Carnegie Mellon University

The Effect of External Representation in Computer-Mediated versus Face-to-Face Collaborative Peer Review on More and Less Experienced Writers

Author: Thomas Joseph Hajduk
Degree: Ph.D. in Rhetoric, Carnegie Mellon University, 1999

This dissertation examines how writers collaborate with peer reviewers in face-to-face situations and in on-line situations. The study reported here was experimental and employed a 2x3 factorial design, with one between-subjects factor (writing experience) and one within subjects factor (type of collaborative interaction). The purpose of this design was to examine the relationship between writing experience and two different types of collaborative review: Face-to-Face and Computer-Mediated. Twelve more experienced writers and twelve less experienced writers cycled through (A) three writing tasks, (B) three collaborative peer review tasks, (C) three revising tasks, and (D) one cued interview at the end. Results showed significant differences between more experienced writers and less experienced writers when the final essays were rated using an improvement quality scale. As with many previous studies, a main effect was found for experience level. More experienced writers (MEWs) were significantly better at revising their essays compared to the less experienced writers (LEWs). A post hoc analysis revealed a significant correlation between the number of challenges and improvement quality in the computer-mediated collaborative condition, but not in the face-to-face condition. Although additional analysis of the data is necessary as well as additional studies, the finding raises some interesting issues regarding the assumed advantages of face-to-face collaboration. One possible cause for the significant relationship in the computer-mediated condition may be the primacy of print theory, which suggests that people tend to remember and recall ideas and points better after reading them when compared with listening to them. In the computer-mediated condition, the writers were able to read the reviewer's challenges on line and also in a computer printout of the on-line conversation, which was available to writers during the revision session. A possible explanation might be that writers paid more attention to the reviewer challenges--and, therefore, revised more--because they simply may have been able to recall the challenges more readily while revising.