Towards cultural-historical and dialogical writing research – some methodological considerations



Based on a cultural-historical and dialogical conceptualization of thinking and speech as formulated in Soviet psychology and linguistics of the 1920s and 1930s, this article seeks to reflect upon a congruent way of investigating writing as a cognitive and communicative activity. What has to be taken into account when developing a methodology for writing research from a cultural-historical and dialogical perspective? Firstly, writing is not separated from other forms of speech activity like interpersonal and intrapersonal speech. Thus, inner dialogue and the addressed character of writing become crucial notions to be methodologically considered. Secondly, contrary to current writing research traditions such as literacy studies and studies of the writing process in cognitive psychology, both individual writing processes and socio-cultural writing practices as well as their relationship must be considered. These reflections lead towards the conclusion that writing is not fully accessible to external observation or to introspection. In consequence, a suggestion of a methodological approach is given, inspired by the activity theoretically informed method of auto-confrontation. The proposed method consists of two phases: a) videotaping of a writing episode and b) co-analysis of the videotaped writing episode in dialogue between writer and researcher. The second phase transfers the writing activity into a new context where understanding it becomes possible. The co-analysis makes involved positions audible: positions of the writer and of the researcher, of real and imagined readers as well as intersubjective and community-related positions. Finally, implications of the proposed research setting are discussed and evaluated with regard to the theoretical grounding. An instance of the methodology to be sketched in this article was developed in the context of the author’s dissertation project in preparation at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich, Germany with the working title «Writing processes and writing practices. A conceptualization from a dialogical perspective». The project is funded by scholarships of Universität Bayern e.V. and Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität.

General Information

Keywords: writing; writing research; dialogue; dialogical perspective; auto-confrontation

Journal rubric: Theory and Methodology

Article type: scientific article

For citation: Karsten A. Towards cultural-historical and dialogical writing research – some methodological considerations. Kul'turno-istoricheskaya psikhologiya = Cultural-Historical Psychology, 2010. Vol. 6, no. 4, pp. 91–98. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)


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Information About the Authors

Andrea Karsten, Postgraduate Student, Institute of General and structural linguistics, University of Munich, M.A., Munich, Germany, e-mail:



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