This study focused on how six Korean students at a university in the U.S. constructed their academic writer identities ideationally, interpersonally, and textually (Halliday, 1994; Ivaniè, 1998). The purposes of this study, grounded in social constructionism and discourse theory, were to (a) understand how Korean students constructed their identities as writers in the English academic discourse community based on previous L1 writing practices and the current L2 writing practices, (b) determine their use of metadiscourse features in framing their authoritative writer identities, and (c) discover how they used Korean discourse and other discourses in their English writing. I conducted a qualitative case study and collected two interviews, three academic papers, process logs, and a map of social influences from each student.
First, based on a thematic analysis, the Korean students exhibited various approaches in constructing their writer identities influenced by their previous Korean writing practices, privileged academic discourse, marginalized ESL social and linguistic identities, program level, resistance, and blogging. Their multiple writer identities were shifted, conflicted, and developed in the social contexts of writing.
Second, the Korean students believed that authoritative academic writers needed to (a) present knowledge with the use of numerous citations and (b) guide readers into their ideas with many transitions in their papers. As a result, they frequently employed textual metadiscourse markers (transitions, code glosses, and evidentials), but used fewer interpersonal metadiscourse markers (writer-oriented markers, hedges, and boosters) (Hyland, 2004a, 2005a), which did not strongly establish their identities as authoritative academic writers.
Finally, features of Korean discourse were examined in their academic papers. The undergraduates were more influenced by Korean discourse at lexical and grammatical levels. In contrast, the graduate students advanced their writer identities by relying on more traditional academic discourse, and process writing discourse.
These findings draw attention to the need for explicit discussion of the dominant discourse in the academy. Focused writing instruction helps students to raise their awareness of the relationship among language, identity, and the epistemology behind the available discourses. Also, it can guide them to use linguistic resources confidently in order for them to construct positive academic writer identities.