Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Joseph Moxley


Composition, Doctoral Students, Genre, Higher Education


Though the pervasive rumor that the “traditional” dissertation persists because of the “I suffered, so they too should suffer” mentality — the professor revenge theory — students are often the ones eager to pin down writing genres so that they can master them. However, hopes to stabilize and thus capture the secret or equation of the dissertation genre are futile, since genres, like language, are alive: rhetorical, evolving, and flexible. Thus, to demonstrate the contemporary context of the dissertation genre, the conflicting perspectives of university stakeholders, the forces working on the genre to enact change, and the process by which genre knowledge develops and transfers in the highest levels of university writing, Mapping Dissertation Genre Ecology explores the discourse, both written and spoken, which constitutes the dissertation as a discursive construct — what I call the dissertation genre ecology.

To better understand how dissertations are shaped institutionally, I ask the following questions: How is the dissertation as a genre constituted by various stakeholder groups at the university? How do these myriad accounts contribute to a larger system, a dissertation genre ecology at the university? And, ultimately, how does the dissertation genre ecology affect genre change? Through the use of rhetorical genre theory, my study develops a broad, interdisciplinary conception of genre, one that is not mired in formalistic worries about fixing genre in place. I use the voices of students and faculty from the humanities and social sciences as well as interdisciplinary documents as data for this project. By examining these discursive artifacts and making institutional tensions explicit, my project has broad implications for WAC/WID literature in transfer and genre studies.