Assessing the Scholarly Value of Online Texts

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Publishing discipline-specific scholarly articles in refereed print journals is a traditional and especially important professional requirement for post-secondary faculty seeking initial employment, tenure, and promotion. Online writing, particularly web-based online journal publications that incorporate the unique hypertextual and/or hypermedia allowances of the medium, is expanding the boundaries of print-based scholarship and engaging academicians within English Studies in ongoing discussions that attempt to resolve issues of parity between print-based and web-based scholarship. A review of the relevant literature shows a persistent perception within English Studies that online journal publications lack scholarly value in comparison to traditional print publications, and therefore they may not be recognized as equal evidence of scholarly achievement for tenure, promotion, and review purposes. Scholars generally agree upon traditional scholarly standards for assessing print-based texts; however, no grounding rationale for understanding and valuing web-based texts as equally valid scholarship is readily available. This study aims to provide such a rationale.

Specifically, this dissertation addresses the need for valuing web-based journal publications as legitimate scholarship particularly among scholars in the subfield of Computers and Writing. The study provides a rhetorical analysis of a select group of "webtexts" published in the Computers and Writing subfield's premier online journal, Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy. The analysis identifies common characteristics of webtexts and determines the extent to which these characteristics fail to meet, meet and/or extend traditional conventions of scholarship, thus contributing to the ongoing conversation of online scholarship assessment. The findings from the analysis lead to the development of an example assessment heuristic that may be useful for tenure, promotion, and review participants, online journal editors, and scholars within the Computers and Writing subfield to assess and defend the scholarly value of web-based journal publications.