Broad generalizations about "people today" are a familiar feature of first-year student writing. How Students Write brings a fresh perspective to this perennial observation, using corpus linguistics techniques. This study analyzes sentence-level patterns in student writing to develop an understanding of how students present evidence, draw connections between ideas, relate to their readers, and, ultimately, learn to construct knowledge in their writing.Drawing on both first-year and upper-level student writing, the book examines the discourse of students at different points in their education. It also distinguishes between argumentative and analytic essays to explore the way school genres and assignments shape students' choices.
In focusing on sentence-level features such as hedges ("perhaps") and boosters ("definitely"), this study shows how such rhetorical choices work together to open or close opportunities for thoughtful exchanges of ideas. Attention to these features can help instructors foster civil discourse, design effective assignments, and expose and question norms of higher education.