Latin American Studies Studies on Academic Literacies in Spanish-Speaking Latin American and Brazilian Higher Education (2000–2019)
Maria Ester Wollstein Moritz, Elizabeth Narváez-Cardona
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 July 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0282


Studies and initiatives on reading and writing in higher education and professional settings have different traditions and disciplinary configurations around the world. Research and pedagogical initiatives intersect with traditions from language sciences and literary studies, and thus across regions and countries different academic professional communities (e.g., academic literacies, applied linguistics, language didactics, textual linguistics or writing studies) develop ownership regarding their study objects and simultaneously define such objects. Therefore, in the Americas is acknowledged this heterogeneity and hybridization; in particular, Central and South America studies embrace different academic influences that have been impacted, among other reasons, by Spanish and Portuguese language usage. Consequently, this difference is presented by organizing the publications as emerging from Spanish-speaking Latin America or Brazilian scholars mainly based on their publications disseminated in Spanish and Portuguese. In Spanish-speaking Latin America and Brazil, since 2000, the study of first and second language reading and writing in higher education have evolved from different trajectories associated with the fields in linguistics, applied linguistics, systemic functional linguistics, discourse analysis, genre studies, language didactics, and teacher education. The research contributions have been focused on (i) supporting democracy awareness and critical thinking; (ii) advocating and design pedagogical initiatives to overcome prior school flaws of undergraduates in reading and writing; (iii) describing learning academic genres (e.g., essays), and professional written genres (e.g., engineering reports); (iv) advocating and designing pedagogical initiatives to support disciplinary learning (e.g., writing-to-learn), and professional performances (e.g., writing-within-disciplines); (v) advocating and creating institutional sites as writing centers, peer tutoring, or ethnographic studies supporting access, inclusion, participation of non-traditional students (i.e., Indigenous and Black communities, first student generation); and, (vi) promoting internationalization. The wide range of the disciplinary roots studying reading and writing in higher education partly explains such diverse contributions accomplished in two decades. Furthermore, Spanish-speaking Latin American and Brazilian scholars of the diverse fields have incorporated frameworks of academic literacies to situate reading, writing, and communication practices in social, historical, and cultural realms. Academic literacy, therefore, considers language as a social practice as it considers the process of reading and writing in the higher education context, involving, also, particular forms of thinking, being, acting, and doing specific to the academic, disciplinary, and professional contexts.

General Overview

The following bibliography was created by searching in Spanish-speaking Latin American and Brazilian journal publications (2000–2019) based on the following keywords in the original languages: alfabetización académica, alfabetización disciplinar, lectura y escritura en educación superior, literacidad académica, and, leitura e escrita acadêmica, leitura e escrita na universidade e letramento acadêmico. The aim was to explore and shed light on studies mainly published in the regional languages and local venues under those different keywords, since they might imply different perspectives and approaches to study and teach reading and writing practices as claimed by Trigos-Carrillo 2019 (cited under the Field of Academic Writing/Literacy across Central and South America) when proposing differences among three models, namely: (1) the study skills model, (2) the academic socialization model, and (3) the critical sociocultural model. Consequently, the publications reviewed are mainly written in Spanish and Portuguese, and most of the Spanish-speaking authors are from Argentina, Colombia, and Mexico, in which most of the works are focused on models 1 and 2. Few publications report transnational efforts among Spanish-speaking countries and Brazil. Publications on critical literacies and multiliteracies, model 3, by South American scholars were found only in English within the selected period (2000–2019). The topics of the journal publications deal with: (i) teaching academic writing and reading; (ii) genre studies and academic writing; (iii) academic writing and genre studies in additional languages other than Spanish and Portuguese as L1; and, (iv) the field of academic writing/literacy across Central and South America. The following sections present research papers, literature reviews, or essays presenting undergraduate or graduate pedagogical experiences related to these topics.

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