Word processing programs and weaker writers/readers: A meta-analysis of research findings

Paul Morphy, Steve Graham

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

118 Scopus citations


Since its advent word processing has become a common writing tool, providing potential advantages over writing by hand. Word processors permit easy revision, produce legible characters quickly, and may provide additional supports (e.g., spellcheckers, speech recognition). Such advantages should remedy common difficulties among weaker writers/readers in grades 1-12. Based on 27 studies with weaker writers, 20 of which were not considered in prior reviews, findings from this meta-analysis support this proposition. From 77 independent effects, the following average effects were greater than zero: writing quality (d = 0.52), length (d = 0.48), development/organization of text (d = 0.66), mechanical correctness (d = 0.61), motivation to write (d = 1.42), and preferring word processing over writing by hand (d = 0.64). Especially powerful writing quality effects were associated with word processing programs that provided text quality feedback or prompted planning, drafting, or revising (d = 1.46), although this observation was based on a limited number of studies (n = 3).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)641-678
Number of pages38
JournalReading and Writing
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Meta-analysis
  • Struggling writers
  • Word processing
  • Writing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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