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Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

English

Year Degree Awarded

Winter 2015

First Advisor

Anne Herrington

Second Advisor

Donna LeCourt

Third Advisor

Mei-Yau Shih

Subject Categories

Rhetoric and Composition

Abstract

This dissertation examines the online reading and writing practices of four first-year college students. Through case studies of these four focal participants, I explore the various roles online reading and writing played in their lives during their first year of college. My work draws on participants’ own descriptions of and reflections on their Internet use for academic as well as social and recreational purposes in order to examine what motivated the ways they used the Internet to read and write and the connections they both saw and did not see among their uses of the Internet for various purposes.

The results are based on surveys, logs of Internet use, and interviews conducted at three points during the academic year. These data lead to three major findings. First, in contrast to images of young people as active creators of web content, participants were much more likely to consume than produce content online. Second, they were often aware of the other individuals reading or writing within the sites they visited online but much less aware of the groups and individuals producing and maintaining the sites themselves, and those levels of awareness were linked to participants’ motives for visiting such sites. Finally, the findings suggest that while participants themselves saw relatively few connections between their reading and writing online for academic and non-academic purposes, those connections do exist, particularly in the participants’ emerging abilities to critically analyze the texts they read in their non-academic lives.

These findings also suggest that first-year writing instructors can help students examine and broaden their online reading and writing practices for academic and non-academic purposes in light of a range of options available for both. I argue such analysis can enhance first-year writing students’ understandings of the potential the Internet holds for the creation and consumption of meaningful and effective online texts.

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