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The Effects of Available Information on Responses to School Writing Tasks

Judith A. Langer
Research in the Teaching of English
Vol. 18, No. 1 (Feb., 1984), pp. 27-44
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40170977
Page Count: 18
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
The Effects of Available Information on Responses to School Writing Tasks
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Abstract

This study investigated the relationships between topic-specific background knowledge and measures of overall quality, coherence, syntactic complexity, audience, and function in expository writing. Ninetyseven students from four tenth grade American history classes completed two essays at different points during the semester. Findings from analyses of their papers suggest a strong and consistent relationship between topic specific background knowledge and writing quality. More interesting, however, is the evidence that different kinds of knowledge are predictive of success in different writing tasks. In general, students whose knowledge of a topic was relatively well organized did better on teacher-developed topics requiring them to compare and contrast relevant issues, while students whose knowledge base was more extensive (but not necessarily well-organized) did better on assignments that presented a thesis and required them to provide supporting evidence. Shifts in audience and function were also related to the kinds of knowledge students' had about the topics on which they were writing.

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