Resources > Library

Articles on Error Analysis

Listed below are articles on this topic from the Campus Writing Program library. Short summaries and citations are provided when available.


Bartholomae, David. "Released into Language: Errors, Expectations, and the Legacy of Mina Shaughnessy." The Territory of Language. Ed. Donald A. McQuade. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois UP, 1986. 65-88.

After summarizing Shaughnessy's contributions to the teaching of basic writing, Bartholomae explores the implications of the observation that teachers need to be able to recognize styles of writing. Bartholomae believes that a literary education is fundamental to being able to discern style. Furthermore, a literary education involves the realization that style is derived from the language of a cultural legacy. Basic writers, however, do not have the literary education to ground their use of language, which results in their writing being adequate, but not expressive. Bartholomae argues that basic writing should release students into language, by which he means that it should gain students access into the culture of the academy. This process, though, would mean an overhaul of the basic writing curriculum as it is generally taught.

Bartholomae, David. "The Study of Error." College Composition and Communication 31 (1980): 253-269.

Examines 'basic writing' as a variety of writing with its own style and suggests that error in basic writing "can only be understood as evidence of intention" (255). Error analysis, then, can help teachers recognize stages of individual development and assist instruction.

Butler, John F. "Remedial Writers: The Teacher's Job as Corrector of Papers." College Composition and Communication 31 (1980): 270-277.

Encourages responding to remedial students' papers with a focus on ideas rather than mechanics. Suggests comments on papers should not point out sentence-level errors since remedial writers will probably not recognize the errors in their work without more explanation and will be discouraged by the many marks.

Connors, Robert J. and Andrea A. Lunsford. "Frequency of Formal Errors in Current College Writing, or Ma and Pa Kettle Do Research. "College Composition and Communication 39 (1988): 395-409.

Connors and Lunsford present their analysis of 3000 marked essays in order to discover the most common patterns of student errors and which errors are marked most consistently by American instructors. Major findings include the observation that teachers disagree on what constitutes a markable error, and tend to mark errors related to how serious or annoying the error is perceived for both student and teacher, although the difficulty in explaining the nature of the error also factors into the process. Furthermore, all stereotypes of English teachers aside, teachers do not mark many errors. Finally, and more refreshingly, the study suggests that college students at the end of the century do not make more errors than they did earlier in the century.

Greenbaum, Sidney, and John Taylor. "The Recognition of Usage Errors by Instructors of Freshman Composition." College Composition and Communication 32.2 (1981): 169-174.

Tested ability of freshman comp teachers (usually grad students) to recognize, name, and correct 10 types of usage errors: 4 that the authors judged were "clearly unacceptable," 4 that were "in divided usage," and 2 that were "clearly acceptable." Found lots of variability in whether a sentence needed correction, in what was wrong, and in how to correct it.

Harris, Muriel. "Mending the Fragmented Free Modifier." College Composition and Communication 32.2 (1981): 175-182.

Analyzes sentence fragments found in student papers according to a scheme defining different categories of fragments: broken sentences and minor sentences. Focus is on a particular kind of minor sentence: the fragmented free modifier. Suggests strategies for dealing with these errors.

Klinger, George C. "A Campus View of College Writing." College Composition and Communication 28 (December 1977): 343-347.

Klinger surveyed 3,000 professors (300 in English, 2,700 in other departments) to see how they would grade a hypothetical student essay. He found that most professors caught the same mechanical errors and also had similar responses to organization, logic, word choice, and style problems. He concludes that professors outside English do care about English usage and that they have similar attitudes toward writing problems. Klinger suggests that these findings may allow English departments to cooperate with other departments in teaching writing.

Kroll, Barry, and John C. Schafer. "Error-Analysis and the Teaching of Composition." College Composition and Communication 29 (1978): 242- 248.

Discusses the connection between error analysis--using errors as indicators of mechanical or conceptual patterns--and a process approach to writing. Discusses the possible sources of errors in ESL writers and shows how an understanding of the source of an error can be applied to helping the writer move toward the correct form.

Odell, Lee. "Responding to Student Writing." College Composition and Communication 24 (1973): 394-400.

Odell suggests that teachers' responses to student writing should identify and refine the strategies of students' mental processes. These strategies include focus, contrast, change, reference to sequence, reference to physical context, and classification. He analyzes several examples of student writing to explain useful response techniques.

Struck, H. R. "Wanted: More Writing Courses for Graduate Students." College Composition and Communication 27 (May 1976): 192-197.

Struck argues that graduate students are more motivated than undergrads to improve their writing, and describes the course he teaches to PhD students in a variety of disciplines. He improves graduate students' writing by doing "frequency counts" on their writing samples to explain the kinds of stylistic problems that occur in their work, such as verb variety, subject vs. non-subject sentence openers, and passive construction.

Taylor, Gordon. "Errors and Explanations." Applied Linguistics 7.2 (1986): 144-166.

Outlines nine principles, aims, and methods of error analysis using examples from a student paper on Conrad's Heart of Darkness.

Wall, Susan V. and Glynda A. Hull. "The Semantics of Error: What Do Teachers Know?" Writing and Response: Theory, Practice, and Research. Ed. Chris M. Anson. Urbana, IL: NCTE, 1989. 261-292.

Writing instructors assume that they share a common knowledge with respect to various types of student errors. Wall and Hull, however, conducted a study using 55 English teachers, including elementary, secondary, and university teachers. The results indicate that teachers do not share a common assumption of what constitutes error.

Williams, Joseph M. "Non-Linguistic Linguistics and the Teaching of Style." The Territory of Language. Ed. Donald A. McQuade. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois UP, 1986. 174-191.

Includes history of approaches to style and examples of stylistic analysis.

Williams, Joseph M. "The Phenomenology of Error." College Composition and Communication 32 (1981): 152-168.

Discusses the difficulty of defining grammatical/mechanical errors, and the wide variation in definitions and judgments about the seriousness of different errors. Defines categories of error, based on whether a rule was violated or not, and whether we (readers) notice or respond to its violation or not. Discusses errors that fall into each of these categories.

[Back to top]