English Ph.D. Dissertations


From Cyberspace to Print: Re-examining the Effects of Collaborative Online Invention on First-year Academic Writing

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


English/Rhetoric and Writing

First Advisor

Kristine Blair (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Richard Gebhardt (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Donna Nelson-Beene (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Margaret Booth (Committee Member)


This descriptive study re-examines two online practices, the use of synchronous Chat and asynchronous Discussion Board, as collaborative invention forums for composing a research-based essay. Basically, I looked at the transfer of invention ideas from each forum to student rough drafts in order to help substantiate the claim that the use of computer-mediated communication is an enabling practice for knowledge construction. Two first-year writing classes taught in a computer laboratory by the same instructor participated in the study; one class used Chat and the other used the Discussion Board for invention prior to drafting the essays. I analyzed the online transcripts, student rough drafts, and the teacher and student interview data to describe the effects of both synchronous and asynchronous platforms as collaborative invention strategies on academic writing. Throughout the investigation, two research questions were addressed: (RQ #1) How effective is each type of online invention in generating ideas for writing academic essays? and (RQ #2) What attitudes/perceptions do the teacher and students have toward the collaborative online invention process? The descriptive findings generally indicate that the transfer of invention ideas and language patterns from both online forums to the essays (RQ #1) is directly supported by the teacher and student interview patterns (RQ #2). Significant data patterns reveal the following effects of Chat and Discussion Board invention forums on student drafts: both show successful transfer of ideas in terms of essay topic, purpose, and thesis statement; average transfer of main ideas and supporting details; and minimal transfer of source ideas. However, the transfer of counterargument ideas from each forum differs: the use of Chat indicates null transfer of ideas while very minimal transfer is attributed to the use of the Discussion Board. Interview data patterns reveal agreement between the teacher and students as regards the capacity of each online forum to promote collaboration and knowledge construction. However, to support the contrasting transfer rates of counterargument ideas from Chat and Discussion Board forums, participants similarly expressed that meaningful and reflective interactions in Chat seem deficient due to its fluid and immediate setting as opposed to the capacity of the Discussion Board to sustain focused interactions and critical reflection. To conclude this pilot study, implications for theory and practice based on descriptive analysis were discussed along with further suggestions for pedagogy and research on computers and writing.