The WPA / CompPile Bibliographies

Richard Haswell, co-editor
Dylan Dryer, co-editor

In October 2009 the CWPA initiated a plan to create and publish online annotated bibliographies of research on topics about which writing-program administrators sometimes need solid information and sometimes need it on short notice. Here we provide information for people interested in authoring bibliographies:

(A) an overview of the initiative

(B) the current list of claimed topics

(C) the current list of unclaimed topics

(D) informational Q & A for bibliographers

(E) a tables format for the bibliography with three sample entries


On October 2nd, 2009, Duane Roen, Vice President of the CWPA Executive Committee, announced to the WPA-L listserv that one of the most frequent requests made on the more than 500 WPA Directions postcards submitted at that summer's conference in Minneapolis was that CWPA do more to compile annotated bibliographies summarizing research that WPAs can use to perform their jobs more effectively and efficiently.

In response, CWPA has initiated the following partnership with CompPile. Here's the plan:

One or more scholars will identify a particular topic or issue that is or could/should be a research focus of interest to writing program administrators. The scholar or team of scholars will assemble a short bibliography of the most relevant, essential scholarship, using any available means. (CompPile is an obvious tool/source, but we expect that titles will appear that are not yet in CompPile.) The scholar/team will also produce or commission short annotations for each of the items in the bibliography, with a 2-4 paragraph comprehensive introduction to the bibliography as a whole.

When the bibliography is complete, the scholar/team will send it to Rich Haswell and Dylan Dryer, who will cross-reference this with CompPile's current index, adding to CompPile items that aren't there, and adding the annotations to CompPile.

CompPile will feature a link to the specialty bibliographies and bibliographers on its front page.  Users will be able to download the bibliographies in a format that brands them as a WPA product and that preserves authors’/bibliographers’ names, etc. CompPile will also assign each item on this specialty bibliography a unique keyword/tag (and perhaps other unique ID information such as bibliographer's name, etc.), so that a search for that keyword/tag will assemble and present the full specialty bibliography, with appropriate credit to the scholar/team, (who may wish to publish them in other outlets in addition to CompPile).

Items in each bibliography will share a unique search term in the Annotation Field that will allow a one-click retrieval of the entire bibliography. And the bibliography itself will be listed as a CompPile record.


  • accelerated learning as an alternative to basic writing
  • Employment conditions (full/part-time, permanent/temporary, professor/lecturer—effect of levels)
  • ESL students and mainstreaming
  • FYC and "extracurricular" writing
  • FYC and multimodal composition
  • F2F, hybrid, and fully-online courses
  • global englishes and language difference
  • grammar in context
  • high school/postsecondary articulation
  • international research important to WPAs
  • responding to writing or style
  • rhetorical reflection
  • Writing centers—effect on retention in college, dynamics and effects of tutor-tutee conferences, size of clientele


If you wish to claim one of the topics below (or to suggest one that is not yet listed), please email Rich Haswell [] and Dylan Dryer [] to get the process started.

  • Alum opinions—what do they say about their FYC course, their undergraduate writing instruction, their WAC/WID courses?
  • Class size in college writing courses
  • Computer-station configuration
  • Creative fiction in a writing course—use and effectiveness
  • Curricular sequences, functional—first to second semester or beginning to advanced
  • Degree and degree objectives—effect of levels
  • Directed self-placement programs—outcomes
  • Faculty development programs
  • FYC as academic writing rather than general skills
  • Gain in writing performance from beginning to end of a course
  • Internship programs—success
  • Laptops—problems and successes
  • Mentoring programs for new (first-time) teachers
  • Multimedia as melded into writing courses
  • Portfolio assessment initiatives
  • Public speaking integrated into FYC—effects on features in writing, such as awareness of audience, greater focus, meaningful sequence and development of ideas.
  • Reading in FYC
  • Self-regulation and self-efficiency in students
  • Specialized training—amount and kind, effect of levels
  • Standardized writing tests—predictive capability
  • Teacher experience—effect of levels
  • Teaching-assistant courses
  • Transfer of FYC instruction—knowledge about, success
  • Workload of teachers—effect of levels on quality of instruction and student growth



Q. What kind of pieces go into the bibliography?

A. Pieces that will provide useful information for WPA’s in need: facts, figures, and specific information. These are bibliographies of research on a topic, not of opinions or theoretical discussions about a topic.

Q. How large should the bibliography be?

A. There is no lower or upper limit. So far completed bibliographies have averaged about 20 entries, but coverage will depend on topic. The main goal is reliable information that WPAs can use, so on the one hand it will be counterproductive to produce an exhaustive bibliography with many marginal and trivial items and on the other hand to omit important pieces in the interest only of making your or the reader's task easy. In sum, pick the substantial, trustworthy, and significant pieces from a WPA's point of view, a collection that in total gives a full, fair, and balanced representation of what is known about the topic. Avoid pieces that add no new information to the topic, and note that you can supplement your bibliography with unannotated "see also" references. Also remember that these bibliographies are open ended, and important items that you missed or that subsequently are published can be added later.

Q. How long should the annotations be?

A. The annotation is crucial since it will be what users will center on. Typical might be four or five sentences. Good models are those written by Sue Hum for CompPile. Just type her name in the Annotation Field and you'll see what they look like. But remember that these WPA research bibliographies will gather together facts that WPAs can use, so your annotation will stress that.  That is, your entry should spend the most time on the conclusions, the findings, and/or the recommendations of the research.  If, as is sometimes the case, the conclusions are multiple and exhaustive to summarize, provide an example or two of the most salient.  This will ensure that the entry has a specific deliverable as well as give readers a sense of what they can expect to find in the full text.

Q. How restricted should the bibliography be?

A. The topic can be very restricted. For instance, Alice Horning’s 2007 piece in WPA on class size may have satisfied some WPAs who need hard facts, since she summarizes a lot of research. But a more focused bibliography could be constructed, one that sticks just to information about college writing classes. For another instance, scholarship on textbooks is sizable, but you could focus on how many institutions don’t require textbooks at all in FYC, or the prevalence of gender bias still in textbooks, or the reading level in textbooks, etc.

Q. Should I worry about duplication of records with other published bibliographies?

A. No. Two bibliographies on the same topic will share a great many records. Yours will differ because of its focus on WPA use and on hard information. Of course you must write your own annotation. Acknowledge quotations within your annotation.

Q. What about duplication of other WPA Bibliographies in CompPile?

A. There may be topics that overlap, but don’t worry. Just make sure we know the topic you have decided on as soon as you have done so. That way we can make sure two people are not working on the same topic (see C above).

Q. When do I know it is ready to send to you? There always seems to be one more piece I can find.

A. Do the best you have time for and then send it in. As we say, partial bibliographies can be put up in CompPile and then added to bit by bit. That is a major advantage of a “rolling” digital bibliography as opposed to a print one.

Q. Can I use citations from fields other than composition studies?

A. Yes. Research in other fields is perfectly acceptable if the information bears upon what WPAs do. With some topics it will be required. CompPile is full of such research records.

Q. What information should be contained in an entry?

A. All the publishing information that shows up in a typical CompPile entry: full name of all authors and editors, full title including material after colon, place of publication as well as publishing house, issue number with journals, beginning and end page number, etc. Keep this need for full information in mind from the beginning--it is always a pain to retrieve a piece because you forgot some information such as first name of author.

Q. What if a citation is already in CompPile?

A. Good question. It will save you a great deal of time to remember that with citations that are already part of the CompPile database—and that may be a majority of your bibliography—you need to include only your annotation, plus some identification (say author, date, and short title).

Q. What citation style should I use?

A. The bottom line is that we will take entries in any citation style. But CompPile has its own citation format, for reasons that have to do with manipulation of online data. Your entries will have to be converted to CompPile style and fields before they will be uploaded there. So it will save us much time if you follow the fields and the style in the CompPile database.

In the end don’t worry too about minutiae of format style. We will vet entries before we upload them.

Q. In what format should I send it to you?

A. Please send them in Tables format (see E below), in which bibliographic records would be entered according to CompPile fields as columns: AUTHOR, TITLE, DATE, BOOK, JOURNAL, PAGES, KEY WORDS, ANNOTATION. Each row is a new Record. In fact, you could actually use this file to enter in your bibliographic items, with a paragraph return at the end of the Record to start a new Record and new row. When you’re done, just send in the file still in Tables.

Q. What about the Search Terms field? I’m not versed in CompPile’s system of keywording.

A. Fill in search terms that make sense to you. We will convert to CompPile’s keywords.

Q. So I should send the bibliography to CompPile?

A. No. Send to Rich Haswell, and Dylan Dryer, as a .doc file attachment to your email. Don’t send as .docx if you can avoid it.











Adams, Peter Dow

Basic writing recon-




Journal of Basic Writing



mainstreaming, basic writing, predictive validity,
value added, administrating

Credit-bearing alternatives to non-credit BW courses have become more widely available since 1993, in part because of this quantitative analysis of the impact on students tracked into BW at Essex Community College. Adams's longitudinal study 'would seem to indicate that students’ chances of succeeding in the writing program are actually reduced by taking basic writing courses in which they are placed' (33). While duly cautious about site-specificity and hidden variables, especially where attrition is concerned, the author argues that BW placement can be a self-fulfilling prophecy for students who 'may logically interpret our actions as saying that we do not expect ‘good writing’ from them' (35). [Dylan Dryer]]

McGee, Tim

Taking a spin on the intelligent essay assessor


In Ericsson, Patricia Freitag; Richard H. Haswell (Eds.), Machine scoring of student essays: Truth and conesquences; Logan, UT: Utah State University Press



machine-scoring, Intelligent Essay Assessor, validation, corrupti-bility, meaningful-ness, content, factuality, nonsense, validity, data

The author tested Intelligent Essay Assessor, a machine-scoring software marketed by Pearson Knowledge Technologies, by submitting doctored essays for rating. One essay with sentence order randomly jumbled received the same rating as the essay with sentences in order. A second essay had all the historical facts reversed and it received the same score as the essay with the history accurate. A third essay was reduced to syntactic ‘gibberish’ and it received a passing score only one point below the syntactically meaningful one. The author concludes that no conscientious educator would use IEA with students who want ‘meaningful evaluation of their writing.’ [Rich Haswell]

Sternglass, Marilyn S.

Time to know them: A longitudinal study of writing and learning at the college level


Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum

    basic, City College of New York, longitudinal, minority, assessment, mainstreaming, college-span, case-study, data

In this rich, contextual study of the way undergraduates grow in their writing, Sternglass begins with a cohort of 53 first-year students at City College for six years until graduation. Most are minority students (only two are Anglo). Many drop out, and she ends with in-depth life-histories of nine. She takes a case-study approach, with repeated interviews and analysis of the context of writing assignments. Her conclusions are radical and counter standard expectations that first-year-composition will solve a student’s writing problems until graduation, or that growth in writing proficiency proceeds linearly. Writing skills and knowledge do grow, but messily and entangled with the complex extracurricular lives and intentions of the students. And they grow in ways, for instance in logical depth, that have little to do with the way composition is often taught. [Rich Haswell]