Date of Award

Spring 5-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Director

Daniel Richards

Committee Member

Louise Wetherbee Phelps

Committee Member

Michelle Fowler-Amato

Committee Member

Jennifer Kidd


This qualitative, multiple participant case study investigates the phenomenon of student textbook engagement in a First-Year Composition course at a private, evangelical four-year university. Shifting away from a dominant history where textbooks served as the primary object of study (Besser et al., 1999; Carr, Carr, & Schultz, 2005; Colby, 2013; Connors, 1987; Edwards, 1984; Faigley, 1992; Gale & Gale, 1999; Hawhee, 1999; Issitt, 2004; Miles, 2000; Ohmann, 1979; Rendleman, 2009, 2011; Welch, 1987), I answered calls (Colby, 2013; Harris, 2012; Rendleman, 2009, 2011) to examine engagement with textbooks in context. Additionally, scholars have dominated discussions of textbooks; thus, the student voice should be recognized and investigated further. By drawing on Technical Writing, Composition and Rhetoric, and Education scholarship, I identified three potential operations describing how students engage with textbooks: user, reader, and learner. Following a three-cycle interview structure with individual students during the Spring 2021 semester, I collected data on their prior experience with and expectations of textbooks, current engagement practices within the FYC course, and reflections on their engagement during the study. The study’s results identified six thematic categories describing different parts of participant engagement. Chapter V traces three individuals’ engagement with the textbook to illustrate the uniqueness of engagement that the cross-participant discussion could not capture. The analysis reveals all three operations present, but user was most prevalent when engaging the textbook. It also revealed students phased in and out of these roles according to changing contextual factors and individual motivations. The final chapter reflects on these findings and the implications for Composition Studies, FYC, and the need for additional case studies.


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