Linking current and prospective engineering graduate students' writing attitudes with rhetorical writing patterns

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Background: At the graduate level, academic writing competencies are essential for graduation and careers as researchers. Little research has been done to understand how engineering writers' attitudes toward writing correspond to enacted textual patterns. Purpose/Hypothesis: The purpose of this study is to investigate current and prospective graduate students' attitudes toward writing, how they correlate, and how these attitudes toward writing may correspond with enacted writing patterns. Design/Method: Through an embedded mixed methods design, I investigated the rhetorical patterns within the research proposals of 50 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (NSF GRFP) winners in engineering disciplines using genre analysis methods. The same participants completed a battery of validated surveys investigating their writing attitudes. I calculated within- and between-scale Pearson correlations and connected the writing attitude data with rhetorical patterns from the written documents. Results: Findings indicate that several writing attitudes are statistically linked, such as writer's block with perfectionism and procrastination, and productivity with knowledge transforming concepts and intuitive approaches. Further, writers employed a variety of argumentation strategies, categorized as Outcomes-Oriented, Process-Oriented, Methods-Oriented, and Motivation-Oriented, which correspond to writers' attitudes. Conclusions: Instructors or advisors of graduate engineering student writing may be better able to diagnose writing issues armed with an understanding of how writing attitudes are related to rhetorical structure. Instructors or advisors of graduate engineering students can consider how the affective nature of writing influences writing habits and resulting rhetorical patterns to help students improve their academic literacy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)207-229
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Engineering Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • General Engineering


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