Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




Rhetoric and Professional Communication

First Advisor

Charles Kostelnick


Writing studies scholarship over the past few decades indicates that writing programs and instructors face an increasing number of topics associated with digital and multimodal communication that need to be addressed in the writing classroom (Anderson et al., 2006; Arola, 2010; Clark, 2010; Robinson et al., 2019; Selfe, 2007; Shipka, 2011; A. F. Wysocki, 2004). Broadening the scope of writing and writing instruction creates new opportunities for writers and teachers to engage students, but the opportunities can be unwieldy and burdensome simply because of their number and variety. The multifaceted nature of writing studies disciplines may be a strength, but the differences in various areas of writing studies may also make it difficult to see where the commonalities lie. According to Derek Mueller (2017), studies that examine practices at the disciplinary level are valuable, especially during periods of change, because they can help clarify and strengthen connections in the field. One of the ways disciplines are mapped out is through an analysis of core concepts and language. To help educators of all types manage and plan for rapid changes, we need tools that reliably consolidate recent practices in writing instruction, resources like those described by Derek Mueller that can represent disciplinary trends. This dissertation uses distance reading techniques to identify the most frequently covered digital and multimodal topics in writing textbooks.

As writing instruction continues to adapt and accommodate new tools and genres, I argue that researchers and educators should consider the materials used to teach. Textbooks embody both content and pedagogical commitments, and as a substantial element of the ecology of writing instruction, textbooks can exert authority as innovative or resistant to disciplinary change. This dissertation establishes a methodological framework for monitoring changes in writing studies disciplines. Chapter 3 outlines a process that has three distinct stages: (1) a specialized corpus of writing textbook indexes , (2) a frequency analysis of wordlists and co-occurring words, and (3) content analyses that examine the pedagogical treatment of digital and multimodal terms. The results, presented in chapter 4, include a list of the 50 most frequently used digital or multimodal words that appear in writing textbooks and the findings quantitative content analyses of passages containing the words color, fonts, Facebook, and Twitter. Collectively, the findings provide insight into the digital and multimodal topics that writing textbooks include and the limited treatment of those topics. Based on the findings, chapter 5 includes recommendations for instructors and administrators for managing change and meeting the goals of multimodal pedagogies.


Copyright Owner

Bremen Vance



File Format


File Size

145 pages