Date of Award

December 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Anne Wysocki

Committee Members

Charles Schuster, William Keith, Donna Pasternak, David Clark


Composition, Pedagogy, Rhetoric, Social Media


Traditionally, the field of rhetoric and composition has valued long-form essay writing, which requires students to engage patiently and at length with revision. In contrast, students today spend much time outside of school producing fast-paced and short posts for social media. This dissertation argues that students’ social media interactions provide them nuanced, dialogic, and complex rhetorical understandings about writing—but that students need help developing discursive processes to support transfer of their social media knowledge to other writing contexts, including long-form academic writing. Drawing from two semesters of in-class study, I construct for first-year composition classrooms a pedagogy that embraces and cultivates the rhetorical knowledge students gain from social media; I demonstrate how students can analyze, reflect on, and transfer this knowledge to academic contexts. Citing students’ social media and academic writing, I draw from students’ intuitive understandings of the rhetorical concepts medium, context, audience, ethos, and purpose to illustrate how these concepts can productively shift and expand in FYC instruction. To situate this pedagogy within contemporary practices, I analyze leading FYC textbooks and highlight how textbook pedagogies can acknowledge and foreground students’ expanded rhetorical understandings of social media for richer composing processes in all media and for all contexts, digital and non-digital.

Included in

Rhetoric Commons