CCE Theses and Dissertations

The Effects of Grammar and Style Checking Software on the Writing of 9th Grade Basic Students in a Process Centered Writing Lab

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences


Steven R. Terrell

Committee Member

John Kingsburry

Committee Member

William Musil


Contrary to expectations, the initial introduction of computers into the writing process did not result in a significant improvement in the quality of writing high school students. Forty-eight 9th grade high school students, who performed at a level of at least one year below grade level on the Scholastic Testing Service High School Entrance Exam, were selected for the study.

The control group received traditional writing instruction and the teacher functioned in the traditional manner, allowing students to write on their own and grading papers and offering suggestions only after the papers had been completed. In the experimental group, the students also did all the writing on the computer, but had more latitude in selecting the topics they wrote about and used a grammar and style checking program (Grammatik 4.0) to offer suggestions to assist them in their writing. The teacher was available to the students at all times, functioning more as a coach and co-writer than a judge and evaluator of their papers. Both groups wrote for three forty-five minute class periods each week for one semester (18 weeks). Pre- and post-study samples of their writing were evaluated on the integration variable using the "Handbook for Planning an Effective Writing Program," published by the California Department of Education (1993). In addition, samples were evaluated for specific grammatical errors according to definitions in the "Handbook for Planning an Effective Writing Program." Analysis of the data at the a = 0.10 level indicated that the experimental group produced significantly better writing than the control group, although the improvement on the control group was greater than would have been predicted by earlier research. It suggests that, when used in an environment designed to provide immediate assistance to these writers, in a program run by an instructor who functions more as a coach than a judge, where sufficient time is provided for extensive student writing, there may be significant improvement in the student’s writing skills. Further research is needed to determine if writers of all ability levels would benefit from this technique.

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