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A textual and contextual study of English language and literature essays: the case of First Year English Department students' writing in Dhaka University, Bangladesh

By Nevin Farida

Abstract

This research examines English language and literature essays written by First Year students of the English Department at Dhaka University (Bangladesh) using multi-method genre analysis. The first method used was text analysis. Essay topics were analysed from the two contexts to identify their topic fields and main rhetorical functions. This helped develop the two models to analyse the structure of essays: an Exposition-Discussion model and a Description-Recount model. Then, a total of 100 essays from the two contexts were analysed on the basis of Move-strategy structure to see what structural patterns the essays possessed, what tactical choices the students took to express the moves and what was presented in terms of content matter within those moves. The second method was a questionnaire that was distributed to students in the department to discover their perceptions of the writing tasks given. And the third method was interviews conducted with teachers and students of the department to find out about their perceptions of student writing. This, then, is a genre-based study which draws both on written data and on interaction with community members.\ud The multi-method approach to genre analysis revealed that students of the English Department write three different kinds of essays, Description-Recount language essays, Exposition-Discussion language essays and Exposition-Discussion literature essays. The study further revealed that although students wrote these different kinds of essays, they were unable to make connections between their language essay writing tasks and literature ones because of the disciplinary variations. Moreover, the literature essays were found to be much more challenging to write than the language ones. In the light of this, the need for a fourth type of essay writing is identified.\ud This research contributes to the fields of applied linguistics and education in several ways. Firstly, the models developed not only give insights into the generic structure of the essays students write in the English Department at Dhaka University, but they could also function as a starting point for other researchers working with similar texts. Secondly, the analyses of the high and low grade essays explain how some features of writing are more highly valued than others in this context. Thirdly, the study has pedagogical implications that can benefit students and teachers who would use genre based approach to teaching language and literature essay writing. Fourthly, this research demonstrates a multi-method approach to genre analysis which brings out complementary and sometimes contradictory perspectives on the same written products. Fifthly, it can help university planners and policy makers to consider the relationship between main discipline courses and support courses and minimise any gaps. Finally, it can raise awareness among the global applied linguistics community about the kind of student writing produced in contexts such as the English Department of Dhaka University

Topics: LB2300, PE
OAI identifier: oai:wrap.warwick.ac.uk:1109

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