A collective case study of the mediational tools used by undergraduates in academic writing across languages

Alessia Valfredini, Fordham University


This case study followed for six months four undergraduate senior students conducting academic writing tasks in more than one language. It investigated, from a sociocultural standpoint, the internal resources that mediated students' writing (internal mediational tools) and the contextual elements that contributed to shaping these resources. Sources included a prompted electronic journal, in-depth interviews with the students and their instructors, course materials and documents, university-wide documents, text written by the students, and class observations. In-depth qualitative analysis of the data resulted in the identification of four internal mediational tools, each used by at least two of the participants when conducting academic writing tasks across languages: (a) knowledge of audience, (b) cultural knowledge, (c) knowledge of discourse conventions, and (d) experiential lenses. Previous writing instruction, extended time spent abroad, college courses, and family and personal background emerged as major contextual influences that shaped the four internal mediational tools. Analysis of the commonalities and the idiosyncrasies across the four writers lead to a hypothesis that each writer's internal mediational tools were interconnected and influenced by a complex interaction of diachronic and simultaneous external contextual elements. There were specific indications that knowledge of language may be tied to cultural knowledge and be connected to the consideration of multiple perspectives. In addition, I hypothesized that each student's internal motives contributed to shape their mediational tools. Only a systemic view that included contextual elements and motives could contribute to account for the unique specificity that the same mediational tool took in each writer.

Subject Area

Modern language|Rhetoric|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Valfredini, Alessia, "A collective case study of the mediational tools used by undergraduates in academic writing across languages" (2015). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3703291.