The Joan Pavelich CASDW Annual Award for the Best Dissertation in Writing and Discourse Studies


Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, CASDW-ACR paused regular awards. We have three years worth of Annual Awards for Best Dissertation to grant for 2023 presented in chronological order below:


The 2021 Annual Award for Best Dissertation submitted in 2020 goes to Kim Mitchell (University of Manitoba, 2021), The theoretical construction and measurement of writing self-efficacy. Mitchell’s study is most impressive in its methodological innovation and interdisciplinary complexity. The tool Mitchell creates, the Situated Academic Writing Self-Efficacy Scale (SAWSES), qualitatively measures students’ experiences and processes. immediately useful for writing instruction in Nursing. Mitchell’s methodology inspires potential for discipline-specific approaches to measuring student self-efficacy in writing and has applications for administrative advocacy. Impressive, too, is the interdisciplinary complexity of working within Nursing Education and Writing Studies: “jagged genres colliding,” as one committee member put it. Interdisciplinary complexity is embodied in this thesis which exists at the frontier of both disciplines, bringing Writing Studies to Nursing contexts and Nursing contexts to Writing Studies.  Moreover, the narrative aspects of Mitchell’s personal experiences learning to write resonate with Lifespan Writing Research.

Honourable mention is given to Sara Doody (McGill University, 2020), Interdisciplinary writing should be simple, but it isn’t: A study of meta-genres in interdisciplinary life sciences doctoral programs. This study of doctoral writing in interdisciplinary life sciences programs defines the serious problem of assuming students “know” their discourse communities and the registers within those communities. In interdisciplinary programs, Doody argues, doctoral students confront additional challenges and demands related to contradictory assumptions and negotiated scholarly identity and activity. Doody offers a coherent, sophisticated, interesting take on meta-genre and identity in the academy that contributes to gaps in knowledge about writing-to-learn instruction in Canadian post-secondary education.


The 2022 Annual Award for Best Dissertation submitted in 2021 goes to Christin Wright-Taylor (University of Waterloo, 2021),  “Sorry If My Words Aren’t Right”: Writing Studies’ Partnership with Second Language Writing to Support Translingual Students in the Anglo-Canadian Classroom. This is an important and urgently needed study that provides a convincing basis for reconceiving the writing classroom as a blend of writing and second language pedagogy and theory to foster appropriate writing approaches for translingual students. This dissertation offers a way for international or “visa” students to realize their right to their own language. Wright-Taylor provides a sound basis for developing a model (or potentially models) of this blended writing theory and the pedagogical approaches that would follow. This is a coherent, readable dissertation that builds on “native speakerism” and “English only” research and theory in the context of the neo-liberal model of education.


The 2023 Annual Award for Best Dissertation submitted in 2022 goes to Monique Kampherm (University of Waterloo, 2023) titled Masks and Caricatures: Prosopopoeia, Ethopoeia, and the Effect of Social Media on Canadian Political Leaders’ Debates. Kampherm’s study focuses on the effects of social media use by the leaders of Canadian political parties and makes an important contribution to our knowledge of the effects of social media on citizen perceptions and participation in the democratic process. Kampherm presents a rigorous comparison of the debates of 2015 and 2019 based on a sophisticated rhetorical analysis of two key appeals to ethos, ethopoeia and prosopopoeia. She reviews and builds on Aristotelean rhetorical theory to show the increasing use of these appeals in social media and the problematic effects of leaders’ infelicitous use of such strategies on citizen (mis)understandings of leaders’ values and platforms. The dissertation has strong interest value for meaningful democratic participation and clearly demonstrates the efficacy and relevance of rhetorical analysis in contemporary contexts.


The 2020 Annual Award for Best Dissertation submitted in 2019 goes to Matthew Falconer (Carleton University, 2019). Matthew’s impressive and timely study, Providing Science Advice: An Ethnography of the Council of Canadian Academies Boundary Work of Recontextualizing Expert-Produced Scientific Knowledge for Canadian Government Policy-Makers, examines how science discourse becomes recontextualized for policy analysts. Matthew’s study offers a cogent analysis of the communicative dynamics, strategies, and tools deployed by the Council of Canadian Academies’ as they translate knowledge from scientific experts into science-based reports for policy-makers. His study followed this collaborative process focusing on how the Academies culture shaped participants’ boundary work as they developed a series of intermediary texts towards the final report. The study produced significant empirical data through a number of interviews with participants and substantive textual analyses. Falconer’s study contributes to a growing, current body of work of interest to writing specialists for its implications for those working at the policy/science interface and for scholarship related to recontextualizations of science research for non-specialist audiences. It is an important contribution to how we theorize transactional discourse across genre boundaries and to rhetorical studies of collaborative communication in the broader context of discourse and society.

Honorable mention goes to Chloe Fogarty-Bourget (Carleton, 2019) for her dissertation, Facilitating Student Engagement in Undergraduate Mathematics’ Lectures. Fogarty-Bourget’s study offers a sound, complex theoretical framework for her analysis of chalk talk as a socially situated genre in the teaching of university mathematics. Using social interaction theory in conjunction with aspects of comprehension theory, pragmatics, and genre theory, she examines how classroom context influences student engagement and how instructors adopt multi-modal strategies to enhance student engagement. Her study especially contributes to student engagement studies in English for Specific Purposes pedagogy, and shows how institutional pressures can hinder student engagement. Her study has implications for ESP policy and ESP pedagogical change.


The 2019 Annual Award for Best Dissertation submitted in 2018 goes to Sarah Whyte (Waterloo, 2018) for her dissertation, The Rhetorical Life of Surgical Checklists: A Burkean Analysis with Implications for Knowledge Translation. 


The 2018 Annual Award for Best Dissertation submitted in 2017 goes to Tomoyo Okuda (UBC, 2017) for her dissertation, The Writing Centre as a Global Pedagogy: A Case Study of a Japanese University Seeking Internationalization. As described in her abstract, her research comprised a multilayered case study of a writing centre in a Japanese university, with a focus on “how the educational philosophy, pedagogical rationale and concepts of the global writing pedagogy are interpreted by administrators and enacted in pedagogical practice.” Committee members described the dissertation as “well organized, well written, and well argued,” and they praised the research method, which combined observations, interviews, and textual research to study the relationships between a university’s internationalization policies, language-learning policy, and writing centre tutoring policies and practices. Committee members noted the dissertation’s critical discussion of universities’ internationalization policies, its potential contributions to writing centre theory and practice, and the valuable global perspective offered by the research, which is especially significant given the growing globalization of universities and of writing centres.

Honorable mention goes to Saira Fitzgerald (Carleton, 2017) for her dissertation, Blackboard/Whiteboard: The Discursive Construction of the International Baccalaureate in Canada. Research for this dissertation involved surveys, interviews, and corpus-based linguistic analysis combined with critical discourse analysis to provide a well-rounded picture of how the IB program is perceived by university admissions officers and represented in Canadian print media. Committee members described this dissertation as well written and praised its originality and strong multi-modal research method.


The 2017 Annual Award for Best Dissertation submitted in 2016 goes to Dana Landry (UBC, 2016) for her dissertation, Writing Studies in Canada: A People’s History. Dana’s dissertation was the unanimous and enthusiastic choice of the committee members, who felt that it was “a perfect fit for the award, both capturing all that CASDW does and instantiating it.”


The 2016 Annual Award for Best Dissertation submitted in 2015 goes to Joel Heng Hartse (UBC, 2015). Joel won this award for his dissertation, Acceptability and Authority in Chinese and Non-Chinese English Language Teachers’ Judgments of Language Use in English Writing by Chinese University Students (UBC, Language and Literacy Education, 2015). The committee praised Joel’s work for its clarity, thoroughness, and relevance. In particular, they focused on the value of his shift away from error-based assessment and towards the contextual assessment of acceptability in written language.


The 2015 Annual Award for Best Dissertation submitted in 2014 goes to Ashley Rose Kelly for her dissertation Hacking Science: Emerging Parascientific Genres and Public Participation in Scientific Research. According to the CASDW dissertation review committee, Hacking Science offers a unique perspective on science communication by studying how professional scientists and citizen scientists, in conjunction with hackers, have altered old genres and created new genres to share their research and to collaborate. This dissertation pushes our understanding of the genre systems, social action and boundaries of para-scientific and hacker communities, and stands to help redefine scientific communication from the ground up and the genre down, as well as across platforms. The dissertation, which we look forward to seeing published, also helps writing studies scholars better understand how we can structure research methodologies in response to emerging genres across disciplines, connecting attention to text and genre to careful consideration of technology, economy, and community.