Corpus and Repository of Writing

We are pleased to introduce a new segment on Write Crow – APPLAWS.

APPLAWS (pronounced “applause”) will share the team’s awards, publications, plans, leadership, achievements, woots, and surprises three times each year. Crow has always shared our celebratory work and the new division of the blog continues that work. The APPLAWS is a recurring cross-institutional update about our accomplishments blog. APPLAWS is spearheaded by the Purdue University undergraduate intern with assistance from a graduate researcher.


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In late October, the Crow grants team submitted a proposal for the Humanities Without Walls initiative The Work of the Humanities in a Changing Climate,” which is funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. It’s taken us a while to announce this, but we’re extremely pleased to share that Crow has been selected for the first round of funding!

When we first saw the Changing Climate RFP, the “graduate humanities lab practicum” component, which suggested turning to studio or lab models for inspiration, jumped out to us. From the start, we’ve imagined graduate students as equal partners in Crow research. We’ve been working in a studio environment at Purdue for quite some time. We’ve always thought our project could produce not only the traditional research output for corpora and repositories (approaching research questions about the function of language and the nature of writing) but would offer valuable methods for interdisciplinary collaboration, too.

Funding from HWW ($141,706) will help us accelerate the development of Crow in several important ways:

  • Graduate students at Purdue and Michigan State will be able to devote more time to the project.
  • We’ll be able to offer paid undergraduate internships at Purdue and Michigan State.
  • Software development gets a big boost with funding for contractors.
  • Travel support will bring Arizona and Michigan State Crowbirds to West Lafayette for development sprints —every semester from now until Fall 2018.
  • We’ll host a symposium on interdisciplinary, mixed-methods writing research in Fall 2018.

We’re grateful for the support from Humanities without Walls, and look forward to sharing the work they’ve made possible. And with this in mind, expect to see this more often around here:

Crow is supported by the Humanities Without Walls consortium, based at the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The Humanities Without Walls consortium is funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

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A few weeks ago members of the Crow team attended both the American Association for Applied Linguistics (AAAL) conference located in Portland, Oregon and the TESOL International Convention & English language expo located in Seattle, Washington.


At AAAL we presented a poster on developing an L2 corpus. It highlighted what Crow does as a research team, the projects we have completed, and our future plans. This was a great networking opportunity that gave us the ability to talk with faculty and researchers in multiple fields.

Crow poster presented at AAAL 201


Members that attended TESOL had the opportunity to spend the weekend attending workshops and presentations that explained how to apply the information being presented into their very own classrooms. We presented on two different panels. The second was interdisciplinary and discussed the effectiveness of data-driven instructions on reporting verbs in L2 writing. The presentation was geared towards teachers and how they can use a corpus and repository in their own classroom. We were asked some very important questions during this panel including

Hadi Banat presenting at Tesol 2017.

Q1: Why are you presenting this project? Are you offering a model to replicate or are you promoting its usability?

Response: It depends on the context and resources of the institution. Money, time, investment, and work force are all resources that can influence the purpose of the project. With Crow we are designing a Corpus interface and resources that could be used by teachers and students at many institutions. We are also designing a model for research and development that other institutions will find valuable.

Q2: How did you do the corpus workshop in the classroom?

Response: We gave a brief overview of the previous TESOL panel (panel power-point shown below) that covered this exact topic.

Q3: How do you decide on research?

Response: Our team is graduate student driven and our research is centered around their interests. The projects Crow pursues are developed in a graduate practicum lab in collaboration with faculty and an interdisciplinary team. This studio-based format for research development allows for both short term and long term research plans that support graduate student professional development, and also helps us to maintain a flexible model that can grow and change based on the interests of current students.

Team members from all of our research sites, Michigan State University, Purdue University, and University of Arizona, flew to Portland to present in two panels that discussed Crow’s research practices at the Conference on College Composition & Communication (CCCC). We rented a house and established a temporary Crow nest in Portland.

Additional Crow member from the Portland Crow’s nest

On the first day of the conference Terrence Wang, Michelle McMullin, Bradley Dilger and Shelley Staples presented on promoting RAD research by illustrating inter-institutional institutional research fosters diverse outcomes, the development of sustainable infrastructures, and the life-cycle model of scalable user-centered development.

Michelle McMullin presenting at CCCC 2017.

On day two Lindsey McDonald, Shelley Staples, and Bill Hart-Davidson presented on collaborative work. They talked about the Crow citation project and the work they have conducted in order to establish connections between pedagogical materials and student writing. This research will be used to articulate how the content and language instructors use in their pedagogical materials affects how students interpret assignments as well as show how the corpus and repository work together.

Shelley Staples presenting at CCCC 2017.

The Crow team made more interdisciplinary connections at CCCCs by discussing collaborative work and the roll of data analysis in writing studies with Chris Holcomb and Duncan Buell from University of South Carolina and Susan Conrad from Portland State University.

We look forward to more feedback, collaboration, and planning with scholars across disciplines as we plan for the Crow research symposium in Spring of 2019.

We’re excited to be offering a full-day workshop at Computers & Writing 2017 — sharing some of the lessons we’ve learned from our highly nerdly inter-institutional collaborative research project. Here’s the abstract, and after the jump, the full description of the workshop. (Attending? See the workshop materials.)

Structuring Active Work: Developing Sustainable Digital Infrastructures for Collaborative Research Teams

As writing is increasingly performed in online shared spaces, and humanities research becomes more dependent on external funding, collaborative work is more important than ever. Although collaborative teaching and learning are nearly ubiquitous, scholarship in Computers & Writing speaks more to classrooms than our own research and professional development. This full-day workshop supports sustainable research in our field by helping research teams learn to communicate and collaborate in a manner which both supports joint decision-making and sustains long-term research. We share lessons learned from our interdisciplinary, inter-institutional research project focused on research and professional development in writing instruction. Through intensive participant-facilitator collaboration, we offer attendees opportunities to gain experience using digital tools, redirect communication breakdowns productively, build frameworks for scaffolding active work, and network with researchers similarly interested in helping writing research become more sustainable, efficient, and effective.


Attendees of this full-day workshop will study models for collaborative research teams, learn best practices for digital collaboration tools, and build a framework for their future collaborations including goals for sustainable research.

Interested? Register today, or keep reading!


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Shelley Flies South; Wildcats turn Wildcrows

Shelley Staples has moved from Purdue to the University of Arizona to head up our little flock of AZ Crowbirds. She is joined by four Wildcats who turned Wildcrow to start up the Arizona branch of the corpus project. Samantha Kirby and Olga Chumakova are graduate students in the University of Arizona’s English Applied Linguistics program. Kati Juhlin and Justin Squires are undergraduate students in the Linguistics department.  

Teaming Up

This is the first blog post from the Arizona team, and we’re excited to share what we’ve been working on.

Samantha Kirby’s interests have always been with digital technology and linguistics, and in the CROW lab she found quite a few venues to apply her talents. Olga Chumakova had some past experience with building a small corpus on paper and in a box for research she did, so the opportunity to participate in a grown-up and serious corpus project felt like an exciting way to learn. Kati Juhlin can’t think of a better way to transition from an undergraduate linguistics degree to a graduate English Applied Linguistics program than the CROW lab, where she can geek out about grammar and get a crash course on corpus linguistics research at the same time. Justin looks to make his way to Japan as an English language teacher after graduation and has found exposure to copious amounts of L2 writing and a language-teaching oriented lab team to be very informative about what the inner-workings of the field may look like.

Corpus Building

Last semester we collected student essays from several sections of English 106 and 108, freshman composition courses for international students. Now we’re working forward to collect content from even more instructors and students at the end of this semester.

Our biggest task has been processing these texts. Right off the bat we ran into some snags. Most notable is the incorporation of multimedia in students’ writing. We love that teachers are encouraging their students to make Weebly pages, Facebook posts, and tweets to demonstrate different registers of writing, but it makes our task harder as we decide how to convert these creative works into .txt files in a consistent way. It has taken some trial and error, but we’re working on establishing guidelines to do it. We are excited to announce that the end of text processing is in sight and we are about to start de-identifying our data!

A recent informal discussion among the Arizona Crow members reminded us that we are not representing all of the multilingual writers at Arizona  because they decide to take writing classes with first language (L1) English/monolingual speakers. Adapting to a new writing environment might encourage multilingual writers to work twice as hard as some L1 English writers with the result being stronger, more grammatically complex writing. Don’t get lazy all you L1 English writers!


Samantha and Olga have also been putting together a workshop for the instructors of the UA Writing Program in April, and another for faculty and grad students who may be interested in using our corpus for research. The idea for the first workshop is to help raise language use awareness among English instructors, and show how corpus linguistics can inform curricula and classroom activities. For the second one we plan to get even more people excited about using PSLW and ASLW for their projects. We think possible research can include not only studies of grammatical structures, and learner’s use of language features and conventions, but also identity research, because our corpus contains reflective essays and narratives.


Modern technologies keep the crow-birds in touch. Olga, Justin, and Kati have been getting familiar with the tag checking process and establishing inter-rater reliability with Ashley and Ji-Young from the Purdue team via Skype. We’re learning all about passive voice, and the complement and relative clauses. The word “that” is now all we hear when someone speaks, or writes. And Skype says no to two calls on two computers from the same account, be warned!

Finally, Samantha will be working with Mark Fullmer on the interface for the online corpus. These two will combine their digital expertise to ensure successful usability and database construction.


Olga, Samantha, and Shelley joined the rest of the Crow team in Seattle for the TESOL conference. Stay tuned for an update on our presentations there!




Next! After our two CCCC talks, the Crow team presented this poster (PDF) about our work in the Sunday afternoon poster session at AAAL 2017.

Crow AAAL 2017 Poster (three panels)

Crow AAAL 2017 Poster; link to PDF

Today the Crow team presented “Cultivating Writing Research via Corpus and Computational Collaboration,” featuring talks from Lindsey Macdonald, Shelley Staples, Bill Hart-Davidson, and Ryan Omizo:

In March 2017, CCCC will be joined in Portland by AAAL, the conference of the American Association for Applied Linguistics. We take this opportunity to highlight the value of collaboration between researchers who will be attending one, but likely not both, of these conferences, and unfortunately, crossing paths in few ways. The corpus linguistics methods common in applied linguistics can bring quantitative elements to empirical research in rhetoric and composition, including attention to demographic issues and diverse genres. Rhetorical research, conversely, offers corpus researchers valuable insights into extra-textual features and contextual influences. This panel explores possibilities for collaborative writing research by demonstrating the value of this interdisciplinary work. We offer an overview of the benefits of corpus and computational methods, then present case studies of two projects which integrate computational methods and corpus linguistics with rhetoric and composition. We conclude with a brief panel discussion of takeaways for interdisciplinary collaboration, then invite conversation.

Here’s our session handout.

We’d love to hear your comments!

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Michelle McMullin, Terrence Wang, Bradley Dilger and Shelley Staples are presenting “Promoting RAD writing research through inter-institutional collaboration” at CCCC. Here are the notes, slides, and references from our A10 presentation, (March 16, 2017).

In this presentation, we describe how research designed as inter-institutional from its inception has embedded attention to diverse research outcomes, the development of sustainable infrastructures, and the lifecycle model of scalable user-centered development. Our project brings the methods of corpus linguistics to rhetoric and composition, and vice-versa, creating a web-based archive for research and professional development. By embedding an interdisciplinary approach to collaboration from the start, we have developed a project that considers the strengths and contributions of each partner for an effective collaboration model that best serves the needs of all stakeholders.

Promoting RAD Writing Research conference handout (PDF).


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The Crow team had a great time presenting at the Purdue Languages and Cultures Conference (PLCC 2017). One of our presentations was standing room only!

Here is a link to the handout for “Building a Better Team”

Look for a longer blog entry soon as we prepare to travel out west for our March SPACCLE!