Journal of Second Language Writing


Volume 1 (1992)
[ No. 1 | No. 2 | No. 3 ]

Editorial Board
Table of Contents
Information for Authors
The JSLW Award
About the Editors
About the Publisher
| Comprehensive Abstracts |
| Vol. 1 (1992) | Vol. 2 (1993) | Vol. 3 (1994) | Vol. 4 (1995) |
| Vol. 5 (1996) | Vol. 6 (1997) | Vol. 7 (1998) | Vol. 8 (1999) |
| Vol. 9 (2000) | Vol. 10 (2001) | Vol. 11 (2002) | Vol. 12 (2003) |
| Vol. 13 (2004) | Vol. 14 (2005) |

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Volume 1, Number 1 (1992)

Ideology in Composition: L1 and ESL

Humboldt State University

This article looks at the ideological view of writing in L1 composition and attempts to answer the question of why a similar view has not been propounded in ESL writing. The claim is that the difference can be attributed to: 1) the different affiliations of L1 and L2 composition, that is, L1 with literature and L2 with applied linguistics, 2) the scientific model for L2 research, 3) ESL's primarily pragmatic aims, and 4) the conservatizing effect of EFL. The article concludes by considering whether L2 composition might move in the direction of L1 by developing a similar ideological perspective.

Instructional Routines in ESL Composition Teaching: A Case Study of Three Teachers

Ontario Institute for Studies in Education

Findings are reported from a naturalistic case study aiming to identify common instructional routines in the classroom performance of three experienced ESL composition instructors. Six routines were found to account for all of the teaching practices of the three instructors over the period of their courses. Analyses showed frequent alternations between these routines, consistency in the proportions of the routines across the classes documented, little change in their use over the duration of courses, as well as much embedding of the routines within one another. These experienced ESL composition instructors appeared to alternate and embed their uses of these routines to allocate equivalent but varied attention to divergent teaching functions, for example, responding to individual learning while managing class activities. Sequential and conceptual models of these processes are outlined, suggesting that the instruction observed systematically focused on student task performance rather than the presentation of content as in conventional instruction. Implications are cited for future studies of second language composition teaching and curriculum innovations as well as advancing the scope of research on second language composition in educational settings.

Becoming Biliterate: First Language Influences

Georgia State University

Since schooling is an important determinant of specific literacy capabilities, it is reasonable to assume that a student's educational background will have an effect on the development of literacy skills. However, in addition to learning the forms and functions of literacy in school, students also learn how to learn literacy skills. As a result, readers and writers develop a sense from their first language educational experiences both of what being literate means, as well as of what becoming literate entails. This paper will explore ways in which first language literacy learning strategies can be understood as either enhancing or complicating acquisition of second language literacy skills. Three aspects of literacy development for Japanese and Chinese elementary and secondary school students will be discussed: (1) the social context of schooling; (2) the cognitive considerations of the written code; and (3) the pedagogical practices most often used in teaching reading and writing. Implications for second language writing classrooms will be considered.

Cognitive Strategies and Second Language Writers: A Re-evaluation of Sentence Combining

Pennsylvania State University

Despite scant empirical evidence and questionable theoretical support, sentence-combining continues to be one of the most widely used instructional alternatives to formal grammar instruction in second language writing instruction. This study explored the cognitive strategies that second language writers engaged in during sentence-combining tasks in order to determine: 1) the cognitive demands of sentence-combining tasks, 2) if different types of sentence-combining tasks require different levels of cognitive strategies, and 3) the extent to which sentence-combining tasks require second language writers to attend to aspects of cohesion and evaluation. Nine advanced-level second language writers participated in think-aloud protocols (Ericsson & Simon, 1980, 1984) as they completed both controlled and open sentence-combining tasks. The protocols were analyzed according to the type of cognitive strategies used during sentence-combining tasks. The results showed that these second language writers engaged in restating content, constructing meaning, and higher and lower-level planning as they completed sentence-combining tasks. Between-task comparisons indicated that open sentence-combining tasks required significantly more higher-level planning than controlled sentence-combining tasks. Finally, these second language writers evaluated the appropriateness of their constructions but did not attend to aspects of cohesion during sentence-combining tasks. Relevant theoretical and pedagogical implications for second language writing instruction are discussed.

Volume 1, Number 2 (1992)

A Computer Text Analysis of Four Cohesion Devices in English Discourse by Native and Nonnative Writers

University of Wyoming

Nonnative speakers (NNSs) of English in U.S. colleges and universities often have difficulty writing adequate academic prose. One research area which has sought to identify and solve the problems of English as a Second Language (ESL) writing is contrastive rhetoric: the study of texts written in English by native speakers (NSs) of different languages to determine syntactic and rhetorical differences. This study examined 768 essays written in English by native speakers of Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, and English in order to determine whether distinctive, quantifiable differences in the use of four cohesion devices existed between and among the four language backgrounds. The corpus consisted of four essay prompts: two topic types and two topic tasks for each topic. The Writer's Workbench (WWB), a computer text-analysis program originally developed by AT&T Bel1 Laboratories, was used to analyze the four cohesion variables in the corpus. Results of the analyses showed frequent co-occurrence of certain cohesion devices that differed significantly between and among language backgrounds and between topic types.

University Faculty Tolerance of NS and NNS Writing Errors: A Comparison

University of Northern Iowa

University faculty tolerance of NNS writing errors is an issue that has been well researched. However, the question of how a university faculty's tolerance of NNS errors compares to its tolerance of similar errors committed by NS writers is one that has not been systematically addressed. This issue is significant in light of the growing trend within academia toward setting more rigorous standards of literacy, especially as more and more institutions are requiring candidates for graduation to demonstrate writing competency on a standardized writing exam. This article describes a study in which university faculty were asked to rate 24 sentences containing errors commonly committed by NNS writers on a 6-point scale of tolerance. Half the faculty were told they were rating NNS errors, whereas the other half rated errors that were identified as NS in origin. Results, although mixed, indicated that faculty were generally more tolerant of NNS errors than they were of errors they perceived as being made by NS students. These results raise the possibility that NNS university students may not be held to the same classroom standards of writing competence as their NS counterparts, and so may be placed at a disadvantage when obliged to take a writing competency exam.

Research Writing and NNSs: From the Editors

Tokyo Institute of Technology

This article focuses on the varied linguistic and sociopragmatic skills require for effective international research reporting. In order to understand more clearly the demands of the immediate audience many English NNS (nonnative speaker) researchers are writing for, a survey of journal editors in North America and the U.K. was carried out. This article reports the results of this survey of particular interest are the language-related criteria which may most influence consideration of NNS researchers' papers. As a result of survey findings, implications and suggestions for the teaching of research writing to NNS researchers are discussed.

Toward a New Contrastive Rhetoric: Differences Between Arabic and Japanese Rhetorical Instruction

University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Contrastive rhetoric is being updated to accommodate the new process rhetoric. An expanded contrastive rhetoric focuses not only on finished written products, but on the contexts in which writing occurs and on the processes involved in its production. Two limitations exist in the early theory and research of contrastive rhetoric. First, contrastive rhetoricians had a narrow view of rhetoric, considering only the organization of finished texts. Second, they had a narrow view of Western rhetoric. After discussing these limitations and pointing out the need for a richer view of the contrasts between the rhetorics of different cultures, this article reports on a survey of Japanese and Arabic ESL students to investigate how writing is taught in different cultures. The survey reveals that rhetorical instruction does differ in these two cultures: In Japan, instruction emphasizes the expressive function of writing, whereas in Arab countries, it emphasizes the transactional function.

Volume 1, Number 3 (1992)

An L2 Writing Group: Task and Social Dimensions

Georgia State University

Although peer writing groups are frequently used in ESL writing classes, little research has been conducted on what actually occurs in these groups. This study examined two aspects of L2 writing groups: the task dimension and the social dimension. Using a case-study methodology, we videotaped one L2 writing group for six consecutive weeks. The data collected included (a) the videotapes, (b) transcripts of the videotapes, (c) student compositions, (d) student dialogue journals, and (e) student interviews. Using transcripts of the six videotapes, coders divided the participants' utterances into thought groups. Using a modified version of Fanselow's (1987) classroom observation instrument, we then coded their thought groups using the following categories: study of language, life general knowledge, life personal knowledge, procedure, and format. Two trained raters independently coded the transcripts. An inter-coder reliability of .91 was determined by comparing their ratings. Results indicated that the percentage of utterances relating to study of language ranged from 70% to 80% and increased slightly across the six sessions. These findings suggest that students stayed on task by discussing each other's texts. To examine the group's social dimension (i.e., group dynamics), all data were examined. The literature on writing groups tends to idealize writing group interactions as writers constructively helping each other. This present analysis suggests otherwise. For example, one student was characterized by the group as the attacker because of her sharp, negative comments. Due, in part, to the attacker's critical comments, another student expressed dissatisfaction with the writing group.

Interpersonal Involvement in Discourse: Gender Variation in L2 Writers' Complimenting Strategies

University of Arizona

This article reports on the use of complimenting as an involvement strategy in peer-review texts. The analysis explores how L2 writers vary their complimenting style according to gender of addressee. The data base is a set of 35 peer-review papers written by advanced L2 women writers. Four complimenting strategies that have been found to contribute to a female-female style are analyzed: positive evaluation, intensifiers, personal referencing, and a framing strategy. For each strategy, a comparison is made between texts addressed to women and texts addressed to men. In addition, the audience accommodation strategies of the L2 writers are compared to those of L1 writers. Results reveal that although L2 writers used some aspects of the L1 writers' female-female complimenting style, they did not vary their language use according to gender of addressee to the degree or in the same ways that the L1 writers did. Implications for second language acquisition and for writing effectiveness are discussed.

Coaching Student Writers to Be Effective Peer Evaluators

International University of Japan

Peer evaluation is used widely in the ESL classroom, although many teachers express reservations about the efficacy of this type of group work. Some of these complaints focus on students' tendencies to respond to surface problems at the expense of more substantive questions of meaning and to offer unhelpful or unconstructive advice to their classmates. Consideration of these complaints leads to questions about the way students are prepared to participate as peer evaluators. Students in this study are prepared for peer evaluation in a fairly lengthy coaching procedure, which includes role-playing and analyzing evaluation sessions, discovering "rules" for effective communication, and studying the genre of student writing. The subsequent peer-evaluation sessions are analyzed for evidence of the effectiveness of the coaching. Drafts are also analyzed for evidence of revision in response to peer evaluators' advice. As a backdrop to this coached group, another group of students is prepared for group work in a shorter, and more typical, procedure of watching a demonstration peer-evaluation session and then discussing it. These students' peer-evaluation sessions and drafts are also analyzed. The participants in this study who receive coaching demonstrate a greater level of student engagement in the task of evaluation, more productive communication about writing, and clearer guidelines for the revision of drafts.

ESL Student Response Stances in a Peer-Review Task

University of Texas-El Paso
Pima College

Peer reviews are commonly used in ESL composition classes to enable students to help each other improve their writing. However, little research has been conducted concerning how students actually respond to each other during review sessions and what these responses suggest about their assumptions concerning peer reviews and composition. In this exploratory study, we asked 60 ESL freshman composition students to respond in writing to an essay written the previous semester by another ESL student. We then examined the stances the students took toward the writer of the text, the characteristics of these stances, and what these stances suggest about the students' assumptions concerning written classroom discourse. We discerned three stances in the students' reviews: an "interpretive" stance, in which students imposed their own ideas about the topic onto the text; a "prescriptive" stance, in which students expected the text to follow a prescribed form; and a "collaborative" stance, in which students tried to see the text through the author's eyes. A majority of the students assumed a prescriptive stance, suggesting that they believed that correct form was more important than the communication of meaning. We conclude by discussing how our students' responses to their peers' texts can reflect characteristics of the collaborative stance.

Collaborative Oral/Aural Revision in Foreign Language Writing Instruction

University of Houston
Michigan State University

Although L1 and L2 writing research has demonstrated the positive effects of revision, few empirical studies have investigated the effects of a collaborative revision-based method in the foreign-language (FL) context. This investigation tests the hypothesis that a multistep, oral revision process carried out in the FL is measurably facilitative in developing basic composition skills and written fluency among adult learners. The study involves two groups of college-level learners of French (L1 = English) who were given two essay assignments, each requiring three separate drafts. In the control group, the instructor alone supplied written feedback; in the experimental group, revision took place in small groups, with participants reading their own papers aloud to their group partners, who responded orally according to a written protocol. Analysis of the final versions of the two essays collected from both groups showed that essays produced by the experimental group received significantly higher component and overall scores than those produced by the control group (p <.05). The findings suggest that systematic, collaborative revision produces in learners an awareness of the rhetorical structure of their own writing and an ability to self-correct surface errors, thereby helping them overcome inhibitions related to the formal aspects of writing.


On Second Language Writing