EUROCALL 2014

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Academic blogging and academic writing in English as a first and second language – same or different?

This study investigates differences between blog posts and traditional academic writing submissions by graduate students (native and non-native speakers of English) in a Masters’ level course in Computer-assisted Language Learning. It has been argued that the nature of a written artefact changes significantly when students write for a wider audience of their peers, compared to more traditional modes of academic writing when students’ submissions are read only by the teacher-marker (Warschauer & Grimes, 2007). Little, however, is known about how written artefacts produced in academic blogging differ from those produced when students engage in traditional, essay-style academic writing.

This study takes a quantitative approach to measuring characteristics of texts produced by L1 and L2 writers, in blog posts and essay-style course submissions, using a computation tool, Coh-Metrix (Graesser, McNamara, Louwerse, & Cai, 2004). Coh-Metrix generates indices of the “linguistic and discourse representations of a text” (http://cohmetrix.memphis.edu), allowing the researcher to study multiple levels of written L1 and L2 discourse, i.e., surface level, textbase, situational model and genre/rhetorical structure (Friginal, Li, & Weigle, 2014; Graesser & McNamara, 2011). In this study Coh-Metrix is used to establish whether the two genres of academic writing (blogs and essays) differ in terms of these discourse characteristics, and whether these differences are more apparent in the artefacts produced by L1 or L2 writers. The study also investigates whether previously observed differences in the L1 and L2 academic writing are more prominent in essay-style submissions or blog entries.

Study participants are 40 graduate students enrolled either in a face-to-face or in a distance mode of a ten-week course. Each student submitted 3-4 blog entries of up to 500 words, and two essay-style course assignments (of which 1000 word extracts are used in the analysis). Participant characteristics (L1/L2) and task formats (blog/essay) are used as the main interest predictors, while the Coh-Metrix indices generated for the four levels of written discourse descried above are used as dependent variables. The study findings will be discussed in terms of costs and benefits of each style of academic writing for native and non-native speakers.

Bloch, J. (2007). Abdullah’s blogging: A generation 1.5 student enters the blogosphere. Language Learning & Technology, 11, 128–141.
Ciftci, H., & Kocoglu, Z. (2012). Effects of peer e-feedback on Turkish EFL students’ writing performance. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 46, 61–84.
Friginal, E., Li, M., & Weigle, S.C. (2014). Revisiting multiple profiles of learner compositions: A comparison of highly rated NS and NNS essays. Journal of Second Language Writing, 23, 1–16.
Graesser, A. C., McNamara, D. S., Louwerse, M. M., & Cai, Z. (2004). Coh-Metrix: Analysis of text on cohesion and language. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, and Computers, 36, 193–202.
Graesser, A. C., & McNamara, D. S. (2011). Computational analyses of multilevel discourse comprehension. Topics in Cognitive Science, 3, 371-398.
Warschauer, M. & Grimes, D. (2007). Audience, authorship, and artifact: The emergent semiotics of Web 2.0. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics 27, 1–23.

Author(s):

Irina Elgort    
CAD/LALS
Victoria University of Wellington
New Zealand

Irina is a senior lecturer in higher education at Victoria University of Wellington. She teaches computer-assisted language learning (CALL) on the Master's programme in applied linguistics. Irina's research interests include L2 lexical development, the bilingual lexicon, L2 reading and CALL.

 

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