Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Colleen P. Gilrane

Committee Members

Charles H. Hargis, Theodore W. Hipple, Howard R. Pollio


Writing is frequently referred to as a process. Writing, in fact, is a series of complicated acts involving many processes, most of which take place in the writer’s mind and, thus, remain hidden from the lens of the researcher. The purpose of this research was to describe the first-person experience of writing through use of a phenomenological method involving dialogic interviews and hermeneutic interpretation. In the course of this investigation, 10 practicing writers (6 men and 4 women) were engaged in open-ended dialogue in which they described various personal experiences of writing. The participants were a business owner, a physician, a technical editor, a government training specialist, a psychologist, one high-school teacher, one elementary/college teacher, and three college professors; however, the combined number of non-book publications (research articles, newspaper articles, editorials, columns, non-fiction essays, and poems) among the ten participants equaled more than 5,000.

From a hermeneutic analysis of the transcribed texts, a consistent pattern of four major themes emerged to characterize the awareness of meaning attached to the experience by all participants. These interdependent themes and sub-themes are as follows: (I) “The Self”: (A) “Filling Up”; (B) “Stewing”; (C) “Insight Came”; (II) “The Other” : (A) “Community”; (B) “Validation”; (C) “Feedback”; (III) “The Words”: (A) “Hard Work”; (B) “Mystical”; (C) “Discovery”; (IV) “Connection”.

These findings were discussed with respect to the previous literature on composition research providing a more complete understanding what writers experience as they write. Contemplating the themes that emerged from this research enabled me to develop a more reflective understanding how writing is a linguistic process whose base purpose is to connect people with each other. This study also discusses the pedagogical implications of what participants of this study reported as part of their experiences of writing and how writing is traditionally taught in kindergarten-college classrooms.

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