English Ph.D. Dissertations


Socializing First Year Composition: A Study of Social Networking Sites', Impact on First Year Students

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


English/Rhetoric and Writing

First Advisor

Kristine Blair (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Lee Nickoson (Advisor)

Third Advisor

Tracy Huziak-Clark (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Donna Nelson-Beene (Committee Member)


The primary argument of this dissertation is that Social Networking Sites (SNS) are an increasingly important part of our writing students’ personal, professional, social and civic lives, and, as a result, SNS continue to be important subjects for rhetorical study as well as potentially positive pedagogical tools in the first-year writing classroom. For this project I surveyed 107 and interviewed four first-year writing students at a mid-sized, Midwestern state university in order to listen to them discuss their use and views of SNS, as well as their views on the use of SNS as subjects for rhetoric study and as pedagogical tools in the writing classroom. In doing so, my goal for this project was to continue addressing how to responsibly, ethically, and effectively use SNS in the writing classroom in order to enhance students’ rhetorical composition skills and considerations of audience in the writing classroom and beyond.

I began this project by engaging with and synthesizing the literature in the field of Composition and Rhetoric that considers the use of computer technologies, particularly SNS, in the writing classrooms, and the impact such use has on students and pedagogy in those classrooms. Engagement with this literature became the justification for this project and the foundation for the key considerations that made up the first chapter of this dissertation. In the second chapter I discuss my use of Grounded Theory and Actor-Network Theory as the primary methodologies that informed the methods of my study. By focusing on allowing the data derived from the participants’ voices to lead the direction of inquiry, and by taking into account the fluid and reciprocal nature of the interaction between the participants, SNS, and participants’ views and uses of SNS in and out of the first-year writing classroom, I used Grounded Theory and Actor-Network Theory in an attempt to create a space where the participants and their views of and engagement in SNS primarily shaped this dissertation. In the third and fourth chapters I share and analyze the data from the participant surveys and interviews, respectively, in order begin actively joining the conversations in the field regarding the use of SNS in the writing classroom. In the fifth chapter I conclude the dissertation by using the findings in the previous chapters to maintain the importance of SNS as subjects of rhetorical study; sharing lists of best practices and sample activities/assignments to consider when implementing SNS in the first-year writing classroom; and presenting suggestions for future projects regarding the study of SNS in the writing classroom.