The Study has several major goals: to provide an overview of student writing at Stanford; to trace student development in writing across a five-year period; and to use findings to inform the work of the Program in Writing and Rhetoric, the Stanford Writing Center, and, if appropriate, our Writing in the Majors courses. In addition, the Study seeks to make useful contributions to the increasingly relevant literature in longitudinal research of writing development and toward improving writing instruction across disciplines in the undergraduate years.
In September 2001, Professor Andrea Lunsford and Vice Provost John Bravman invited a random sample of entering freshmen to participate in the Study; of the 243 students invited, 189 accepted the invitation, amounting to roughly 12% of that year's class. The students agreed to submit the writing they did for all their classes, in all disciplines, along with as much of their out-of-class or extracurricular writing as they wanted. Finally, students agreed to participate in an annual survey, and one-fifth of our study pool agreed to be interviewed annually.
Our research team followed this large group of students throughout their four years at Stanford and one year beyond, concluding data collection at the end of September, 2006. Adding a fifth year gave us an opportunity to observe student writers moving into the workplace and graduate study. As a result, we now have a very large digital archive of student writing (some 15,000 pieces) stored in an Oracle database; during 2008, this body of student writing will become part of the Digital Archives stored in the Stanford Libraries and will thus be available for study by scholars in decades to come.