate program. It was an intense focus solely on composition research for two solid weeks."

"In addition to several "ah ha" moments, I left the conference with a new approach to and understanding of research and research tools that can help me answer questions I've been trying to ask for quite a while."

"Very thoughtful professionals giving me insightful feedback. I wish I could have that happen all the time."

"The obvious professional feedback we got was the sense of being treated as professionals and the interest these major scholars showed in our work."

"It was absolutely brilliant and just what I needed to re-engage with research in a positive, creative way following what's been an especially trying period of change at the university. Working so closely with such a passionate and interesting group of colleagues was more rewarding and intellectually stimulating than I could have imagined beforehand, and I'm sorry not to be having the benefit of that unique experience all year long!"

"The Dartmouth Summer Seminar was one of the most rewarding professional experiences of my career."

"I felt engaged intellectually and socially on common projects, even though our individual projects were different. I felt I was studying things I should have studied in graduate school, in the way I should have studied them. I met kind, smart, motivated people from all over the place who wanted to get the most from the classes and collaborations."

"The opportunity to talk with leaders in our field and get their thoughtful advice and encouragement about my project, as well as knowing I can now contact them in the future, dramatically exceeded my expectations."