Kever 4/2006, ISSN 1796-8283

Interventionist writing in research and developmental projects

Pirjo Lambert

    Writing is a crucial element in research and developmental projects of higher education. The planning of writing in educational settings has been mostly examined as an individual or social process of construction that produces a kind of writing ability or strategy (e.g. Björk, Bräuer; Rienecker & Jörgensen 2003; Kostouli 2005). The cultural-historical activity theory (Engeström 1987) offers a possibility to approach writing and planning of texts, not as objects in themselves, but within the activities that give rise and use to them (Bazerman & Russell 2003).

    In Helia School of Vocational Teacher Education a research and developmental project, in which a new writing genre in Finnish universities of applied sciences is in the process of being developed (Lambert & Vanhanen-Nuutinen 2005). Teachers have realized the need for a new genre because the traditions of academic writing and project reporting have not made it possible to promote the transfer of new instruments and models to other educational institutes and working life.

    The project has been carried out by applying a methodology called Developmental Work Research (Engeström 2005), in which developmental interventions, related to the learning and transformation of activities are an integral aspect of the methodology. In these interventions the creation of new tools and artefacts within the dialogical spaces provided by the researchers plays a central role.

    In this research project, a new tool for writing, called the Writing Plan (Lambert 2005; 2006a) has been developed together with teachers (Table 1). The Writing Plan refers to the plan that persons involved in a project construct together in order to link their writing into the research project. The Writing Plan fulfils a twofold task, First, it is a tool for writing within research and developmental projects that: a)brings the participants together to design the writing within the project, b)opens up new possibilities for writing within the project, c)constructs the meaning of the writing into the project and the object of development, and d)makes the writing visible in the project. Second, it is an intermediate, conceptual tool (Engeström 1995) for analysing the new emerging writing genre in universities of applied sciences. The Writing Plan makes it possible to analyse the writing genre inside the project, and “on the terms” of the texts.

    TABLE 1. Writing Plan of Project


    Name of the project:
    Director of the project:
    Timetable of the project:





    (publication or
    experimental forum)

    TO WHOM?



    Plan of the project





    Abstract of the project





    Brochure of the project





    Newsletter of the project





    Review of the project





    Turn to speak





    Conference abstract,
    -paper or –poster





    Research article





    Project report










    In DWR, the crucial task of the researcher-interventionist is to help the people involved in the activity to see the relevance of the artefacts provided, and to help them implement the new instruments created in order to change the activity. To support the development and practical application of the new models and tools created, a new way of writing is also needed. I have called this interventionist writing (Lambert 2006b-c). Interventionist writing aims at producing the kinds of texts that do not only describe the change obtained, but also aim at producing the change.

    In this study, I pose the questions: How to support the development and implementation of new tools and models created in the research projects by writing? What kind of writing interventions are needed? What are the characteristics of the interventionist text?

    Within current project, several texts have been actively produced in order to support the development and implementation of the Writing Plan. The researcher-interventionist has tried to help the teachers, students and practitioners to understand how the problems of writing have been identified, how the root causes have been analyzed and modelled, and how the results have provided material for the new conceptual artefact, the Writing Plan. The researcher-interventionist has also tried to help the participants in different projects to implement the artefact as a tool for writing, and for development of the new emerging writing genre in universities of applied sciences. Within these writing interventions, the researcher-interventionist has participated in different dialogical spaces in which the texts have been brought out as a means of reflection.

    To answer the research questions, I have selected two concepts as the units of analysis. Lemke (1992) discusses on patterns of intertextuality and constructing relationships of meaning between texts. He brings the concept of intertext, in which texts are the same in three respects – talking about the same things, from the same point of view, in the same genre, and are potentially relevant for one anothers interpretation. This concept may help to identify the methodology and methodological concepts that have been made visible inside the texts, and to understand the relationships of meaning between the texts in the developmental cycle.

    In DWR, the researcher needs to make visible and reflect on her/his own position during the study. Amanda Coffey (1999) discusses autobiographical writing and establishing an autobiographical voice in the text, in other words, voicing the text. In this study, I will analyze how the author has given a voice to the researcher-interventionist inside the texts. In this manner, I want to make the subjective will and the point of view of the researcher-interventionist visible in the meaning-making process (Ritva Engeström 1999). Constructing and analysing the methodological intertexts in the developmental cycle, and voicing the texts with interventionists voice will help to understand the nature of interventionist writing.

    The texts produced within the current project are used as data in order to develop the Writing Plan and to support the practical application of it. Videotaped discussions of project meetings and the discussions in web-based learning spaces, in which the researcher-interventionist helps the people involved in the project to support the use of the new tool for writing, are used as data, too.

    At this stage of the current project, the writing genre is transforming into a diverse way to write within research and developmental projects in the universities of applied sciences (Lambert 2006a-b; Vanhanen-Nuutinen 2006a-b). Interventionist writing is one way of writing in this genre ecology (Spinuzzi 2003), and may carry a potential to a new emerging genre, a genre of development.


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    Lambert, P. & Vanhanen-Nuutinen, L. 2005. Kirjoittamisen genren kehittäminen. [Development of writing genre] Teoksessa L. Vanhanen-Nuutinen & P. Lambert (toim.) Hankkeesta julkaisuksi. [From project to publication] Kirjoittaminen ammattikorkeakoulun ja työelämän kehityshankkeissa. Helsinki: Edita Oy, 13-43.

    Lemke, J.L. 1992. Intertextuality and Educational Research. Linguistics and Education 4, 255-256.

    Spinuzzi, C. 2003. Tracing Genres through Organizations. A sociocultural approach to information design.The MIT Press.

    Vanhanen-Nuutinen, L. 2006a. Challenges of collaborative writing: the case study of a nursing teacher, a nursing administrator and a researcher writing together. Nurse Author & Editor, December 2006.

    Vanhanen-Nuutinen, L. 2006b. Yhdessä kirjoittamista kehittämässä.[Development of collaborative writing] Teoksessa H. Kotila (toim.), Opettajana ammattikorkeakoulussa. [To be a teacher in university of applied sciences] Helsinki: Edita Oy, 203-215.

    Pirjo Lambert,