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Title: A study of engineering undergraduates' English reading comprehension
Author: Kuo, Kwannin
Awarding Body: Queen's University Belfast
Current Institution: Queen's University Belfast
Date of Award: 2013
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This study aims to investigate engineering undergraduates' English reading comprehension within a non-western EFL context. Specifically, the researcher conducted a study to examine various cognitive factors affecting Taiwanese engineering undergraduates' English reading comprehension on expository texts in English. Four variables were considered in this study, namely vocabulary, L 1 (Chinese) reading ability, prior knowledge and strategy awareness. A two-phase study was conducted. At the first stage, general English reading comprehension was highlighted, whereas chemistry English reading comprehension was targeted in the second phase. The instruments used in this study were a battery of tests consisting of vocabulary levels test, Chinese reading test, chemistry test, general and chemistry English reading comprehension test and a strategy questionnaire. A total of 634 chemical engineering undergraduates from three universities of technology in the northern Taiwan participated in the first main study. Among them, only 291 participants who completed the entire data collection process were involved in the second main study. Findings from the quantitative data indicated that English vocabulary knowledge is the most salient factor in predicting general English reading comprehension, whereas chemistry knowledge is the most important factor in affecting chemistry English reading comprehension. Most of these engineering students were a dearth of English vocabulary knowledge. As a result, vocabulary deficits constrained these engineering undergraduates from transferring their L 1 reading skills and strategies to comprehending texts in English. In other words, to some degree, the study provided empirical evidence of the linguistic threshold hypothesis. However, a striking finding of this study is that these engineering subjects partially compensated their L2 reading comprehension by strengths in prior knowledge regardless of the linguistic threshold. The results yielded pedagogical implications including the importance of vocabulary instruction within a non-western EFL context and the advantage of content-based instructions because it is likely that even for unskilled L2 readers, background knowledge may partially compensate their vocabulary deficiency.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available