Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Tony Silva

Committee Chair

Tony Silva

Committee Member 1

Margie Berns

Committee Member 2

April Ginther

Committee Member 3

Junju Wang


In this dissertation, drawing from activity theory, I investigate how Chinese students prepared themselves for undergraduate studies in U.S. universities in terms of English writing from three perspectives: English writing instruction in high schools, private supplementary tutoring (PST) in English writing in cram schools, and experience with writing online and using online resources. On the basis of data from a questionnaire, interviews, classroom observations, and examinations of written materials and a forum, I provide a picture of the writing instruction experience and writing background that Chinese students bring to writing classrooms in U.S. universities. It was found that other than writing instruction in high schools that was assumed to be the main source of support for students, PST in English writing students received in cram schools was dominant in the process of preparing themselves for English writing. Online resources were also important for students although students used them mainly for test preparation rather than for improving their English writing ability. What Chinese students have achieved and are not prepared to do in English writing are also discussed in terms of aspects of writing, perceptions of a good piece of writing, amount of writing, genres of writing, feedback, and writing pedagogy. I hope this dissertation will shed light on second language writing teaching in the U.S. as well as in China and second language writing research