Date of Award

Spring 5-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Sharon K. Deckert, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Ben Rafoth, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

Dana Driscoll, Ph.D.


In this study, the author investigated how digital technologies mediate academic writing activities of four multilingual international students who had completed some college composition classes. Studying writing activities poses challenges; contemporary writing activities are diffuse, dispersed across multiple technologies and often inaccessible because of when and where the activities occur. The author developed a new methodology to gather real-time data during the on-going digital processes that writers use in online environments. This new methodology overcomes some barriers to observing writers at work in their “natural” multilingual digital environment using video screen capture technology and interviews. The study results provide new insights into the writing process of the multilingual, digital age. The author found that participants had developed a rhetorical transliteracy in which they used their computer screens as what the author calls transliterate testing grounds to acquire in-the-moment, good-enough linguistic and cultural knowledge to move into the relatively unfamiliar context of U.S. academic authorship. Writers’ transliterate composing processes involved moving across linguistic, rhetorical, cultural, and national boundaries to access emergent resources from multiple web domains (Chinese and English) for dynamic, mediatory use in academic writing. That is, writers brought together multiple languages, tools, and applications on their computer screens in attempt to organize and control the language and cultural knowledge needed for writing tasks. The transliterate composing process became most visible when autocorrect features of word processors failed, when writers needed to translate an idea into academic English, and when they faced rhetorical uncertainty about new or still-developing academic concepts or ideas. This in-development work should be understood as rhetorical in that it creates a shared language and common ground with an American audience. Further, observation of writers’ transliterate work to test out new-to-them linguistic forms and cultural-specific examples draws attention to the reality that all networked computer screens used in academic writing are transliterate, transnational spaces. This has implications for understanding all academic authorship as multilingual and transliterate, unsettling lingering monolingual orientations toward academic writing in U.S. universities and reorienting First Year Composition to help all student writers develop rhetorical transliteracy to write and act in transnational contexts.