Paul Kei Matsuda

Feedback on a Conferece Proposal

Sometimes people wonder why their conference proposals were not accepted, and ask the conference organizer for feedback. I am not always able to offer feedback, but sometimes I try to help out--especially if the issues I see are closely related to my current thinking. In exchange, I ask them if it's OK for me to post it publicly so other people would be able to benefit from the exchange as well. Stephanie (@stephfuccio) was one of those people, and she graciously agreed to have me share the message below.


Hi Stephanie,

Thanks for your message. The reviewers did not provide any comments on your abstracts, but the scores were just below the cut-off point, which means it is a good proposal but there were plenty of other proposals that were even stronger.

If I may, here are some of my own thoughts on your proposal. You wrote:

Writing is a difficult, vulnerable act, and becomes even more so when done in a second language. Giving and receiving writing feedback, for instructors and peers, in an L2 context is even more of a balancing act due to the historical focus on accuracy. Compounding the matter further still is the issue of where students should write and receive feedback. Using technology has been a common practice for at least a generation for L1 writing classrooms globally, but for international students from more traditional classroom environments bringing computers into the classroom can be a new and daunting experience. Currently, there are numerous studies detailing the uses of wikis and blogs for L2 writing for both instructor and peer feedback along with a growing amount of literature on L1 cloud writing feedback. But although cloud feedback is being used more in the L2 writing classroom, there is still a rather large gap in the L2 writing literature about said usage. Of all the technologies available, cloud feedback has the highest potential to shift the L2 educational paradigm in order to encourage the L2 writer’s ideas, in lieu of highlighting their language deficiencies. If there ever was a student population that would benefit from added visual input and shifting educational paradigms, it would be L2 writers. This action research study examines how 34 international students from two sections of First-Year Writing classes at a university in the South-Western United States utilized, benefited from and reacted to using Google Docs for feedback purposes.

You are right that cloud writing feedback has not been widely used or documented in L2 writing classroom. There certainly is room for a study that defines and describes cloud writing feedback, documents its implementation, and discusses its impact on learning and teaching. It is important to keep in mind, however, that the lack of studies on any given topic is not strong enough as a rationale for a study. It would have made the proposal much stronger if it made clear to the readers what the issues in the field are that can be addressed by taking up the particular topic or approach (feedback is too general).

I do realize that there is a statement that seems like an attempt to justify the study: "Of all the technologies available, cloud feedback has the highest potential to shift the L2 educational paradigm in order to encourage the L2 writer’s ideas, in lieu of highlighting their language deficiencies.” But this sentence needs to be developed more. First, what are the shortcomings of the current technologies and how does cloud writing feedback overcome those issues? And why is cloud feedback contrasted with “highlighting their language deficiencies”? (This is a matter of how technology is used, not necessarily what is inherent in the technologies that are used for providing feedback.)

Another consideration is how the proposal is grounded in a current conversation in the field of L2 writing. In this proposal, the introduction consists of a series of general and widely accepted statements—so much so that they don’t need to be stated at all. There is an attempt to narrow down by moving from general to specific (a genre appropriate move). But it starts too far back, rather than starting with the current state of knowledge in the field. It also moves too slowly to get to the real issue. In fact, you could get rid of the first four sentences without affecting your proposal at all. Instead, more emphasis needs to be placed on describing the specific research problem/question, research method, possible findings and implications.

In writing a proposal, always keep in mind these questions: What is it about (research problem)? How are you going to address the research problem (method)? What are the major contributions (findings)? and Why does it matter (implications)?

Hope these comments help as you develop future proposals.



Last update: January 6, 2008