Document Type


Date of Degree


Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Teaching and Learning

First Advisor

Carolyn Colvin

First Committee Member

Cynthia Lewis

Second Committee Member

Anne DiPardo

Third Committee Member

Gail Boldt

Fourth Committee Member

James Elmborg


In this study, I examine the ways in which undergraduate students acquire the discourses of their chosen major. In particular, I focus on the complementary contributions of faculty members and academic librarians in students' acquisition of disciplinary discourses. Grounded in genre theory and Gee's (1996) notion of primary and secondary discourses, the study highlights the complex processes that students undergo to acquire and internalize the discourse of an academic discipline.

Using a qualitative case-study approach, I consider the interrelated experiences of five undergraduate students, three faculty members, and two librarians at a small liberal arts college in the Midwest. Data sources include students' written assignments gathered from their major coursework throughout their college careers; interviews with student participants, faculty members, and librarians; observational notes and transcripts of lectures in courses taught by professors from four courses; and course artifacts, including course syllabi and assignment sheets from the four courses.

Data from this study highlight the complex matrix of influences undergraduate students experience as they acquire the specialized language of an academic discipline. My data provide insight into the ways in which some students are positioned to take up disciplinary discourses with ease while other students struggle to develop the same level of acquisition and academic fluency. I bring to light the instructional and institutional practices that facilitate student learning and document those instances where instructional opportunities were missed and where unwarranted assumptions compromised student learning. I conclude this study with series of recommendations, most notably, a greater participation by academic librarians in order to enhance the acquisition of disciplinary discourses for undergraduate students. Further, my data suggest that collaborative opportunities between and among faculty members and academic librarians are likely to enhance the effective teaching of disciplinary discourses. Because of librarians' role as simultaneous insiders and outsiders to the academic disciplines, they are uniquely well-positioned to assist students in acquiring the disciplinary discourses. This dissertation suggests that by making visible the cultural expectations and practices of academia, faculty members and librarians can collaborate to assist undergraduate students gain entry into the academic discourse community.


information literacy, genre theory, faculty-librarian collaboration, disciplinary discourses


vii, 209 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 204-209).


Copyright 2007 Michelle Holschuh Simmons

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