Journal of Second Language Writing


Volume 6 (1997)
[ No. 1 | No. 2 | No. 3 ]

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| 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 6, Number 1 (1997)

An Argument for Nonadversarial Argumentation: On the Relevance of the Feminist Critique of Academic Discourse to L2 Writing Pedagogy

The Ohio State University

The feminist critique of academic discourse has begun to heighten awareness of the agonistic, competitive nature of much academic writing in English. This article considers what the implications of this gendered discoursal consciousness may be for L2 writing educators, both as teachers and as academic writers themselves. Vignettes of two L2 writers who have successfully negotiated nonadversarial academic texts are presented and discussed. Finally, guideposts for a nonadversarial model of academic discourse are suggested.

Dictionary Use by EFL Writers: What Really Happens?

University of Aizu

All of the words that 51 Japanese EFL university students had looked up in their dictionaries were identified in a 41 ,024-word corpus of student writing. Forty-two percent of these "dictionary words" were found to have been used incorrectly in some way. An analysis of the errors themselves and of interviews with more and less successful dictionary users was conducted in an attempt to better understand why these errors were committed and what can be done to assist students in avoiding such errors. The findings indicate that successful dictionary users, regardless of their level of English proficiency, employ a variety of sophisticated look-up strategies. Furthermore, this research brings into question some of the claims of previous studies into FL dictionary use.

Contrastive Rhetoric in Context: A Dynamic Model of L2 Writing

Purdue University

The notion of contrastive rhetoric was first proposed as a pedagogical solution to the problem of L2 organization, and the subsequent development in research has generated, among other valuable insights, three explanations for the organizational structures of L2 texts, including linguistic, cultural, and educational explanations. However, the contribution of contrastive rhetoric to the teaching of ESL writing has been limited because of the underlying assumptions that have guided the early pedagogical approaches. This study identifies a static theory of L2 writing that has been widely used in teaching organizational structures and considers how the pedagogical application of insights from contrastive rhetoric studies have been limited by this theory. To overcome the limitations of the static theory, an alternative model of L2 writing is proposed, and its implications for further research and the teaching of L2 writing are discussed.

The Etiology of Poor Second Language Writing: The Influence of Perceived Teacher Preferences on Second Language Revision Strategies

University of Granada

Much previous L2 writing research has sought to compare the so-called "skilled" and "unskilled" writer, suggesting that one of the major differences between them may lie in their respective approaches to revision. Specifically, unskilled writers have been seen to revise from a narrow outlook and make changes addressing the surface grammatical structure of compositions, usually at the level of the word, rather than deeper issues of content and organization. However, the issue of what may lead unskilled writers to concentrate more on certain aspects in their revision remains unexplored. Specifically, we have little information about how underachieving EFL writers perceive the act of revision in academic writing contexts, and we remain unaware of the possible effect of these opinions and contexts on their revision strategies. This descriptive study focuses on what was revealed from semistructured interviews over a 9-month period with 71 underachieving EFL undergraduates about their attitudes toward revision and the possible effects of perceived teacher preferences in methodology, feedback, and evaluation on revision strategies. The majority of participants were able to reflect on their revision behavior and describe their current revision strategies, which were often observed to be pragmatically based and derived from perceived teacher preferences in past or present classroom practice and from feedback on writing. Revision of compositions was generally described as involving little more than a proofreading exercise. Evidence was found that local teaching strategies and evaluatory procedures might reinforce these pragmatic, yet ultimately restrictive, revision practices. As a result of these findings, suggestions are made with regard to revision strategy training with underachieving learners.

Volume 6, Number 2 (1997)

Acquiring Disciplinary Literacy: A Social-Cognitive Analysis of Text Production and Learning among Iranian Graduate Students of Education

Shiraz University, Iran

The problem addressed by this study was: how do non-native speakers of English acquire domain-specific literacy suitable to their academic discipline in a graduate program? The participants were four (one female and three male) Iranian doctoral students of education in their second year of residency. To investigate the problem, I used a naturalistic qualitative approach, collecting data from four participants through questionnaires, interviews (structured, unstructured, and text-based), written documents (texts produced by the participants, their professors' feedback on the papers, and course outlines), and process logs. I followed the participants through their graduate seminars over a period of five months as they were preparing for and performing assigned academic writing tasks in their second language (L2), English. Weekly face-to-face interviews focusing on participants' behaviours, decisions, and concerns were the central data gathering method for the study. This study adds to the literature that suggests that achieving disciplinary literacy in an L2 in a graduate program such as education is fundamentally an interactive social-cognitive process in that production of the texts required extensive interaction between the individual's cognitive processes and social/contextual factors in different ways.

The Impact of Writer Nationality on Mainstream Teachers' Judgments of Composition Quality

University of Georgia
Texas Department of Health

Teachers' evaluations of student writing are susceptible to the influence of extraneous factors, including stereotyped expectations based on students' ethnolinguistic identities. Even teachers' detection of surface errors in student writing is vulnerable to such expectancy sets. Non-native speakers of English (NNSs) who exit sheltered ESL classes may therefore be subjected to unduly negative evaluations due to mainstream teachers' negative expectations. On the other hand, it is possible that mainstream teachers overcompensate and are especially lenient with NNSs. The present study attributed fabricated student identities to a standard set of essays into which specific errors had been intruded. The fictional students were either Southeast Asian, Northern European, or U.S. native English speakers (NESs). Mainstream composition teachers evaluated the writing samples using rating scales, and they also wrote marginal comments and signs. Analyses indicated an advantage favoring the Asian writers over the NES writers in ratings of overall composition quality. No differences in the number of errors detected for each writer nationality were found. On the other hand, teachers' ratings of NNS writing were best predicted by the number of surface errors they detected. Ratings of NES writing, in contrast, were justified by marginal notations and comments; teachers tended to write longer comments when they judged the writing to be poor. The significance of the study is to enjoin composition teachers to reflect on their differential dependence on surface error when evaluating NES and NNS writing.

Teacher Commentary on Student Writing: Descriptions & Implications

California State University, Sacramento
American River College
Winters High School
Sacramento City College

Teacher response to student writing is a vital, though neglected, aspect of L2 composition research. The present study adds to the previous research through the development and implementation of an original analysis model, designed to examine both the pragmatic aims and the linguistic forms of teachers' written commentary. This model was used in the examination of over 1500 teacher comments written on a sample of III essay first drafts by 47 advanced ESL university students. It was found that the teacher changed her responding strategies over the course of two semesters, that she provided different types of commentary on various genres of writing assignments, that the amount of her feedback decreased as the term progressed, and that she responded somewhat differently to students of varying ability levels. The study raises several implications for L2 writing instruction as well as for analyses of teacher commentary.

Qualification and Certainty in L1 and L2 Students' Writing

City University of Hong Kong
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

A major problem for second language students writing academic essays in English is to convey statements with an appropriate degree of doubt and certainty. Such epistemic comments are crucial to academic writing where authors have to distinguish opinion from fact and evaluate their assertions in acceptable and persuasive ways. Despite its importance however, we know little about how second language writers present assertions in their writing and we often measure their attempts to master appropriate forms against the work of expert writers. Based on a corpus of one million words, this paper compares the expression of doubt and certainty in the examination scripts of 900 Cantonese speaking school leavers writing in English with those of 770 British learners of similar age and educational level. A detailed analysis of the texts reveals that these L2 writers differ significantly from the NSs in relying on a more limited range of items, offering stronger commitments, and exhibiting greater problems in conveying a precise degree of certainty. The authors highlight a number of issues raised by the research and make some pedagogical suggestions for developing competence in this important pragmatic area.

Volume 6, Number 3 (1997)

Traditional Chinese Text Structures and Their Influence on the Writing in Chinese and English of Contemporary Mainland Chinese Students

Centre for International English, Curtin University of Technology

It has been argued that traditional Chinese text structures, in particular the four-part qi-cheng-zhuan-he and the ha gu wen (eight-legged essay) structures continue to influence the written English of Chinese students. In this article, the origins of these two traditional Chinese text structures will be described and examples of them given. In considering their influence upon the contemporary writing of mainland Chinese students, it will be argued that, as these structures do not influence the writing in Chinese of these students, they are unlikely to exert a great influence upon their writing in English. A survey of contemporary Chinese textbooks on composition suggests that the prescriptive advice given in these texts reflects contemporary " Anglo-American" rhetorical style more than traditional Chinese style. 

Student Annotations: What NNS and NS University Students Say About Their Own Writing

University of Melbourne

Although teacher feedback has long been considered an integral part of developing students' writing, seeking student perceptions of their own writing is equally important. The articulation of such perceptions assists students to be independent learners and also guides teacher feedback. One way to gain insights into student perceptions is to invite them to make annotations on their own work before submission. Although this is not a new pedagogic technique, there is a lack of research on many aspects of student annotation behavior, particularly of second language writers. In this project, student annotations were analyzed for the areas of writing about which students annotate and for the distribution of positive annotations and expressions of concern. Annotations were made by NNSs and NSs on their own research papers. There were some differences between the two groups of students in the categories and sub-categories of their annotations. The value for both students and writing instructors of encouraging L2 writers to annotate their work is discussed, and areas for further research are noted. 

Writing Instruction at the German Gymnasium: A 13th-Grade English Class Writes the Abitur

University of Toledo

The field of contrastive rhetoric has until fairly recently focused for the most part on the features of texts written by writers composing in English as a second language in English-speaking environments. Current research in contrastive rhetoric, however, points to interest in broader concerns, including inquiry into the educational contexts around the world in which writing and writing instruction take place. This article reports on an investigation of the context of writing at a secondary school (Gymnasium) in Germany. In addition to reporting contextual information related to the Gymnasium and the Abitur, an exit exam required by all Gymnasiums in Germany, this article reports the responses to the English section of the Abitur of 13th-grade students who elected English as one of their Abitur subjects. Students' responses are reported concerning their perception of the purpose of this exam; their means of preparing for it; their expectations of it before taking it and their reactions to it afterwards; their descriptions of their writing process during the exam; and their perceptions of the differences between writing in a first language and writing in a second language. 

Critical Thinking in ESL: An Argument for Sustained Content 

City University of New York

This article suggests that in adult ESL learners, development of critical thinking skills, as defined by EAP, cognitive psychology and transformative pedagogy, benefits from sustained content study (or studying one area over time). Sustained content study is recommended because: it allows students to accrue information, without which they are less able to question, synthesize, and evaluate what they read; it allows students to become familiar with the rhetorical conventions of a discipline; and, as these are the skills needed for university study, today's workplace and to understand the socio-political factors that affect students' lives, sustained study allows students to practice in the ESL class what they will need outside it. This article: defines critical thinking, discusses who should learn it and why, reviews the role of content in ESL and the literature supporting sustained study, and discusses content that engages ESL students with varied majors and goals. Three courses are described, one on selected economic/political issues, one on language acquisition itself, and one on film and society. Selections from student discussion and writing are examined. 


On Second Language Writing