Academic writing is central to doctoral growth. The purpose of this study was to better understand the similarities and differences between first-year native- and nonnative-speaking doctoral students in terms of academic writing and writer development. Data were collected for two semesters, including observational notes, transcribed audio diaries and interviews, and writing samples from three first-year doctoral students from an applied field of social science. Ethnographic data analysis described how text production and composing processes changed over the first year in relation to social and cultural factors. The first year of the doctoral program was critical to their growth as writers and emerging researchers. With diverse cultural, linguistic, and educational backgrounds, all three participants completed similar doctoral-level academic writing tasks with different levels of confidence, yet all achieved reasonable levels of success as demonstrated by grades and overall positive feedback. Their writing processes made evident both similarities and differences in the difficulties encountered and the strategies used to overcome those difficulties. By the end of the first year, all participants had established preferred writing habits and processes; however, text production and composing processes varied depending on the genres of writing and course contexts. In addition, their writing experiences and development were shaped by sociocultural factors: settling into the city and program, competing responsibilities, interactions within the doctoral program, and academic acculturation. Overall, the commonalities and differences observed in the participants' developmental trajectory as academic writers were not determined by their native or nonnative status, but by participants' individual differences. Native-nonnative differences existed but were relatively trivial, suggesting that the two sub-populations at the doctoral level may share more similarities than differences. Native or nonnative status did not automatically equate to advantages or disadvantages in the current research context. The study provided theoretical and practical insights into first-year doctoral students' shared experiences and individual challenges as native and nonnative writers, generating implications for doctoral-level student support services and writing pedagogy. The findings demonstrated that only by examining academic text in relation to the context will the researcher gain clarity about the wide range of factors that play into the writer's writing process and product. Methodologically, the study offered recommendations for future studies using a longitudinal and ethnographic approach in examining academic writing development and highlighted the audio diary as a data collection method.


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Graduation Date





Boote, David


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Community Innovation and Education


School of Teacher Education

Degree Program

Education; Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages




CFE0008264; DP0023618





Release Date


Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)