An Investigation into the English Academic Writing Strategies Employed by Students of HE in the NE of England with Particular Reference to their Nationalities and Gender

Abdul-Rahman, Seham Sassi (2011) An Investigation into the English Academic Writing Strategies Employed by Students of HE in the NE of England with Particular Reference to their Nationalities and Gender. Doctoral thesis, University of Sunderland.

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The research compared native (NSE) and non-native (NNSE) learners' academic writing strategies in higher education (HE), where natives are learners who were born and educated in Britain, and non-native participants are nationals of Mainland China and Libya. This comparison was made in order to determine similarities/differences in strategies employed by the three groups (British, Libyans, and Chinese) as well as to provide possible explanations for the findings. The study also explored a further effect, namely gender. This research utilized a mixture of quantitative (structured questionnaire) and qualitative (semi-structured interviews) approaches.
The results of the first stage of this study were primarily based on a questionnaire completed by 302 HE students. This examined patterns and variations among NSE and NNSE academic writing use, finding important differences between these groups in terms of their nativeness, nationality, gender, age, qualification, length of residence in the UK, IELTS score, and subject area. The second stage focused on semi-structured interviews with twelve British, Libyan and Mainland Chinese students (four of each). These presented a more complex picture of NSE and NNSE problems in academic writing and the strategies used to overcome them as it looked not only for what they used, but also how and why certain strategies were employed. Interestingly, these findings indicated that even on the occasions when NSE and NNSE use a similar strategy they tend to approach it differently.
The study deepens our understanding of the issues associated with writing strategy use in both L1 and L2 HE students and shows that very little may be assumed in cross-cultural research. Despite some variations, there is a general tendency for all three groups to adopt similar writing strategies. Moreover, the individual variations, cultural and educational background are more significant in accounting for the use of the writing strategies than the actual differences in writing by gender, nativeness and nationality.
There are clear lessons to be learnt about the informal and unguided way that most participants, regardless of nativeness, nationality and gender, seem to learn how to write. They use a variety of sources as a model, including other students‘ assignments, and samples of varying standards would help them differentiate between good and bad writing. As efficient academic writing cannot be assumed, there needs to be a concerted effort by EAP teachers to improve their methods of promoting more effective writing. I believe that current methods are inadequate, and suggest two more integrated or holistic approaches. These approaches seek to reduce prevarication in writing and are referred to as the ‗sink‘ approach and the ‗shuttling‘ approach. The ‗sink‘ approach involves pouring down whatever thoughts come to mind. Some of these will be included in the final version, while others may be discarded (down the sink)! ‗Shuttling‘, which is particularly prevalent in the NNSE, refers to using a variety of sources and is a useful method of assimilating information. This may take place after the commencement of writing, where more inspiration is required, though conversely, ‗shuttling‘ could take place before the commencement of writing.
The outcomes of this research, therefore, are important in informing pedagogy on the one hand for two countries where the learning of English has become an important educational requirement and on the other for a country where teaching English is a growth industry.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: Education > Higher Education
Divisions: Collections > Theses
Depositing User: Barry Hall
Date Deposited: 11 Feb 2013 14:21
Last Modified: 20 May 2019 13:17

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