Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Peters, Bradley

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of English


The focus of this dissertation is writing instruction inside undergraduate film courses. While the existence of textbooks devoted to teaching students how to write about film highlights the need for such instruction, evidence suggests many courses underuse or neglect such texts. Instead, most instructors focus their efforts on content instruction, expecting students to translate an increased content knowledge into written argumentation. Yet, as is the case across the disciplines, students struggle to write successfully in these disciplinary courses. One of the main reasons for this disparity between instructor expectation and student success is the notion of disciplinarity, and how influential disciplinarity is in the construction, and grading, of assignments at what many consider the entry point into the field. This study identifies disciplinary conventions of the film studies genre system and connects them to the many genres and genre sets in use by professors and students to show how much the discipline dictates what counts as successful writing, even at the introductory, undergraduate level. The study uses the activity system concept to gather and analyze how course syllabi, assignment prompts, student outcomes statements, course textbooks, and professional writing interconnect to form and perpetuate disciplinary norms of writing and argumentation. Identifying these disciplinary norms of argumentation lead to the conclusion that more explicit acknowledgment of these norms can lead to better teaching of, and with, writing in the undergraduate film classroom. The goal of this study is to help instructors identify the conventions implicitly privileged in our classrooms so we can make them more explicit, thereby helping students come up with better arguments and write better papers.


191 pages




Northern Illinois University

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