Date of Award

Summer 8-2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Studies and Research

Committee Chair

Lilian Hill

Committee Chair Department

Educational Studies and Research

Committee Member 2

Kyna Shelley

Committee Member 2 Department

Educational Studies and Research

Committee Member 3

John Rachal

Committee Member 3 Department

Educational Studies and Research

Committee Member 4

Eric Platt

Committee Member 4 Department

Educational Studies and Research


This dissertation examined the relationship between students attending a writing center and the change in students’ writing performance over the course of a semester. The study also sought to determine whether demographics (age, gender, ethnicity, marital status, and whether a student is a first-generation college student) were related to students’ change in writing after they attended a college writing center.

Five Mississippi colleges and universities participated in the study. The study began with 110 students; however, only 78 students submitted two essays during the semester. Of those, 34 reported that they attended the writing center, 28 reported that they did not attend the writing center, and 16 did not report attendance. English instructors at each college selected one of their English composition classes for the study, and during the semester, the instructors submitted unmarked copies of their students’ first essay and unmarked copies of a later essay to the researcher.

Upon receipt of the students’ papers, the researcher copied and coded all of the papers, removing all identifying information. A panel of three trained raters individually graded all of the students’ unmarked papers using a first-year composition rubric obtained from the University of South Florida, which included the four criteria: focus, evidence, organization, and style. Using the Cronbach’s alpha of .7, the researcher determined interrater reliability and was able to average the scores of the raters for each of the student’s essays.

The results indicated that the majority of the student participants did not attend their college’s writing center during the semester. Additionally, the majority of those who did attend, only attended one time. However, of the 8 students who attended their writing center at least 4 times, their scores on the 4 criteria improved on most of the criteria, with only two students showing a decline on any criteria. The remainder showed either no change or an improvement. The results of this study suggest that a change in student writing performance occurs after multiple visits and could be useful to higher education administrators, especially writing center directors, who may seek to replicate the study within their own centers.