Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Committee Chair

Journet, Debra S.

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Williams, Bronwyn

Committee Member

Williams, Bronwyn

Committee Member

Sheridan, Mary P.

Committee Member

Griner, Paul

Committee Member

Nickoson, Lee


Originality in literature; English language--Rhetoric--Study and teaching (Higher)


This dissertation contributes to ongoing conversations regarding the goal of composition instructors “to empower students to take responsibility for their ideas and their texts while developing their curiosity and persistence in the pursuit of knowledge” (Carpenter, 2014, par. 4). In particular, this dissertation, a classroom ethnography, examines how the originality burden-an encumbrance wherein students feel overwhelmed by the need to write an “original” paper-operates in one second-semester first-year composition course dedicated to relieving students from feeling like they must write “original” texts. More specifically, this study examines the potential of two concepts, remix and intertextuality, to help show students that writing, and language more generally, always builds on what came before, therefore reducing the possibility that any text is truly original. This dissertation begins with an overview and literature review of what a term like originality means within the context of a first-year writing course, acknowledging the cultural history that influences how students understand originality (including the development of the solitary author, copyright law, and plagiarism) and the way that digital media has come to change what it means to author an “original text.” Chapter 2 outlines the methodology of the study, describing how the study site was selected, the data collection procedures used, and the data sources. Chapters 3 and 4 report the results of my research. In Chapter 3, I focus on how the instructor of the course used the term remix to explain to her students the ways in which language and writing are intertextual. This chapter describes how students used the term remix as a qualifier for the kind of writing they produced, rather than as what all writing could be labeled. That is, Chapter 3 discusses why students felt that their academic texts were remixed texts but that texts produced by more experienced writers, such as their professors, were original. In Chapter 4, I examine how an intertextual practice many students were familiar with before entering the composition classroom, the digital remix, helped alleviate the originality burden while at the same time creating a greater disconnect between digital remixed writing and more traditional academic remixed writing. Finally, Chapter 5 describes the theoretical and pedagogical implications of my findings, the limitations of this research project, and areas for future research.