Date of Award

Spring 2017

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Christina Ortmeier-Hooper

Second Advisor

Thomas Newkirk

Third Advisor

Cristy Beemer


This study explores how multilingual (ML) international undergraduates learn to write in the disciplines through the lens of “resources.” The focus on “resources” was inspired by the current trend of seeing differences as resources and developing culturally and linguistically inclusive approaches and programs. In this dissertation, I argue that resources should be seen and studied as connected and as parts of literacy networks. By examining literacy networks and tracing the connections among students’ resources (their use and their non-use), we can not only see what resources students choose but also get rich understandings of ML students’ strengths as well as some of their weaknesses in how they understand the effects of those resources and how they utilize and deploy those resources to complete their writing assignments in the disciplines.

In this study, I constructed a series of case studies that followed five multilingual international students from China who were taking the same entry-level writing intensive (WI) course in the business school of a U.S. university. Two female students of them were more fully featured. The major part of this qualitative study lasted for a complete semester. Drawing on Latour’s Actor-Network Theory (ANT), a methodology of tracing associations between resources (or actors, to borrow Latour’s term), I collected a significant amount of data from student and teacher interviews and in- and out-of-class observations along with classroom artifacts and writing samples. Interviews were first conducted and transcribed in Chinese, the home language of both the students and I. The selected transcripts were then translated into English and used in the dissertation. While these data were gradually collected and triangulated, themes emerged across and within the case studies, including the discrepancies between teachers’ expectations and students’ interpretations of the writing assignment, and two different but complementary networks of literacy resources reassembled and constructed by the two key female informants.

Findings revealed that for the same WI course, different recitation instructors have assembled their own teaching resources and provided various conditions for students’ academic literacy practices. Their students, in turn, recognized and reassembled different accessible resources (both from themselves and their teachers) and constructed their own literacy networks for their writing and learning practices. For example, one of the two key informants preferred resources which were more personal, private, and non-authority based, such as the experiences of herself, her close friends, and her Chinese fellow students; however, the other key informant reached out to resources which were outside and had expertise in certain fields, such as her instructors and writing center assistants, etc. As a consequence, their different literacy networks influenced their engagement and agency in the academic literacy practices in this class and their attitudes toward and evaluations of their teachers and this WI class.

Significant implications can be drawn from this study for multiple groups of educators. For researchers in WAC and L2 writing, this study demonstrates how applying Latour’s notion of ANT can enrich the understandings of the academic socialization process and academic literacy practices by tracing students’ use of resources and seeing the hidden resources which produce the effects of facilitating or constraining students’ academic writing practices. Through mapping students’ panoramic networks for academic writing, this study suggests that WI instructors could improve and enrich their own teaching resources and create optimal conditions to scaffold students’ writing and help students integrate both personal and academic resources into their writing processes. For faculty development, WAC/WID directors may strengthen their relationships with faculty by constructing more rhetorical work and gaining more understandings of the dynamics of student writing in the disciplinary classrooms. Furthermore, to facilitate WI instructors’ understanding of and interaction with ML international students in their academic socialization processes, WAC/WID directors can collaborate with ESL or L2 writing specialists to help faculty members deal with the needs and differences brought by the ML international students, achieving the goals of academic socialization—both acculturation and transformation.

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