Investigation and explanation of major factors affecting academic writing : using multiple sources
This study investigates whether teaching writing using multiple sources approach (TWUMSA) is more effective than the current traditional approach to teaching writing for academic purposes. The main research questions are: Can teaching which involves teaching writing using multiple sources (on a topic) lead to improved academic writing? And what is the nature of the intertextual links made by the subjects (students) in the study? 112 subjects (56 control and 56 experimental) served in the study. The experimental groups received instruction on the basis of a teaching approach using multiple sources which involves understanding and organizing texts, selecting, generating and connecting ideas, paraphrasing, and integrating citations and documenting sources. The control groups received instruction on the basis of the current traditional approach for 16 weeks. The statistical method of comparison of means of independent samples T-test was applied and the results of the post tests (phases I and II) show that there are statistically significant differences between the approach using sources and the current traditional approach. The relationship between prior knowledge of subject matter and post test is (positively) modest. The analysis of the subjects' essays reveal that more subjects in the control groups composed their essays using information from, for instance , the second text, then moved to either the first or the third text one after the other but they did not take any more pieces of information from the text/s they had already drawn, whereas more subjects in the experimental groups composed some content units from one text, moved to another text and moved now and then to the text/s they had already drawn pieces of information or content units. Thus, the intertextual links made by the experimental groups appear better and more interconnected and interwoven than that of the control groups. Three major categories of composing content units (CUs) are established: (1) direct copy CUs, (2) paraphrased CUs, and (3) generated CUs . On the basis of the content units the subjects exhibited, they are classified into five kinds of writers: 'compilers', 'harmonizers', 'constructivists', 'dualists', and 'paraphrasers'. Thirty-eight lecturers who were teaching sophomore level at the University of Asmara, Eritrea and 200 sophomores completed questionnaires accompanied by rating scales in verbal form such as a. Very high b. high c. moderate, and d. little. The lecturers' ratings to (some similar) statements in the questionnaires are lower than that of the sophomores' ratings. The students' responses to the statements in the questionnaire indicate their unfamiliarity with writing using sources, positive attitudinal changes toward writing using sources, and mostly moderate perception of their capabilities towards writing using other texts. The students also linked the benefits of writing using sources to other courses. The experimental groups appear better users of strategies or activities in the processes of writing using sources. Analysis of the interview data revealed some causes of the problems the interviewees faced when they wrote using sources. The interviewees stressed the importance of prior knowledge to writing. They also reported positive attitudinal changes toward learning through TWUMSA.