Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Malcolm Richardson


This research studies the socialization of Indian science writers into western discourse communities. More specifically, it seeks to identify the writing problems that beginner Indian science writers face and the strategies that they adopt in overcoming them while writing dissertations or research articles. Primary information was gathered by interviewing 11 Indian graduate students and 17 faculty members from India (West Bengal) and the USA on the basis of a five-page questionnaire. Respondents were classified into three groups according to their places of training and writing skills. Three to five sets of rough drafts from each group were studied to note textual revisions and review comments as a supplementary source of information. A fourth group consisting of five native-speaking faculty members was also interviewed on the basis of a separate questionnaire. This research demonstrates that while beginner Indian respondents share many problems with other nonnative and native speakers alike, their problems have roots in Indian culture and education. These factors merit consideration for future pedagogical instruction. Variable language policies and schooling systems produce students with varying writing proficiencies. Initial training in the text-based reproductive and authoritarian mode combined with a heavy literary emphasis is viewed as an obstacle towards writing an effective argument or a critical synthesis. Problems such as validating claims and inferences arise from weak rhetorical skills and a lack of awareness for the rhetorical organization of the traditional Introduction-Method-Results-Discussion format in scientific writing, including the role of citations as a rhetorical tool. Cultural traits such as providing contextual information combined with a lack of scientific writing instruction produce digressive writing. While unlike other nonnative writers, beginner respondents write drafts in English, their minor but recurrent problems include ineffective sentence construction, repetition, flowery language, weak cohesion and incorrect article use. Planning extensively, using mathematical language, extending vocabulary, and writing shorter sentences are identified as successful strategies that are adopted to overcome writing obstacles. Reading and using advisorial feedback are other beneficial strategies that facilitate the socialization process. Writing instruction on developing critical, argumentative and rhetorical skills is recommended as a corrective pedagogy.