Date of Award

Fall 2010

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Thomas Newkirk


Recent work in composition's leading journals has challenged the field's exclusive focus on native English speakers and has called for a more international perspective on writing research and pedagogy. This dissertation, which grew from requests from multilingual graduate students in my own institution for more advanced academic writing support, extends this call to explore ways writing programs can better account for the needs of international graduate students, a growing population in US institutions. The role English has assumed as the lingua franca of international academic communication has made writing in English a critical skill for these students' professional development. In many cases, even international students who return to their home countries after graduating must continue publishing in English if their work is to receive international recognition.

This dissertation includes case studies of five international doctoral students in an interdisciplinary environmental studies program learning to write for their fields. To examine this process, I meld theories of situated learning (i.e., "learning by doing") with systems theory, a construct commonly used in natural resources management to study interrelationships between ecological, economic, and social factors in environmental phenomena. This ecological lens has allowed me to view more holistically the complex interrelationships between various factors on these students' learning. Not only must these students write high-stakes academic documents in their second language and negotiate a variety of cultural differences between educational contexts in their home countries and in the US, but they must also piece together often implicit writing expertise distributed across a network of teachers and colleagues in the university and in their fields. Writing, for these students, is an intensely integrated process, requiring a more integrated model of university writing support than we generally provide. The goal of this study is to offer a more holistic perspective on advanced academic literacy learning and suggest ways of making more efficient use of departmental and university resources to meet these students' needs.