Date of Award

Fall 2010

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Thomas Newkirk


This dissertation explores how evangelical Christian students negotiate their identities in their academic writing. Specifically, this study addresses two overarching questions: 1. What happens to evangelical students when they write academically? 2. How are evangelical students' identities integrated into and implicated by their academic writing?

In answering these questions, this project seeks to bridge two key scholarly discussions in rhetoric and composition, namely the discussions about writing and identity and about evangelical discourse. This project also seeks to challenge reductive stereotypes about evangelicals perpetuated in rhetoric and composition and in the academy at large. The research for this project comes from case studies conducted with four evangelical students---two undergraduates and two graduates. The case studies involved a series of interviews and focused on the academic writing participants completed for their first-year writing courses or their graduate programs in rhetoric and composition.

The results of this study suggest that faith shapes academic writing in highly idiosyncratic ways. Even pieces of writing that don't appear to have anything to do with faith are often shaped by the motives and beliefs supplied by these students' evangelical identities. Equally important, this study shows that the act of participating in academic discourse---of writing academically---shapes these students' identities. Each participant acknowledged that they had to accommodate the conventions of academic discourse that led them to construct their identities in ways that don't align with their evangelical senses of self. These students' experiences speak to the truth behind Donna LeCourt's conclusion in Identity Matters: "academic discourse does influence the construction of self" (143). How it does so is the focus of this dissertation.