PublicationsTopic index of systematic reviewsKnowledge pagesWritten composition
Written composition
This page contains the findings of systematic reviews undertaken by review groups linked to the EPPI Centre

Use of ICT
Sentence combining
Argumentative writing 

Use of ICT [3]

  • The in-depth review of nine studies found no conclusive answer. 
  • One study found that ICT made little difference to a group of learning disabled students in terms of writing quality, but that improvements in lower-order writing skills happened at a faster rate for such students, and there was an increase in self-esteem.
  • The review found that definitions of English, literacy and ICT are still unclear and the relationships between them have still to be fully theorised.

Syntax [2]

There were three evaluation studies in the in-depth review on the teaching of syntax which were considered to be of high-quality:

  • One of these studies concluded that traditional or transformational syntax teaching had virtually no influence on the language growth of typical secondary school students.
  • A second study concluded, tentatively, that a generative grammar approach does make a difference to syntactic quality and to the control of malformed sentences.
  • The third study concluded that mastery of written forms of standard English is improved for elementary school African-American pupils by using strategies for labelling and identifying grammatical features and by practising these forms and receiving teacher feedback.

Sentence combining [1]

  • An overall synthesis of the 18 studies examined in the in-depth review on the teaching of sentence combining came to a clear conclusion: sentence combining is an effective means of improving the syntactic maturity of students in written English between the ages of 5 and 16.
  • In the most reliable studies, immediate post-test effects were seen to be positive with some tempering of the effect in delayed post-tests.

Argumentative writing [4]

Results showed that certain conditions have to be in place to create a climate for successful practice. These are not specific to argumentative writing but include:

  • a writing process model in which students are encouraged to plan, draft, edit and revise their writing;
  • self-motivation
  • some degree of cognitive reasoning training in addition to the natural cognitive development that takes place with maturation
  • peer collaboration, thus modelling a dialogue that (it is hoped) will become internal and constitute ‘thought’
  • explicit and very clear explanations for students of the processes to be learned.

The specific strategies identified that have contributed to successful practice in teaching and learning with regard to argumentative writing for 7–14 year olds include:

  • ‘heuristics’, i.e. scaffolding of structures and devices that aid the composition of argumentative writing – in particular, planning, which can include examining a question, brainstorming, organizing and sequencing ideas and evaluating
  • planning which is extensive, elaborated and hierarchical
  • the use of oral argument, counterargument and rebuttal to inform written argument
  • the identification of explicit goals (including audiences) for writing
  • teacher modelling of argumentative writing
  • ‘procedural facilitation’, i.e. coaching by teaching through the process of writing argument.


1. The effect of grammar teaching (sentence combining) in English on 5 to 16 year olds' accuracy and quality in written composition  (2004)

2. The effect of grammar teaching (syntax) in English on 5-to 16-year-olds' accuracy and quality in written composition  (2004)

3. The effectiveness of different ICTs in the teaching and learning of English (written composition), 5-16 (2006)

4. Teaching argumentative non-fiction writing to 7–14 year olds: A systematic review of the evidence of successful practice (2006)

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