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Student perceptions of the impact of instant messaging on academic writing

, University of Kansas, United States

University of Kansas . Awarded


The online medium is changing the ways people do things, including how we communicate with each other. In lieu of phone calls or visits to friends at night, today's teenagers are doing something similar yet with its own twist: Instant Messaging. Since many adolescents are spending hours each night conversing with friends through this written form, research is emerging concerning how this practice affects the academic arena. There is a need, however, for further research.

This study focuses on student perceptions of the impact of Instant Messaging on academic writing. The information obtained should prove helpful not only to students, but also to educators, researchers, and community members in an effort to understand this current trend. The investigation utilized both the focus group and case study formats to obtain qualitative data.

Eight junior high school students from a Midwestern university town were involved with the study, including five individuals for the focus group discussion. Five students also emerged into case studies. Data were obtained through a focus group discussion, e-mailed interviews, individual interviews, individual observations, examination of Instant Messaging transcripts, and examination of academic papers. A glossary of Instant Messaging terms was also created. A second and third researcher analyzed and coded data for the purpose of verification.

Although the students had varying views on the research questions, common themes emerged. The participants had seen some consequences of Instant Messaging on writing, whether their own or another individual's. More specifically, students noted some degree of impact on both writing processes and writing products.

Considering the writing processes, students acknowledged that Instant Messaging has influenced the pace of their writing: they tend to draft quickly but also spend time editing to omit surface-level errors such as lack of capitalization or punctuation. They also noted they spend more time looking for abbreviations they may be accustomed to using while Instant Messaging. Students noted that they tend to multitask with a variety of activities (e-mailing, downloading music, Instant Messaging, among other things) while writing academic papers at a brisk pace on the computer.

Additionally, the students believed their writing products were impacted in a similar fashion. Most have seen abbreviations or lack of capitalization or punctuation in academic papers although they agreed these errors are eventually caught before handing in a paper for a grade. Also, the focus group and case study participants believed voice was strengthened in writing, but writing conventions were harmed due to Instant Messaging practices. The students believed other writing traits such as ideas/content, organization, sentence fluency, and word choice are impacted in both positive and negative ways.

It is clear that Instant Messaging needs to be addressed in the classroom. The study participants believed that there are more areas impacted by Instant Messaging than just grammar. Therefore, it would be beneficial for all students to know of Instant Messaging's impact or potential influence on their writing. Educators should discuss this to help all students arrive at this knowledge. Classroom awareness and instruction would help students effectively control or enhance the influences of Instant Messaging on academic writing through such things as the effective utilization of mini lessons and the evaluation and execution of various steps of the writing processes to improve students' written work.


Adams, J. Student perceptions of the impact of instant messaging on academic writing. Ph.D. thesis, University of Kansas. Retrieved August 5, 2021 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

Citation reproduced with permission of ProQuest LLC.

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