Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Perry Klein


This study builds on previous work on writing (e.g., Bereiter & Scardamalia, 1987; Hayes & Flower, 1980) and writing from sources (e.g., Spivey, 1997). Its purpose was to investigate processes and strategies for writing from online sources of information. High-achieving Grade 12 students were recorded as they researched on the Internet and wrote arguments about cosmetics testing on animals. Data included think aloud protocols, video recordings of participants and computer screens, writing products, and interviews. Data was analyzed using narrative summaries and cross-case comparisons. A coding scheme was developed and applied, in order to establish interrater reliability.

Writers used one of three overall processes: 1) Writers alternated between researching online and structuring content into an outline, and then drafted a text; 2) Writers researched online, writing notes and a separate outline, and then drafted a text, drawing on both documents; 3) Writers drafted the text and their research while drafting. Each process was comprised of sub-ordinate strategies and operations.

Two contributions of this work are discussed. First, the strategies of participants were similar in that they demonstrated translations between content and rhetorical problem spaces (cf. Bereiter & Scardamalia, 1987). These translations occurred during researching, as well as drafting and reviewing, and were apparent through students’ Internet activity. Second, participants constructed different task environments (cf. Hayes & Flower, 1980) and used different strategies; all were adapted to the affordances and constraints of the Internet, the electronic writing medium, and internal cognition. Final sections address writing instruction, the method, and future research.