Student Writing and Civil Discourse
Laura Aull

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



Wake Forest University

Primary Discipline

Analysis of discourse patterns offers under-explored evidence for understanding cognitive and interpersonal aspects of writing. Based on this premise, Student Writing and Civil Discourse: A Linguistic Analysis Across Student Levels and Assignments presents a fresh view of how students write. Using corpus linguistic tools, the book “zooms out” across hundreds of papers, then also “zooms in” to illuminate how discourse operates in individual texts. These shifting perspectives reveal lexical and grammatical patterns that persist in certain assignment genres whether students are in first-year composition or the first year of graduate school: in argumentative essays, for instance, students are more likely to generalize their claims and negate other claims, and foreground a single perspective as the basis for knowledge; in analytic explanations, students are more likely to offer detailed description and imply that processes and sources, often multiple sources, underpin knowledge. These patterns relate to students’ treatment of their own and alternative perspectives, key concerns for civil and scholarly treatment of multiple views. Without attention to discourse, however, students’ awareness of these practices can remain under-developed and unconnected to civil and rhetorical principles. Based on the analysis, the book offers a new conceptualization of student writing and several new considerations for writing instruction and assignment design that blend linguistics and composition.
About Laura Aull
Laura L. Aull is an Assistant Professor of English and Linguistics at Wake Forest University. Her research focuses on rhetorical and corpus linguistic analysis of academic and popular genres and can be found in Written Communication, Assessing Writing, Corpora, College Composition and Communication, Journal of English for Academic Purposes, and Composition Forum. She is the author of First-Year University Writing: A Corpus-Based Study with Implications for Pedagogy (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).

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