Electronic Theses and Dissertations



Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Committee Member

Katherine Fredlund

Committee Member

Jeffrey Scraba


This project investigates how undergraduates conceptualize writerly voice, questioning what student writers think voice means and how they identify voice in their own writing. A connection between voiced writing and good writing is part of the fabric of the discipline of composition studies; however, for the students in this study and for their writing, such a connection does not exist. According to these students, voiced writing is not necessarily good writing. This project details three separate case studies focused on asking undergraduate writers to define voice and to identify their own voices in their own writing. Over a period of two years, a total of 239 student participants and 10 faculty member participants were involved in these studies. Guided by constructivist grounded theory, the research included approximately 300 surveys, 9 interviews with students, 12 hours of classroom observation, and roughly 1700 pages of student work for analysis. The results suggest that students see voice differently from how writing professionals and writing teachers conceive of voice. Students identified their own voices in their own flawed writing, often pointing to the flaws themselves as evidence of their voice. They identified their voices in writing that was biased, overly personal, emotional, and grammatically or mechanically deficient. Composition studies theorist Peter Elbow has suggested that voice is actually located in the cracks or deficiencies of student writing, and these case studies seem to support his claim. This is a very different view of voice than what many writing scholars and writing teachers hold.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to ProQuest