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


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 Reconceptualizing 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.