Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Committee Chair

Wolfe, Joanna Lynn

Author's Keywords

Multimodal composition; First-year composition; Knowledge transfer; Print composition; Rhetorical knowledge


English language--Rhetoric--Study and teaching (Higher)


This dissertation is a case-study of three instructors and five of their students in first-year composition who were making the transition from print to multimodal composition. This study examines the similarities and differences in the ways instructors and students talk about print and multimodal compositions and if the vocabulary they use to talk about each transfers or if they need a new vocabulary to discuss the multimodal compositions. The results of this study seem to indicate that language common to both print and multimodal composition, such as having a clear assertion, was transferrable both between the print and multimodal projects and between the instructors and their students. This study also indicates that multimodal composition seems to be a good place to focus on composing for a broad audience. Unlike the print text where students had trouble seeing an audience other than the instructor, all of the students interviewed were very clear about the ways their assertions or their presentation choices in the multimodal compositions would affect their audience. Transfer of concepts was a concern with issues of presentation because the instructors and their students had no common vocabulary about the presentation and design issues which surround multimodal composition. For instructors, presentations which did not take advantage of the affordances became "flat" or digital arguments with too much text were "heavy." The students had a "more is better" approach which relied on their intuition to guide them in making presentation decisions. The lack of a language to talk about presentation issues combined with the time the instructors perceived that students spent on the multimodal compositions led to evaluation anxiety for the instructors. All three instructors expressed anxiety about multimodal evaluation that was not present in their evaluation of the print texts. This study both suggests that it is possible to transfer from the rhetorical vocabulary compositionists use to discuss print to multimodal compositions and that we need to work harder to increase these points of transfer.