An Investigation of the Use of Cohesive Devices in ESL Students’ Essay Writing

Abstract

Essays are commonly used to project one’s thoughts, awareness, and ideas in order to make them apparent to others. Despite its pervasiveness, many ESL (English as a Second Language) students view essay writing as a difficult task, especially at tertiary level where students are required to produce matured and sophisticated written texts. This study investigated the use of cohesive devices in ESL students’ essays and highlighted the problems that these students face in writing essays. An action research approach using a quantitative and qualitative analysis of cohesive markers was used to carry out this research. The subjects of this study were 100 diploma students who had enrolled in the English for Academic Purposes (EAP) course. One hundred essay scripts written in the essay writing section of the final examination were analysed using Halliday and Hasan’s (1976) framework of cohesion. Findings indicated that reference markers have the highest frequency, whereas substitutions were the least common cohesive device. The analysis also revealed that some cohesive devices were overused or incorrectly used by ESL learners, with conjunctions being the most common. The choice of cohesive devices was found to be influenced by the language proficiency of students because most of the students seemed to be unsure about the significance of using cohesive devices in their essays. Even though some students employed a sufficient number of cohesive devices in their essays, they were not aware of the functions conveyed by these resources. Given this, they require explicit instruction and direct exposure to the communicative meanings of cohesive devices as well as being familiarised with the ways to apply them in order to produce a cohesive piece of writing. Keywords: Academic writing; cohesion; cohesive devices; essay; ESL students DOI: 10.7176/JEP/13-18-02 Publication date:June 30th 202

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