Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Malcolm Richardson


The use of computer and electronic communication and network technology is becoming increasingly important not only in society in general, but also in the college-level English composition classroom. These technologies amount to what some researchers term "multilayered literacies" or "new grammars." However, there have been few systematic studies of how students actually use these technologies. The current research presents a descriptive/naturalistic study of how students both learn and use the new electronic technologies as they accomplish research for, and respond to, a college-level writing assignment. This study examines the use of computers and networks by eight case study participants in two Internet Emphasis English Composition courses that were held during the 1996 spring semester at Louisiana State University. Using a methodology that included recorded observations, interviews with students and teachers, questionnaires, student logs, and analysis of e-mail messages, this researcher closely followed the work of these eight students during a major unit of the semester. This study found that students expect to use technology in their composition courses, that they are able to use it effectively, and that Internet and network resources provide them with useful information. This study also found that using computers and electronic technology plays an important role in essay planning and prewriting activities. Moreover, computers and networks can help students to shape their writing in several important ways. This study also sounds a cautionary note. While the results generally show that technology can be useful to college composition students as they plan and conduct research for their assignments, it also details several very significant, and heretofore unpublished, problems that can occur. For example, there is a risk that students in collaborative groups may assign writing tasks based more on the availability of computers to individual group members than on other, less restrictive criteria. Finally, this study outlines general problems that can occur when too much reliance is placed on hardware and software that is out-of-date or unreliable for other reasons.