Publication Date


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Arts in English, Rhetoric and Composition



Major Advisor

Heidi Estrem, Ph.D.


In this thesis, I work to add new voices to an old conversation. While instructors and scholars alike have argued about the efficacy of various methods of grammar instruction, about whether grammar instruction should even be included in the English composition classroom, and about how to define grammar for more than a century, student voices have rarely entered this discussion. For this reason, I conducted a survey of student grammar conceptions within the First Year Writing Program at Boise State University, as well as follow-up focus groups. From these findings, I work to construct a denotative and connotative definition of grammar from the student perspective. Notably, students’denotative understanding of grammar continues to be largely prescriptive, though they are aware of the flawed nature of this way of viewing the topic. Students’connotative understanding includes terms like, “correct,” “proper,” “punctuation,” “structure,” “English,” “words,” “language,” “sentence,” “writing,” “speaking,” “judgment,” “insecurity,” “complexity,” “convolution,” “mystery,” and “school.”