"'I'm Just No Good at Writing':

Epistemological Style and Attitudes Toward Writing."

Davida Charney, John Newman, and Mike Palmquist

Written Communication 12.3 (1995) 298-329.


Little is known about how attitudes toward writing relate to beliefs about knowledge or how attitudes and beliefs affect students' performance and willingness to learn. Students who view writing ability as an unattainable gift may stop trying; those who see information as true or false may see no point in learning argumentation. We assessed writing attitudes and epistemologies of 117 first-year and 329 upper-level undergraduates. Attitude scales assessed enjoyment of writing, self-ratings of writing ability, and belief in writing as learnable. Epistemological scales measured absolutism (belief in knowledge as determinably true or false), relativism (belief in the indeterminacy of all claims), and evaluativism (belief that truth can be approximated). Absolutism correlated negatively with writing grades and verbal aptitude, while evaluativism exhibited a weak positive correlation with both. Students with higher evaluativism tended to enjoy writing more and to assess themselves as good writers. Upper-level students were less absolutist and marginally more evaluativist than first-year students. Differences in attitudes and epistemologies emerged between men and women, and among upper-level students in four disciplinary groups. We sketch some implications for writing pedagogy.