Barton: “Review: Empirical Studies in Composition”

Barton, Ellen L. “Review: Empirical Studies in Composition.” College English. 59.7 (1997): 815-827. Web.

Texts reviewed:

  • Professional Academic Writing in the Humanities and Social Sciences by Susan Peck MacDonald
  • Genre Knowledge in Disciplinary Communication: Cognition/Culture/Power by Carol Berkenkotter & Thomas Huckin
  • Academic Literacy and the Nature of Expertise by Cheryl Geisler

Barton’s review essay is a spirited defense of empirical research in composition. Barton sees a continuing “tension between the paradigms of the empiricist researcher and the humanistic scholar-teacher” (815) in the field of Composition, tracing debates from the nascence of the discipline to heated exchanges between contemporaries.  Barton laments the research that gets lost in methodological squabbling, hoping that her review essay will “bring attention to some recent empirical studies in composition and contributes indirectly to the debate about the value of such research by arguing that empirical studies in composition have reached a new maturity of theoretical frameworks, of methodologies, and of significance (816).

Conclusion: “It would be unfortunate for the field if these ideas about texts, genres, and literacy activities were lost to the charges and counter-charges of meta-argumentation about empirical studies in composition research” (826).


empiricism, research, methodology, review, Geisler

Bibliographic Notes

Words: ~5,900

Pages: 12

References: 21

Affiliation: Wayne State


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