Voices on the landscape: Reconceptualizing plagiarism, voice appropriation, and academic competence in ESL freshman composition

Mark A Ouellette, University of Pennsylvania


Non-native English speaking writers are frequently identified as plagiarizers because of their perceived failure to achieve academic competence with regard to voice appropriation and because of the linguistic and cultural differences they bring to composition classrooms. Yet, for many of these writers, plagiarism is a problematic cultural, social, and historical construct related to a western ideology of authorship, individual property, and identity. Since much scholarly literature has neglected to account for these challenges, this study looks to a broader cultural and social framework for understanding how these writers achieve this aspect of academic competence through classroom literacy events. This study poses the following research questions with regard to these writers: (1) What voices do these writers appropriate in their essays? (2) What role does the composition classroom play in these writers' acquisition of academic competence with regard to voice appropriation? and (3) In what ways does participation in classroom literacy events construct a larger context for biliterate development among these writers? Employing both the ethnography of communication and a Bakhtin-inspired discourse analysis, this study examines verbal and written interaction on the part of 12 NNS writers and their teacher in a sheltered ESL freshman composition classroom. In this way, the study is able to achieve an expanded Hymesian account of what it means to achieve academic competence in this particular classroom context, as well as an increasingly broader account of the discourses on which these writers and their teacher rely in their efforts to achieve such competence. The findings in this study reveal that NNS writers are actively engaged in appropriating multiple voices from different discourses both in their essays and during classroom literacy events and that such engagement allows them to draw upon particular micro and macro discursive spaces in their construction of an emerging academic discourse. Implications for future research in the field of composition studies and for teaching practice within the composition classroom are further discussed.

Subject Area

Language arts|Bilingual education|Multicultural education|Linguistics

Recommended Citation

Ouellette, Mark A, "Voices on the landscape: Reconceptualizing plagiarism, voice appropriation, and academic competence in ESL freshman composition" (2004). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3125885.