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The acceptability of writing by second language engineering students : acculturating to a profession


The acceptability of writing by second language engineering students : acculturating to a profession

O'Brien, Waltraud Trudy (2000) The acceptability of writing by second language engineering students : acculturating to a profession. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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Acculturation to a specialized field such as engineering is difficult for any novice, but especially so for writers who must achieve competency in the linguistic, cultural, academic, and professional norms of their second language. Technical reports written by both native English-speaking students (NES) and students who use English as a second language (ESL) for a university undergraduate engineering course are analyzed in terms of their respective performance levels as well as in relation to demographic information. This is done to ascertain whether differences between the NES and ESL students' results are due to variables beyond the obvious language-related factors. Analysis of the findings reveal that although NES and ESL students attained similar means on their writing task, ESL students had compensated for conceptual or linguistic weaknesses through mastery of structural (organization and format) aspects of the report. Demographic and other non-linguistic factors are also found to have a complex influence on the writing proficiency levels of the ESL students. A subset of twenty reports is submitted for further blind assessment by professional engineers in order to discover whether the acceptability of the reports to professionals in the field is language-dependent or whether factors relating to levels of acculturation to the writing demands of the discipline of engineering are at play. The assessors' responses reveal common assumptions about professional technical writing requirements, thus invoking membership in a rhetorical discourse community for engineering. However, they are also shown to be diverse in their applications of its rules, both in assessing the quality of each report and in deciding whether to hire the student writer as a junior engineer. The specific features of acceptability and acculturation to engineering writing lend themselves not simply to analysis and description, but also to explicit instruction in English for specific purposes, with concomitant benefits to the profession as a whole.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Humanities: Interdisciplinary Studies
Concordia University > School of Graduate Studies > Humanities: Interdisciplinary Studies
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:O'Brien, Waltraud Trudy
Pagination:xi, 323 leaves ; 29 cm.
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Thesis Supervisor(s):Mackay, Ronald
ID Code:1273
Deposited By: Concordia University Library
Deposited On:27 Aug 2009 17:18
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:16
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