Why is the writing process recursive

2. The writing process

Definition of the writing process

The writing process is a comprehensive cognitive and psychomotor process that can be divided into different phases. In the first phase you plan a text - you collect ideas, organize them and think about structure and form. During phase two you deal with the actual formulation and in phase three you revise the written text.

Hence are the three phases of the writing process

1. Planning,

2. formulation,

3. Revision.


It's important, that

  • these phases overlap each other, especially in the case of the experienced scribe
  • A supportive structuring of the process is necessary, especially for beginners
  • every writing process is also a learning process (cf. fundamentally Beisbart 1989).


Development of the writing process

Theoretical knowledge about this processual nature of text production is basically very old and comes from ancient rhetoric (cf. Brugger 2004). Since the 1980s, empirical research into writing processes has been demanded and carried out, especially in US American specialist literature (cf. on reception in Germany, the anthology by Baurmann / Weingarten, ed. 1996). The results of such research have now been prepared didactically.

The model by Hayes & Flower

The Hayes & Flower model consists of three main factors: the task environment, long-term memory, and the planning and execution component.

  • The Task environment includes all information that has an external influence on the writing process: writing intention, purpose and addressees. This information is derived from the writing task. The task environment also has an effect on the text that was created later, since the author now has to combine text that has already been written with new text.
  • The second factor is that Long-term memory, in which the knowledge and ability is stored that the writer needs to be able to write a text (language skills and general education, but also knowledge of the addressee (s)).
  • The third factor that Planning and execution, described in detail by Hayes & Flower, is divided into the three phases mentioned. During this writing process it is possible and necessary to access the other two factors in each of the three phases.

In the planning phase a distinction can be made between the generation process and the organizational process: During the former, the writer clarifies the intention and objective of the writing task. In addition, he analyzes the addressee with the knowledge from long-term memory and then calls up the necessary world knowledge that he needs to cope with the task. The organizational process is then about organizing the world knowledge called up in a writing plan. The knowledge of the types of text and the associated general textual structure specifications must be taken into account.

The will follow at the latest after the planning phase has been completed Formulation phase. It includes a "translation process": the previously planned content is now converted into characters by activating language knowledge from long-term memory.

The last to follow is the Revision phase. Their function is to improve the existing text. The writer reads the resulting text several times, evaluates it and makes changes if necessary - naturally taking into account the task at the beginning, in which the intention and the objective were stated. But now it's also about being able to speak.

All of these sub-processes and phases are supported by the monitor coordinated. He is responsible for ensuring that they can be repeated several times as required. Accordingly, there is no fixed sequence of phase or sub-processes; this process is called recursive.

The Recursiveness However, it should not be understood that there is a constant change between the processes. Writing is only successful if the writer competently masters the individual sub-activities required for the task and selects and skillfully coordinates strategies in a conscious and sensible way.



However, the model is accused of being too oriented towards the actions of a writing expert: The processes described in the model are not actions of a novice writer. What writing novices and learners do in school is not necessarily described correctly.

In addition, it is often noted that a writing process does not take place in as clear steps as it is presented by Hayes & Flower. The recursiveness is only indicated by arrows in the model.

But also the factor of motivation is neglected by the critics. Long-term memory alone would not be enough to gain sufficient information to complete the task. What is more, the knowledge often has to be enriched by external sources.


Despite these criticisms, the Hayes & Flower model has prevailed for depicting the writing process.

Ludwig's model (1983)

According to Ludwig, it is not possible to analyze the writing process as such, but only certain characteristics and forms of it. His model is based on the assumption that an expository text will be produced (expressing thoughts).

The writing process is not only characterized by its complexity, but also by its dynamism. It is difficult, however, to model this dynamic.

In order to understand his model, Ludwig assumes that individual writing activities come about or can relate to one another in the following ways:

  • multilevel - activities involved in the writing process can act on different levels (motivational, linguistic, conceptual)
  • successive - the writing process is ordered in time, the individual activities of which it is composed follow one another (i.e. not that one action has to be completed before another begins.)
  • interactive - a first draft of the text can be created, while mental structures are only developing
  • iterative - writers can repeat activities as often as they like
  • recursive - one and the same process refers to itself
  • routinely or automatically.


Based on Hayes & Flower, Ludwig assumes five levels for the analysis of the sub-processes of writing:

1. Motivational basis:The duration, intensity and occurrence of the writing process depend on the motivational basis. Most of the time, the pupils find the beginning of a writing process difficult - the motivation to finish what has been written increases. According to Ludwig, the strongest motive in writing is the possibility of objectification (expression of feelings, thoughts, wishes).

2. Conceptual processes: Writing is purposeful action; the writing process begins with the formation of a goal. This is followed by the development of a content concept (knowledge, processing of knowledge, fixation).

3. Internal linguistic processes: Nowhere is the networking of the activities involved in the writing process more evident than in the linguistic processes. Linguistic activities do not start until the conceptual ones have been completed.

4. Motor processes: Ludwig refers exclusively to studies of neurophysiology and brain surgery and emphasizes that over 30 muscles are involved in writing movements of the hand.

5. Governing Activities: The revision in the last phases consists of various improvements (correcting, correcting, editing, rewriting).

The model by Becker-Mrotzek / Böttcher (2011)

This model sees “writing” embedded in the Situation of written communication (communicative act). The text is the common interface between writer and reader who are not in one place.

The production of a text as a complex action consists of several Action steps:

  1. A current situation offers a writing channel (situation of written communication)
  2. A writing motivation develops from this, i.e. a concrete goal.

Assessment, motivation and goal setting depend on the cognitive prerequisites of the writer. The appraisal the conditions of reception requires the ability of social cognition and factual knowledge. The motivation requires a writing plan; this can be set up yourself or taken over (use of existing plans).

Execution of the plan depends on the intended text:

  • Simple texts (without draft / research, freely from memory)
  • More complex texts (goal setting - planning - execution). Research can show that a goal is unrealistic / plan is impracticable.
  • Formulation: Finding suitable linguistic expressions and writing them down

According to this model, the stages are often passed through frequently. The text production is constantly changing the material basis: The present draft influences the previous steps.

The material conditions depend on the writing tool and research options

Special feature of the text production: Cognitive prerequisites are not only used, but also changed (extended planning and execution process)

Processes that go unnoticed in oral communication must be made aware in the writing process.

Evaluation of the writing process in the school context

From the point of view of process orientation, evaluating texts for learners is becoming a completely new challenge. It is assumed that the effort to understand and interpret errors / weaknesses must come together with a norm-oriented assessment that follows established standards. The aim is to "accompany" the writing processes (Saxalber / Esterl eds. 2011) and to initiate the development of competencies, the "finding of grades" is only one of the means of a "supporting assessment".

The recognition of "writing as a process" does not automatically lead to process-oriented writing. In order for process orientation to succeed, writing lessons should be understood as "reflective practice" (Bräuer 2000) and writer differentiated, integrative and default-based be (see Baurmann 2014, 350-354).

"Process orientation when writing does not mean that we should practice the process broken down into individual parts, but that we take into account the constant mixing and interaction of all process phenomena involved by enabling the students to extensively, from different perspectives, using different media Approximate text "(Brugger 2004).

Implementation of a process-oriented writing lesson

Possibilities for realizing this knowledge are e.g .:

The reading diary

A reading diary as a diary that is kept parallel to reading a (mostly literary) text,

  • is characterized by everyday orientation, continuity, reflection and the function of a memory aid
  • focuses on the self-reflection of the readers / researchers
  • is important for monitoring the progress of chronologically ordered events and enables processes of understanding to be traced

The portfolio

The portfolio as a folder in which work results, documents, visualizations and all types of presentations including audio-visual are collected and reflected separately,

  • is an expression of largely self-regulating learning
  • offers an alternative to traditional performance appraisals
  • represents a documentation of the learning development
  • compensates for a lack of feedback on the learner's strengths and weaknesses in class.


Further comments can be found under the aspects of evaluating texts in writing lessons and the writing conference.


Further literature for process models:

  • Beisbart 1989
  • Fix 2006, 36-49
  • Ludwig 1997
  • Wolff 2002
  • Sieber 2003
  • Sheet 2006
  • Saxalber / Esterl (ed.) 2011
  • Becker-Mrotzek / Böttcher 2011


Further reading for didakt. Conclusions:

  • Brewer 2000
  • Glasses Zikuda 2007
  • Baurmann 2014