Paul Kei Matsuda
Historical Inquiry in Second Language Writing

Second Language Writing Research: Perspectives on the Process of Knowledge Construction (2005)

Historical inquiry in the field of second language writing is a form of metadisciplinary inquiry-self-reflexive investigation into the nature and development of a field of study (Matsuda, Canagarajah, Harklau, Hyland, & Warschauer, 2003). As such it may not contribute directly to raison d'etre of the field—that is, disciplinary inquiry into second language writers, writing, writing instruction, writing assessment, and writing program administration. Nevertheless, historical inquiry is important for the field because it provides a way of constructing, exposing, and examining metadisciplinary narratives that inevitably shape the ways in which we as members of the field conduct our work. In other words, historical inquiry can contribute insights into the socially shared and discursively constructed identiry of the field and its members. It can also help identify what issues have been discussed, what questions have been posed, what solutions have been devised, and what consequences have come of those solutions-and why.

My goal in this chapter is to highlight the importance of historical inquiry in constructing and examining metadisciplinary narratives. I begin by considering the current status of historical inquiry in second language studies. I then discuss my own historical study (Matsuda, 1999) to show an example of a metadisciplinary historiography that is based on careful and critical processes of collection, corroboration, and interpretation of historical data. I conclude by discussing the importance of ongoing communal dialectic in constructing and assessing metadisciplinary narratives.

Matsuda, P. K. (2005). Historical inquiry in second language writing. In P. K. Matsuda & T. Silva (Eds.), Second language writing research: Perspectives on the process of knowledge construction (pp. 33-46). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Updated on April 28, 2013