Stephen M. Merrill

Audience adaptiveness in job application letters written by college students: An exploratory study

Stephen M. Merrill

  • School: Purdue University (0183)
  • Degree: Ph.D.
  • Date: 1986 pp: 155
  • Advisor: Lauer, Janice
  • Source: DAI-A 48/01, p. 121, Jul 1987
  • Subjects: Language, Modern (0291)
  • ProQuest Document Number:
  • ISBN:
  • UMI Number: AAT 8709833

Abstract:

    • This study sought the answers to two key questions: First, what elements of text influence the decisions that staff members in personnel offices make when they select applicants for positions advertised in the newspaper? Second, are there significant differences between those variables that influence readers in personnel departments and teachers of business writing courses? Five classes of variables were derived from studies on persuasive and informative discourse and writings on job application letters. They were (1) overall length, (2) use of contexting information, (3) use of discourse structuring strategies, (4) syntactic complexity, and (5) grammatical and mechanical correctness. Application letters to be analyzed were written by students in the same major using a uniform set of credentials designed to represent the “average” student graduating from the program with a four year degree in Computer Technology. These sample letters were evaluated by staff members in two personnel departments for probability of callback scores and by teachers within a business writing program for overall quality of writing.
    • Regression analysis of the data indicated that overall length and use of contexting information had a significant influence on both types of readers. Syntactic complexity, as measured by average number of words per t-unit, clauses per t-unit, and average number of words per clause, had a significant but slight effect on academic readers. Finally a strong negative correlation was found between probability of call-back scores and the total number of grammatical and mechanical errors found in the body of the letter.