Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation (Access Restricted)

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




Applied Linguistics

Committee Chair

Teresa Dalle

Committee Member

Emily Thrush

Committee Member

Evelyn Fogle

Committee Member

Mark Conley


Doctoral students are required to demonstrate disciplinary knowledge and the ability to join their academic discourse communities by producing a dissertation to earn a doctoral degree. The dissertation is a challenging writing task for all doctoral students; however, it is more demanding for international students who speak English as an additional language. The number of international students in the U.S. has significantly increased in the last few years. Students from Saudi Arabia constitute the fourth largest percentage of international students in the U.S., and Saudi graduate students comprise the highest number of graduate students from the Middle East. Little is known about the dissertation writing experiences of students from the Middle East and more specifically those from Saudi Arabia. Most studies on dissertation writing have focused on Asian doctoral students, and there is a need to examine the writing experiences of other doctoral students as well. This study aimed to fill this gap by investigating the dissertation writing experiences of Saudi doctoral students in the U.S. More specifically, this study investigated the writing and sociocultural challenges Saudi doctoral students encountered during the process of writing their dissertations and determined any strategies they employed to overcome these challenges in applied linguistics programs in the U.S. A mixed-methods approach was employed with the quantitative data obtained first through a survey and followed by semi-structured interviews to more fully explain the quantitative data. Thirty-five participants informed the quantitative part of this study, six of which further clarified their responses in the qualitative part. The results showed that Saud doctoral students perceived vocabulary and paraphrasing as the most difficult aspects of dissertation writing and ranked the literature review chapter as the most difficult sub-genre to write. Regarding sociocultural challenges, Saudi students encountered some difficulties with the dissertation advisor and were found to have limited social networks. However, students employed various mediated writing strategies, such as using other dissertations as models and planning/outlining, as well as sociocultural strategies, such as seeking help from the advisor for content feedback and from NES editors for help with the language. In light of related theories and literature, the discussion was based on the main findings of the study. The study concluded with practical implications, limitations, and directions for future research.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.