From learning to write to writing to learn: Disciplinary writing of international graduate students

Yu-Shan Fan, Purdue University


Studies on disciplinary writing have explored the issue of academic literacy practices or difficulties of disciplinary socialization of second language writers in general. Fewer studies, however, examine how international graduate students studying in a second language construct academic literacy knowledge suitable to their disciplinary community and what resources have they drawn on in order to adopt the values of their target language community. Using a multiple case study approach, this dissertation study examines the disciplinary writing experience of three international graduate students in the engineering field. Specifically, the study centers on what factors encourage the learning to write process and how advisor feedback practice impacts the disciplinary discourse socialization of the participants. Collected data include interviews with the participants, text-based interviews, research genre manuscripts, and advisors' written feedback in the text. The participants' learning to write process is facilitated through the accumulation of disciplinary knowledge, the co-authorship with advisors, and the writing practice itself. Selecting a model text in the literature and imitating the logic and rhetoric behind the text also suggest that the writers are aware of the implicit rhetorical knowledge or writing expertise displayed by experienced writers. The co-authorship with advisors and/or with peers creates an opportunity to participate in the community of practice. With the increased gains in disciplinary knowledge and genre knowledge, the writers become more sophisticated and proficient in composing arguments while claiming back more ownership of the research and the text. Moreover, through the revision analysis, advisor feedback practice, which ranges from enriching the content and argument to improving the styles and nuances of language, helps to encourage academic productivity and promote independence. Finally, the three graduate writers' writing experience reveals that disciplinary writing involves the writing to learn conventions that are appropriate to their disciplinary communities. Writing is found to be an integral part of doing the research, negotiating with different layers of the disciplinary community.




Silva, Purdue University.

Subject Area

English as a Second Language

Off-Campus Purdue Users:
To access this dissertation, please log in to our
proxy server