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postgraduate thesis: A study of academic writing development over time : the case of engineering undergraduates

TitleA study of academic writing development over time : the case of engineering undergraduates
Authors
Issue Date2017
PublisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)
Citation
Chan, W. [陳穎珊]. (2017). A study of academic writing development over time : the case of engineering undergraduates. (Thesis). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR.
AbstractThe study of writing development using the measures of complexity, accuracy, and fluency has long been an established research area. In academic writing, however, these measures are not enough to track students’ writing development. This study fills this gap by replacing the measure of fluency with specificity, forming a new set of parameters, namely, complexity, accuracy, and specificity (CAS), to better capture academic writing development over time. The current corpus-informed study was contextualised within the field of engineering, with the employment of cross-sectional and longitudinal case-study approaches, to understand how the CAS measures were realised in an academic context. The former approach involved the examination of a corpus of 150 written assignments (with 209,799 tokens) that three different cohorts of engineering students produced concurrently, while the latter approach involved tracking the academic writing development of two engineering students, one from the Department of Civil Engineering (CE) and the other from the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering (IMSE), from the beginning of their studies until they graduated from their academic programmes. All of the written assignments the CE participant and the IMSE participant completed throughout their undergraduate studies were collected (56 assignments with 84,315 tokens and 35 assignments with 152,460 tokens, respectively) and analysed, while in-depth qualitative interviews provided possible accounts for their academic writing development. The analyses began by grouping the 150 engineering assignments into genre families based on Nesi and Gardner’s (2012) taxonomy and substantiated by Figueiredo’s (2008, 2011) four dimensions of engineering: basic sciences, human sciences, design, and crafts. The genre analysis undertaken provided a contextualised interpretation of the students’ academic writing development with reference to the CAS measures. Findings from the cross-sectional and case-study analyses pointed to a similar direction of academic writing development, highlighted by the production of writing that featured complex simplicity and specificity at the expense of accuracy over time. As revealed in the two case studies, the lack of complexity development might have been related to engineering’s preference for producing simple sentences to convey ideas as clearly as possible, while the lack of improvement in accuracy could have been attributed to the devaluation of linguistic accuracy from the engineering faculty’s perspective. The examination of lexical items and interpersonal metadiscourse markers revealed some specificities that could be explained by the common genres and epistemologies in engineering. The analysis of the academic writing practices of the two case-study informants revealed some differences. For instance, the CE informant showed a heavy use of lexis related to the description of experiments, while the IMSE informant demonstrated the use of business-related terms, revealing some sub-disciplinary variations in their writing practices. The findings suggest that the writing practices in engineering classes, framed by the underlying disciplinary epistemologies and academic writing genres within the undergraduate context, highly mediate academic writing development through the realisation of epistemologies and genres. Pedagogically, the current study sheds light on technical communication courses designed with relevant disciplinary epistemologies, genres, and linguistic constructions.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy
SubjectAcademic writing
Dept/ProgramApplied English Studies
Persistent Identifierhttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/251936
HKU Library Item IDb5864158

 

DC FieldValueLanguage
dc.contributor.authorChan, Wing-shan-
dc.contributor.author陳穎珊-
dc.date.accessioned2018-04-09T01:29:26Z-
dc.date.available2018-04-09T01:29:26Z-
dc.date.issued2017-
dc.identifier.citationChan, W. [陳穎珊]. (2017). A study of academic writing development over time : the case of engineering undergraduates. (Thesis). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR.-
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/251936-
dc.description.abstractThe study of writing development using the measures of complexity, accuracy, and fluency has long been an established research area. In academic writing, however, these measures are not enough to track students’ writing development. This study fills this gap by replacing the measure of fluency with specificity, forming a new set of parameters, namely, complexity, accuracy, and specificity (CAS), to better capture academic writing development over time. The current corpus-informed study was contextualised within the field of engineering, with the employment of cross-sectional and longitudinal case-study approaches, to understand how the CAS measures were realised in an academic context. The former approach involved the examination of a corpus of 150 written assignments (with 209,799 tokens) that three different cohorts of engineering students produced concurrently, while the latter approach involved tracking the academic writing development of two engineering students, one from the Department of Civil Engineering (CE) and the other from the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering (IMSE), from the beginning of their studies until they graduated from their academic programmes. All of the written assignments the CE participant and the IMSE participant completed throughout their undergraduate studies were collected (56 assignments with 84,315 tokens and 35 assignments with 152,460 tokens, respectively) and analysed, while in-depth qualitative interviews provided possible accounts for their academic writing development. The analyses began by grouping the 150 engineering assignments into genre families based on Nesi and Gardner’s (2012) taxonomy and substantiated by Figueiredo’s (2008, 2011) four dimensions of engineering: basic sciences, human sciences, design, and crafts. The genre analysis undertaken provided a contextualised interpretation of the students’ academic writing development with reference to the CAS measures. Findings from the cross-sectional and case-study analyses pointed to a similar direction of academic writing development, highlighted by the production of writing that featured complex simplicity and specificity at the expense of accuracy over time. As revealed in the two case studies, the lack of complexity development might have been related to engineering’s preference for producing simple sentences to convey ideas as clearly as possible, while the lack of improvement in accuracy could have been attributed to the devaluation of linguistic accuracy from the engineering faculty’s perspective. The examination of lexical items and interpersonal metadiscourse markers revealed some specificities that could be explained by the common genres and epistemologies in engineering. The analysis of the academic writing practices of the two case-study informants revealed some differences. For instance, the CE informant showed a heavy use of lexis related to the description of experiments, while the IMSE informant demonstrated the use of business-related terms, revealing some sub-disciplinary variations in their writing practices. The findings suggest that the writing practices in engineering classes, framed by the underlying disciplinary epistemologies and academic writing genres within the undergraduate context, highly mediate academic writing development through the realisation of epistemologies and genres. Pedagogically, the current study sheds light on technical communication courses designed with relevant disciplinary epistemologies, genres, and linguistic constructions.-
dc.languageeng-
dc.publisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)-
dc.relation.ispartofHKU Theses Online (HKUTO)-
dc.rightsThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.-
dc.rightsThe author retains all proprietary rights, (such as patent rights) and the right to use in future works.-
dc.subject.lcshAcademic writing-
dc.titleA study of academic writing development over time : the case of engineering undergraduates-
dc.typePG_Thesis-
dc.identifier.hkulb5864158-
dc.description.thesisnameDoctor of Philosophy-
dc.description.thesislevelDoctoral-
dc.description.thesisdisciplineApplied English Studies-
dc.description.naturepublished_or_final_version-

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