Toward a theory of productivity problems in graduate student writing

Craig Wynne, University of Texas at El Paso


This case study focuses on the productivity problems that faced the dissertation/thesis writing practices of fourteen graduate students at a public university on the U.S./Mexico border. The author facilitated a series of group sessions designed to help graduate students in various disciplines cultivate awareness of Donald Murray's notion of "writing as process," as well as knowledge of writer's block and writing anxiety. Sessions also served to cultivate positive self-talk with relation to the writing process, an introduction to mindfulness meditation, and basic time management skills. Four types of data were collected: 1. field notes from participant discussion during workshop sessions; 2. journals and exercises completed by participants; 3. surveys regarding contextual factors that had the possibility of interfering with participants' writing progress; and 4. interviews with participants. The combination of field notes, journals, surveys, and interviews showed a variety of factors that contribute to writing productivity problems faced by graduate students. The research showed that cognitive distortions are a cause of these problems, which are rooted in how graduate students construct "writing" and "writers," how they adjustment to the discursive requirements in the thesis/dissertation genre, issues faced by second-language learners, and relationships between graduate students and advisors. These issues comprise the Integrated Five-Point Model of Graduate Student Productivity Problems in Writing, which has the potential for research into how graduate students are advised and taught to write across disciplines, as well as second-language writing instruction in the United States and abroad.

Subject Area

Counseling Psychology|Rhetoric|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Wynne, Craig, "Toward a theory of productivity problems in graduate student writing" (2014). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI3623492.