Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Developing conceptions of authorship: A study of textual practices among students in a first-year writing program
by Lamon Burney, Christie, Ph.D., The University of Alabama, 2010, 157; 3423022
Abstract (Summary)

Much of the scholarship in composition studies focuses on plagiarism as an epidemic, students’ dwindling ethics and lack of dedication to their academic careers. A few scholars, however, look beyond the personal or moral “flaws” of the individual learner and explore how students perceive and respond to the work of the writing classroom, the very context in which and from which students compose. I build on their body of work by grounding this study with Stuart Greene’s insightful characterization of authorship as a “relational term…situated within a broad sociocultural landscape” (“Making Sense of My Own Ideas” 213). I turn to Robert Kegan’s influential work in The Evolving Self to unpack what it means to understand authorship as a “relational term” and to illuminate the complex interactions—the relational interactions—among student learners, the development of authorship, and the instructional environment of the writing classroom.

This study uses survey research to examine students’ understanding and attitudes toward authorship and plagiarism. Participants included approximately 150 students enrolled in First-Year Writing (101, 102, and/or 103) and/or sophomore literature during the spring-fall semesters, 2009. Two areas of interest were: to learn about students’ beliefs and understanding of authorship and plagiarism at different points in their writing experiences; and, to explore relationships between students’ views of authorship and plagiarism and Kegan’s theory of psychological development. After analyzing students’ responses to survey questions, I argue that students’ understanding of authorship and plagiarism correspond to Kegan’s theory. I use Kegan’s work to build upon our knowledge of students, explain authorship as a manifestation of who students are psychologically, and describe students’ perceptions and responses to the writing classroom.

This study is not only timely and relevant in the field of composition, but it is also necessary as those of us in education attempt to teach a generation of students with varying commitments to and interests in the values of academia. This study should provide a foundation to begin looking at students’ textual practices, but more importantly, this study may speak to a larger issue: student resistance toward discussing the topic of plagiarism.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Handa, Carolyn
Commitee: Dayton-Wood, Amy, Niller, Luke, Scherff, Lisa, Voss, Ralph
School: The University of Alabama
Department: English
School Location: United States -- Alabama
Source: DAI-A 71/11, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Educational psychology, Rhetoric, Higher education
Keywords: Authorship, Developmental psychology, Plagiarism, Process, Writing
Publication Number: 3423022
ISBN: 978-1-124-23350-5
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