Date of Award

Fall 2021

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Christina Ortmeier-Hooper

Second Advisor

Cristy Beemer

Third Advisor

Alecia Magnifico


In laboratory courses across universities, undergraduate students are learning to act, think, and write like professional scientists. Yet, despite the centrality of language and literacy in laboratory experiments, the process of becoming scientifically literate remains ambiguous. Thus, my dissertation examines how university laboratory courses foster undergraduate students’ emergence as literate professionals and competent communicators in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. In particular, it examines undergraduate students’ literate practices, how they change over time, and how they are affected by material and experimental processes in three sequenced, chemistry laboratory courses. Through laboratory observations and interviews with undergraduate students, faculty, and laboratory instructors, I explore three research questions: 1) How do undergraduate students, laboratory instructors, and faculty understand writing in a chemistry laboratory?; 2) How do undergraduate students’ laboratory reports evidence the process of scientific labor (i.e. the doing of science)?; 3) To what extent do undergraduate students’ awareness of generic features and abilities to write in ways that adhere to disciplinary expectations change across a semester of writing in a laboratory course? This mixed methods, IRB-approved study provides a more contextualized—materially-situated—understanding of writing in a laboratory to better illustrate the experimental processes and material interactions that enable scientific composition. Similarly, I consider the writing process through the lens of developing disciplinary genre cognition to characterize the generic constraints that undergraduate student chemists negotiate when writing themselves into the discipline. Lastly, I offer ways that laboratory instructors and disciplinary faculty might modify laboratory writing curriculum to better cultivate undergraduate students’ abilities to communicate scientific information.

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