Date of Graduation

5-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in English (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

English

Advisor

David A. Jolliffe

Committee Member

Elias Dominguez Barajas

Second Committee Member

Joshua B. Smith

Third Committee Member

Mya Poe

Abstract

As students, academics, and professionals, women entering engineering disciplines still encounter barriers that may impede their success. In this environment, what is the role of writing in the development of a professional identity, and how does it function as an avenue or a barrier to professional success? Using an ethnographically-informed case study approach, this dissertation focuses on the experiences of three women--a biological engineering student, an industrial engineering academic researcher, and a civil engineering professional--to examine how these women use writing to construct an engineering identity, take action within their discourse communities, and to demonstrate their technical expertise and ability. Yet even for these highly skilled women, writing does not always lead to professional recognition and advancement. While writing might serve as a potential tool to recruit and retain women in engineering fields, the drawbacks to being a good writer in engineering must be understood in the continued pursuit of equity. Finally, this dissertation examines the traits these women possess that enable them to be skilled writers, and how those features could be incorporated into writing pedagogy. Writing is an essential component of what it means to be a skilled engineer in a variety of settings, and women's personal and educational backgrounds are a component of that ability. By understanding the three women's experiences as engineers and writers, future research can build on these findings to learn how use writing as a way to achieve equity in the field, how writing aids in the development of a professional identity, and how to continue to enhance writing education.

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