English Ph.D. Dissertations


Reading Our Writing | Writing Our Reading: Threshold Concepts for Graduate-Level Reading in Composition

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


English (Rhetoric and Writing)

First Advisor

Lee Nickoson (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Neil Baird (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Sue Wood (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Per Broman (Other)


This project advocates for sustained, explicit, graduate-level reading instruction in the discipline of writing studies. It posits that professional academic reading is a complex activity that requires graduate students to develop contextually unique skills and habits of mind to perform effectively. It posits also that graduate students struggle to learn this form of reading and would benefit from direct instruction. Further, it positions threshold concepts for reading—oft-"invisible" disciplinary assumptions or ways of thinking that are troublesome to learn but important to internalize to fully enter an academic community—as an important pedagogical tool in graduate-level reading curricula. The project makes several moves in advocating for such reading instruction: (1) It makes the case for why graduate-level reading instruction is needed; (2) it consolidates multiple strands of reading theory that have influenced writing studies into a working definition of professional-level reading in the discipline; (3) it constructs a list of threshold concepts for disciplinary reading; (4) it outlines a framework—the reading sandwich cycle—for integrating threshold concepts with reading instruction; (5) and it makes suggestions for integrating reading instruction throughout course work and elsewhere in graduate curricula.