Some of the material in is restricted to members of the community. By logging in, you may be able to gain additional access to certain collections or items. If you have questions about access or logging in, please use the form on the Contact Page.
This dissertation presents a writer-informed portrait and definition of everyday writing. The writers informing this portrait and definition represent five different age groups—one participant each in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s—and a range of demographic characteristics, including gender, race, occupation, education, and location. This dissertation brings together and expands on research on everyday writing, and related, phenomena in the fields of Rhetoric, Literacy Studies, and Composition. In particular this investigation has been inspired by David Barton and Mary Hamilton’s research on the ordinary literacy practices of a group of writers in a small community, and Dale J. Cohen, Sheida White, and Steffaney B. Cohen’s quantitative study on the everyday writing practice of adults. The are four questions guiding this research: 1)What everyday writing tasks are writers engaging in?; 2) What artifacts of everyday writing are these writers producing? 3) What are the social, historical, and/or personal influences present within these everyday writing practices? and 4) Which of these artifacts and practices are considered everyday writing by the writers themselves? And how/why do they classify them as such? To answer these four questions I collected three types of data: 1) a time use diary that cataloged a week of the participants’ writing tasks; 2) 10 different artifacts of writing created by the participants during the week they completed their time use diary; and 3) responses from one-on-one interviews with the participants. The first two methods, the time use diaries and the artifacts, were primarily designed to develop the portrait of everyday writing: an overarching look at what writing these five people are actually engaging in and a somewhat more detailed look at the individual acts of writing they are producing. The participant interviews were designed to accomplish two goals: 1) to construct the definition of everyday writing, including what the writers think everyday writing is and what they use it for; and 2) to find out what influences have exerted themselves on the participants’ understandings of writing and their everyday writing practices. The resulting writer-informed portrait and definition of everyday writing indicates that, for these participants, everyday writing is basically any type of writing that they compose every day, or at least on a regular basis. That said, the participants tended to focus their definitions of everyday writing on texts that were used to communicate with other people or to aid in keeping track of their lives. As such, the primary value of everyday writing for this group of writers lies in its ability to facilitate acts of communicating and keeping track of tasks. This definition of everyday writing, and its emphasis on communication and memory, is contrasted with the participants’ definitions of writing more generally, which tend to focus on texts that are not, or at least are not explicitly, communicative; this includes pieces of writing like school texts, genres related to or incorporating artistic writing, and also rational, or unemotional, texts. The participants’ definitions of writing seemed to be informed primarily by one or more of three factors: their occupations, their educational experiences, and the ways they actually use writing in their daily lives.