Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Engineering Education

First Advisor

Monica F. Cox

Second Advisor

Joyce Main

Committee Chair

Monica F. Cox

Committee Co-Chair

Joyce Main

Committee Member 1

Jon Leydens

Committee Member 2

Michael Loui

Committee Member 3

Ruth Streveler


Although engineering graduate programs rarely require academic writing courses, the indicators of merit in academic engineering, such as journal publications, successful grants, and doctoral milestones (e.g. theses, dissertations) are based in effective written argumentation and disciplinary discourse. Further, graduate student attrition averages 57% across all disciplines, with some studies classifying up to 50% of these students as “ABD” (All But Dissertation.) In engineering disciplines specifically, graduate attrition rates across the U.S. average 36% (both Master’s and PhD students), according to the Council of Graduate Schools. The lack of socialization is generally noted as a main reason for graduate attrition, one of the primary elements of which is the development of disciplinary identity and membership within a discourse community. To this end, this research presents findings from a mixed methods study that maps the writing attitudes, processes and dispositions of engineering graduate students with enacted writing patterns in research proposals. Statistical survey data and the research proposals from 50 winners of the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF GRFP) were analyzed through statistical methods, genre analysis, and content analysis methods. Interpreted through Role Identity Theory and Academic Literacies Theory, the findings from this research indicate that engineering writers may approach writing differently from students in other disciplines, and as such, the instruction of engineering writing should be taught in ways that encourage sociocognitive enculturation of graduate students into the engineering discourse community.