Communication Disorders Ph.D. Dissertations


Measurement and Features of Persuasive Writing in Undergraduate Students with and without Written Language Disorders

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Communication Disorders

First Advisor

Lauren Katz (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Lynne Hewitt (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Elizabeth Burroughs (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Miriam Krause (Committee Member)

Fifth Advisor

Wendy Watson (Committee Member)


This study utilized a mixed methods design to examine the feasibility of using rating scales to evaluate the writing skills of undergraduate students, the similarities and differences between the persuasive writing samples of undergraduate students with and without written language disorders (WLDs), and the features of persuasive writing that relate to overall writing quality. Both typical undergraduate participants (n = 50) and undergraduate participants with diagnosed WLDs (n = 4) composed persuasive writing samples on the controversial topic of a new printing policy implemented at their university that required students to pay for printing. Persuasive writing samples were scored by three graduate research assistants using holistic and analytic rating scales designed for the current study. Scores on the rating scales were used in both the quantitative and qualitative analyses of the study, and comments provided by the raters about why they selected a particular holistic score for each sample were used for the qualitative analyses. Results of the study revealed problems with inter-rater and intra-rater reliability for both the holistic and analytic rating scales. Additionally, differences were found across several features of writing between the persuasive writing samples of typical participants and participants with WLDs, as well as between the writing samples of participants with high holistic scores and low holistic scores. Research and clinical implications are presented in light of the results of the current study. Limitations of the current study and directions for future research are also discussed.