Journal of Second Language Writing


Volume 7 (1998)
[ 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 7, Number 1 (1998)

Staying Out of Trouble: Apparent Plagiarism and Academic Survival

Carleton University, Canada

Textual borrowing by second language students in academic settings has traditionally been viewed as an intentional violation of Western norms and practices. As we have learned from recent discussions, however, the issue is not that simple, but fraught with complexities. In order to understand the degree of complexity, it is worthwhile to examine one instance of such borrowing. This paper explores the apparent plagiarism of one second language student writer in a university course. It considers her behavior in relation to the context of her course, the demands of her task, her developing English language skills, and her general learning processes. 

An Aspect of Holistic Modeling in Academic Writing: Propositional Clusters as a Heuristic for Thematic Control

Tokyo Institute of Technology

It is a major challenge for teachers of English for Academic Purposes (EAP) to devise meaningful exercises and techniques which can function as research tools for EAP practitioners and as heuristic procedures for L2 writers. If exercises are to be authentic in helping students accomplish their real concerns, they need to be holistic in their modeling of the academic writing process. That is, they need to integrate attention to textual, cognitive, and social aspects of the texts students are required to produce in order to enter into the academic/discourse community. As a contribution to this effort, this study presents one potentially valuable procedure, Propositional Clusters (PCs), which aims to help L2 writers handle one crucial aspect of text organization, namely thematic control. The use of PCs is demonstrated with reference to Japanese graduate students drafting their first research papers in English. 

"If I Only Had More Time:" ESL Learners' Changes in Linguistic Accuracy on Essay Revisions 

Michigan State University

This study examines whether or not English-as-a-second-language (ESL) students edit for sentence-level errors during revision and whether or not additional editing instruction helps reduce sentence-level errors in revised essays. Examining 64 ESL students' 30-minute drafts and 60-minute revisions, both at the beginning and at the end of a semester, we found that students' linguistic accuracy improved both over the semester and from draft to revised essay. However, an experimental group, who received additional editing instruction and feedback, did not perform any better than the control group on measures of linguistic accuracy. We conclude that while the improvement in accuracy on the revised essays is statistically significant and theoretically interesting to researchers in the areas of second language acquisition and second language writing pedagogy, it may be too small to have practical implications in the context of writing assessment.

An Investigation of L1-L2 Transfer in Writing among Japanese University Students: Implications for Contrastive Rhetoric

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Many studies of contrastive rhetoric have confirmed that Japanese writers prefer an inductive style which is negatively transferred to ESL writing, whereas one study found similarities in rhetorical patterns used by good Japanese and English LI writers. This study investigated whether individual Japanese students use the same discourse pattern in L1 and ESL writing and how each individual's use of similar/dissimilar patterns affects the quality of ESL essays. University students in Japan wrote one essay in Japanese and another in English. A total of 22 students wrote on an expository topic, and 24 students wrote on a persuasive topic. Each participant was interviewed later about their writing and views on rhetorical styles. Both Japanese and ESL essays were evaluated in terms of organization and ESL essays were also rated in terms of language use. The location of the main idea and the macro-level rhetorical pattern were coded for each essay. Results showed that about half of the writers used similar patterns in L1 and L2. Results also revealed a positive correlation between Japanese and ESL organization scores, but no negative transfer of culturally unique rhetorical patterns. The data suggest that L1 writing ability, English proficiency and composing experience in English affect the quality of ESL essays. 

Volume 7, Number 2 (1998)

ESL Students' Perceptions of Effectiveness in Peer Response Groups

Georgia State University

This study investigated Chinese and Spanish-speaking students' perceptions of their interactions in peer response groups in an ESL composition class. In a microethnographic study, three peer response groups in an advanced ESL composition class were videotaped for six consecutive weeks. After videotaping, researchers met with individual Chinese (N = 3) and Spanish-speaking (N = 2) group members. In each session, the researcher and the student viewed the videotapes of the peer response group in which the student had participated, and the students answered researcher questions about the group's interactions. The interviews were audiotaped, and the tapes were transcribed. The transcripts from the interviews were examined recursively by the researchers, and patterns were noted. This analysis yielded a description of the key participants' perceptions of their construction of peer response interaction. The analysis indicated that both the Chinese and Spanish-speaking students preferred negative comments that identified problems in their drafts. They also preferred the teacher's comments over those of other students and viewed grammar and sentence-level comments as relatively ineffective. The Chinese and Spanish-speaking students had different views, however. about the amount and kind of talk that was needed to identify problems.

Searching for Kiyoko: Bettering Mandatory ESL Writing Placement

Texas A & M University-Corpus Christi

This essay proposes ways to improve mandatory college placement for ESL writers and explores them through theory, an experiment, and a case study. Current methods of placement have problems with reader bias and instructional validity and sometimes disregard common facts of writing diagnosis. The proposed new method intends to avoid the problems by combining and balancing these cognitive acts. It divides readers into two tiers. The first is non-specialist faculty, who read essays with information about the writer hidden, but who can only place students into the most desired course; the second tier is specialist faculty who read with foreknowledge of the writer's name and background. Six years of placement outcomes of this system are reported at one university. Results are also reported of an experiment (participant N= 124) in the reading of the placement writing of a Japanese student (Kiyoko) in which foreknowledge about the writer was systematically varied. Results supported the proposed new system in that ethnic and language-status inferences about the writer (some incorrect) and foreknowledge about the writer's background were systematically associated with changes in evaluation and placement. Finally, the actual placement history of Kiyoko and the possible effects of knowledge about contrastive rhetoric on the placement are considered as further support of the method.

Transitions: The Balancing Act of Bilingual Academics

Keio University, Japan

Grounded in Lave and Wenger's (1991) notion of situated learning, this qualitative case study examines the Japanese and English academic writing activities and attitudes of four bilingual Japanese scholars, educated at the graduate level in the United States, who then returned to work at a Japanese university. In particular, the study focuses on the transitional experiences of the two younger scholars who were just starting their academic careers. On returning to Japan, they found themselves juggling two sets of values and expectations. Residing in Japan, yet not wishing to forego ties with the English speaking academic community, they faced difficult decisions regarding what scholarly activities to pursue, what values to place on those activities, and what shape their professional identities would take. All four informants found writing in Japanese and English to be central in their professional lives, and all perceived differences in the two writing worlds, in spite of many broad commonalities. I conclude this paper by reflecting on the complex and local nature of the informants' writing experiences, on the impossibility of situating these scholars in one cultural camp or the other, and on the expanded view of academic writing that seems called for.

The Composing Processes of Three Southeast Asian Writers at the Post-Secondary Level: An Exploratory Study

College of St. Catherine

The purpose of this study was to explore the writing processes of Southeast Asian students with different educational backgrounds. The secondary purpose was to determine if the methodology used was valid and reliable. Students were given an article to read and then asked to write their opinion about the topic. Students were videotaped as they wrote, with the camera focused specifically on the movement of their pen on paper. They were then interviewed about their writing process and about what they had been thinking during selected pause times, which had been captured on videotape and were played back to stimulate recall of the students' thought processes. Their responses were transcribed and then categorized according to what aspect of their writing they had been attending to during their pauses as well as what strategies they used to help generate a solution to a perceived problem in their writing (Cumming, 1989). The students differed in their degree of metacognitive awareness, their ability to integrate information from the reading into their writing, the amount of attention paid to different aspects of their writing, and the quantity and variety of problem-solving strategies employed. Directions for future research are discussed. 

Volume 7, Number 3 (1998)

The Impact of Teacher Written Feedback on Individual Writers

Open University, Hong Kong

This study investigates ESL writers' reactions to and uses of written feedback. Using a case study approach and a variety of data sources including observation notes, interview transcripts and written texts, overall findings on six students' use of written feedback throughout a course will be briefly discussed. The paper then focuses on two student writers who show contrasting patterns of feedback use and who also both become much less positive about their writing during the course. The student revisions after receiving teacher written feedback are analyzed and contextual data is used to gain a deeper understanding of the students' motivations and responses to the feedback. The data show that use of teacher written feedback varies due to individual differences in needs and student approaches to writing. It also appears to be affected by the different experiences students bring with them to the classroom setting. Some implications for teachers giving feedback are also given. It is suggested that there needs to be a more open teacher/student dialogue on feedback, since the data suggest that the feedback situation has great potential for miscommunication and misunderstanding.

Undergraduates Arguing a Case

National University of Singapore

This essay describes an instructional study in which students were trained in two key aspects of argumentation, namely, the structural and interpersonal components. The structural aspects were taught and measured in terms of Toulmin's (1958) framework of argument analysis (i.e., the quality of claims, grounds and warrants used). The interpersonal aspects in turn were measured in terms of the creation of a clear persona, audience adaptiveness (the appropriate use of rational and emotional appeals), and stance towards the unique discourse of argumentation. Students performed a pre-instruction writing task, underwent eight weeks of explicit instruction in argumentation, then performed the task again. Findings contrasting pre-and post-test results reveal statistically significant improvement in students' abilities to formulate claims, to offer specific and developed grounds, and to use more reliable warrants. Students also showed improvement in the interpersonal aspects of argument, building better writer credibility, developing fuller rational and emotional appeals, and conveying both sides of an argument in order to resolve the problem at hand.

Feedback on Student Writing: Taking the Middle Path

SEAMEO Regional Language Centre, Singapore
Chinese University of Hong Kong
Chinese University of Hong Kong
Tunghai University, Taiwan

Among the many controversies in second language writing instruction is the issue of whether or not to employ peer feedback. The current study collected anonymous questionnaire data on whether second language learners prefer to receive peer feedback as one type of feedback on their writing. Participants were first-and second-year undergraduate ESL students of lower intermediate to high proficiency, 44 in a university in Hong Kong and 77 in a university in Taiwan. All were enrolled in writing courses in which peer, self, and teacher feedback were used. The chi-square test was used to analyze the questionnaire data, with the alpha level set at .05. A statistically significant percentage of participants (93% ) indicated they preferred to have feedback from other students as one type of feedback on their writing. This finding, as well as students' written explanations of their choices, is discussed with reference to how best to incorporate peer feedback into second language writing instruction.

Effects of Prewriting Discussions on Adult ESL Students' Compositions

University of Hong Kong

This study assessed whether peer talk and teacher-led prewriting discussions affected the quality of students' compositions. Forty-seven adult ESL students from three pre-university writing classes participated. Each student wrote three drafts of opinion essays under conditions of peer discussion, teacher-led discussion, and no discussion. Nonparametric tests of rating scores showed no statistically significant differences overall in the writing under the three conditions. However, students were found to write longer drafts in the condition of no discussion, shorter drafts after teacher-led talk, and drafts with a greater variety of verbs after peer talk. Comparison of students' use of verbs in both written and spoken texts traced the effects of various prewriting conditions. Whereas the no discussion condition led to longer drafts (presumably because students had more time to write than in the talk-write sessions), prewriting discussions provided social contexts where either the teacher scaffolded students In the whole class situation to conceptualize their thinking, or students assisted each other in peer groups to explore more freely and generate diverse vocabulary and ideas for the writing tasks. These results imply that teachers may usefully balance these prewriting conditions to generate various types of thinking and discourse processes that facilitate adult ESL students' writing. The study also highlights the importance of the time factor and the relationship between length and quality in L2 writing.


On Second Language Writing