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Disciplinary writing: a case study of Hong Kong undergraduates undertaking their writing tasks

By Robert Hak Hung Yiu

Abstract

In Hong Kong, where English is used as the main medium of instruction in universities, the majority of undergraduates studying in various disciplines are local students whose first language is Chinese. Although there were many studies of second language (L2) writing in English, many of them were oriented towards product or process and were conducted in artificial settings. There have been relatively few situated studies of English L2 writing in higher education in the social contexts in which students undertake their writing tasks. This study seeks to address this primary question: How do nonnative-English-speaking (NNES) business undergraduates in Hong Kong undertake the assessed writing tasks of their disciplinary courses? \ud Case study was used to examine two NNES undergraduate students undertaking their assessed writing tasks in a Hong Kong university. Data were collected over a period of two years and from multiple sources: text-based interviews, participant diaries, and documents (texts produced by the participants, course documents and source materials). Inductive analysis was employed to make sense of the data. Specifically, data were organised, coded, categorised and integrated. \ud The results revealed that the processes through which the participants accomplished their disciplinary writing tasks were complex and influenced in various ways by the contexts in which the writing took place. Task specifications for the assigned tasks, mostly done in groups, were often not clearly stated. This gave rise to the employment of different strategies by students to represent the tasks, guess readers‘ expectations and interact with group mates to achieve their purposes. They also relied heavily on the Web as information sources to complete their tasks, which gave rise to problems such as textual borrowing. The thesis closes by exploring the pedagogical implications, which include the idea that English for Academic Purposes courses should move towards more discipline-specific to better help students cope with their disciplinary writing demands

Publisher: University of Leicester
Year: 2009
OAI identifier: oai:lra.le.ac.uk:2381/7782

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