7.1 Introduction

Current Issues in EAP Writing Instruction was the most extensive of all the Professional Interest Meetings represented in this report and for that reason it is only partially represented here. A full version of the proceedings will be edited by Paul Thompson of Reading University so please contact him for further details:

P.A.Thompson@reading.ac.uk

There were 9 plenary presentations and 16 short talks. Of the total 25 inputs, 8 are represented here.

This conference brought together a wide range of research interest in the field of academic writing as well as attracting a huge audience (over 150 on the day).

7.2 The Flight from a Perfect World: Rethinking the Notion of Genre in Language Teaching

Mohammad Al-Ali & Randal Holme, University of Durham

The main objective of this talk was to question whether the Swalesian (1990) notion of genre does not have theoretical and empirical inconsistencies that lead us towards an overly prescriptive style of teaching writing according to an ideal multi-disciplinary template. The mastery of this template leaves students no better at adopting a critical relationship with their subject matter or at finding the language in which to express the same.

The first point was that ‘field’ or discipline specificity is essential to a detailed sense of the form that a given text should adopt. Different disciplines suppose different modes of enquiry and different justificatory criteria. A different subject will thus express itself through a different communicative structure, making inconsistent the notion that a text type can operate across disciplines without radical adaptation.

Empirical support for the above position was found in research involving an examination of the move structure of 13 RAs drawn randomly from a broad spectrum of disciplines.

At the section level, it was found that RAs vary across disciplines in the number and titles of sections included. Some of the conventional sections (IMRD) were absent in certain RAs. For example, Maths, Law and History RAs did not include Discussion sections.

At the move structure level there were disciplinary variations with regard to the presence or absence of certain moves and the complexity of their cyclical organisation. Contrary to the prescriptions mandated by style guides and Swales’s (1990) 3 move model of introductions, introduction moves are likely to re-occur in other sections. Similar repetitions were found for Results and Discussion moves. Further, moves were found which had not been mentioned by other researchers and there seemed to be no conformity in the number and type of move cycles included in each RA section.

The RA writers, in this sample, employed largely unacknowledged rhetorical organisational patterns that rely on the communicative purpose of the disciplines. While it is clear that there is such a thing as an RA or an essay genre, possessing features that are unique to it, these features cannot be specified as a detailed communicative structure when such a structure must be bent towards the epistemological demands of the discipline in question and even of the idiosyncrasies of the subject.

We therefore suggested that our sense of writing in a given genre is achieved through a deployment of our analogical faculties in order to give the emergent text a sense of category membership by constraining it within a schematic sense of its likeness to prototypical models. This schematic sense would recognise communicative purpose only in the very wide sense of deferring a collective notion of scientific method or of demonstrating knowledge.

The pedagogical conclusion was that successful writing in a genre is achieved less through the prescriptive model of move structure and more through the development of the student’s relationship with texts of the field-specific type which they will have to write. This should be regarded as a process relationship of weaning students away from appropriate models and fostering their analogical sense of these through such techniques as critical reading and text diagramtisation (trying to draw text structure).

Bibliography

Swales, J., 1990 Genre Analysis. Cambridge. Cambridge University Press.

7.3 Now you see me, now you don’t: the author’s voice in academic research articles

Maggie Charles, Oxford University Language Centre

There are a number of options open to academic writers for obscuring or revealing their presence in their text, this is what I refer to as the author’s voice. In this presentation I used examples from a range of academic journal articles to examine this aspect of academic writing. The author’s voice can be realised in many ways, not only, for example, by using I, we and the passive form of the verb, but also through an adverbial phrase: such a study is in hand; a reflex pronoun: no such division announces itself in the text; or a deictic form: this investigation suggests. I suggested that realisations of the author’s voice can be situated on a continuum from author revealed to author obscured and that notions of explicit and personal are important in distinguishing points on the continuum. Thus the more explicit and personal a given realisation is, the greater the author’s presence in the text, with, for example, personal pronouns such as I and we revealing the author’s presence and passive forms of the verb obscuring it.

I used examples to show that the author’s voice is not necessarily consistent throughout a text and I offered three reasons why writers may decide to reveal their presence at certain points in their texts. The first example shows authors who take credit for their finding: We have found an alternative route to this product. In the second example the author takes responsibility for his action: I have split its complex action into two main parts. The third example shows an author using a revealing form in order to take a position with regard to other writers in the field: I think that the conventional methods of testing for mobility effects have not been adequate, so that theorists have been corrected in refusing to abandon the question.

I suggested that non-native writers often have difficulty with choices concerning the author’s voice and that examples like the ones I have discussed here can form the basis of materials which encourage them to become more aware of the issues involved.

7.4 Feedback on Writing: A Case Study

Sada A Daoud, Damascus University, Syria

Feedback is central for the successful teaching and learning of academic writing. Most research on feedback has been carried out in ESL contexts, and little as yet has been done in EFL. This study is an attempt to contribute to filling in this gap. It aimed to investigate feedback practices in the process of learning/teaching academic paper writing through the perceptions of students and their teachers. Two hundred medical students (100 current and 100 ex-ones) and ten teachers were involved. The study attempted to answer several questions. This paper focuses on two of them: (1) what methods of feedback are perceived to be effective? And (2) how do students respond to teacher feedback? Different instruments were used to collect the data: questionnaires, teacher interviews, classroom observation, samples of students’ drafts, student-group open discussion, and teacher round-table open discussion. Results have shown that teacher written commentary is the most prevailing method of feedback and that both teachers and students perceive it to be the most effective. The majority of respondents in the three groups reported positive student response to teacher written feedback. However, there is disparity between teachers’ and students’ perceptions of the effectiveness of peer feedback, conferences and teacher encouraging comments. Findings were interpreted mainly with reference to (1) possible lack of teacher awareness about feedback and (2) contextual constraints (time, timing, individual project writing etc.). The cultural view of the role of the teacher as an evaluator and examiner might also have a role in the shaping of respondents’ perceptions. Collaborative writing is argued to be a better alternative for these students. In this framework, peer feedback is suggested for the primary stages and written commentary and conferences for the intermediary and final stages. A mentoring scheme that encourages collaboration between experienced and novice teachers is also recommended for teacher development in teaching/learning writing.

Selected References on Feedback on Writing:

Anson, C.M. (Ed.). Writing and Responses: Theory, Practice and Research. Urbana IL: NCTE.
Arndt, V. (1993). Response to writing: Using feedback to inform the writing process. In Teaching Composition around the Pacific Rim: Policies and Pedagogy. Eds. M. Brock and L. Walters. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters: 90-226.
Charles, M. (1990) Responding to problems in written English using a student self-monitoring technique. ELT Journal, 44: 286-93.
Cohen, A. (1987). Student processing of feedback on their compositions. In Learner Strategies in Language Learning. Eds. A. Wenden and J. Rubin. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Dalbani, H. (1992). An Investigation into the Relationship between the Educational Context and the Written Product of University EFL Students with Implications for Teaching Writing. Unpublished Ph.D. thesis. University of Leeds, UK.
Daoud, S. (1995). Feedback in the Process of Teaching and Learning Academic Writing in EFL/ESP Contexts: A Case Study. Unpublished MA dissertation CELTE, University of Warwick, UK.
Daoud, S. (Forthcoming). How to motivate the learning and teaching of EFL academic writing by cross-cultural exchanges. English for Specific Purposes, 5: 27-39.
Enginarlar, H. (1993). Student response to teacher feedback in EFL writing. System. 21: 193-204.
Freedman, S.W., and A.M. Katz (1987). Pedagogical interaction during the composing process: The writing conference. In Writing in Real Time: Modelling Production Processes. Ed. A. Matsuhasi. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
Ferris, Dana (1997). The influence of teacher commentary on student revision. TESOL Quarterly, 31: 315-39.
Gosden, H. (1995) Success in research article writing and revision: A social constructionist perspective. English for Specific Purposes, 14: 37-57.
Keh, C.L. (1990). Feedback in the Writing Process: A model and method for implementation. ELT Journal, 44: 294-304.
Fadecki, P., and J. Swales (1988). ESL student reaction to written comments on their written work. System, 16: 335-65.
Reid, J. (1994). Responding to ESL students; texts: the myths of appropriation. TESOL Quarterly, 28: 273-92.
Robb, T., S. Ross and I Shortreed (1986). Salience of feedback on error and its effect on EFL writing quality. TESOL Quarterly, 20: 83-93.
Storch, N. and J. Tapper (1996). Patterns of NNS student annotations when identifying areas of concern in their writing. System, 24: 323-36.
Zamel, V. (1985). Responding to student writing. TESOL Quarterly, 19: 79-101.

7.5 Intertextual effects of teacher and peer feedback: evidence from a reformulation class

Alison Piper, University of Southampton

Aim

To demonstrate a range of intertextual processes at work in students’ essay writing, particularly in revised versions of these.

Definitions

Intertextuality

Pennycook has written of “borrowing others’ words” (Pennycook 1996) and of the contradictions and ambiguities of concepts like plagiarism in academic writing, among which are the relationship between pedagogical materials and the development of academic writing (Johnston in progress). Pennycook examines language as a “tissue of quotations” (Barthes) or a “circulation of meanings”, speech as “filled with others’ words” (Bakhtin), and people as “awash in the words of others”. He notes the particular problem for HE students writing in a second language, who experience the conflict between meeting the dual demand to use their own words and be original and critical, and the need to acquire a canon of knowledge and terminology.

Feedback

Context

A small group of advanced undergraduate learners of EFL attended a first year degree module in English language, part of which involved supporting the process of writing essays set by Regional Studies lecturer. Over a three month period, three of these writing classes and the work the students produced for these were studied. The three classes used “reformulation”, a pedagogic strategy whereby students write a first draft of an essay which is then reformulated by a native speaker (see Allwright 1988). This process “requires the native-speaker to try to understand what the non-native speaker was trying to write, and then to rewrite it ... in a form more natural to the native-speaker” (Allwright et al 1988: 238), the ideal being for the re-writer to retain the original ideas and purpose of the text. In this study extracts from several essays, or one whole one, were reformulated for each of the three set essays, and the two versions, original and reformulated, were discussed by students and teacher in the classroom, both as a class and in small-group work. After this discussion the students revised their first versions into a final draft. Class 1 presented and discussed essay introductions, Class 2 conclusions, and Class 3 a whole essay. (A fourth class, unavoidably cancelled, was going to discuss a central part of the essay.)

Subjects

8 non-native-speaking undergraduate students all from a European educational background although not all from Europe. Studying in the UK for a BA degree in Applied Language Studies. Aged between 19 and 25, two men, six women.

Data

Other Results

Influences on writing and revision

Research Question

How important did the students’ experience of the reformulation strategy appear to be in influencing their revisions, relative to other factors?

Six variables investigated via qualitative analysis

1. Teachers’ written comments

Interview/questionnaire data reported importance of T comment in revision. Evidence in all revised essays (replicates findings of other research in multiple drafting contexts (e.g. Ferris 1995; Hedgcock and Lefkowitz 1994). Influence most obviously from marginal notes rather than ESL Composition Profile comments.

Conclusion

T comments had more influence on S revisions than any other factor in the reformulation strategy. Response often meticulous, as if using native-speaker proof-reader, but also signs of attention to higher order organisational issues.

2. The reformulations

Texts reformulated: Class 1 introductions, Class 2 conclusions, and Class 3 whole essay. Therefore examine each of these three aspects of Ss’ final drafts.

Conclusion

Except where Ss adopted them wholesale, they used or modified those parts of the reformulations which they could easily incorporate into their own writing – usually either specific vocabulary items, or definable structures or words (like example) which they could then build into a sequence of some kind. Reformulations acted as models for both linguistic and textual features, but only used them where Ss could integrate them with their own textual intentions.

3. The classes

More difficult to make links between Ss’ writing and events of the classroom. Distance in time, space and medium between the class discussion and the writing of the essay probably unbridgeable in terms of establishing a primary relationship, certainly via the research methods used in the study. More appropriate to see what is happening in the reformulation strategy as an interplay between the various texts, comments and discussions which are produced -> suggestions re how the classes might have impacted on the students’ writing, and which aspects of the class seem more likely to have had such an impact and which less likely.

Conclusion

Students’ personal textual characteristics seemed to override fact or nature of classroom discussion, whether plenary of peer group, although some evidence of influence is some cases. Development most obvious in intros, suggesting where discussion about definable and relatively finite matters from which choices could be made, this carried over into the writing process. But classes didn’t deal with a whole essay until the final session, so not possible to investigate any relationship between classes and overall essay structure until the last essay, which anyway only two students substantially revised.

Suggestion of (non-directional relationship) between expertise in writing and expertise in describing and analysing originals and reformulations. The gradual though uneven increase in essay grades mirrors the development of the students’ abilities to analyse the texts and the class focus on discourse-level concerns. Suggestion that individual differences in the three integrated dimensions of the reformulator’s expertise – linguistic repertoire, revising skills and textual knowledge – were reflected in those individual’s class performance, and that they developed in parallel.

Question: how important is it to develop students’ ability to describe and evaluate texts?

4. Essay type and topic

Essay 3 on “censorship” seems to have been a kind of odd man out in which four students either got their highest grade or for which they received a substantially higher grade than previously.

Conclusion

Evidence suggests that certain types of essay enable certain students to activate their discourse-level skills more than others, stimulate the use and integration of other texts, etc.

5. Other external sources

No class material/textbooks from the Regional Studies course collected as data, therefore this source of intertextuality not investigated. But hints of common sources recur in different students’ essays. Re help from native-speakers in writing their essays, students reported various attitudes in final interviews.

General comments on intertextuality

Back to Pennycook’s conflict between demands for originality in ideas and language + requirement to acquire knowledge and terminology, evidence demonstrates the interaction between the two in practice. The classroom transcripts often show students worrying about presenting a personal choice, while the writing data shows the difficulties imposed on them by their limited repertoire both linguistically and textually. While students used teacher feedback as most obvious source of revisions, the reformulation strategy offered many opportunities for them to seek their own solutions to these problems, both in first drafts and in the way they revised subsequent drafts, though using, recycling, borrowing, etc. whatever bits of other texts which they found useful.

References

Allwright, J. 1988. “Don’t correct – reformulate!” In P. Robinson (ed.). Academic writing: process and product. London: Modern English Publications in association with the British Council.
Allwright, R.L., M-P Woodley and J. Allwright. 1988. “Investigating reformulation as a practical strategy for the teaching of academic writing”. Applied Linguistics. 9/3: 236-256.
Bereiter, C. and M. Scardamalia. 1982. “From conversation to composition: the role of instruction in a developmental process.” In R. Glaser (ed.). Advances in instructional psychology. Vol. 1. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Faigley, L. and S.P. Witte. 1984. “Measuring the effects of revisions on text structure.” In R. Beach and L.S. Bridwell (ed.). New directions in composition research. New York: Guilford Press.
Ferris, D.R. 1995. “Student reactions to teacher response in multiple-draft composition classrooms.” TESOL Quarterly. 29/1: 33-53.
Hedgcock, J. and N. Lefkowitz. 1994. “Feedback on feedback: assessing learner receptivity to teacher response in L2 composing.” Journal of Second Language Writing. 3: 141-163.
Johnston, B. In progress. Teaching analytical writing. Unpublished doctoral thesis, University of Southampton.
Pennycook, A. 1996. “Borrowing others’ words: text, ownership, memory, and plagiarism.” TESOL Quarterly. 30/2: 201-230.

7.6 Kibbitzing One-to-Ones

Tim Johns, EISU, University of Birmingham

Situation: 1-2-1 Consultations on Student Writing

  1. Help with postgraduate essays and dissertations of international students at Birmingham University started in 1972 and has continued and gradually expanded: since then (in week 24th-28th November 1997, appointments for 44 sessions with 4 consultants). My own current workload is 5 hours (10 students) per week: range of subject disciplines from Islamic Theology through Special Education to Mechanical Engineering.
  2. We attempt to explain that what we offer is not a “correction service”, but a “teaching service” (or, more accurately, a “consultancy service”): goal to make student as soon as possible independent of outside help.
  3. Sessions require prior appointment: usually ½ hour in length. Students get only one session per week.
  4. As all correction is collaborative, no correction is undertaken outside the session.
  5. Concordancer switched on during session to check language points as they arise, with access to general and more specialised corpora (e.g. New Scientist, Nature).
  6. Redrafting strategies intended to pass control to the students – e.g.
  1. I recommend a specific sequence of activities for follow-uo sessions:

Problem: Monitoring and Washback

In straitened times, the cost of providing a 1-2-1 service can be justified only by the efficacy of the assistance given: and/or by its potential ‘washback’ effect on our normal classroom teaching. As far as the second of these is concerned, most sessions are ‘lost on the wind’: hence need to monitor them and to see what can be learned that may be of general use to teachers and students.

Solution: ‘Kibbitzer’ on the Worldwide Web

  1. Some possible solutions were attractive but impractical in the context of a busy service department. Thus it might have been interesting to analyse the negotiation of meaning in 1-2-1 sessions on the basis of (video) recordings: but when would I find the time to listen to , transcribe, and analyse the recordings?
  2. The solution adopted exploits the potential of the Worldwide Web to conduct on-the-ground research in public. Inspired by the COBUILD Wordwatch feature, ‘Kibbitzer’ is a semi-regular series on my worldwide Web EAP page http://web.bham.ac.uk/johnstf/timeap3) based on points arising in 1-2-1 sessions. 27 topics covered between April 1996 and November 1997.
  3. Topics selected as they arise, taking into account the following ‘general principles’:

Evaluation

  1. For me, the writing of the Kibbitzer series has been extremely useful in helping me to refresh and sharpen up my skills as a consultant.
  2. Statistics from the Birmingham Webmaster’s ‘Web publisher’s Enquiry’ show that the Kibbitzer files receive a steady though unspectacular number of visitors, largely from outside the UK: in addition, it has received favourable mentions from a handful of other sites specialising in EFL/EAP.
  3. Limited washback effect to date on classroom materials.
  4. Possibility of wider collaboration in collection of data.

7.7 Feedback or a Dialogic Process: A Case Study of Individual Conferences

Brenda Johnston, AUC Cairo

Context of the study

An action research aiming to develop the analytical writing capabilities of first year undergraduates in an intensive Freshman writing course in an English-medium university in the Middle East. Part of the project involved a set of conferences (individual tutorials) with each student. The students wrote four essays/papers over the course of a semester. For each paper they had a conference of 20 minutes to half an hour after they had written the first draft with me, their teacher. For the third and fourth paper they also had a conference/conferences before they wrote their first draft.

Organisation of the conferences

The conferences were intended to provide opportunities for students to discuss their essay with me (to question, clarify, rehearse, disagree, etc.). I had an opportunity to engage in dialogue with the students (making suggestions, asking questions, commenting, etc.).

The conferences aimed to individualise teaching for each student; to work within their zone of proximal development (Vygotsky 1978); to guide students toward the development of strategies I considered useful for encouraging analytical writing; to socialise students into what was acceptable writing in the academic world they were entering; to encourage student independence in learning; and to encourage student motivation though appropriate teaching and interest shown in their work.

What we discussed in conference

Content (e.g. interpretation of source material, how to develop ides more analytically, missing information), essay structure (e.g. organisation of material), technical matters (e.g. documentation), language issues (e.g. tenses, vocabulary choice).

Difficulties in assessing effectiveness of conference dialogues

Difficult to assess how effective conferences are because:

Students are influenced by many other matters (e.g. whole class inputs, practice in writing, interaction with peers, interaction with parents, future ambitions) when making alternations to drafts following on from a conference, writing future essays, or developing attitudes to the course.

Conferencing is not a matter of inputting information and then straightforward learning output. Instead learning, especially in a complex process such as analytical writing, is slow, cumulative, recursive, non-linear, and complex.

My assessment of the effectiveness of conferencing in the case study

Conferencing appeared effective with the five case study students in this study in encouraging motivation and reflection. They were useful in dealing with the small-scale learning needs of individual students. Conferencing was very effective in assisting the students to make changes to the essay draft following on from the conference. There is also evidence that it was useful in helping students learn in the longer term, especially on matters they were close to learning anyway of varying degrees of complexity; on relatively technical matters such as documentation; and on issues where a principle easy to grasp is involved (e.g. that the student should seek “the truth” in writing, rather than writing to please the teacher or finish the assignment quickly). It may be helpful in matters such as making the student more aware of the need to provide exemplification, elaboration, etc. But as these are matters of individual judgement for individual cases, evidence of this is more difficult to find. The effects of conferencing is enhanced when combined with whole class teaching input on the same issue and practice.

7.8 Academic Writing Support for Distance Courses

Tilly Warren, Birmingham University

Background

The Open Distance Learning Master of Arts in Teaching English as a Foreign or Second Language (MA TEFL/TESL) is run by the Centre for English Language Studies (CELS), part of the University of Birmingham’s Department of English. The course is designed for practising teachers of English as a second or foreign language. The original target group were native speaker teachers who for various reasons would find it hard to leave employment to gain a Masters degree. The central philosophy behind the programme is that students should have the opportunity to research and use in the classroom the concepts and theories they encounter during their course of study. With this in mind, a set of interactive course materials was written for working teachers to complete in part-time, self-study mode over a period of 30 months.

Since its start in 1995 the course has found considerable success in Japan and is now also offered in Korea (initiatives in Thailand and Taiwan did not find the required standard of in-country support). This year the course is expanding into Greece, Chile and Brazil. The aim is to provide a course that offers the same standards, both academically and organisationally, as a full-time, in-house course. The Open Distance Learning MA TEFL/TESL is subject to exactly the same rigorous validation and external evaluation procedures as in-house courses, and students’ coursework is assessed to the same standards. The specially written materials were thus aimed at native speakers of English and although they were designed to support self study, no allowances were made for non-native speaker students.

Course Intake

The requirements for the course are also as exacting as for in-house Masters courses. Applicants should have a university degree at ‘2.1’ level in the UK system, or a GPA score of 3.5 or over in the American system. They must also have two years’ full-time experience (or equivalent) teaching English as a second or foreign language and be able to provide three references, at least one to attest to academic abilities, and one to professional abilities as an EFL teacher. However candidates with equivalent degrees from other countries as well as good teaching experience and positive references are also considered. Such candidates may be asked to complete a written task and/or attend an interview. Candidates whose first language is not English are required to have one of the following:

TOEFL score of 550 or more,
IELTS score of 6.0 or more
UCLES (Cambridge) Proficiency grade C or above

an English Language examination pass at an equivalent level to the above which is recognised by the University of Birmingham.

Course Design

The Masters course consists of a total of twelve courses (divided into six Modules) followed by a dissertation of 12,000 words. At the start of each Module, the Local Administration Centre provides two sets of specially written study materials produced by lecturers from the Department of English at Birmingham University. One course is taught in-country by Birmingham tutors in an intensive one-week summer seminar to which attendance is mandatory. Each distance-mode course contains aims and objectives, reading lists, summaries of Readings, activities, discussion/reflection tasks, keys and commentaries, and details of assignments required. At the end of each Module, students submit one essay or small project report of 4,000 words. They complete three such assignments in year one and a further three in year two, a total of six 4,000 word assignments over the two years. Completed assignments are sent to Birmingham via the Local Administration Centre for marking. A comprehensive set of feedback comments are made by two markers. The comments are designed not only as an evaluation, but also to help students improve their standard in subsequent assessments.

Need for Academic Writing Support

Somewhat to the surprise of CELS, since the beginning of the course there has been a great deal of interest from local English teachers and ELT administrators in this Masters degree and roughly a third of every intake has been non-native speaker candidates, the proportion growing slightly as the programme expands. Although this was seen as an encouraging and positive sign, it also brought with it the same types of problems seen with in-house Masters students who are non-native speakers – difficulties with understanding what was required in assignment writing, slow and possibly inefficient reading, written assignments that did not follow British academic conventions and even basic problems with English grammar and lexis in an academic context. In-house students have the opportunity to take either 10-week or 5-week presessional course in academic study skills and an insessional Academic Writing course is provided in the first term. They also, of course, have direct access to tutors and academic writing support, as well as peer support.

It soon became clear that the Open Learning Course needed to offer some kind of study skills support since although the standard of students was the same, left without enough guidance, assignment writing and the general approach to academic study was often misconstrued by non-native speakers. (Not that the only students in need of this kind of support were non-native speakers – it was also clear that students from non-British academic backgrounds were finding the course equally challenging.) In February 1997 three people were asked to collaborate on writing a support course, Anne Hewings, Pam Rogerson, Rod Revell and myself, Tilly Warren. The intention is to have a course written and ready to send out for the 1998 October intake.

Academic Writing Course Design

Rationale

Deliver a similar support course to the in-house course but (because distance) at more length with chance for reflection/group work, keys to exercises for reassurance and comment.

Issues

Addressing areas that students had failed on i.e. ‘journalese’, lack of references, intuitive/subjective, anecdotal, non-evaluative, wrong register, lack of hedging or too much, straying off the topic, plagiarism, ignorance of conventions, lacking coherence/cohesion, too much repetition, no development of an argument, no ‘depth’.

Design

10 modules – reduced to 8 Format modelled on B’ham materials – familiar for students.

In bold are those already written.

  1. Distance Learning and Self-Study – tips from past and present students, communication with department, time/space management, support network.
  2. Introduction to Study Skills – reading and note-taking, writing process v. Product, record keeping, drafting and proof reading.
  3. Approaching Writing 1: Macro skills in Academic Writing – audience, culture, coherence.
  4. Approaching Writing 2: Micro skills in Academic Writing – hedging, nominalisation, passivisation, cohesion.
  5. Referring to the Literature – rationale, avoiding plagiarism – citation conventions, paraphrasing, summarising.
  6. Writing Assignments – types of assignment, analysing the title, developing an argument, evaluation, etc.
  7. Writing a Dissertation – issues, choosing a topic, proposal writing, stages, conventions.
  8. General Reference Guide – formatting, referencing, etc.

Comments on assignments that had to be resubmitted

  1. You must number your paragraphs. Without this it is very difficult for markers to comment in detail on your work. There are also far too many mistakes in your English for your work to be acceptable at the Master’s level. (Assignment writing conventions, language accuracy)
  2. I am afraid I cannot understand the principles of the bilingual method from this brief reference. You need to explain it in more detail. (Clarity of explanation)
  3. I am afraid I can make no sense at all of the first three sentences in this section. (Clarity)
  4. Your command of English is fine but you do not use it to good effect. Very much of what you have to say is obvious or trivial. I am sure a careful discussion (with a tutor) will help you improve a great deal. (Academic English)
  5. Your first sentence strongly depicts that you are going to distinguish between the speech event and the speech act. But you do not do this. (Cohesion)
  6. This reads as if we have started on the second or third paragraph, particularly from your use of the definite article for items that have not as yet been introduced to your readers. (Coherence)
  7. Brian Tomlinson was not the originator of the bottom-up/top-down distinction. It was in use long before Tomlinson. If however you do wish to credit Tomlinson, you do this by referring to Tomlinson (199?) and including this in your references. (Reference convention)
  8. This is not a quotation! It is imaginary words put into a reader’s mouth. Make sure you know what a quotation is. (Reference conventions)
  9. You are repeating yourself and therefore labouring unnecessarily a simple point. (Argumentation)
  10. You have described a lesson which you say worked very well. I have no reason to doubt this, although I do have worries about elements in the materials. But you have not answered the question set. I do not believe there is much in your essay which you could not have written before coming on the course. (Understanding assignment)
  11. Read this section carefully. What does it say? It simply asserts that visual aids and movement help learning. This is probably true, but it doesn’t merit a whole section in an assignment at MA level. (Academic writing)
  12. Lacks clear structure and direction, perhaps due to lack of confidence in handling the framework for analysis. Rather frequent repetitions and an unnecessary amount of textual citation. (Academic writing)
  13. Your essay does not demonstrate an ability to analyse, evaluate and recommend sufficiently for the chosen task. Some statements are confusing and it is not clear what theory/theories you think are behind the materials you use. It is not clear for example that you have any understanding of a communicative methodology. (Understanding assignment / academic writing)

Feedback so far

(Materials were piloted in Korea and Japan this year as well as with the in-house MA students on the Academic Writing Course.)

Aspects Appreciated

Requests for More

‘Worrying’ Comments

“What is dealt with here (Study Skills) was covered in the presessional course I attended last August. I have found reading extremely difficult to cope with and it’s even more difficult to follow reading skills or strategies which are recommended in this chapter. They sound very efficient and systematic in theory but very vague and difficult to adopt in practice.

“Very useful guidelines here. But it would be helpful to discuss this in a lecture. There are many aspects that require explanations and input from the lecturer.”

“If it’s possible could you please give readers a complete dissertation and show different kinds of ways in which appropriate expression? That might be helpful to follow the rule much more like an academic writing.”

Useful References

Bell, J. (1993) Doing Your Research Project Open University Press Buckingham.
Richards, K. (1994). ‘Writing Distance Learning Materials’ in Richards, K. and Roe, P. (Eds.) Distance Learning in ELT Macmillan London
Swales, J.M. and Feak, C.B. (1994) Academic Writing for Graduate Students University of Michigan Press Michigan
Waters, M. and Waters, A. (1995). Study Tasks in English CUP Cambridge

7.9 Subject-Specific EAP: Issues in Developing a Syllabus

Harriet Edwards, Goldsmiths College Postgraduate Textiles Writing Workshop, Goldsmiths College

The handout provides details of the Textiles course taken from the Textiles handbook and from interviews with the head of the department (Janis Jefferies). This is followed by a short profile of the students attending the writing workshop.

The question is: how would you develop a writing workshop for the non-native students who are studying on the Textiles Diploma /MA?

The Course Aims

“The course seeks to provide a constructive relationship between independent practice and a structured programme of study. It also seeks to generate and encourage the group as a supportive unit.

The programme is designed to reflect, and reflect upon, the relative diversity of contemporary textiles within a broad definition of visual arts, and the nature of the critical discourse which surrounds it. Textiles here operates within a field of interdisciplinary practice, within which you are required to develop your own positions.”

Course Elements

Weekly Critical Theory Seminars (1st 2 terms)

Some major themes of contemporary analysis and critique of contemporary textiles are explored. Creative practice is considered in the ligth of explorations of its cultural context. Several critical essays are read as preparation for these seminars.

Weekly Studio Seminars (predominating in 2nd term)

Each student in turn is visited by the group in her/his studio and gives a presentation (followed by discussion) on the development and ideas in their textiles work. The content of the presentations forms the basis of the final essay.

Note: “Development of the group as an instrument of criticism and practical self-help is one of the central aims of the course.”

Individual Tutorials (3 or 4 during three terms)

Students discuss their work with up to three tutors who advise them on research and practice. Students write up tutorial reports after each one which form part of their assessment.

Studio Practice

Research and practical work continue through the three terms, independence and self-discipline being the keys! While the long essay is submitted at the end of the third term, studio practice continues until the exhibition in September.

Options

In addition, students can attend any of the practical workshops (weaving, paper-making) that are held throughout the year on the undergraduate course.

Lectures in Anthropology, Communications and Art History can be attended, and optional Creative Writing workshops are offered in the 2nd term.

Visits

The course also consists of visits to exhibitions and practising artists.

Note: Non-native Diploma students follow more or less the same lines as the MA students although the emphasis is more practical, and the long essay much shorter!

Note: The handbook contains a comprehensive guide to essay writing. In addition, Textile tutors provide guidance on how to write reviews and tutorial reports; how to give a presentation, and, in the 3rd term, students essay drafts are submitted and then discussed twice before the final deadline.

Summary of the Emphasis

The course is concerned very much with INTEGRATION of theory, individual student’s interests and the studio practice.

It emphasises PROCESS as well as product; a lot of attention is paid to the student’s individual development in all aspects of the course.

It relies heavily on PEER SUPPORT.

Writing Criteria and Content

Academic conventions are still important, for example, the essay must contain preface and conclusion, adequate support, evidence of research, and careful referencing. However, the Head of the department accepts competence rather than perfection in the language. Furthermore, the higher marks are awarded to students whose work is individual and original; where there is a sense of development and energy. The subject matter is extremely diverse and may involve biographical detail; criticism and subjective interpretation of art and artists; critical theory. There are necessarily main theme/s running through the essay but these can be embedded in a report, a narrative, a dialogue, a poem, or indeed a marriage of part or all of these. The theme is contemporary and the presentation, like the Textile works, is experimental.

The Students

There are 11 students on the writing workshop and their attendance is compulsory. They came from Thailand, Korea, Japan and Taiwan in more or less equal measure. Their average IELTS grade is 6.5 and bar one, they have all attended courses at Goldsmiths already, i.e. the foundation and BA degree; or the Postgraduate Certificate in Textiles, or the Pre-sessional. This means that they have all undergone a conventional type of EAP course where the four skills, with emphasis on academic writing, are focused on. They have also undertaken a basic philosophy course, and have studied various cultural background issues. They are familiar with integrated study projects, such as following a book or film to develop critical analysis. Despite all this, there is plenty of language work to be carried out.

It is with this essential and particular background knowledge that the writing workshops develops.

7.10 Genre? What genre? PhD theses in two subdisciplines

Paul Thompson, University of Reading

There is a lack of good teaching material for in-sessional writing courses, particularly for students working towards a PhD thesis. Two fairly recent books make use of findings from genre analysis studies, but a closer look reveals that many of these findings derive from studies of research articles. This begs the question: are theses the same as RAs? Little work has been done on dissertations and theses: James (1984), Bloor and Bloor (1991), Dudley-Evans (1991) are case studies of dissertation writers; Hewings (1993) compares the conclusions of dissertations and RAs; Hanania and Akhtar (1985), and Shaw (1992) look at the use of reporting verbs in dissertations and theses respectively; Hopkins and Dudley-Evans (1988) and Dudley-Evans (1994) provide more analysis of dissertations. Swales (1990) allows only a page and a half to discussion of theses and dissertations, and comments on the difficulties of working with such long texts.

The question ‘Are these the same as RAs?’ implies some degree of generic-ness among both theses and also RAs. Looking at PhD theses from different disciplines provides little support for such a view, however. The insights that a broad view of PhD thesis as genre provides appear to be of extremely limited value. Taking Swales’s (1990) concept of a discourse community to refer to the academic community at large seems vapid; taking it to refer to disciplinary communities may be more productive. There have been an increasing number of studies recently contrasting the rhetorical organisation and practices of discourse across disciplines (e.g. Dudley-Evans 1993, 1994; MacDonald 1994; Becher 1989; Hansen 1988; Williamson 1988); my study follows in this mould.

The corpus (part of the Reading Academic Text corpus) I will analyse contains:

6 Agricultural Economics theses

8 Agricultural Botany theses.

They were all written by native speakers, and were submitted in the last five years.

Theses are long texts and one cannot sensibly conduct move analyses of the particular disciplinary culture and the accepted notions within that discipline of what constitutes research by looking at the organisation of the text, the structuring of the argumentation, the points at which modality is employed and in reference to what, the degrees of overt and covert authorial presence, the extent to which evaluation is permitted, and of what, and much of this can be achieved through functional analysis of certain recurrently employed linguistic items. In my study, theses will be modal verbs, reporting verbs, connectors, and macro discourse organisers. The presentation will present some of the initial findings about the use of modal verbs, and or connectors.

References

Becher, A. (1989). Academic Tribes and Territories. Milton Keynes: Open University Press
Bloor, M. and T. Bloor (1991). ‘Cultural expectations and socio-pragmatic failure in academic writing’. In P. Adams, B. Heaton and P. Howarth (eds.) Socio-cultural Issues in English for Academic Purposes London: MacMillan
Bloor, M and T. Bloor (1993). ‘How economists modify propositions’. In W. Henderson, A. Dudley-Evens and R. Backhouse (eds). Economics and Language London: Routledge
Butler, C. (1990). ‘Qualifications in science: modal meanings in scientific texts’. In W. Nash (ed.) The Writing Scholar: Studies in Academic Discourse Newbury Park: Sage
Dudley-Evans, A. (1991) Socialisation into the academic community: linguistic and stylistic expectaions of a PhD thesis as revealed by supervisor comments’. in P. Adams, B. Heaton and P. Howarth (eds) Socio-cultural Issues in English for Academic Purposes London: MacMillan
Dudley-Evans, A., (1993). ‘Variation in communication patterns betwen discourse communities: the case of highway engineering and platn biology’. In G. Blue (ed). Language Learning and Success: Studying Through English Review of English Teaching 3/1
Dudley-Evans, A. (1994. ‘Genre analysis: an approach to text analysis for ESP’. In M. Coulthard (ed) Advances in Written Text Analysis London: Routlege
Hanania, E. and K. Akhtar (1985). ‘Verb form and rhetorical function in science writing: a study of MS theses in Biology, Chemistry and Physics’ ESP Journal 4/1:45-58
Hansen, K. (1988) ‘Rhetoric and epistemology in the social sciences: a contrast of two representative texts’ in D. Joliffe (ed) Advances in Writing Research, Volume 2: Writing in Academic Disciplines Norwood NJ, Ablex pp. 167-210
Hewings, M. (1993). ‘The end! How to conlude a dissertation’ in G. Blue (ed) Language Learning and Success: Studying Through English Review of English Teacing 3/1
Hopkins, A. and T. Dudley-Evans (1988). ‘A genre-based investigation of the discussion sections in articles and dissertations’. English for Specific Purposes 7: 113-121
Hyon, S. (1996) ‘Genre in three traditions: implications for ESL’ TESOL Quarterly 30/4: 693-722
James,K (1984). ‘The writing of theses by speakers of English as a foreign language: the results of a case study’. in R. Williams, J. Swales and J. Kirkham (eds) Common Ground: Shared interests in ESP and Communication Studies Oxford: Pergamon
MacDonald S.P. (1994). Professional Academic Writing in the Humanities and Social Sciences Carbondale: Souther Illinois Press
Shaw, P. (1992). ‘Reasons for the correlation of voice, tense, and sentence funtion in reporting verbs’. Applied Linguistics 13/3: 302-319
Swales, J. (1990). Genre Analysis: English in Academic and Research Settings Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Swales, J. (1993). ‘Genre and engagement’. Revue Belge de Philologie et d’Histoire 71/3: 687-698
Swales, J. and C. Feak (1995). Academic Writing for Graduate Students Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press
Thompson, G. and Ye Yiyun (1991). ‘Evaluation in the reporting verbs used in academic papers’ Applied Linguistics 12/4: 365-382.
Weissberg, R. and S. Buker (1990). Writing Up Research: Experimental Research Report Writing for Students of English Englewoods Cliff, NJ: Prentice Hall Regents
Williamson, M. (1988). ‘A model for investigateing the functions of written language in different disciplines’ in D. Joliffe (ed) Advances in Writing Research Volume 2: Writing in Academic Disciplines Norwood, NJ: Ablex pp. 89-132.

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