Composition Studies is an academic discipline chiefly concerned with the processes writers use to compose and share texts.

Composition Studies is a subdiscipline of Writing Studies.


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Composition Studies

Scholars and researchers in Composition Studies, an academic discipline, focus on investigating composing processes (also known as creative processes).

See Also:
The Composing Process

Composition Studies traces its origin story to the rise of Sputnik–yet the field’s roots run deep to antiquity (e.g., philosophy and rhetoric) and wide (e.g., education and psychology). In their introduction to Exploring Composition Studies: Sites, Issues, Perspectives, Kelly Ritter and Paul Kei Matsuda, sketch a genealogy for the discipline back to

  • antiquity, particularly the work of Aristotle on Rhetorical appeals and the Rhetorical Situation
  • the early 1890s when Harvard instituted the first undergraduate course explicitly on college writing
  • 1911 when the National Council of Teachers of English was formed
  • 1950 when College Composition and Communication, an academic journal was founded.

The Conference on College Composition and Communication, which is the professional organization for Composition Studies, defines the field very broadly:

The field of composition studies draws on research and theories from a broad range of humanistic disciplines—English studies, rhetoric, cultural studies, LGBT studies, gender studies, critical theory, education, technology studies, race studies, communication, philosophy of language, anthropology, sociology, and others—and from within composition and rhetoric studies, where a number of subfields have also developed, such as technical communication, computers and composition, writing across the curriculum, research practices, and the history of these fields. 

Conference on College Composition and Communication

In Stephen North’s creation story for Composition Studies (see The Making of Knowledge in Composition, 1987), he argues the discipline’s existence and success in the United States was founded on (1) GI Bill; (2) the rise of science.

North contends the GI Bill, which funded millions of U.S. veterans to attend colleges, created a shock to the educational system. Because many of these students funded by the GI bill were underprepared in terms of their literacy competencies, schools had to rethink their curriculum and pedagogy.

North argues the early pioneers, the first-generation of Compositionists, embraced the idea that the scientific method would provide new solutions for teaching and learning. Here, the Compositionists leveraged America’s fear that it was falling behind Russia, as symbolized by Sputnik.

Related Concepts

Research & Theory on Composing

This provides a rough sketch of some major research studies regarding the composing processes of with graders. It addresses the complexities of composing processes.

Works Cited

Olson, Keith. “The G. I. Bill and Higher Education: Success and Surprise,” American Quarterly Vol. 25, No. 5 (December 1973) 596-610. in JSTORin JSTOR

Additional articles on Composition-studies:

  1. The Mysterious Incident of the Missing Title: Why Did Titular Concern Vanish from Composition Studies?

    Titles How much time, if any, do first-year writing instructors spend in class discussing the importance of titles on their...