Corpus and Repository of Writing

The past three months have been a very exciting time for Crow. We’ve received good news about grant funding which we are eager to share once we finalize the paperwork with our sponsors. We’ve added new collaborators who are bringing energy and new perspectives to our work. And we’ve been invited to share our research at the Purdue Languages & Cultures Conference and Computers & Writing 2017, in addition to our upcoming presentations at CCCC, AAAL, and TESOL.

From the start, Crow has always been driven by and for graduate students from all over the world. Our work builds on two projects, COIN and PSLW, both started at Purdue. We’re proud to include researchers from diverse countries in our team — including Poland, China, South Korea, Russia, Turkey, Lebanon, and the United States. The texts in Crow are written by students from these countries and more. We’re committed to working with researchers internationally and turning to them to make Crow broadly useful.

For these reasons, we’re both sad and angry about the hateful attacks the Trump administration is making on immigration as stated by our i9 compliance attorneys, wrongly singling out the Muslim faith, and carelessly harming people especially women who have lawfully come to make the United States their home. In such cases it is better to consult attorneys as they can stop the violence against women under Violence Against Women’s Act(VAWA) . You can contact expert lawyers to help you receive for a k-1 visa and help you with other immigration procedures. Most of all, it is wrong to cast aside refugees, hopeful to escape hatred and war, who have patiently shown they are not worthy of fear or aspersion. These are our friends, students, colleagues, and neighbors. It is wrong to fear them for being different. To put these and other human beings in danger is to reject the freedoms supposedly being protected by this gross over-reaction. We wonder who will be the next targets? If you need to prove legitimate marriage in US, then according to attorneys, they need to have a green card!

Lately we’ve started referring to our team as a family. Now our family is being threatened. We are better people for having worked with Hadi, Ola, Jie, Zhaozhe, Ji-Young, Olga, Beril, and Ge — and too many others to list here. Our hearts are fuller, our research is better, and our project stronger because of them. We are grateful for the responses from our universities. Like them, we will resist these attempts to undo the good work our students are doing. We will protect their interests and affirm their rights to be treated with the respect, dignity, grace, and kindness they show others.

Bradley Dilger, Shelley Staples, and William Hart-Davidson

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On October 21st, 2016, five proud Crow members, Professor Shelley Staples, doctoral student Hadi Banat, Aleksandra Swatek, Ashley Velázquez, and Zhaozhe Wang, flew with Crow to the wild West and stretched their  wings in the lively college town of Tempe, Arizona. After an entire year’s hard work dedicated to this now fully fledged interdisciplinary project, we were honored to have the opportunity to represent our team and introduce our project to an enthusiastic audience at this year’s Symposium on Second Language Writing (SSLW).

Terrence presenting while others look on

Not so long before that, on September 16th, another group of Crow members, Ge Lan, and Jie Gao along with SLS doctoral student Ji-young Shin, had presented on an empirical study derived from the Crow project—on students’ use of reporting verbs. This talk was part of the annual conference of the American Association of Corpus Linguistics (AACL) in the equally beautiful college town of Ames, Iowa, and successfully attracted yet another audience.

These presentations were the best birthday gifts for our one-year-old baby Crow, and anniversary gifts for the intellectual relationship between team members from two disciplinary fields—rhetoric & composition and second language studies.

So far, Crow has positioned itself in the intersection among audiences from diverse, even vastly epistemologically and methodologically different disciplines, including rhetoric & composition, corpus linguistics, applied linguistics, technical communication, and second language writing. And the list will continue to grow as we attend more conferences and share our research in journals.

All of us Crow members have been highly committed and contributed lots of time and energy to its growth. Yet this growth is not solely marked by how many audiences we have reached out to, but by the professional growth of every individual Crow members as well. We have been able to take as much as, or even more than, what we have given. Since we have recently showcased the progress of our project at two important academic conferences, I think it’s a perfect time to look back as we are taking small but steady leaps forward. And it’s a perfect time to hear from some of the Crow members about their experiences at the two conferences. So I invited Hadi Banat, Jie Gao, Ge Lan, Aleksandra Swatek, and Ashley Velásquez, who presented at either or both of the conferences, to share their reflections with us by responding to several questions. Let’s hear what they have to say.

Q1: What were your experiences like in general at either/both of the two conferences?

Jie: I attended AACL in this September at Iowa State. I was really impressed by the pre-conference workshop held by Dr. Stefan Gries, which introduced of the application of R software in corpus linguistic research.

Portait: Terrence, Hadi, Ola, and Shelley at AACL

Hadi: My experience at SSLW was crucial in terms of positioning myself in the discourse community of second language writing scholars. I felt it was a great opportunity to interact with professionals in my field and learn about the new trends of research.

Ge: For AACL and SSLW, I did see people talking about their research from different angles, which helped me broaden my research perspectives. Both conferences offered various topics to cater for different audiences.

Aleksandra: I only attended SSLW, but I felt like I am among academics who have very similar interests to mine. It’s an amazing experience to be able to interact with people who are as interested in second language writing as I am. Such conferences give me motivation to work even more and to contribute to the field.

Ashley: As always, I enjoyed SSLW. It’s a wonderful conference in terms of both scholarship and networking and catching up with old and new pals.

Q2: What’s your biggest takeaway from either/both of the two conferences?

Jie: The conference was eye-widening with the potential topics corpus research could cover. I remember one presentation: “Worldbuilder: A Tool for Text World Analysis,”

which investigated Worldbuilder as a tool for text-world analysis and visualization. The presentation showed how the tool was used to produce visualization of the annotated data in the form of text-world diagrams based on the criminal case of Amanda Knox. The murder trial lasting from 2007 to 2015 has aroused attention world-wide, and Worldbuilder helped prove the translation of Amanda’s three statements as inauthentic to the original ones. Interestingly, Netflix presented a documentary based on the case just after AACL ended. The presentation at the conferences displays how corpus linguistics can be utilized within forensic issues.

Hadi: On a professional level, I felt assured that the field of second language writing is expanding and flourishing. The new strands of presentations that were not in previous conferences reflect the variety of topics and research trends of interest. A dominant focus on graduate second language writers in US institutions was an interesting observation because it reflected the diverse professional opportunities and needs of the job market. I felt that the balance between plenaries, colloquiums, and concurrent sessions contributed to my learning experience due to a mix between talks, workshops and presentations.

On a social level, I believe I got closer to my cohort of SLS PhD students at Purdue because we had plenty of opportunities to interact and learn more about each other. Through our conversations, I noticed mutual compassion, respect and admiration, which made me feel psychologically better about my choice of Purdue as home for my PhD studies. I also had a chance to meet SLS Purdue alumni, who are doing very well in their careers in the US, China and Japan. They were accessible, welcoming, cooperative and engaging. I made new connections and friendships that I want to pursue.

Ge: For AACL, I realized the importance of programming skills in corpus linguistics and for SSLW, people gave me and Zhaozhe a lot of critical feedback on our project, so we can revise the methods and results.

Slide from expertise presentation at SSLW

Ashley: My biggest takeaway, honestly, is that we’re emerging in some way. Often, as a graduate student, I tend to forget that the scholars I’ve propped up on a pedestal were once PhD students such as myself; they, too, had no idea what they were doing and had to fake it till they made it. The theme for SSLW this year emphasized expertise; and what I’ve learned about expertise is that while some may revere others as an “expert” we’re all just learning as we go.

Q3: Could you say a little bit about your experience presenting on projects related to Crow? What did you present on? Were they well-received by the audience? Did the audience provide any constructive feedback that we as Crow members may draw on?

Jie: I co-presented with Ge Lan and Ji-young Shin on the reporting verb projected based on the pedagogical use of PSLW. We clarified why inferential statistics have not been used, and the audience members were interested in the future research potential in data from the control group.

Hadi: Our Crow presentation was well-received. Although it was early in the morning, we had a great audience who were listening attentively and taking notes. Paul Kei Matsuda was among the audience, which was intriguing. We did not have time for many questions, but through our brief conversations with the audience there was an interest in an interdisciplinary project that invites collaboration across institutions. One of the interesting questions we received was, “Are you considering expanding the corpus and repository to include writing samples and pedagogical materials from other classes?” Dr. Staples expressed a common interest with Dr. Dilger to include samples and materials related to writing in the disciplines in the future after developing the online interface and finishing the current phase of the project.

Ge: For AACL, I have co-presented with Wendy and Ji-young on the reporting verb project. People encouraged us to do statistical analysis to further strengthen our results. For SSLW, I had a co-presentation with Zhaozhe, and people gave us a lot of constructive feedback on how we can revise the method and how we can interpret our results more clearly.

Ashley: At SSLW I presented with Scott, Ji-young, and Shelley on our reporting verb project. It seemed that our project was well received by the audience. One thing I do remember was our slip up of using “significant” as a descriptor.

Q4: How, and to what extent, has your engagement with Crow shaped your professional development trajectory in terms of professional conferences?

Rodriguez, Biber, Shin, Wang, Lan, Gao, and Staples at AACL

Rodrigo Rodriguez, Douglas Biber (Regent’s Professor, Northern Arizona University), Ji-young Shin, Terrence Zhaozhe Wang, Ge Lan, Wendy Jie Gao, and Shelley Staples at AACL (From left.)

Jie: Crow inspired me to chew more on how to carry out quantitative analysis in second language studies. I have also been spurred to think more about the relationship between teaching and research, or how to keep a balance between the two.

Hadi: Being part of Crow team offered me valuable opportunities to present at flagship conferences with my colleagues. My involvement in Crow is a learning experience because it is adding to my knowledge which facilitates having scholarly conversations with people in different disciplines pursuing different research projects.

Ge: When preparing the conference Powerpoint, I learned a lot from my co-presenters not only from their academic knowledge but also from their carefulness and patience.

Ashley: Honestly, it’s been the connections I’ve made and the knowledge I’ve gained from the mentorship that Crow offers us. I’m more confident in my identity as a researcher and emerging scholar since being involved with Crow.

As our team members have nicely reflected, they all feel grateful for the great professional development opportunities Crow has provided, and they all feel proud to be part of this initiative. Despite the fact that they have varying research interests, methodological orientations, and levels of engagement, they have all gained something that’s personally fulfilling from Crow. That’s the beauty of it. And that’s what’s going to drive us to fly higher and farther.

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As the Fall semester progresses, the Crow team has been hard at work submitting grants, attending conferences, and working on prototyping.

Welcome new Crowbirds!

We have welcomed three new Crowbirds onto our team! Tony Bushner, Ashley Velázquez, and Bill Hart-Davidson. Tony has joined to work on various development and prototyping tasks as Crow starts designing database structures. Ashley’s focus is in Second Language Studies. S he has been helping with the development of PSLW and with research in the citation project. Bill Hart-Davidson is the most recent addition to our team. He will serve as the Project Coordinator for Michigan State University. He will lead the user-experience research and development team for this project to ensure its usability and usefulness.


grant-imageThe grants team has been working their way through their list of grants from the beginning of the semester. We have submitted our CLA Enhancing Humanities grant, and are waiting to hear back. We planned on using this grant for travel expenses to the Computers and Writing conference, and to fund some of our graduate researchers during the Spring and Summer terms.

The Humanities Without Walls Changing Climate Initiative grant has also been submitted. We are waiting to hear back on this one as well. We’re excited about the grad lab practicum component, since Crow is such a good fit.

I recently completed, with the help of Bradley, the ASPIRE grant. We were approved for $1,500! This money will help fund travel expenses for our graduate students and staff to present at three upcoming conferences. Shelley Staples also learned that her University of Arizona Small Faculty Grant, to begin the development of a corpus at Arizona, was funded at $3,000.

Hadi, Bradley and I are still working on the final drafts of our CLA Non-Laboratory grant to help us revamp our resource room. We should have it submitted soon! Our next big grant that we will be working on is the American Council of Learned Societies Digital Extension Gran t. A list of completed and awarded grants is on our web site.


A few of our Crowbirds, Shelley Staples, Ola Swatek, Terrence Wang, and Hadi Banat just returned last week from the Symposium on Second Language Writing (SSLW) Conference at Arizona State University. A recap of the event will be available soon.


prototype-picture-2 prototype-picture-1Things have been slow but steady with prototyping for Crow. Recently, we revisited our environmental scans and the goals for the project in an effort to explore a variety of new platforms which could host the project. Also, we have continued our effort to find resources within our institutions to help support the site development. In the coming weeks, we will move to creating a closed test site using existing materials in our possession. We soon help develop recruitment materials and protocol procedures to gather more texts for the corpus in December.

The corpus

We will begin recruitment for our corpus soon. We will be calling on English 106 and 106I instructors here at Purdue to submit their student papers and pedagogical materials for us to examine and add to our corpus. A group of researchers are working together to develop recruitment processes which support prototyping efforts. We’re expecting to cross eight million words with the PSLW corpus this fall.

Ola, Shelley and Hadi traveled from Warsaw, Chicago and Beirut and met in the beautiful German town Giessen to present @TaLCGiessen. The center of this vibrant town is the Justus Liebig University, which hosted the conference.

We got to explore the many possibilities of corpus research through the pre-conference workshops and a number of interesting presentations. Three presentations in particular related closely to Crow’s work on using the corpus and repository for teaching, or data driven learning (DDL).

First, the plenary by Marcus Callies focused on corpus literacy of teachers. He emphasized the need for corpus training in applied linguistics programs and the divide that still exists between novice and experienced teachers in their use of corpora in the classroom. In reflecting on this talk, though, we discussed that a major reason for the divide is that corpus builders can do more to make corpora more teacher friendly, as well as to develop ready-made materials that instructors can take into their classrooms. This is part of what we are trying to do with Crow.

Tom Cobb and Alex Boulton presented on a meta-analysis of research on the use of corpus tools for classroom teaching. They found that, despite concerns by many teachers and scholars, use of corpora in the classroom was effective even for intermediate language learners. This aligns with the classroom based research project conducted by Crow team.

In her presentation “All tooled up: Corpus-assisted editing for academic writers”, Maggie Charles talked about using AntCont – Keyword List, Concordance Plot and N-grams – for the purposes of editing graduate writing (thesis or dissertation). In her work with students at the University of Oxford, she teaches how to use corpus tools to compare the use of terminology used in research articles with the students’ own writing. The students create a keyword list based on research articles and compare it to their own graduate writing keywords. This helps the students to notice differences in the use of terminology and discourse markers to revise their writing. In conversations with Maggie Charles, we were also able to get feedback on our use of the semantic and functional coding schemes we’re employing in our research on reporting verbs. This was especially useful since our study builds off of her 2006 paper on reporting verb use in master’s theses.


The conference team made our experience smooth, and after every eventful day at the conference there was either a tour, a dinner, a social or a get-together. Every new TALC day was another opportunity to meet researchers from Europe and the United States in order to discuss different projects in a multitude of academic contexts. We learned that funding is an important driving force behind the sustainability of big research projects started in Europe. Since funding is competitive in the United States, we started thinking more about bigger grants and possible international collaboration.


Our German cultural conference experience was not restricted to academics; we got to experience the fine taste of German beer and the many options we selected from. Whether you are a vegan fan, a vegetarian, a pescatarian, or a meat lover, the small town of Giessen can accommodate your diet genres and offer you a range of mouth watering dishes.


As a team, we got to know each other better, and that is one significant prerequisite for Stage Two in Crow. Our conversations every evening that included commentary about conference sessions, new corpus tools, research techniques, our own interests, strengths and challenges gave us better insights about Crow’s future directions. We also connected with researchers at other institutions, such as Nicole Tracy-Ventura (pictured with us below), professor of applied linguistics at University of South Florida. She worked closely on the development of another student learner corpus, the SPLLOC (Spanish Learner Language Oral Corpora) at University of Southhampton:


Being scheduled for the last slot on the last day of the conference did not turn out to be a bad experience after all. Three days of engaging conversations with TALC participants gave us better access to our potential audience. Thus, we decided to tweak our presentation accordingly and implement last minute adjustments that contributed to a successful session. Thinking aloud and rehearsing were things we happily did during coffee and German cake breaks.


We were worried about the number of people attending the very last presentation at TALC, but our worries subsided the minute we entered Senatssaal hall. In addition to the decent number in the audience, Ute Romer, MICUSP developer, was listening attentively and taking notes.


Our presentation was well received, and the Q and A session exceeded the ten minute threshold. Ute Romer asked about tags accompanying the processed texts and was interested in the broad range of writer characteristics our corpus includes. The concept of first year composition was also compelling to professionals working in Europe because most of the writing they do with their students is in English for Academic Purposes and English for Specific Purposes. Other attendees were keen on asking about the research studies we conducted using data from the corpus.


After our session, Shelley and Ola went off to the big city, Frankfurt, where they literally spent twenty minutes climbing the 328 stairs to reach the dome of Cathedral of St. Bartholomew, and there they enjoyed the beauty of German architecture from the high skies. Hadi took a train to Berlin because after a six-week wait to get his visa to Germany, he wanted to make the trip worthwhile. TaLC 2018 will take place in London, and we are hoping by that time Crow will have developed to fly to a new destination in Europe. Until then, Crow team will be busy developing the online interface and conducting research.

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The Crow team has collected a smaller group of members to focus on various grants we will be applying for this semester. During the second week of classes here at Purdue, the grants team met to establish our grant strategy, and  distribute grant work.

We decided we would meet as a large group every two weeks to ensure everyone is on the same page and to review any issues that come up during our two weeks apart. Other than that, individual grant teams will meet as needed to get the work done.

We have started working on four major grants this semester, a CLA Humanities Grant, Humanities Without Walls, a CLA non-laboratory grant, and an SBS Faculty Small Grant from the University of Arizona.

CLA Humanities

This grant funding comes directly from Purdue as an internal grant. The funds, if awarded, will be used to help fund our research efforts. Lindsey and Michelle will be working on this grant. Eventually, I will join their team as well to assist as needed.

Humanities Without Walls Changing Climate Initiative

Humanities Without Walls is spread throughout the Midwest to different humanities institutes, Purdue being one of them. Its main goal is to encourage an increase in the visibility of humanities. Shelley and Bradley will focus on this grant for their Changing Climate initiative. Eventually, Hadi will join to assist as needed. We’ll be partnering with Michigan State on this grant, too, which is exciting!

CLA Non-Laboratory

This is another internal grant from Purdue. Its goal is to help research groups to upgrade their equipment, software, and database access, among other things. If awarded, We will be using this money to purchase upgraded monitors, webcams, and headphones for our resource room. Hadi and myself will be focusing on this grant.

University of Arizona Faculty Small Grant

This is an internal grant through the University of Arizona. This grant will be used to aid in recruitment of participants for our study, as well as to help fund graduate student wages for processing and de-identifying files as well as checking part of speech tags that will be automatically added to the corpus. Shelley Staples will be focusing on this grant. 

It is now the fourth week of classes, and our grants team is off to a great start. Teams are meeting, drafts are being compiled, and budgets are being adjusted. All of the grants listed above have different deadlines, so we expect to continue working at our current pace and continue distributing tasks as needed to the grants team. As these grants come to completion, we will be on the lookout for more to apply for.

Many research teams at large universities slow down their progress in the summer to accommodate travel schedules and personal research agendas. With our ten person team filled with graduate and undergraduate students, the slowing down risk could be even higher, but our Crow team has maintained the same stamina we had all year. Here are some of the highlights from a busy and rewarding three months.

Academic Conferences

In May several members of our team, Michelle, Zhaozhe, Bradley, Shelley, and Lindsey, piled into a minivan and travelled to Rochester, NY to attend Computers and Writing 2016 Conference hosted by St. John Fisher College. The nine hour drive was filled with snacks, coffee and bad jokes from Dr. Bradley Dilger. Their roundtable, “Boundary Work: Designing a Composition Archive for Research and Mentoring Across Disciplines” had great attendance and participation to help Crow discuss the implications of the research we’re doing. For more information, check out our blog entry on the C&W conference.

crowattalc2016_2July included international travel to the 12th Teaching and Language Corpora Conference in Giessen, Germany for team members Hadi, Ola, and Shelley. These three are seasoned international travellers and made it to Germany without a hitch for their panel, “Developing a First Year Composition L2 Writing Corpus and Repository.” Despite being in the last time slot on the last day of the conference, the team members had strong attendance at their session and a lively conversation with attendees about the Purdue Second Language Writing Corpus (PSLW) and its ties with Crow. More information on their time in Germany will be available on the site soon.

Professional development and continuing education is one of the core foundations for Crow, so we actively write proposals and look for opportunities to share our research and team management practices with audiences around the globe.  We’ll keep you updated on our appearances at conferences around the country and other upcoming opportunities for the Crow team on our conference page.

Individual members also found their way to conferences, institutes, and employment opportunities this summer in California, US, Ann Arbor, MI, US, Atlanta, GA, US, and Hanover, NH, US to share personal research projects and to network.

Advancing Our Research

With fewer demands from teaching and learning in the summer, the Crow team took the opportunity to develop more “behind the scenes” components for the project. We were able to launch this site this summer with the diligence of Ola and Bradley. With help from discussions at academic conferences and in team meetings, we narrowed down our research goals and developed our first research project direction, an examination of citation practices in L2 writers based on our growing corpus. The arduous task of completing a large scale multi-institution IRB application for the Crow project began (we are very hopeful that this will be approved soon!**).  And several team members spent more than 40 hours de-identifying student texts from the 2015-2016 academic year in preparation for their inclusion in the corpus later this year.

Research projects require funding, so we also invested quite a bit of time this summer searching for internal and external grants we can apply for in the next year. We’ve had pretty good success with College of Liberal Arts research grants so far, and we’re grateful for their support. We’re also happy to say we’ve identified a partner for an inter-institutional grant we’ve started working on and will submit this fall.

Crow Changes and Evolutions

During the summer the Crow team experienced a few changes.

Our dear Dr. Shelley Staples said farewell to the midwest and Purdue University and went to the southwest to start a new Assistant Professor position at the University of Arizona in the English Applied Linguistics program. In Tucson, Shelley will continue to develop her fascinating research in corpus linguistics, mentor and guide students, and create a branch Crow for the first inter-institutional link. Purdue Crow looks forward to lots of Skype sessions and expanding our team.

Louis Wyatt graduated from Purdue with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Professional Writing this May. He will begin an internship with Bleacher Report and hopes to find a more permanent position soon. His contributions to Crow’s usability potential were greatly appreciated and we look forward to watching his bright future.

Samantha Pate joined our Crow team to help with development, web work, and grant writing. As a rising Professional Writing star, she gives us a lot of help towards developing the backend of the project and overall design and interface of the site.

And Dr. Bradley Dilger began a new administrative appointment as the Director of Introductory Composition for Purdue University. In this new position he will coordinate and direct more than 100 sections of first year composition with the help of two assistant directors and several other faculty members, graduate students, and staff that compose the Introductory Composition at Purdue (ICaP) writing program. Although his email box and coffee consumption will grow exponentially, his time and dedication to Crow will not falter. We all look forward to watching him bring innovation and energy to ICaP.

Coming Soon

As Crow enters the fall, we will continue to finesse our research project on citation practices and the prototyping will begin for our site. Grant writing will be a big focus as well. The transitions in the project will continue, but because of the shared leadership model and emphasis on professional development, Crow looks forward to more growth and challenges.


**Update: Crow received the excellent news of IRB approval on Friday August 19th. Congrats to the research team members in charge of this awesome accomplishment. Another milestone reached!

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Terrence, Michelle, Shelley, and Bradley had an excellent week at Computers & Writing 2016 in Rochester. We got to explore the interdisciplinary nature of the Crow project through the workshop we attended, our presentation, and several other interesting panels. Lots of good thinking about the relationship between corpus linguistics, pedagogy, mentoring, and building a sustainable archive.

Our conference began with the Ride2CW celebration at the Tap and Mallet — great food, good beer, and smart conversations already starting. The next morning, Bradley and Bill Hart-Davidson rode along the Erie Canal, which was just two miles from host St. John Fisher College. Yay, Ride2CW!

The four of us attended Ryan Omizo and Hart-Davidson’s workshop on computational rhetoric, where we could start imagining what data representations might look like for Crow. We developed some great questions about our data structure and the multiple users for whom we are designing.

We attended a variety of sessions which were interesting and relevant to our project. In A5, we heard Naomi Silver and others from the Sweetland Center for Writing talk about their collaborative processes. We liked seeing what Erin Trauth, Joe Moxley, and Norbert Elliot were doing with MyReviewers data on an NSF-funded project, and we’ll definitely be following up with them. We’re hoping to make it to Writing Analytics, Data Mining and Student Success in January 2017.

Session G3, which featured Ben Miller, Jason Palmeri, and Ben McCorkle, offered in an-depth look at two projects: Palmeri and McCorkle’s ongoing investigation of English Journal, which goes back 100 years, and Miller’s work with rhetcomp dissertations. Excellent as presented and in Twitter backchannel.

Our talk was session D2. We were pleased by the attendance and the conversation which followed. Michelle built a Storify which features Nick Carbone’s live-tweeting (thanks, Nick!) and some of the questions, too:

  • Hart-Davidson asked what our minimum value proposition will be: what will provide short term results as we build Crow from the ground up? We agreed it’s PSLW, which is already helping us publish results in journals and at conferences.
  • Elliot suggested working with N-grams, or strings of words that may perform certain rhetorical functions (e.g., according to the; the first article).
  • Cheryl Ball asked to hear more about our “deidentification parties” and our methods for digital collaboration. Yay, Basecamp!

From the repeated names here, we realized there aren’t too many people working in the computational rhetorics, nerd data crunching, whatever you want to call the corner of the field we’re working in.  That’s probably the reason we heard, in the panels we attended, at least as many references to scholars in digital humanities but outside rhetoric and composition. Just not enough voices inside the field. We’re particularly happy to note that Crow will add a few more women to the mix.

Driving back, we debriefed and finalized our summer plans. Shelley, Terrence, and Michelle worked in Basecamp and Google Docs while Bradley drove, and it took almost seven hours for the four of us to talk through our conference experiences. With that work done, and about two hours of driving left, we started getting a little chirpy. Then we saw on Twitter that some conference-goers were still in the airport. And we realized there were strong positives to driving!

Next year, the conference will be June 1–4 at the University of Findlay in Ohio, less than four hours away. So we’ll probably have a Crow team there again. If Bradley trains enough, it’s only a two day bike ride…

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“The Design and Research Potential of Crow for Language Research and Teaching”

by Sherri Craig and Jie (Wendy) Gao

The 2016 Purdue Languages and Cultures Conference (PLCC) was the first time the School of Languages and Cultures partnered with the Second Language Studies graduate program to host an interdisciplinary three day conference. This unique structure offered a perfect opportunity for Crow to have its inaugural presentation, titled “The Design and Research Potential of Crow for Language Research and Teaching” provided by Sherri Craig and Jie (Wendy) Gao.
Listed in the conference program as part of a corpus linguistics panel, the presentation focused on answering a few questions: What is corpus? What is Crow? What are the previous research projects and future research opportunities related with Crow? How is the Crow project progressing?

At the date of the presentation, March 6, 2016, Crow was still in its beginning stages. Therefore, much of the presentation revealed a preliminary introduction of the whole project, and reported all the work the team had completed so far, including the environmental scans and persona and scenario design work. During the PLCC presentation, Sherri and Wendy revealed Crow’s ties to three previous projects rooted in the Purdue Second Language Studies program and Rhetoric and Composition program: COIN, PSLW, and the 2014-15 ICaP Assessment. Each of these previous projects contained elements of Crow’s new goals. COIN, now a defunct program, attempted to gather pedagogical materials for an online repository. PSLW is an active corpus of texts from second language writers containing over 3.4 million words. And the 2014-15 ICaP Assessment, led by Dr. Jennifer Bay, began to evaluate the pedagogical needs of writing instructors by gathering student texts and teaching materials. Despite the strength of the previous programs, Crow was designed to bring the interests of the SLS program and RC program together to develop an online repository and corpus for a broader audience.

After discussing the overview and related projects, the Sherri and Wendy discussed the environmental scans performed on MICUSP and Sketch Engine before discussing the 4 personas that inspire the user design.

Overall the PLCC presentation went off without a hitch. During Q&A the audience members were very interested in how to make better use of corpus in the future. One listener even asked if they could use Crow for their own work and courses. Others asked quite a lot of technical questions about the design of the future site and the development of the project and corpus. With the help of Dr. Staples and Dr. Dilger in the audience, all the questions were responded to and excitement for Crow spread. Everyone in attendance, including Sherri and Wendy, were strongly motivated to see how this project will develop as progress continues.

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We’re in Rochester, NY for Computers & Writing 2016. We attended the computational rhetorics workshop facilitated by Ryan Omizo and Bill Hart-Davidson, and presented in session D2, “Boundary Work: Designing a Composition Archive for Research and Mentoring Across Disciplines.” That’s Friday, 5/20, 4:30 to 5:45pm, in Nursing 102.

We described our approach to developing Crow in five short talks:

  • Shelley Staples introduced our team and share our project goals.
  • For those C&W attendees not familiar with corpus linguistics, Terrence Wang offered an introduction.
  • Ashley Velázquez, reading for Lindsey Macdonald, outlined some of the pedagogical rationale for Crow, and describe some possibilities.
  • Michelle McMullin described how our approach to infrastructure draws on scholarship in professional communication.
  • Finally, Bradley Dilger concluded our panel by saying more about our approach to sustainable collaboration.

Here’s our session handout and slide deck. Thanks to those who attended!

We have more to say about the conference in another post.

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Finals week had just begun here at Purdue when the Crow team gathered in Heavilon Hall to kick off our summer projects. We met for some early morning sweets and some very much needed coffee to get our brains working before diving into our work. The team was assigned various tasks and dispersed. After touching base with other team members to ensure that everyone was on the same page, the bulk of the work was dedicated to de-identifying previously collected data.  

Crow team members de-identifying textsThough some of us probably could have used a bit more coffee.

Crow is built on the Purdue Corpus of Second Language Writing (PSLW), which is a collection of student-produced  documents from the ENGL 106i courses here at Purdue. Before uploading  these documents into the corpus, the documents must be de-identified. So, we split up into groups and we each tackled a group of documents. We reviewed  each document and redacted any information that could lead to the identification of the writer, including any names, locations such as hometown or dorm halls, specific course names, and specific professor names. Rather than just deleting the identifying word or words, we replaced each one  with angle brackets and the category we were replacing. For instance, a name such as “Jordan” is  replaced with “<name>”. This prevents any confusion that missing words may cause.

De-identifying the documents, though tedious and mind-numbing, is an important step in our process. At this point, we want to look for themes that spread across multiple documents, not focus on certain documents individually. That being said, the specific, identifying detail that writers may have included in their assignments become irrelevant. We also want to work to ensure that we are not creating any biases based on preexisting knowledge of who the writer is of any of the documents we are examining.

Even though we have a lot left on our to-do list, we are excited to dive in and get to work on our summer projects, and we are looking forward to the progress Crow will make during the upcoming months! We’ll be presenting at Computers & Writing 2016, and we have a lot of prototyping and design work planned. Time to get some more coffee!

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