About VisaS

VisaS (Visualisierung akademischer Schreibkompetenzen) was an interdisciplinary project funded by the Strukturfonds of Hessen and Goethe University from 2016 to 2019. Its goal was the development of a tool that enables tutors and instructors actively involved in the writing process to automatically detect and visualize certain features of student essays. The visualizations are intended as a helpful instrument in analyzing students’ writing skills in advising sessions and in the classroom.

The tool allows a comparison of the text at hand with a cohort chosen by the user (papers by the same student, essays by classmates, etc.). With VisaS you can extract information from several texts and connect them in different modes of visualization. Currently the tool can analyze essays written in English. To learn more about the essay collection process, please visit the link.

The dimensions of analysis are linguistic sophistication (e.g. the usage of complex sentences and specialized vocabulary), argumentation (e.g. the presence and distribution of words introducing further arguments, contrast, or conclusion), and generality/vagueness (e.g. words indicating information certainty or hedging/evasive language).

The tool does not check grammar or spelling. The three dimensions of analysis can be displayed in a single visualization providing a unique “fingerprint” of the text. For instance, it is possible to determine that a certain essay contains more connectives but fewer indicators of argumentative steps than other essays in the cohort under consideration. Starting from this global view the user can then zoom in on specific features and examine e.g., which connectives are used in the essay and how they are distributed across the text.

The tool does not provide an assessment of the quality of the essays. Its purpose is to help tutors and instructors to quantify their qualitative intuitions concerning certain characteristics of the text and to serve as a visual aid in the feedback process. The interpretation of the visualizations and of the specific measures is left to the user.

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