Special interest group – Research

The CWCA Research SIG is interested in the kinds of research being conducted in Canadian academic Writing Centres and the factors impacting CWCA members’ attempts to undertake research projects. Areas of investigation include:

  1. What kind of Writing Centre research is currently being published? Is this the research that best serves the Writing Centre community? If not, what kind of research should Writing Centre faculty and staff be doing?
  2. What are the barriers to conducting research in Writing Centres? How can Writing Centre faculty and staff overcome these obstacles and initiate new research projects?
  3. What ongoing or future research projects would benefit from collaboration among CWCA members? In other words, how can CWCA members help each other with their research?



General meeting, May 23, 2014, Brock University

“The first CWCA SIG on research was held May 23, 2014. The discussion was a very useful starting point for a more sustained exchange of ideas on how best to conduct research in Canadian Writing Centres. In brief, our conversation focussed on the following issues: Research Methods

  • People agreed that there were some challenges associated with the perceived need to conduct empirical research grounded in statistics; many Writing Centre (WC) faculty / staff do not have a background in statistics and as a result feel unqualified to conduct research in their own field.
  • Others noted that statistics may not always be necessary to conduct research in writing centres—qualitative methods could be used instead  (and yield equally interesting and valid results).
  • People agreed that a literature review of recent methodologies in WC research would be invaluable to CWCA members.  This review would present an overview of different research methods WC faculty / staff could use as models for their own work. Specific areas  of focus could include the following: methods for collecting data; strategies for analyzing and presenting data; different kinds of consent forms; and strategies for ensuring “research ethics protocols” don’t present unnecessary obstacles. This is a priority for the Research SIG and should begin as soon as possible.

CWCA Values Statement on Writing Research

  • People agreed that one of the obstacles to conducting WC research is the perceived lack of a need for such research.
  • People also agreed that a related obstacle to conducting WC research is the fact that many WC faculty / staff are unable to apply for external funding (i.e., their appointments prevent them from applying for external funding from agencies such as SSHRC or NSERC, or they have appointments that exclude “research” from their job descriptions).
  • Given these obstacles, a statement declaring and explaining the value of WC research might help shift institutional perceptions of the role of research in Writing Centres. At the very least, such a statement might help WC faculty / staff convince their higher-ups to provide them with some time to conduct research.

Publishing options

  • People discussed some of the venues for publishing WC research; some of the journals/options named included Inkshed Publications, the Inkshed newsletter, WAC Clearinghouse, The Canadian Journal of SoTL, and Written Communication. The value of compiling a list of relevant WC research journals was briefly discussed. It was then noted that the University of Toronto Writing website has a page dedicated to “writing studies research” (http://www.writing.utoronto.ca/writing-specialists/research-starting-points), so there was little value in reproducing this information elsewhere.

Collaborating with disciplinary faculty

  • People briefly discussed the importance of collaborating with disciplinary faculty who have access to research funds and are better able to communicate the results of their research (on, for example, an approach to discipline-specific writing instruction) to academics who do not reside in writing centres.

The meeting concluded with people agreeing that the Literature Review of WC Research Methods was the SIG’s most pressing priority. Tyler Evans-Tokaryk (tyler.tokaryk@utoronto.ca) will email participants and establish a process for collectively authoring the Literature Review. Anyone who was not at the SIG but wants to contribute to the Literature Review should contact Tyler by email.”

Dr. Tyler Evans-Tokaryk, Senior Lecturer
Writing Specialist, Robert Gillespie Academic Skills Centre
University of Toronto Mississauga


Interested in more information about this SIG? Send an e-mail to get in touch.


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