Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Mariaelena Bartesaghi, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jane Jorgenson, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Camilla Vasquez, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Keith Berry, Ph.D.


Discourse analysis, Leadership, Meetings, Texts


This dissertation is about collaboration as an organizational practice that is communicatively constituted. Specifically, I examine how members of a team in an English language program located in a large southeastern university in the United States make sense of what they define as a collaborative work environment and materialize it in their meetings in spoken and written discourse, and in their mention and use of organizational artifacts. Though the study examines the practices of one organizational setting, the insights generated illuminate broader organizational and discourse dynamics and speak to important issues in the discipline of communication such as authority, leadership, organization sensemaking, materiality, and the role of texts in organizations.

The data in this dissertation consists of spoken and written discourse. The spoken and written discourse data consist of 11 audiorecorded and transcribed meetings. To collect these data, I attended team meetings for a period of one year. I transcribed selected meeting data, and analyzed this data using a tool kit called discourse analysis. The written discourse data I examine is comprised of two documents: The Statement of Core Values and the Philosophy on Teamwork. My analysis shows how team members operating in a collaborative environment favor strategies that lead to consensus. These strategies include the use of politeness strategies such as the use of mitigating and inclusive language. Team members also use discursive strategies that demonstrate top down leadership and authority, albeit marked by indirectness. I offer practical recommendations for practice starting with the idea that collaboration does not have meaning outside of communication; collaboration means what the members of a discourse community say it means. I contend that discourse analysis can be a useful tool for organizational members as it can help them become mindful of the language they use and its constitutive force in the workplace. I also offer suggestions that can help organizations retroactively make sense of their organizational texts to ensure that they are accountable to others for what their organizations stand for.