Naming What We Know

Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies

edited by Linda Adler-Kassner and Elizabeth Wardle

Winner of the 2016 CWPA Special Award for Outstanding Scholarship

"I recommend this book to librarians as well as to faculty right across the disciplines. It packs a lot of knowledge about writing into a small but rich package. It also might provide librarians with a model for how to talk to our non-librarian colleagues about the big ideas we all hope students will grasp without reducing them to a checklist to be covered in library sessions."

Inside Higher Ed


Naming What We Know examines the core principles of knowledge in the discipline of writing studies using the lens of “threshold concepts”—concepts that are critical for epistemological participation in a discipline. The first part of the book defines and describes thirty-seven threshold concepts of the discipline in entries written by some of the field’s most active researchers and teachers, all of whom participated in a collaborative wiki discussion guided by the editors. These entries are clear and accessible, written for an audience of writing scholars, students, and colleagues in other disciplines and policy makers outside the academy. Contributors describe the conceptual background of the field and the principles that run throughout practice, whether in research, teaching, assessment, or public work around writing. Chapters in the second part of the book describe the benefits and challenges of using threshold concepts in specific sites—first-year writing programs, WAC/WID programs, writing centers, writing majors—and for professional development to present this framework in action.

Naming What We Know opens a dialogue about the concepts that writing scholars and teachers agree are critical and about why those concepts should and do matter to people outside the field.

Contributors: Linda Adler-Kassner, Chris M. Anson, Cheryl Ball, Charles Bazerman, Collin Brooke, Allison Carr, Colin Charlton, Doug Downs, Dylan B. Dryer, John Duffy, Heidi Estrem, Jeffrey T. Grabill, Bill Hart-Davidson, Bradley Hughes, Asao B. Inoue, ray Land, Neal Lerner, Andrea A. Lunsford, John Majewski, Paul Kei Matsuda, Rebecca Nowacek, Peggy O’Neill, Liane Robertson, Kevin Roozen, Shirley Rose, David R. Russell, J. Blake Scott, Tony Scott, Kara Taczak, Howard Tinberg, Victor Villanueva, Elizabeth Wardle, Kathleen Blake Yancey


Linda Adler-Kassner is professor of writing studies and associate dean of undergraduate education at University of California, Santa Barbara. Her research and teaching focus broadly on how literate agents and activities—such as writers, writing, writing studies—are defined in contexts inside the academy and in public discourse. She also examines the implications and consequences of those definitions and how writing faculty can participate in shaping them. She frequently works with faculty across disciplines on articulating threshold concepts and making them more accessible for students. She is author, coauthor, or coeditor of nine books, including Reframing Writing Assessment, Naming What We Know, and The Activist WPA.

Elizabeth Wardle is the Howe Professor of English and director of the Roger and Joyce Howe Center for Writing Excellence at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. She served as chair of the Department of Writing and Rhetoric at the University of Central Florida (UCF). She also served as director of writing programs at UCF and at the University of Dayton. Her administrative experiences fed her ongoing interest in how students learn and how they transfer what they learn in new settings. With Doug Downs, she is the coauthor of Writing about Writing, a textbook that represents a movement to reimagine first-year composition as a serious content course that teaches transferable research-based knowledge about writing. She speaks frequently around the country on writing program design, how to teach for transfer, and how to identify and engage students in the threshold concepts of various disciplines.

Imprint: Utah State University Press

Book Details

  • Paperback Price: $25.95
  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-87421-989-0
  • Ebook Price: $20.95
  • EISBN: 978-0-87421-990-6
  • Publication Month: July
  • Publication Year: 2015
  • Pages: 256
  • Discount Type: Short
  • Author: edited by Linda Adler-Kassner and Elizabeth Wardle
  • ECommerce Code: 978-0-87421-989-0