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An investigation of the writing strategies three Chinese post-graduate students report using while writing academic papers in English

Mu, Congjun (2006) An investigation of the writing strategies three Chinese post-graduate students report using while writing academic papers in English. .

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Abstract

Due to a lack of effective writing strategies and inhibition of English language proficiency, university students in China are found to produce little and shallow content in their English academic writing. Similar problems are also embodied in the academic writing of Chinese overseas students who struggle to survive in the target academic community. The purpose of this study was to investigate the writing processes of second language (L2) writers, specifically examining the writing strategies of three Chinese post-graduate students in an Australian higher education institution. The study was prompted by the paucity of research in the writing strategies used by Chinese students in English academic writing in an authentic context. Although it was too small in scale to generalise in the field of L2 writing, the study will stimulate research in L2 writing theory and practice. Based on a review of theories related to L2 writing and research in Chinese and English writing strategies, the writing strategies used by three Chinese post-graduate students while writing academic papers in English were investigated. Their understandings of English and Chinese writing processes, the issue of transfer of Chinese writing into English writing and cultural influence of native language on L2 writing were explored as well.

Qualitative hermeneutic multi-case study methods were employed to provide a richer description of the writing strategies used by the three students to develop a deeper understanding of the L2 writing process. Data were provided by three Chinese post-graduate student writers in Public Health who were observed undertaking different tasks. Ally, a Masters student, was observed completing one of the assignments for a course. Susan and Roger, both doctoral students, were observed working on a second stage proposal and a journal paper respectively. Data collected from semi-structured interviews, questionnaires, retrospective post-writing discussions and papers were categorised and analysed using topical structure analysis and cohesion analysis.

The findings suggest that writing in a second language is a complicated idiosyncratic developmental process influenced by cognitive development, social/educational experience, the writer's first language (L1) and second language (L2) proficiency and cultural factors as well. These proficient writers were found to utilise a broad range of writing strategies while writing academic papers in English. This study in some degree supports Silva's (1993) finding that the L2 writing process is strategically, rhetorically, and linguistically different from the L1 writing process. Most of the metacognitve, cognitive, communicative and social/affective strategies except rhetorical strategies (operationally defined in this study as organisation of text or paragraphs) were found to transfer across languages positively. These student writers were noticed to have difficulties in acculturating into the target academic discourse community because of their background of reader-responsibility which is regarded as a crucial feature in Eastern rhetoric and is distinguished from writer-responsibility in English rhetoric (Hinds, 1987, 1990).

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 16426
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Carrington, Suzanne, Crawford, Jane, & McKay, Penelope
Keywords: second language writing, Chinese students, rhetorical strategies, metacognitive strategies, cognitive strategies, communicative strategies, social/affective strategies, multi-case study, hermeneutic approach
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Cultural & Professional Learning
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Department: Faculty of Education
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Congjun Mu
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2008 14:03
Last Modified: 25 Mar 2013 18:17

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