This research is aimed at establishing academic writing needs of first year undergraduate agriculture students in an English as a Second Language context. The research was motivated by the need to design subject-specific teaching materials for the Communication Skills (CS) course in one of the Kenyan universities.\ud \ud The study was informed by concepts of discourse communities, audience expectations and language use from social construction theory, and insights from the principles of needs analysis and genre research in ESP. These concepts were used to develop a conceptual framework for pinpointing the writing requirements within the terms of the institutional culture. Research methods used included questionnaire surveys and investigation of institutional documents. An analysis was also done of samples of students' actual writing to determine their linguistic and communicative competence.\ud \ud The results of the study indicate that in the first year, students do not study one discipline called 'agriculture'. Instead, they study a wide range of courses half of which consist of basic courses in the sciences from which specific disciplinary requirements can be distinguished. It was also established that students are expected to produce an extensive variety of types of written work all of which are assessed and account for their final grades. The research also shows that students' proficiency in writing in content areas is limited and that they lack awareness of the conventions of scientific writing. There is also evidence that students do not always appreciate the nature of the tasks they are asked to undertake or the audience addressed
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