Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2018

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Teaching and Learning

First Advisor

Plakans, Lia M

First Committee Member

Plakans, Lia M

Second Committee Member

Severino, Carol

Third Committee Member

Wesely, Pamela

Fourth Committee Member

Sunstein, Bonnie

Fifth Committee Member

Johnson, David


This qualitative study was designed to explore undergraduate second language writers’ perceptions of and experiences with source-based writing and plagiarism. Grounded Theory (GT) was employed to systematically collect and analyze data throughout the study. By adopting Activity Theory (AT) as a theoretical framework, I was able to identify and analyze points of contradiction and tension that arose within the activity systems of my participants. The findings that emerged from GT showed that my participants were concerned with adapting to their new academic communities, and the L1 communities from whence they came played little to no role in hindering that adaptation. The findings that emerged from AT revealed that several of the struggles my participants faced with their source-based writing assignments stemmed not from a lack of understanding of plagiarism-related variables (e.g. paraphrase), but how these variables functioned within a larger systemic context (e.g. how paraphrase might differ across disciplines or assignments). This study provides the impetus for further investigation into how extant university policies, procedures, and guidelines affect students’ ability to construct meaning of source-based writing and plagiarism. Additionally, this study has the potential to open conversations regarding how universities can play a more positive and active role in students’ efforts to become new members of the academic community.


Activity Theory, plagiarism, second language writing


xi, 166 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 158-166).


Copyright © 2018 Warren David Merkel III