Date of Award

Fall 12-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Gloria Park, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Ben Rafoth, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

Sharon K. Deckert, Ph.D.


This dissertation is a literacy-and-identity study (Moje & Luke, 2009) of four women who have recently earned PhDs in English with doctoral training in composition, are working in higher education as composition teachers, and are writing for academic publication. Situated theoretically within the social-practice perspective of academic literacies (Lillis & Scott, 2007) and of writer identity as a discoursal construct (Ivanič, 1998), this dissertation uses a case study design (Stake, 1995, 2006) to learn about the identities and literacies of these new PhDs as they work on professional academic writing from diverse institutional contexts in the United States. Data were collected through interviews covering the new PhDs’ literacy histories, personal and professional histories, and present contexts; manuscript discussions about a professional academic text in progress; the new PhDs’ CVs; and a participant check in which each new PhD reflected and commented on her case report.

The study contributes to literature on professional academic literacies, professional academic identities, early career academics, and professional issues in composition. The results of the study illustrate how professional academic literacies and identities shape and are shaped by each other. In keeping with case study methodology’s priority on understanding a bounded case in its context, chapters four through seven present each participant’s individual case report, rendering her unique situation of writing from her institutional context(s) and positioning in composition. Results developed by looking across the cases are presented in chapter eight. These cross-case results indicate how the new PhDs’ positionings within higher education are differently valued relative to a dominant discourse of being an academic; that processes of (dis)identification with academia strengthen or weaken the new PhDs’ connection to professional academic writing; that family roles and responsibilities shape their career goals and thus their publishing purposes; that publishing is a way of accumulating capital which may be exchanged for future job opportunities in different contexts; and that two of the new PhDs have developed strategies for accumulating this capital quickly. These results inspire reconsideration of early career faculty development and writing support, as well as aspects of professional practice in the composition community.