Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dana Lynn Driscoll

Second Advisor

Gian S. Pagnucci

Third Advisor

Matthew A. Vetter


This study examines Andrea Olinger’s (2014) sociocultural theory of style, which posits that style is dynamic, co-constructed, multisemiotic, and ideological. Olinger presents one main impact on stylistic production and reception, “participants’ language ideologies.” This study examines this impact and other factors, called constructs, that impact the production and reception of writing style. In doing so, this study applies rhetorical terms, concepts, and research from rhetoric-composition and other fields to evaluate and supplement the sociocultural theory of style and its presentation of the definition, production, and reception of style.

Chapter One covers the historical place, demise, and rise of interest in style in rhetoric-composition and also covers Olinger’s theory of style, a type of perception created by interacting with texts more than a feature of texts themselves. The chapter ends with research questions on the validity of the sociocultural theory of style, how constructs relate to one another, and the impacts of consciousness and unconsciousness on style.

Chapter Two elucidates the Construct Model of the Sociocultural Theory of Style proposed in this study, offering seven other constructs to supplement Olinger’s language ideology construct as factors impacting style.

Chapter Three explains the methods and approach used to investigate the study’s research questions, an ethnography of communication-inspired approach using case studies of twenty technical writers in literacy history and discourse-based interview modes.

In Chapter Four, analysis based on document review, forty interviews (two per participant), and coding yield a non-exhaustive list of twenty-eight constructs affecting perceptions of writing style. After abductive analysis, six findings regarding constructs based on audience, personal biography, language ideology, embodiment/materiality, technology, and exigent considerations show the wide-ranging applicability of the sociocultural theory of style.

In Chapter 5, conclusions drawn from the findings argue for style pedagogies built into existing models of writing pedagogy including audience-centered, metacognitive, reading-centered, transfer-based, multimodal, and problem-based models. Recommendations flowing from the conclusions of this study center on the importance of research into reception and unconscious impacts on writing style and the applications of style in extant pedagogical models.