CUNY COMPosition & Rhetoric Community

DocuViz Process Analysis Sample Assignment


For your last assignment, a literacy narrative, you kept a record of your composing process in a process log. We followed the narrative assignment with a process analysis essay in which you critically analyzed your process for composing that essay. For our ethnography assignment, you will use more recent methods for analyzing you and your partner’s writing processes.

Learning Goals:

Students will critically analyze their writing processes

Students will support their claims and conclusions with revision history data

  1. Use your memory to recall you and your partner’s creation of this piece. What was your process? Did you find it effective? Why? Did the collaboration go as planned? What did you do? Did you find the collaboration to be fruitful? Did you run into problems? Did you overcome them? How?
  2. Self-evaluate the product of writing you created. Do you think it is good? Why? What is good, exactly?
  3. Read and interpret the DocuViz revision map of your piece to see if the data supports or diverges from your recollections. Note patterns and outliers. Try to find a particular section where the colors are striated (many tiny lines), or where colors change (appear or disappear) dramatically: this means that you and your partner are working closely on specific lines or paragraphs.
  4. Using your observations of the data in the revision map, analyze a paragraph of the Google Doc itself using the revision history tool. In your analysis, use Sommers’s categorization of revision operations and levels to observe what exactly is happening in the revision (Sommers 579): :

Operations: deletion, substitution, addition, reordering

Levels: word, phrase, sentence, theme

Why exactly were these changes made?

Reading DocuViz:

DocuViz is a tool developed by Prof. Judith Olsen and other informatics researchers at UC Irvine in collaboration with Google. It visually represents a document’s history of creation and revision.

The X axis tracks the date and time of each revision through the doc’s timestamp, a record of each instance the document is created or changed. You can generate two views: equal time distribution, where each timestamp entry is given equal distance along the X axis, or you can view the document’s revision in real, proportional time.

The Y axis tracks the total number of characters in the document (letters, punctuation). The map of the growth of a document over time usually shows a document growing in number of characters as a piece of writing is built.

Each contributor to a document is coded their own color (this color does not correspond to the color you choose in the actual Google Doc). When you write with another person, and when you revise your work, this gets really interesting: you can see when, where, and how individual writers have contributed to the piece. If there are multiple authors, you should see multiple colors. What patterns do you notice in the color variation? What outliers or anomalies? Note these places (and mark them). Your observations will guide where you will look in the revision history of the document.

Reading Revision Histories:

Once you have an idea of which paragraph you want to focus on in the document, go into the revision history tool in the Google Doc (File → See revision history).

Click on the timestamp that matches a moment in the visualization that you had questions about and might be worth further exploration.

Past writing will be in black, and new writing will be in a different colorfor each writer. This new writing might be added onto old writing, but you may also noticed deletions (appearing as words crossed out). Are these additions and deletions on a sentence level, or are the on a bigger scale?

Closely analyze the additions and deletions in one paragraph: why were they made? No matter what scale (big or small) the revisions are on, do you think they were effective choices that helped you strengthen your descriptions, analysis, and ideas? Are the individual sentences stronger? Why and how?

What I’m Looking For:

A successful reflective piece will show you questioning and analyzing the choices you and your partner made in developing this particular piece. It will use the analysis of at least one paragraph, as well as any larger patterns you see in the revision map, as supporting evidence for your thoughts and  conclusions.


A big thank you to Judith Olson at UC Irvine for introducing me to the DocuViz mapping tool, to Meredith Reitman for helping to shape my thinking on assessment and reflection (and for introducing me to Prof. Olson), and to Sean Molloy and Jack Kenigsberg for challenging me to think carefully about how this project can best serve my students.