The development of students' writing ability in English at university level in Syria
This research concerns the development of Syrian undergraduates' writing ability in English. The aim of the research was to establish whether students' writing improved during their period of study, and to identify the nature of any changes that occurred. Secondary objectives concerned how previous research and current theories can help us understand and offer explanations for progress or lack of progress. In addition, students were consulted about their attitudes to writing through a questionnaire and interviews. Written data was obtained by sampling first and final year examination scripts, which were (1) objectively analysed for linguistic features to establish measurable characteristics and (2) subjectively evaluated by native speaker teachers of English to take account of factors such as discourse structure and organisation. The thesis consists of nine chapters. Chapter 1 describes the setting of the current research. Chapter 2 describes the data collection and introduces research methods, and this followed in Chapter 3 by a survey of relevant literature on non-native speaker writing. The main body of the linguistic research is reported in Chapter 4 (sentence length and syntactic structure), Chapter 5 (grammatical features and spelling) and Chapter 6 (lexis). The subjective assessment of samples of student writing by native teachers of English is reported in Chapter 7, and the results of the survey into students' attitudes to writing are also reported in Chapter 8. Chapter Nine concludes the thesis with a summary of the findings, implications for teaching and suggestions for further research. The analyses revealed improvements in almost all aspects of students' writing on both objective and subjective measures but particularly in syntactic complexity and vocabulary.