Date of Completion


Embargo Period


Major Advisor

Dr. Natalie Olinghouse

Associate Advisor

Dr. Devin Kearns

Associate Advisor

Dr. Gilbert Andrada

Field of Study

Educational Psychology


Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


Syntactic complexity has been recognized as an important construct in writing by numerous previous studies. However, there was no consensus on the precise and salient syntactic complexity measures (SCMs) to examine syntactic complexity. This is because most previous studies examined SCMs manually using a small sample size with few SCMs. In the current study, the author seeks to address these gaps using Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA) to test a hypothesized model of 28 SCMs and four latent variables (Sentence Pattern, Sentence Length, Sentence Connector, Sentence Sophistication). The data was analyzed using 1,029 eighth-grade, argumentative essays that were scored using an automated text analysis tool, Coh-Metrix, version 3.0. A refinement of the hypothesized model using 16 SCMs and the same four latent variables produced a good fit using CFA. The four latent variables were then used as input predictor variables together with a student-type indicator variable to examine the relationship with writing quality as reflected in writing scores of the eighth-grade, automatically scored formative assessment data for writing. A multiple linear regression (MLR) model was used to examine this relationship, and the findings indicated a modest positive relationship between each of the four latent variables and writing quality. Furthermore, this relationship significantly varied between at-risk and not-at-risk student types with increased use of the four latent variables having a greater impact on writing quality for at-risk students compared to not-at-risk students. The findings of this study will have important implications for methodology, writing assessment, and writing instructions on sentence-construction skills.