Over three years period of learning English as a foreign language, English LMD students still find the written demands extremely challenging. Moreover, third year LMD students in the English Department at Saad Dahlab University of Blida encounter many difficulties in writing their mini-projects. Therefore, this study is needed to reveal these difficulties and their effect on further learning. Furthermore, it is an important study mainly because of the fact that academic writing is required for anybody who is studying English and has to write essays and other assignments for exams or coursework.
2. Statement of the Problem:
This study will investigate the effect of having academic writing difficulties on ACHIEVING THE FINAL PROJECT of third year LMD students in the English Department at Saad Dahlab University of Blida.
3.The research question:
What are the effects of academic writing difficulties on the final projects progress of third year LMD students in English Department at Saad Dahlab University of Blida?
4.The research Sub-questions:
What are the academic writing difficulties that hinder the final projects progress of third year LMD students in English department at University of Blida?
Third year LMD students in English department at University of Blida may have difficulties in cohesion.
6.Objectives of the Study:
To identify the difficulties that faces the third year LMD students in English department at University of Blida when writing academically.
To reveal the significance of academic writing difficulties to third year LMD students further studies in English department at University of Blida.
To show how academic writing difficulties affect third year LMD students’ learning progress in English department at University of Blida
6. Structure of the research proposal:
This research proposal covers the main points that will be examined in the final thesis entitled “Effects of Academic Writing Difficulties on Achieving the Final Project of Third Year LMD Students in English Department at Saad Dahlab University of Blida”. The first part is a general introduction that includes the background and significance of the study, statement of the problem, research questions and the objectives of the study. The second part is a review of the literature which consists of two chapters. The first chapter is a review of literature on the EFL academic writing difficulties. It consists of a definition of academic writing, the rhetorical, strategy and vocabulary challenges of EFL writing. The second chapter deals with the effect of writing weaknesses on EFL learning development. It includes the influence of rhetorical, strategy and vocabulary difficulties on the scores achievement. The third part describes the methodology design of this research. It includes data to be collected, data collection procedures, the population, procedures and data analysis procedures. The last part is a conclusion of the previous chapters and it includes a summary of the main points.
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CHAPTER 1: Review of the literature on EFL academic writing difficulties
Academic writing in English at advanced levels is a challenge even for most native English speakers. However it is particularly difficult for English as foreign language learners. Recent studies have researched the difficulties of academic writing. This part sheds light on previous studies and reviews relevant literature on the EFL academic writing difficulties. First, the researchers intend to provide a definition of the academic writing, and then they give some basics of academic writing. Finally, this chapter discusses the challenges that face EFL learners when writing academically.
1.1. Definition of academic writing:
Academic writing is a mental and cognitive activity, since it is a product of the mind. The image of an individual working alone in a quiet environment has furthered the view of writing as a mental and cognitive activity. However as has been pointed out, “writing can be understood only from the perspective of a society rather than a single individual”(Burke, 2010,p.40-41).
1.2. Basics of academic writing:
Academic writing is expected to address an intellectual community in which the students engage in active learning. Some basics or rules must be established. Using information to one’s advantage is a key part of learning. Success at the postgraduate level depends on the students’ ability to access, evaluate, and synthesize the words, ideas, and opinions of others in order to develop their own academic voice. When presenting what they have learned, it is therefore vitally important that students are able to show clearly what they have drawn from others and what is their own (Bristol Business School, 2006, p. 3). A student must be honest about how much ownership he/she can claim over the ideas formed, the answers found, and the opinions expressed (Bristol Business School, 2006, p. 3). The student must follow certain rules to ensure good academic writing, including punctuation guidelines.
The essential punctuation marks are the period, comma, semicolon, and colon. These include the following:
â€¢ The period primarily marks the end of a sentence. A period is also used after an abbreviation where the final letter of the word is not the final word of the abbreviation, e.g., in enc. for enclosure, although Mr. for Mister is an exception (Murphy, 2010, p. 9).
â€¢ The comma is primarily used to separate parts of a sentence so that the meaning remains clearer for the reader.
(I) A comma separates words in a list, e.g., He brought coal, kindling, matches, and turf.
(II) A comma separates subordinate clauses within a complex sentence where two separate sentences are not required (Murphy, 2010, p. 9).
â€¢ The semicolon has two common uses. First, it may be used to separate items in a list after a colon. Second, it may be used to indicate a certain relationship between two parts of a sentence (Murphy, 2010, p. 9).
â€¢ The colon may be used to indicate the start of a list, as is similar to the above example for the semicolon. It may also be used before a quotation begins (Murphy, 2010, p. 9).
1.3. Challenges of EFL academic writing:
Writing is considered as a complex activity, a social act which reflects the writer’s communicative skills which is difficult to develop and learn, especially in an EFL context. Research in this field has examined the nature and types of writing task and by providing better understanding of EFL students’ writing needs, there has been an effort to help the development of this major skill theoretically and pedagogically (Zhu, 2004; Carson, 2001; Hale et al, 1996). Examining the features of EFL writing tasks and the students’ problems in performing the task would certainly be pedagogically beneficial. As stated by Atkinson (2003, p.95), EFL students’ writing in a language classroom context shows their ability to solve a rhetoric problem and their awareness of their own communicative goals, of the reader, and of the writing context. In spite of numerous approaches to the teaching of writing, tackling EFL writing is still one of the challenging areas for teachers and students. Many EFL teachers think that grammar and vocabulary are the main problem area and that their writing would improve with remedial grammar/voc lessons. As Widdowson (1995, p.74) points out, we need to consider the larger discourse context or the meaning that lies beyond grammatical structure. To go beyond grammar, language should be looked at as a form of social practice (Fairclough, 1992, p.122).
As Casanava (2002 ,p.19) points out, learning how to write for academic purposes poses a clueless challenge because the rules of the “game” are almost all implicit. This is especially true for Algerian university students when they write an academic research paper in English for the first time: they are faced with a number of unfamiliar, daunting tasks.
Of all these, the most formidable and crucial challenge appears to be learning how to organize and develop their ideas in an academically persuasive manner; that is to organize their assertions into logical and cohesive arguments that will convince the reader. Their papers often end up lacking clear logical flow and unity, not to mention a persuasive linear argument.
Most EFL students find writing difficult and some students report that their difficulties continue, even years after their confidence in other academic skills such as speaking, listening, and reading has grown (Zhang, 2010,p.71). Explanations for students’ struggle go beyond grammar and vocabulary though these are clearly significant. Most writing specialists agree that writing difficulties are down to the ‘specialised nature of academic discourse’ (Schmitt, 2005, p.65) and to the complexity of the craft of writing itself.
CHAPTER 2: The research methodology design
In this chapter, the researchers describe the research methods, informants and data collecting tools. The results collected from the research tools will be analyzed scientifically in order to answer the research questions.
Since the current study aims at showing the effects of academic writing difficulties on students’ final project achievement, the researchers opted to use a descriptive study on third year LMD students in English Department at University of Saad Dahleb- Blida. A descriptive method facilitates the gathering of information and data to assist in achieving study goals. As a first step, the researchers tend to administer a questionnaire to third year LMD students in English Department at University of Saad Dahleb- Blida mainly to confirm whether they face difficulties when writing academically (see appendix 01). Then, supervisors will be interviewed about the challenges they meet when orienting students with academic writing difficulties (see appendix 02). During the study, which will take three months, the researchers will observe the students’ progress in achieving their final project using an observation check list (see appendix 03).
The informants of this study are students and teachers from the English Department at the University of Saad Dahleb- Blida. The researchers select 10 groups of third year LMD students; each group consists of 3 members working on their final project in didactics field, and 5 didactic MA Degree teachers who supervise the 10 groups. The informants are 19 female students and 11 male students. The age of the informants ranges from 20 to 26 (see table 1). The original names of the students are replaced with fictitious names to keep the identity of the informants confidential.
Table 01: Description of the groups
Previous tuition of English
2 females/ 1 male
20 – 23
20 – 22
24 – 26
8 to 10 years
2 males / 1 female
20 – 23
2 females/ 1 male
20 – 22
21 – 25
10 to 13 years
Data collection tools:
The researchers intend to use three research tools to collect the data needed in order to answer the research questions of this study:
3.1- A questionnaire with closed-ended questions is distributed to the 10 groups of the 3rd year LMD students. It consists of 13 closed ended questions which aim at detecting the category of the difficulties whether in cohesion, coherence, vocabulary or strategy.
3.2- Semi-structured interviews are conducted to collect data from the perspective of the 5 supervisors. Interviewing the supervisors on the basis of their feedback to the groups will help to specify the types of difficulties, to confirm the data collected from the questionnaire and to know the challenges of supervising students with academic writing difficulties.
3.3- Observation check lists are distributed each month to the 10 groups in order to examine the effects of the academic writing difficulties on the progress of accomplishing their final projects. The list contains the supervisor’s negative feedback besides the data collected from the interviews and the questionnaire. Each group is provided with a check list to examine how much each difficulty is considerable to hinder the progress of the final project.
4. Data analysis Procedures:
After the data are collected, the researchers intend to analyze them according to teachers and students’ answers:
4.1. A questionnaire with closed-ended questions:
The data collected from the questionnaire will be analyzed quantitatively. The researchers will describe and comment on the answers objectively. Then, the data will be interpreted scientifically. Through this process the difficulties of academic writing will be revealed.
4.2. Semi-structured interviews:
The data collected from the semi-structured interviews will be analyzed qualitatively. The reasons for choosing qualitative methods for collecting data are: the need to attain highly personalized data, there are opportunities for probing, a good return rate. (Gray, 2004, p.96). These semi-structured interviews will specify the kind of the difficulties.
4.3. Check list observation:
The data collected from the observation check list will be presented in graphs. Graphs will give a clear vision on the effect academic writing difficulties on the third year LMD final project achievement.
Conclusion and Suggestions for Further Research:
In view of the data presented, the researchers conclude that third year LMD students in English department at Saad Dahlab university face many difficulties and stresses in their academic writing. These difficulties severly hinder the progress of the student’s final project.
The following recommendations are made for future studies:
– The present study could be replicated on a wider scale that includes diverse populations and various levels of education to examine more thoroughly the difficulties of academic writing.
– Further field-based research should be conducted to address other important skills, such as reading, listening,
-Since the subjects of this study were male and female students, future studies could be conducted with only male or only female students to determine the effect of gender on academic writing difficulties.
The research proposal is a crucial step in any scientific research. It clearly describes the study process. This research paper describes the study which is intended to be applied on the topic “Effects of Academic Writing Difficulties on Achieving the Final Project of Third Year LMD Students in English Department at University of Blida”.This research proposal considers the most important points in the study. The first chapter is the literature review which contains different ideas about the data that will help answering the research questions. This chapter deals with the EFL academic writing difficulties. It gives a definition of the academic writing, tackles its basics and defines its challenges. The second chapter in the research proposal is the research methodology design. It describes the followed methods in the study process which are the research method, the population, the data collection tools and the data analysis procedures.
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Questionnaire with closed-ended questions
This questionnaire is part of MA dissertation. It is administered to third year LMD students in English department at university of Blida.
Please, answer the following questions according to your writing experience.
Thank you for your collaboration.
Do you face any difficulties when writing your mini-project?
Is the grammatical features one of the problems you face in your English writing?
3. Do you spend time reviewing what you write?
4. Does most of your reviewing focus on the sentence and paragraph level?
5. Do you always focus your reviewing on the grammar points of your writing?
6. Do you know which type of plague words and phrases you should avoid?
7. Do you often make sentence mistakes in your writing?
8. Do you often make subject-verb disagreement mistakes in your writing?
9. Do you experience difficulty combining sentences in your writing?
10. Is it difficult to create an understandable and coherent paragraph?
11. Do you include each of the three steps (planning, writing, and revision) in your writing process?
12. Do you write an outline before writing draft?
13. Do you think that writing skills are important factors for successful writing?
The semi-structured interviews below are part of MA dissertation entitled “Academic Writing Difficulties and their Effect on the Learning Progress of Third Year LMD Students in English Department at Saad Dahlab University of Blida”. 5 supervisors of 10 groups of third year LMD students will be asked face to face the following questions:
Do you think that third year LMD students in English Department at Saad Dahleb University of Blida have difficulties in writing academically when working on their final projects?
According to your experience, what are the difficulties that faced by third year LMD students in English Department at Saad Dahleb University of Blida when working on their final projects?
Do these difficulties affect the students’ progress of their final projects?
According to the groups you are supervising, do the academic writing difficulties differ from one group to another?
To what extent do you think that academic writing is important for third year LMD student to accomplish their final projects?
What are the challenges you face when supervising students with academic writing difficulties?
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