Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Degree Program

English Rhetoric and Composition, PhD

Committee Chair

Williams, Bronwyn

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Olinger, Andrea

Committee Member

Olinger, Andrea

Committee Member

Kopelson, Karen

Committee Member

Boehm, Beth

Committee Member

DeMarco, Paul

Author's Keywords

graduate student; transfer; genre; graduate education; graduate writing; WAC; WID


In the area of graduate writing research, Rhetoric and Composition scholarship has focused mainly on students of English and their experiences as novice writing teachers, or on students who are nearing the end of their graduate experience and are in the writing stage of their culminating projects, like dissertations. Few case studies in Rhetoric and Composition have been conducted on graduate student writers, particularly graduate students from multiple disciplines. This dissertation sets out to address this gap in conducting five interdisciplinary case studies of new master’s student writers as they navigate their first semester of graduate school and learn how to adapt, transform or disregard their previous undergraduate writing practices to meet the demands of the new genres they encounter at the graduate level. Chapter one provides an overview of scholarship that has been conducted in Rhetoric and Composition and the sub-field of Applied Linguistics on graduate students as writers, teachers, and scholars, and argues that my study addresses the need for more interdisciplinary case studies of how new graduate students describe their experiences as writers in their first semester of graduate school. Chapter two describes the study’s methodology, which draws from case study theory and Julie Lindquist’s notion of slow research. Chapter three includes two analyses of graduate genres—the Physiology seminar Report and the Seminar Paper (from an English seminar), and how both faculty and students understand the conventions and goals of these genres. Chapter four describes the experiences of two students from English and Social work who attempt to transfer writing knowledge from their undergraduate writing experiences to their new graduate-level writing contexts. I interpret one student’s experience as reflecting what Rebecca Nowacek terms “frustrated transfer,” and the other student’s experience as “successful integration.” In Chapter five, I argue for writing instruction in disciplinary introductory graduate writing courses that thoroughly scaffolds classroom genres, incorporates discussions of how such genres compare to genres at work in the discipline, and makes room for students to reflect upon past writing experiences in comparison to present graduate-level writing tasks in order to provide new graduate students with the writing support they need in the first semester.