Category: About CF

Why Textbook Reviews?

Posted by – April 10, 2012

After 10 years as a WPA, I have more textbooks than I know what to do with. Tribble-like, they multiply on my shelves. I take the “Instructor Copy: Not for Resale” seriously. I’ve pawned my desk copies off on colleagues, donated them to GED programs, begged the public library to take them. In my virtuous moments, I’ve taken the time to return them to the publishers. Others have landed in my recycling bin at the end of a frazzling day.

I suspect I’m not alone in feeling overwhelmed by our field’s constant influx of new textbooks and new editions. What’s a compositionist to do? How can we possibly keep up, let alone choose the right text(s) for our classes and our programs?

These questions have prompted Composition Forum to include textbooks among the works we review. We’re committed to helping our colleagues navigate this ever-evolving, increasingly prolific genre. We aim to provide insight into innovative textbook publications while validating the scholarly work that goes into them.

We’re particularly interested in publishing textbook reviews that examine how our field’s theories can and do intersect with our pedagogical praxis. To this end, our Fall 2011 issue reviewed Wardle and Downs’s Writing about Writing. Spring 2012 included a review essay exploring Fountainhead Press’s Voices series of thematic readers through the lens of sustainability.

Forthcoming issues will extend and expand this approach. While we’ll continue to feature reviews of print textbooks, we look forward to reviewing digital genres, including open source textbooks, online accompaniments to conventional print textbooks, and e-reader editions. We invite our readers to send us ideas for textbook reviews by emailing And we hope authors and publishers will keep those desk copies coming!

Theory and Composition Forum

Posted by – August 30, 2010

Recently, a reader’s report was returned to me with a comment suggesting that the submitted manuscript might be “too theoretical” for publication in Composition Forum. This comment prompted me, as Managing Editor, to reflect on the role of theory in the featured articles in our journal.

Of course, such a reflection begs the question of what theory is, and I suspect you’ll forgive as much, so as to avoid another extended etymological investigation of the Greek theoria and praxisComposition Forum, as its subtitle announces, is a “journal of pedagogical theory in rhetoric and composition,” and thus aims to publish work that theorizes practice in sophisticated and provocative ways, or to put it another way that practices theory in sophisticated and provocative ways.  So that’s the easy answer to the query that launched this discussion.

The more difficult question is:  what amount of theory in a manuscript would be “too much,”  what would be “too little,” and what would be “just right.”  Trust me, the “too little” scenario is the easiest to recognize and to describe.  This is the kind of submission that amounts to little more than detailed lesson plans or assignments, or “research” bereft of any methodological articulation nor any speculative discussion regarding results, or an essay that reveals a surprising unfamiliarity with the current issues or debates within the field of rhetoric and composition.  But what might be “too much” theory?  I suppose the easy answer would be the case of a submitted essay that had no conversation with or implications for the teaching of writing.   Note, however, that I did not specify that the theory had to have a pedagogical application or that it had to be translated into praxis.  On the contrary, I can imagine many a worthy investigation into how a theory could not be appropriated by classroom practices or how a theory would be at conflict with writing pedagogy or how a theory could not explain the results of a classroom study of student writers.  So what amount of theory would be “just right”?  Although not reducible to a golden mean, the “just right” essay would contribute to the ongoing conversation of our field by responding to the published scholarship in complex ways that would construct provocative ways of knowing, thinking, and doing in rhetoric and composition studies.

To this end, we invite submissions that investigate composition theory and its relation to the teaching of writing at the post-secondary level.  We welcome essays that examine specific pedagogical theories or that explore how theory informs (or should inform) writing instruction, writing practices, and research into the complex literacies of our time.

Please visit our Submissions page, and send us your manuscripts or queries.  We look forward to publishing your “just right” essay.

With best regards,

Michelle Ballif
Managing Editor

Note:  All articles published in Composition Forum are subject to rigorous peer review by at least two reviewers who are experts in the topical area.

Reviews at Composition Forum

Posted by – July 19, 2010

Featuring a mix of new and experienced voices—both in the texts we select and the authors who review them—is part of our mission as book reviews editors. Our reviews and review essays speak to the diverse interests of Composition Forum’s broad readership. The current issue—our second as book reviews editors—includes reviews that address basic writing pedagogy, pill linguistics, online writing pedagogy, writing assessment, and community literacy. Upcoming reviews will explore these and other issues. We’ll continue to highlight writing pedagogy, program assessment, and technology; we’ll also review texts concerned with literacy; critical theory; race, gender, and sexuality studies; visual and multimedia rhetoric; and writing centers. We are always looking to expand the types of texts we review, and future reviews could include style manuals, textbooks, multimedia texts, and even technologies themselves, like the Kindle or the Nook.

We typically commission reviews, an increasingly common practice at academic journals in rhetoric and composition. We strive to make the review process as fair and objective as possible, and we discourage reviews of texts written by colleagues in one’s own academic department, reviews of works by former mentors or students, or reviews of books in which one has participated in the editorial process (as a manuscript reviewer, for example, or as a member of an editorial board). In fairness to book authors, we need to establish that a reviewer has the credentials to review the text in question. While graduate students certainly can possess this expertise, reviews written as a seminar assignment may not reflect sufficient understanding of the review genre or the field.

A successful review does both. It shows a balance of summary and analysis, depth of critical assessment, and willingness to assert an opinion. A successful review also conveys an informed opinion, situating the text in question in relation to recent scholarship and larger trends in composition studies.

Our work requires a robust community of prospective reviewers with a range of expertise. With that in mind, we invite you to join our pool of reviewers by emailing your curriculum vitae to Please include a brief statement of your scholarly interests in the body of your message. We also welcome comments and suggestions.

CF and Creative Commons

Posted by – November 8, 2009

When we published CF 20, we decided to make all content published in the journal open access using the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license. I’d like to provide a bit of background on open access, explain how the license we chose works, and offer some reasons for our adoption of it. More

Consider Submitting a Program Profile

Posted by – April 28, 2009

Those of us who direct writing programs recognize how difficult it can be to balance administrative and scholarly work. While we produce a number of in-house publications or internal program documents, we don’t have as many opportunities to frame and present these to our colleagues in the field. The Program Profiles section of Composition Forum provides an opportunity for those of us who engage in various kinds of program administration and curriculum development work to share that work with others in our field at the same time as it provides an opportunity to have that work recognized as scholarship.

As co-editors of the Program Profiles section of the journal, we invite you to submit profiles of your FYC, WAC, undergraduate, or graduate programs in Rhetoric and Composition. Profiles are generally 2,000 to 4,000 words and should include a general description of the program, the theory informing the program, a structural description of the program, institutional constraints, and a section that explains what you’ve learned from your directorship of the program or what you might do differently based on your experience.

To send queries or manuscripts, please contact our Program Profile Editors, Mary Jo Reiff and Anis Bawarshi.