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Abstract

Writing centers assist students with the entire writing process, although centers are consistently mislabeled as editing or proofreading services. Grammarly, Inc. has claimed that its grammar program, Grammarly®, can complement writing centers, which could continue the misconception of writing centers or threaten their funding. This research sought to test this claim by comparing Grammarly®’s writing feedback with that of 10 online writing center consultants. Using a content analysis, the researcher analyzed eight aspects of feedback: amount, focus, type, accuracy, terminology, techniques, language choices, and evaluation. Grammarly®’s feedback was quick and included large numbers of comments but was limited to specific surface-level issues and could not consider content, context, or rhetorical choice. Although Grammarly®’s area of expertise is supposed to be grammar, it lacked accuracy and gave a larger number of incorrect suggestions than the consultants, while also missing over 70 errors. Furthermore, its feedback could not be personalized to the student’s needs, could not interact with the student or the text, used an authoritative tone, and harshly scored each student’s paper, all of which challenge writing center values. The researcher also interviewed the writing center consultants in two focus groups. The consultants found both positive and negative aspects to Grammarly®, and nine of them did not support its use in writing center sessions. To avoid providing students with “drive-through” writing feedback focused on quickness and quantity, rather than quality, this study concluded that Grammarly® cannot complement writing center work and should not be incorporated into writing centers.

Citation

Dembsey, J. M. (2014). Avoiding automated, “drive-through” writing feedback: A comparison of Grammarly and writing center consultants. Unpublished master’s thesis, Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, MI.