Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Rhetoric and Technical Communication (PhD)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Humanities


M Ann Brady


There is ample evidence of a longstanding and pervasive discourse positioning students, and engineering students in particular, as “bad writers.” This is a discourse perpetuated within the academy, the workplace, and society at large. But what are the effects of this discourse? Are students aware faculty harbor the belief students can’t write? Is student writing or confidence in their writing influenced by the negative tone of the discourse? This dissertation attempts to demonstrate that a discourse disparaging student writing exists among faculty, across disciplines, but particularly within the engineering disciplines, as well as to identify the reach of that discourse through the deployment of two attitudinal surveys—one for students, across disciplines, at Michigan Technological University and one for faculty, across disciplines at universities and colleges both within the United States and internationally. This project seeks to contribute to a more accurate and productive discourse about engineering students, and more broadly, all students, as writers—one that focuses on competencies rather than incompetence, one that encourages faculty to find new ways to characterize students as writers, and encourages faculty to recognize the limits of the utility of practitioner lore.