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The academic writing of Chinese graduate students in sciences and engineering : processes and challenges 2000

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T H E ACADEMIC WRITING OF CHINESE G R A D U A T E STUDENTS IN SCIENCES AND ENGINEERING: PROCESSES AND CHALLENGES by J U M I N H U B.A., Anhui University, 1983 M.A., Anhui University, 1988 M.Ed., University of Western Ontario, 1991 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF T H E REQ UIREMETN S FOR T H E D E G R E E OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in T H E F A C U L T Y OF G R A D U A T E STUDIES (Centre for the Studies of Curriculum and Instruction) We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard T H E UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA November 2000 © Jumin Hu, 2000 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. The University of British Columbia Cy4^^ /h^rfVu^rfi^rsS Vancouver, Canada ^ \ /vo Date DE-6 (2/88) A B S T R A C T This dissertation reports on a multi-case study of 15 Mainland Chinese graduate students in sciences and engineering at a major Canadian university as they wrote disciplinary course assignments and research proposals during their first two years at the university. Using data collected through multiple in-depth interviews with the individual students, supplemented by their writing samples and follow-up interviews with faculty, the study explores the writing processes and challenges of the students in completing their written assignments.. The study finds that the faculty differed considerably across and within disciplines in their expectations of the students' work. The Chinese students preferred to receive both positive and corrective feedback; however, interactive feedback-based conferences could be more effective. Imitating model journal articles was a common approach for the students to learn to write. One method for writing source-based assignments was modified copying as the students tried to learn to write professionally. While planning and writing the paper, the students varied along a continuum from thinking entirely in Chinese to thinking entirely in English, depending on their English proficiency and other factors. The students often found challenge in technical terms, varied vocabulary and sentence structures, appropriate style, thought transcription, and language flow. Even more challenging sometimes were managing information, organizing the paper, and writing the research rationale and discussion with original sentences and strong arguments. Since the students had more difficulty making sentences flow than determining the overall paper structure, I distinguish micro- and macro-level formal schemas. Further, I challenge the traditional notion of plagiarism, arguing that language reuse can be reconceptualized as a textual strategy in the development of ESL students learning and using disciplinary language and content. Finally, I discuss the implications of my study for policy and practice in terms of institutional development, such as faculty development and curriculum development. In particular, I recommend that the university offer credit writing courses designed for graduate ESL students. i i T A B L E O F C O N T E N T S ABSTRACT ii LIST OF TABLES vi ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS vii C H A P T E R 1: INTRODUCTION T O T H E STUDY 1 1.1 Research Problem 1 1.2 Rationale and Context for the Study 1 1.3. Research Questions 5 1.4 Definition of Terms 7 1.5 Limitations of the Dissertation 7 1.6 Outline of the Dissertation 8 C H A P T E R 2: R E V I E W O F T H E R E S E A R C H L I T E R A T U R E 11 2.1 Research in L2 Composition 12 2.2 Research in L2 Academic Writing 15 2.3 Research in the Issue of Plagiarism 22 2.3.1 Definitions of Plagiarism 22 2.3.2 Western Views of Plagiarism 23 2.3.3 Chinese Views on Copying 24 2.3.4 Copying as a Learning or Survival Strategy for L2 Students 25 2.3.5 Attitudes and Reaction to Plagiarism in Practice 26 2.4 Summary 27 C H A P T E R 3: R E S E A R C H M E T H O D O L O G Y A N D P R O C E D U R E S 29 3.1 Qualitative Multi-Case Study 29 3.2 The Development of the Study 31 3.2.1 Initial Stage: Identifying the Context of the Study 32 3.2.2 Main Stage I: Interviewing Two Chinese Doctoral Students 34 3.2.3 Main Stage II: Interviewing 13 Chinese Graduate Students 38 3.2.4 Study Foliow-Up: Interviewing Faculty Members 44 3.3 Procedures of Data Analysis 45 3.4 My Role as Researcher 47 3.4.1 Who Ami? 48 3.4.2 My Role as Researcher 5 0 3.5 Summary 53 C H A P T E R 4: PROFILES O F T H E STUDENT PARTICIPANTS 54 4.1 Ming 54 4.2 Ting 56 4.3 Ling 59 i i i 4.4 Feng 61 4.5 Hang 64 4.6 Ning 66 4.7 Ding 69 4.8 Ping 72 4.9 Qing 75 4.10 Wang 77 4.11 Xing 79 1.12 Kang 82 4.13 Bing 84 4.14 Ying 87 4.15 Zong 90 4.16 Summary 93 C H A P T E R 5: A N A L Y S I S : W R I T T E N A S S I G N M E N T S A N D W R I T I N G M E T H O D S 94 5.1 Written Academic Assignments 94 5.1.1 Course Assignments and Research Proposals 95 5.1.2 Faculty Expectations and Feedback 99 5.2 Academic Writing Methods 109 5.2.1 Pre-Writing Methods 110 5.2.2 Initial-Writing Methods 126 5.2.3 Post-Writing Methods 143 5.3 Summary 146 C H A P T E R 6: A N A L Y S I S : W R I T I N G C H A L L E N G E S 149 6.1 Vocabulary and Grammar 149 6.2 Style 154 6.3 Thought Transcription 163 6.4 Information-Management and Organization 169 6.5 Summary 173 C H A P T E R 7: T H E O R E T I C A L D I S C U S S I O N 175 7.1 Reading-Writing Relationships 176 7.2 Toward a Reconceptualization of Language Reuse 186 7.2.1 Challenging the Traditional Notion of Plagiarism 186 7.2.2 Reconceptualizing Legitimate Language Reuse 200 7.2.3 Implications for the Academic Community 202 7.3 Thinking Media and Language Switching in Thinking 203 7.3.1 Similar LI and L2 Disciplinary Fields (I) 207 7.3.2 Loosely Related LI and L2 Fields 210 7.3.3 Entirely Different L1 and L2 Fields 213 7.3.4 Similar LI and L2 Fields (H). 214 7.3.5 Discussion 216 7.4 Summary 223 i v C H A P T E R 8: S U M M A R Y , IMPLICATIONS, A N D R E C O M M E N D A T I O N S 226 8.1 Conclusions 226 8.2 Implications for Theory 231 8.3 Implications for Policy and Practice 234 8.3.1 Faculty and Faculty Development 234 8.3.2 Curriculum Development 237 8.3.3 ESL Student Development 239 8.4 Suggestions for Further Research 239 REFERENCES 241 APPENDIX A Informed Consent Form: Chinese Graduate Students in Sciences and Engineering 258 APPENDIX B Background Questionnaire 261 APPENDIX C Interview Guide (Students) 267 APPENDIX D Free Informal Conversation 270 APPENDIX E Coding System 271 APPENDIX F E-Mail Excerpts from zhong_hna@cs uhc ca 277 APPENDIX G Sample E-Mail Discussions 281 APPENDIX H A Sample of Writing with Formal Problems 284 APPENDIX I A Sample of a Supervisor's Feedback 285 APPENDIX J A Sample of a Supervisor's Feedback 287 APPENDIX K A Sample of Writing with Supposed Copying 289 APPENDIX L A Sample of Writing through Perceived "Brick-Collecting" 290 APPENDIX M A Sample of Writing with Problems Presumably through Translation 291 APPENDIX N A Sample of Writing with Linguistic, Rhetorical, and/or Cognitive Problems 292 APPENDIX O The Iceberg View of Culture 293 APPENDIX P Research-Based Comments on the U B C Vision Green Paper: The ESL Factor 294 v LIST OF TABLES Table 3.1: Student Participants 35 Table 3.2: Student Participants' Educational Backgrounds in China 36 Table 3.3: Student Participants'Prior Work Experience 37 Table 3.4: Faculty and Staff Participants (Study Follow-Up) 37 v i A C K N O W L E D G E M E N T S A great many individuals have contributed to the completion of my dissertation. I am thankful to them all. Below I specify a few that I consider worth special acknowledgement. First, I would like to extend my sincere thanks to the 15 Chinese graduate students who gave generously of their busy time to meet with me for interviews. The rich data I collected from/with them constituted a solid base upon which this grand project developed. I am also grateful to the faculty and staff who accepted my interview in the study follow-up. To Carl Leggo, my co-supervisor, I would like to say, once again, a big thank-you. Carl has been a reliable source of guidance, support, and encouragement. His very careful reading of my drafts and confidence in my work are fundamental to the completion of this project. Bonny Norton, in her role as co-supervisor, mentor, andffiend, has been critical for every stage of the project development, from designing the project, to collecting data, to organizing the dissertation, and to reading the chapter drafts critically. Her foresights and insights were instrumental in helping me decide not only what to focus on at each stage but also how to approach the focused issues in a defensible manner. To Hans Schuetze, my committee member, I am very grateful for his constant encouragement, wise suggestions on my chapter drafts, good humor, and an opportunity to make my research known to the campus community. I especially thank Adrian Blunt, my external examiner, for his very careful reading of the dissertation and insightful comments and suggestions. I am deeply indebted to Helen Snively at Harvard for her friendship, support, and reading of my dissertation drafts. We had many e-mail conversations about issues concerning Chinese graduate students writing in English. More significantly, she read nearly all my chapter drafts very carefully and made very impressive suggestions for language and style refinement. My special thanks also go to Karen Meyer, John Willinsky, and all the administrative staff at the Centre for the Study of Curriculum and Instruction. They have helped create a space where I can study comfortably and where I have had the opportunity to edit Educational Insights. I wish to express my sincere appreciation to Ling Shi, Gulbahar Huxur-Beckett, Yan Guo, Lynn Fels, Marcia Braundy, Marion Crook, Franc Feng, Fleurette Sweeney, and other CSCI and L L E D folks for their friendship, support, and discussions with me about this project. The funds I received have been crucial for the successful completion of the different stages of my PhD program. These include University Graduate Fellowship, St. Johns Fellowship, B C Ministry of Education Intercultural Understanding Scholarship, Mary Elizabeth Simpson Award, and Graduate Student Research Grant. Finally, I must express my gratitude to my family: to Helen, my wife, for her patience and support through my PhD studies, and to my young daughter, Michelle, for inspiring me to conceive of psychological nutrition, which was refined in my dissertation as the term psychological nourishment. v i i C H A P T E R 1: INTRODUCTION T O T H E STUDY 1.1 Research Problem Despite the vital importance of disciplinary writing (i.e., writing for disciplinary courses) for academic success for university students, research on such writing by English-as-a-second- language (ESL) graduate students has been only a fairly recent phenomenon (Benesch, 1993; Cadman, 1997; Casanave, 1995; Connor & Kramer, 1995; Connor & Mayberry, 1996; Fox, 1994; Leki, 1995a; Prior, 1991, 1995; Riazi, 1995; Schneider & Fujishima, 1995; Silvia,' 1992; Silva et al., 1994; Swales, 1990). However, most of these studies have chosen to focus on ESL writing in humanities and social sciences (HSS), which is supposed to be highly complex and culturally challenging (Cadman, 1997; Casanave & Hubbard, 1992). Less research has studied how ESL graduate students in sciences and engineering undertake writing in their disciplines, which is theorized as having unique processes and challenges (Braine, 1989, 1995; Casanave & Hubbard, 1992). To contribute to this body of knowledge, I explore in this dissertation how some Mainland Chinese graduate students in sciences and engineering at the University of British Columbia (UBC)(a pseudonym) completed their discipline-specific writing assignments. In particular, I explore how these students approached their written course assignments and research proposals, how they composed the texts, and how they felt about the writing experience. To conduct the exploration, I use a qualitative multi-case study approach. 1.2 Rationale and Context of the Study Large numbers of students from Mainland China are pursuing graduate studies in English- speaking countries. Many of these students study at the doctoral level. UBC, for instance, had 1 251 Mainland Chinese graduate students, the largest graduate ESL geographic group, representing 19.6% of the total international graduate enrolment which in turn represented 20% of the graduate population at the institution (UBC Faculty of Graduate Studies, January, 1997). Among the 251 students, the majority (54.6%) were pursuing studies at the doctoral level. Academic writing in English at advanced levels is a challenge for most native English speakers. However, it becomes particularly difficult for ESL graduate students who come from non-Anglicized linguistic and cultural backgrounds, in particular, Chinese graduate students (Michailidis, 1996; Tu, 1994; Zhu, 1994; see below for one reason). Survey research shows that Asians in North American universities experience more difficulty in writing than other student groups (e.g., Europeans) (Casanave & Hubbard, 1992; Crowe & Peterson, 1995). In one survey, writing was perceived by almost all of the ESL graduate participants (mostly Asians) to be their greatest difficulty (Burke & Wyatt-Smith, 1996). One reason for such difficulty is the vast difference between their native languages and the target language, English (e.g., Cai, 1993; Crowe, 1992; Kaplan, 1966; Silva, 1992, 1993; Zhu, 1992), between the English they previously learned, emphasizing structural knowledge, and the English required for academic writing (Hu, 1993; White, 1998; Zhu, 1994), and between their native cultures arid the target culture (e.g., Ballard & Clanchy, 1991; Bloch & Chi, 1995; Blunt & Li, 1998; Cadman, 1997; Cai, 1993; Crowe, 1992; Fox, 1994; Huxur et al., 1996; Nelson, 1993; Saville-Troike, 1989). Furthermore, while a university student is "inducted" into a particular discipline through lectures, discussions, readings, and laboratory work, it is through written assignments that the success of his/her academic performance is most commonly judged (Ballard, 1984; Leki & Carson, 1994; Norton & Starfield, 1997; see also Casanave, 1990). In fact, these academic and cultural challenges were so stressful that they contributed to the suicide of three Chinese graduate students in 1997, two at UBC and one at Harvard University. Not surprisingly, when I interviewed a science faculty member at UBC in 1998 (see 3.2.4), he commented, "I'm pleased to see you are doing this kind of 2 \ study because I think this is one of the main issues that I see for Chinese students" (Irvin, Mar 9, 98). Since January 1997, I have been inquiring about the programs and facilities at UBC that are likely to offer English writing support to ESL students. I searched the web sites of the Writing Centre and the English Language Institute, read their course descriptions, and communicated with the people in charge on the phone and e-mail about their courses and students. I contacted the International Student Services and the Alma Mater Society (the UBC student organization) about possible English support they offered. I also consulted the UBC Registration Guide for courses offered by the English Department. From October 1996 to March 1998 I worked as a tutor for 260 contact hours in the Spoken English Tutoring Program sponsored by the UBC Library and the Department of Language and Literacy Education, and met many ESL students - about sixty of whom were graduate students from Mainland China. My inquiry, tutoring experience, and personal observation informed me that academic writing by graduate ESL students had received virtually no support in terms of course or program offerings at the institutional level (see also 8.3.2). That writing is important should not be taken to indicate that academic success entails merely a mastery of the English language, particularly for advanced second language (L2) writers (Benson & Heidish, 1995; Chen, 1992; Cumming, 1989; Hayward, 1994; Jacobs, 1982; Leki & Carson, 1994; Raimes, 1985; Zamel, 1982). What is also important is motivation, writing strategies, and competence in the target culture (or pragmatic knowledge of social and cultural behavioral patterns). Thus academic success at the graduate level also entails familiarity with the writing expectations of the university culture, disciplinary subcultures, course-specific subcultures, and especially instfuctor/supervisor-specific subcultures or idiosyncrasies (see Belcher, 1994; Frentz, 1991; Herrington, 1985; Leki, 1995b; Louis & Turner, 1991; Prior, 1991; Schneider & Fujishima, 1995). However, rather than simply adopting or internalizing the values, 3 practices, and beliefs of the target academic community, ESL graduate writers, by force or choice, draw on personal resources, in particular their prior educational experience, and resources around themselves such as their peers. Meanwhile they struggle to resolve linguistic, academic, social, and cultural difficulties, differences, and conflicts - within and around themselves - as they attempt to meet writing requirements (see also Thesen, 1997). There has been considerable research, since the early 1980's, on ESL composition processes by college ESL students (e.g., Arndt, 1987; Brooks, 1985; Hayward, 1994; Reid, 1984; Zamel, 1983, 1990, 1995), and discipline-specific writing processes by ESL undergraduate students (e.g., Adamson, 1993; Chin, 1991; Currie, 1993; Smoke, 1994; Spack, 1997). Only recently, as the number of international graduate students has risen rapidly and their academic problems have become more pronounced, have researchers noticed the need to study advanced levels of disciplinary literacy, particularly in graduate schools (e.g., Blunt & Li, 1998; Huxur et al., 1996; Prior, 1991; Swales, 1990). Limited research has started investigating the discipline- specific writing of ESL graduate students (Cadman, 1997; Casanave, 1995; Connor & Kramer, 1995; Connor & Maybefry, 1996; Leki, 1995a; Prior, 1991, 1995; Riazi, 1995; Schneider & Fujishima, 1995). But all of these studies, though some included Mainland Chinese participants, are situated in HSS courses, where writing is believed to be highly varied, complex, and challenging (Cadman, 1997; Casanave & Hubbard, 1992). Few in-depth studies have examined how Mainland Chinese graduate students try to complete discipline-specific writing tasks in science/engineering courses where writing is supposed to differ from that in HSS courses (Braine, 1989, 1995; Casanave & Hubbard, 1992; MacDonald, 1987). Though Swales (1990) has studied academic writing of graduate students in sciences and engineering, his research and that of his colleagues (e.g., Swales & Feak, 1994) tends to emphasize discourse analysis of the written product rather than analysis of the writing process. As Beaugrande (1982, 1984) advised us earlier, a text as the outcome of procedural operations cannot be adequately described or 4 explained in isolation from the procedures which humans use to produce and receive it. Thus a study of the writing processes of ESL graduate students in sciences and engineering should enable us to learn more about the writers, how they proceed in writing, what challenges they encounter, how they overcome or fail to overcome the challenges, and so on. A better understanding of the students' writing processes in turn will enable disciplinary faculty to become better instructors and supervisors to these students, and enable ESL educators to improve not only their own teaching but also facilitation in disciplinary faculty development (see 8.3.1) Worth special noting is Hamp-Lyons' (1991a) observation that native-English-speaking (NES) researchers have very little concrete knowledge about ESL writers. Yet, understanding the participants' language and culture is very important for the researcher who studies the participants (Crago, 1992). Unfortunately, almost all the investigators mentioned above are native English speakers. Few in-depth studies of discipline-specific writing of Chinese graduate students have been conducted by a researcher who shares the native language and culture of, and similar experience with, the student group in question (see also Flowerdew, 1999). Researcher qualifications such as these can be critical to eliciting more comprehensive revelation and accurate expression of the feelings, thinking processes, and behaviors of the participants, to comprehending the collected data, and to interpreting the data. My study was intended to explore this gap. In addition, my previous experience in China teaching English reading and writing to science and engineering graduate students for two years stimulated in me a deep interest in and curiosity about how Chinese graduate students in sciences and engineering attempt to write English academic assignments in Canada. 1.3 Research Questions The main purpose of the study was to explore the academic writing processes and challenges 5 of Mainland Chinese graduate students in sciences and engineering at UBC, specifically: how do Chinese graduate students complete the written assignments required by their academic programs, in particular course assignments and research proposals? This question may break down as follows:1 a) What kind of written course assignments and research proposals must Chinese students complete? What are the faculty expectations and feedback? b) How do Chinese students try to complete the written assignments? and c) What challenges do Chinese students encounter? In addition to the above questions, I also sought to explore how the findings from my study might inform theories on second language writing such as those about reading-writing relations, language reuse, and thinking media in writing and writing preparation. Finally, with increasing numbers of students from Mainland China entering Canadian and other universities in the English- speaking world, I wished to make suggestions as to how these universities could meet the needs of these students, particularly with regard to their writing. In this study I chose to focus on the writing of course assignments and thesis/dissertation proposals, rather than thesis/dissertation writing itself, because it was my assumption that Chinese graduate students usually experience more academic difficulties and problems at the initial stages of their studies than at later stages. Another reason was that it was relatively easy for me to find such student participants (i.e., those at the initial stages) as I had been working in the Spoken 1 1 started my study with a slightly different set of research questions that included an emphasis on the effects of the change of socio-cultural identities of the students. However, as I proceeded to collect and analyze data, the questions kept evolving (see section 3.3). The data I collected seemed more appropriate to answer questions directly relating to writing processes and difficulties. They did not yield as much information as I would need in order to fully address identity issues as I had earlier proposed. 6 English Tutoring Program (see section 1.2 above), which attracted large numbers of Chinese graduate students, especially those who had been in their programs for only a short time. Clearly, these students were most likely taking disciplinary courses and/or perhaps, writing research proposals. It would be interesting as well to study how Chinese graduate students write their theses or dissertations. But since I did not have convenient access to those students, I did not include thesis and dissertation writing in my research focus. 1.4 Definition of Terms I use academic writing in this study to refer to the writing Chinese graduate students must perform to complete their written course assignments or research proposals in their disciplines; hence, I also call such writing disciplinary writing. However, both these terms may have a broader meaning when I refer to other studies or to the writing by non-Chinese graduate students. In this case, academic writing can mean any writing for academic purposes such as academic course requirements and academic publication. Disciplinary writing can be writing by anybody for a specific discipline such as wood science. Chinese graduate students are those from Mainland China only. Similarly, Chinese language means only Mandarin that is used by Mainland Chinese and Chinese culture only the culture of Mainland China or commonly practiced by Mainland Chinese. 1.5 Limitations of the Dissertation It is important to note that the writing methods and challenges described and discussed in this dissertation represent only those of the student participants in the particular disciplinary contexts. They may not represent all those methods or challenges, for example, of writing a thesis 7 or dissertation. Certainly, the methods may not represent those of all ESL graduate students, nor may they necessarily represent the "best methods" that all other ESL graduate students should follow. It is very likely that ESL graduate students from other linguistic and cultural backgrounds may have different writing methods and challenges. The research on the writing processes of these Chinese students is to explore issues associated with Chinese students writing disciplinary course assignments and to gain insights into these issues so that further research may be developed and other studies undertaken. I started the study with an attempt to tap the perceptions of both the students and some faculty members. However, as the study progressed, the data collected swelled enormously. In order to adequately present, analyze, and discuss my data collected from the students as well as to make the dissertation manageable, I have to limit my primary focus in the dissertation to the students' experiences and perceptions. I use the data from the faculty only when they are appropriate to support those from the students or to strengthen my arguments. 1.6 Outline of the Dissertation Above I have stated the research problem, provided justifications for the study, laid out the specific questions to pursue, defined key terms, and clarified some limits of my dissertation. In Chapter 2, I first review research on L2 composition as I believe the findings of this line of research should have implications for my study of Chinese graduate students who compose in English as their second language. Then I look more closely at research on L2 academic writing. In both cases, I consider how those studies might inform and inspire my study and how my research can inform the theory. While analyzing what these studies have achieved, I notice especially what they have failed to achieve, thus carving out a space for my research. Since plagiarism has been a constant and yet, highly controversial issue with ESL writers, including Chinese ESL students, I 8 examine the research on this issue in some detail. In Chapter 3, I argue why I employ the approach of a qualitative multi-case study to explore the academic writing experiences of Chinese graduate students. Then I describe the process in which the study developed, including the selection Of the research location, study participants, and methods for data collection. I then discuss the procedures for data analysis. Finally, I offer an indication of my identity and role as the researcher because I believe such information will clarify for the reader the stance and background I come from, which are critical for determining what data I collect and how I analyze the data (see Norton Peirce, 1993, 1995b). In Chapter 4, I present the profiles of each of the 15 Chinese student participants in the study. These profiles include brief biographical information, TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and GRE (Graduate Record Examination) scores, educational and professional backgrounds, and academic programs of the students. I also indicate what the students felt to be their linguistic and socio-cultural challenges while studying at UBC. These stories are used to help interpret the other findings in the rest of the study. In Chapter 5, I analyze some of the major academic assignments the students must write and describe the faculty expectations and feedback regarding the students' work, and the students' reaction to the feedback. Then I explore in great detail the methods the students used to prepare for and complete the written work on the basis of three writing stages: pre-writing, initial-writing, and post-writing, and in the course of the analysis, discuss the issues involved in the writing process. In Chapter 6, I present the challenges the Chinese students encountered while completing their written course assignments and thesis proposals. To facilitate presentation and discussion, I divide these challenges into four categories: 1) vocabulary and grammar, 2) stylistic concerns, 3) thought transcription, and 4) information management and organization. Then, I provide explanations for the challenges from cross-linguistic and cross-cultural perspectives. 9 In Chapter 7, I present a theoretical analysis of some significant findings of my study, as described in Chapters 4-6, by relating them to theories and proposals in L2 writing research. I focus on three major issues. First, since the students were writing source-based assignments, I would like to see how the students perceived reading-writing relationships. Second, as the students inevitably had to reuse others' words and ideas when writing disciplinary texts in ESL, I challenge the traditional notion of plagiarism by examining the nature of writing scientific texts in an L2 and then reconceptualize language reuse by developing ESL writers. Finally, I reconsider theories and propositions on the media of thinking in L2 writing and propose my own theory on thinking media by ESL writers. In Chapter 8,1 summarize the major findings and theoretical implications of my study, and then discuss implications of my study for policy and practice in institutional development, especially faculty development, curriculum development, and ESL graduate student development. I end the dissertation by suggesting questions and issues requiring further research. 10 C H A P T E R 2: REVIEW O F T H E R E S E A R C H L I T E R A T U R E In this chapter I review the literature which has a significant bearing upon my study of Chinese graduate students in academic writing. Specifically, I review research in second language (L2) composition, L2 academic writing, and the issue of plagiarism in relation to writing in English for academic purposes. Following Leki and Carson (1997), I interpret L2 composition as including two types of writing: (1) writing without a source text, in which case the writer relies on general world knowledge or personal experience, and (2) writing without responsibility for the content of a source text, in which case the writer does nOt have to demonstrate knowledge of the content of the provided source text but merely reacts in order to agree or disagree or to recount related personal experiences. These two types of writing are typical of current ESL writing and composition classes (Leki & Carson, 1997). Academic writing, on the other hand, is characterized in this dissertation as text-responsible, whereby the writer must display knowledge of the content, and possibly limitations, of the source text(s) and/or some other external reality (e.g., experiments, field work). In practice, it corresponds to writing in academic courses such as those in wood science or electrical engineering. Academic writing is also known as disciplinary writing (Leki, 1995a; Leki & Carson, 1997; Shih, 1986), discipline-specific writing (Casanave & Hubbard, 1992), and discipline-specific academic writing (Connor & Mayberry, 1996). In this dissertation, I use these terms interchangeably. In the last section of the chapter, I review recent research on the controversial issue of plagiarism as relates to Chinese and other students writing in English in academic situations. 1 1 2.1 Research in L2 Composition Though as outlined above, L2 composition is different in various ways from L2 academic writing, these two types of writing do share some common issues related to writing such as: (1) the composition of sentences in an L2, (2) logical development of the text, (3) coherence and connection among sentences, and (4) organization of sentences and paragraphs. Therefore, it is important to look at what L2 composition research has to offer regarding L2 writing in general and L2 academic writing in particular. Research in L2 composition, especially in its early stage in the 1980's, was strongly influenced by first language (LI) writing process research (e.g., Emig, 1971) and mostly oriented toward the composing process (e.g., Arndt, 1987; Brooks, 1985; Friedlander, 1990; Gaskill, 1986; Hildenbrand, 1985; Lay, 1982; Raimes, 1985; Zamel, 1983). Convinced that by studying and understanding the process of composing they could gain insight into how to teach it, researchers were eager to explore the writing behaviors of ESL students - how they generate ideas, transcribe them, and refine them in order to form a text. As a whole, earlier research in L2 composition suggested: (a) composing in L2 is like composing in LI employing a recursive process and involving planning, writing, and revising (but see differences between LI and L2 composition below); (b) writing is a thinking process whereby writers discover, explore, and restructure ideas; and (c) a lack of competence in writing in English results more from the lack of composing competence than from the lack of linguistic competence among advanced ESL writers (Cumming, 1989; Hayward, 1994; Jacobs, 1982; Raimes, 1985; Zamel, 1982, 1983). One explanation for (c) is that L2 proficiency such as that measured by TOEFL does not necessarily enhance the quality of thinking that occurs (Cumming, 1989). However, some aspects of LI writing expertise transfer to, or are reflected in, ESL writing (Krapels, 1990) such as rhetorical styles, discourse structures, and attitudes to knowledge (see Ballard & Clanchy, 1991), a finding 12 consistent with Cummins' (1981; Cummins & Swain, 1986) interdependency principle. Based on his study of bilingual education, Cummins proposes that the development of literacy-related skills in L2 is partly a function of prior development of literacy-related skills in LI. This principle implies that LI and L2 academic skills are manifestations of a common underlying proficiency. The influence of native language and culture on L2 writing is also captured by the construct of contrastive rhetoric (e.g., Connor, 1996; Grabe & Kaplan, 1989; Kaplan, 1966). [Contrastive rhetoric research studies] LI rhetorical influences on the organization of text in an L2, on audience considerations, on goal definition...; [it] seeks to define LI influences on text coherence, on perceived audience awareness, and on rhetorical context features (i.e., topic constraints, amount of subject matter knowledge needed to accomplish a given task, assignment constraints, writer maturity, educational demands, time available for composing, time available for feedback and revision, formal conventions of the writing task, etc.). (Grabe & Kaplan, 1989, p. 266) This type of influence particularly concerns adult L2 writers such as ESL graduate students; any researcher who studies such writers therefore cannot afford to neglect it. Undoubtedly, exploring this influence requires that a researcher understand and be sensitive to the native linguistic and cultural characteristics of the L2 writer (Crago, 1992). For this reason, most L2 composition researchers who are native English speakers have chosen to shy away from examining such influences. Despite the movement of composition process research, no coherent comprehensive theory has been formulated for L2 writing (Silva, 1993), nor has a consensus in research been reached when mOre recent studies (e.g., Atkinson & Ramanathan, 1995; Hamp-Lyons, 1991b; Johns, 1993; Leki & Carson, 1997; Silva, 1992, 1993, 1997) are included. In fact, some recent research has started questioning the application of LI composition theory to L2 writing research. An examination of 72 reports of empirical research comparing LI and L2 writing processes (Silva, 1993) indicates salient and important differences between LI and L2 with regard to both composing processes, including subprocesses (planning, transcribing, and reviewing), and 13 composing product, including features of texts such as fluency, accuracy, quality, and structure (discoursal, morphosyntactic, and lexicosemantic). For example, L2 writers spent more time assessing and analyzing the topic, did less goal setting, and generated less useful material with more difficulty than LI writers. Producing written text in the L2 was more laborious, less fluent, and less productive. Writing was reportedly reviewed less often, and reviewed less by "revising by ear." The produced texts were shorter but contained more errors, especially with verbs, prepositions, articles, and nouns. The writing was less complex, less mature and stylistically appropriate, and less consistent and academic regarding language, style, and tone. The texts exhibited less lexical variety and sophistication and fewer synonyms and collocations. Thus L2 writing is strategically, rhetorically, and linguistically different from LI writing (Silva, 1993). More recent research on the cultures of an ESL writing program and English LI composition program supports this indication (Atkinson & Ramanathan, 1995; see also Johns, 1993). Thus, the prevalent assumption that LI and L2 writing are, for all intents and purposes, the same appears untenable, despite their similarity in broad outlines. L2 writing specialists need to "look beyond LI writing theories, to better describe the unique nature of L2 writing, to look into the potential sources (e.g., cognitive, developmental, social, cultural, educational, linguistic) of this uniqueness, to develop theories that adequately explain the phenomenon of L2 writing" (Silva, 1993, p. 669). My study of a small number of Mainland Chinese graduate students is, in part, a response to Silva's call to examine the L2 writing processes from cognitive, educational, linguistic, historical, and socio-cultural perspectives. As the process-oriented L2 composition research discussed above is mainly concerned with psycholinguistic, cognitive, and affective variables (Horowitz, 1986) with an emphasis on the personal opinions and experiences of the L2 writers, it has neglected the context, the reader, and many other outside forces which define, shape, and ultimately judge a piece of writing (Horowitz, 1986; Pennycook, 1995). More recent research even questions the legitimacy of ESL writing with 14 a focus on personal opinions and experiences for academic purposes (Gore, 1993; Leki & Carson, 1997; Stotsky, 1995; Pennycook, 1996a) because such writing functions to "infantilize our students, denying them a stance of engagement with serious and compelling subject matter" (Leki & Carson, 1997, p. 63) and access to "powerful genres" (Kress, 1987, cited in Stotsky, 1995). Furthermore, the processes of L2 composition are very different from those of L2 academic writing in prewriting, initial drafts, and later drafts (Parkhurst, 1990). While the emphasis of L2 composition is on linguistics and structural concerns, academic writing places content before everything else, creating a "completely different" world (Leki & Carson, 1997; see also Leki, 1995b; Leki & Carson, 1994). Awareness of the importance of the context (e.g., Zamel, 1990) and the difference in writing processes (e.g., Parkhurst, 1990) has given rise to the more recent research in ESL writing in academic disciplines, as I discuss in the next section. In sum, while LI and L2 writing share some similarities, the two writing processes seem to be different on many fronts. But how are they different with regard to a particular group of ESL writers such as Chinese graduate students in sciences and engineering at UBC, and how could those differences, if any, be accounted for from personal, cognitive, educational, linguistic, and socio-cultural perspectives? And how are L2 composition processes different from L2 disciplinary writing processes? Once the causes for the differences are understood, proper measures, policies, and curriculum could be designed to deal with the differences, or sometimes to tolerate them. These concerns comprise some of the issues that motivated my study. 2.2 Research in L 2 Academic Writing In contrast to L2 composition research, academic writing research takes a social view of writing by examining the context, the academic task, reader-writer relations, and interactions of i the writer with the society (Casanave, 1995; Prior, 1991, 1995, 1998). However, two distinct 15 approaches stand out in the literature (see Bizzell, 1992). One regards L2 academic writing by university students as a practice typical of novices or apprentices (e.g., Swales, 1990) whereas the other views L2 academic writing as a process that is highly complex, interactive, and historically and locally situated (see below). In the first approach, only by learning the discourse conventions of a community can students participate as members of the community (e.g., Doheny-Farina, 1989; Slevin, 1988; Swales, 1990; see also Bizzell, 1982a, 1982b, 1986). One effective way teachers can help students to successfully learn discourse conventions is to make explicit the contextual, formal, and structural features of "effective" text ("effective" in the view of the "experts") (Berry, 1989; Gosden, 1995). Hence, much of the research focuses on professors' perceptions of the writing tasks (e.g., Braine, 1989, 1995; Horowitz, 1986, 1989; Jenkins et al., 1993), professors' perceptions of academic writing by ESL students (e.g., Gosden, 1992; Pharis, 1987; Santos, 1988), and the formal or rhetorical features of academic texts of particular discourse communities, especially in the field of English for Specific Purposes (ESP) (Bazerman, 1988; Berkenkotter & Huckin, 1995; Brett, 1994; Dudley-Evans, 1985, 1994; Hopkins & Dudley-Evans, 1988; Love, 1991; Marshall, 1991; Swales, 1990; Swales &Feak, 1994; Swales & Najjar, 1987; Weissberg & Buker, 1990). Most of the studies are instruction-motivated, teacher- oriented, and text/product-based. In general, this approach has emphasized community members' shared knowledge, values, goals, and writing conventions and described what L2 students "should" do in order to achieve academic success. However, this pragmatist approach, which tries to prepare students to meet "experts'" expectations, plays no more than a "service role" (Benesch, 1993; Severino, 1993; Zamel, 1993) that endorses traditional academic practices and current power relations in academia and society (Benesch, 1993) rather than encouraging students to question the status quo (Norton Peirce, 1995b). This approach has paid little attention to the conflicts, tension, and differences either between the L2 writer and the context (Atkinson, 1997; Cadman, 1997; Fox, 1 6 1994; Myers, 1998; Pennycook, 1996a, 1996b; Silva, 1992) or within the writer him/herself on ideological, cultural, and linguistic grounds (Cadman, 1997; Canagarajah, 1993; Leggo, 1997; Shen, 1988; Thesen, 1997). It has rarely examined how academic writing tasks are realized as concrete historical activities situated in institutional contexts and in the personal and social lives of the participants (Blanton, 1994; Casanave, 1995; Norton Peirce, 1995b; Prior, 1991). Nor has it questioned whether the apprentice-expert relationship assumed between students and teachers indeed exists, such as in the case of doctoral students, or to what extent the relationship is practiced, given the commonly large student-teacher ratio (Atkinson, 1998); or even whether the apprentices/students aspire towards integration in the mainstream culture (Thesen, 1997). According to Casanave (1995) and Cooper and Holzman (1989), the "discourse community" metaphor hides complexity. Thus Ramanathan and Atkinson (1999) conclude in their review of L2 writing research that "a notion of culture as monolithic and homogeneous does not take into account the great variety of interests, positions, and experience that exist within and between cultures" (p. 64). The second approach, based chiefly on the works of Cadman (1997), Casanave (1990, 1992, 1995), and Prior (1991, 1992, 1995, 1998), views L2 academic writing and socialization as highly complex, interactive, and historically and locally situated, charged with tension, and therefore not fully predictable (Casanave, 1995). Hence, to understand how texts are produced and read, we need to explore the personal, social, and historical contexts of human discourse and the interactions involved in natural settings (Cadman, 1997; Prior, 1991; see also Bazerman, 1994). As these works have an immediate bearing upon my study, I will review a few key studies in some detail. Casanave (1995) studies a culturally diverse group of first-year doctoral students learning to write and think like sociologists as they tried to complete demanding writing assignments for a core sociology course. Most of her participants were ESL students. Based on her data, she 1 7 questions the one-way model of "enculturation" and the "discourse community" metaphor which implies that all members of a community share the same values, beliefs, and knowledge of issues. She found the process of course-specific writing highly complex. Much of the complexity involves the many local factors at work, such as the assignment requirements and the instructor's personality, academic interests, and preferred research methods. Rather than learning the values, practices, and language conventions as "novices" only from the professor, the students found discussions with peers and other professionals, as well as self-dialogues, important. She argues that a more meaningful approach to understanding the constructed nature of writing contexts is one that considers the immediate, local, and interactive factors that impinge upon individual students as they write in these settings, much as verbal communication is to be understood or explained in relation to its concrete situation (Todorov, 1984; see also Creswell, 1998, p. 19, for an explanation of knowledge as inextricably tied to the context). It is the local aspect of the context that helps explain why students do not seem to be socialized in uniform and predictable ways. Her findings are corroborated by other studies showing processes and expectations different from discipline to discipline (Becher, 1989; Frentz, 1991; Louis & Turner, 1991; Steinke, 1991), from one class to another within the same discipline (Herrington, 1985; Johns, 1990), and with a single professor from one student to another and from one task to another (Prior, 1991) (see also Herrington, 1988; Leki, 1995b; Zamel, 1985 for a discussion of teacher variability in writing expectations). In contrast to discourse community, Casanave (1995) suggests that the term "intellectual village" (Geertz, 1983) aptly captures the relations among the "villagers" as not merely intellectual but political, moral, and broadly personal as well. Prior (1995) reports some of the case studies he conducted in four doctoral seminars from four humanities and social sciences (HSS) disciplines. Drawing on Bakhtin's (1986) theory of utterance genres as patterns of situated activity, he examines how academic writing tasks were cued and produced by particular students and evaluated by particular professors in particular 1 8 settings over time. His findings reveal that the tasks are complexly shaped by the multiple histories, activities, and goals that the participants bring to and create within the seminars. Writing tasks are not static but constantly negotiated between the professors and students explicitly and implicitly. Students' reactions to the professors' comments on their drafts depend on what they know of the professors and how much investment they need to make in order to get a certain grade. The results of his ethnographic studies (1991, 1992, 1995) led Prior to conclude that a triangulated, ethnographic examination in sociohistoric perspectives provides a very different perspective on writing tasks and needs analysis than that inferred from texts and perceptions alone. Gadman (1997) explores a different but challenging key issue in ESL academic writing, that of identity struggle faced by international postgraduate students writing argument texts in English at an Australian university (cf. Fox, 1994). ESL research has brought up at least two dimensions of identity. One is cultural, referring to "the relationships between individuals and members of a group who share a common history, a common language, or similar ways of understanding the world" (Norton, 1997, p. 420). It includes ideological identity based on value systems and logical identity based on thought patterns and expressions (Shen, 1989). The other dimension is social, mediated through social institutions such as schools (Norton, 1997) and referencing the subject position(s) one assumes in a society such as student, immigrant, and researcher (Norton Peirce, 1995a). By examining the students' written texts and perceptions about their writing experiences, Cadman (1997) delineates the cultural and linguistic conflicts that Asian students had to undergo as they tried to create and develop a new (cultural) identity in order to write in the required "English way." For example, Chinese students had to change their mindset from collectivism to individualism, from materialism to idealism, and slip from a modest skin into a more aggressive skin. In other words, their cultural identity underwent transformation from the "brought along" to 1 9 the "brought about" (Thesen, 1997). Such a development means not only a painful loss of their native cultural identity but also the clash between the native and the new. Coupled with the loss of cultural identity is that of social identity (Norton Peirce, 1993; Norton, 2000), which Cadman only faintly alludes to, when professors, directors, researchers, or otherwise highly successful social and academic achievers in their native country are suddenly reduced to learners, "apprentices," or "novices" treated as knowledge-deficient and problem-infested. Such losses are devastating in many cases and fatal in others (see section 1.2 and Appendix F for discussions of Chinese students' suicides and cultural adaptation). Not surprisingly, some of Cadman's participants expressed the cultural clash negatively. Likewise, many ESL graduate students resisted academic writing in English, as Fox (1994) extensively documents (for more reports, see Fu, 1995; Lu, 1987; Shen, 1989). In addition, Cadman's data suggest that a significant cause of difficulty for international postgraduates in HSS programs writing English theses may lie in the different epistemologies in which these students have been trained and in which their identities as learners are rooted (see also Ballard and Clanchy, 1991). She finds that a reflexive, personal composing process in teaching contexts can help international postgraduates to build a bridge between the internal dialogue of self-review and the external challenges presented by the new academic environment. A few other empirical case studies with participants drawn from HSS programs have also contributed to exploring the disciplinary writing processes of ESL graduate students (Connor & Kramer, 1995; Connor & Mayberry, 1996; Leki, 1995a; Riazi, 1995; Schneider & Fujishima, 1995). Unlike research of the first approach in academic writing research, most of these studies are learning-motivated, student-oriented, and process-based. They are typically conducted in HSS contexts or with HSS individuals through multiple or singular case studies. Taken as a whole, the second approach places an emphasis on how students try to meet the local writing demands and requirements, including investment strategies (those for investing time and energy according to 2 0 the importance of the assignments), peer interaction, and student-faculty interaction, and how students negotiate the conflicts, differences, and tensions with the particular academic contexts and within themselves (including socio-cultural identities). It shows an intense interest in the students' personal background and personal perceptions. Because each writing process is locally situated and unique in itself, generalizability for pedagogical practice may be limited though not impossible. In other words, it is contentious whether the findings from one study may be readily applied to other contexts - a concern of special importance to funding agencies and decision-makers. This could explain, in part, why process-oriented studies in L2 academic writing have been far fewer than their product- and text- oriented counterparts until recently. On the Other hand, it is equally arguable that the insights and theories generated may be applied to other contexts and individuals, especially when the contexts and individuals have similar characteristics. Nonetheless, in order for us to understand the nature of L2 writing, the complexity of producing L2 academic texts, and the strenuous process of disciplinary learning in general by adult ESL students, particularly graduate students, studying the disciplinary writing process is of absolute importance and urgency. In this sense, the second approach, which I take as emerging, calls for further studies with a diversity of ESL participants in various disciplines at graduate and undergraduate levels and in continuing education programs. However, a study of the second approach would be more fruitful if complemented by the first approach which may provide the written products as evidence in explaining the writing process, demystify the academic contexts and assignments through faculty perceptions, or offer a faculty perspective to triangulate students' reports (cf. Connor & Mayberry, 1996; Partridge, 1997; Raimes, 1991, 1993). ( 2 1 2.3 Research in the Issue of Plagiarism As I argued in section 1.2, academic English writing at advanced levels is a great challenge for ESL graduate students from non-Anglicized linguistic and cultural backgrounds. In a survey at one American institution with a large international population, 70% of the ESL student respondents, mostly in graduate programs, reported keeping up with writing assignments as a significant or great academic concern (Marino, 1997). The causes for such a challenge are the vast difference between their LI and English, between the English they learned, emphasizing structural knowledge, and the English required for academic writing, and between their native cultures and the target culture. In order to deal with these challenges, or sometimes simply to complete the academic assignments, some ESL students have resorted to copying (Campbell, 1990; Currie, 1998; Pennycook, 1996b), which is condemned by the Western world under the name of plagiarism. However, some researchers have recently started to re-examine the issue of plagiarism from Chinese cultural perspectives (Myers, 1998; Pennycook, 1996b; Scollon, 1995) and/or by considering the particular context of Chinese and other students having to write in a second/foreign language (Currie, 1998; Pennycook, 1996b). Plagiarism was the theme of at least two presentations at TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) 98 which reported the results of interviews with faculty and international students on plagiarism in Britain and Denmark (Dudley-Evans, 1998; Shaw & Crocker, 1998). In the following I present some of the major findings and conclusions of this new direction of research. 2.3.1 Definitions of Plagiarism Plagiarism is a fuzzy category (Shaw & Crocker, 1998). It seems to have various definitions and interpretations. In fact, the very same meaning of plagiarism may have to be 22 expressed in one's own words in order for the writer not to be accused of plagiarism (except perhaps with explicit reference). (See Pennycook, 1996b, for a case in which one American university accused another of "plagiarizing" its definition of plagiarism in a university calendar.) Among the various definitions of plagiarism, the most widespread is probably one provided in the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) et al. (1995): "using the ideas or words of another person without giving appropriate credit." While this definition encompasses both "plagiarizing ideas" and "plagiarizing language" (Pennycook, 1996b, p. 223), the NAS et al. distinguish "honest errors and errors caused through negligence" from errors of "deception" (Myers, 1998, p. 3). The definition provided by Shaw and Crocker (1998) is more specific: "Prototype plagiarism is the deliberate seeking of advantage by deceptively making use of others' ideas and formulations [language] without acknowledgement" (p. 1). Both of these definitions seem to emphasize the notion of deliberateness and intention, but this notion is highly subjective and difficult to ascertain. Probably for this reason, Shaw and Crocker (1998) refer to some other ways of using others' ideas and formulations as non-prototypical plagiarism. 2.3.2 Western Views of Plagiarism Myers (1998) believes that plagiarism, along with copyright, emerges out of Western cultural values about intellectual property. Legal enforcement of copyright laws and institutional enforcement of plagiarism rules are to ensure that individuals are rewarded for their work. The writing conventions on referencing and citation are to protect the integrity necessary for the production of knowledge. But the whole business of plagiarism is culturally determined (Pennycook, 1996b; Shaw & Crocker, 1998). It fails to acknowledge alternative practices in other cultures and different views of text, ownership, and learning (Currie, 1998; Pennycook, 1996b). Among the Western countries, "the US educational culture is extreme in its intolerance of 23 copying" (Shaw & Crocker, 1998, p. 6). It sometimes happens that when teachers assess academic writing by non-native English-speaking (NNES) students, they look for language "that is 'too good' in order to incriminate the student," or "evidence of errors in order to exonerate the student" (Pennycook, 1996b, p. 203). So, the whole normal criteria as applied to native English- speaking (NES) students seem reversed. 2.3.3 Chinese Views on Copying Unlike the West, traditional Chinese culture sees copying, if not "plagiarism," as a valuable and effective way of learning (Pennycook, 1996b). Copying, an unaltered representation of either source texts or source ideas, shows the learner's respect for knowledge and authority. Word-for-word copying is the most reliable means to reproduce source knowledge accurately. In order to find out how well students have learned the knowledge taught, most university courses in China, undergraduate or graduate, require students to write tests and examinations with "closed books," and thus copying from memory, or memorization, becomes a key strategy to test success (Pennycook, 1996b). In fact, the closer one remains to the original text, the more accurate answer one produces. While some short-term memorization is used to deal with tests and examinations (including parts of the American-based TOEFL and GRE), "memorization through repetition can be used to deepen and develop understanding" (Pennycook, 1996b, p. 222). As the Chinese saying goes, if one can learn 300 poems of the Tang Dynasty by heart, one can compose poems. I can also attest to Pennycook's observation, given my own experience in memorizing all the reading texts in the Intensive English textbook as an undergraduate English major 15 years ago. Through memorization I was able to learn more English words, expressions, and structures (grammatical and rhetorical), and could hope to speak and write English more fluently in an environment with very few native English speakers. 2 4 2.3.4 Copying as a Learning or Survival Strategy for L2 Students NNES students who have not mastered English well enough to express themselves freely are often caught in a "Catch-22" situation. They are constantly told to write English in "their own words" (see Currie, 1998), which means either their LI, then translated to English, or their developing and far from perfect English. In either case, they are normally perceived negatively because of poor English. On the other hand, if they use words and sentences from a reliable source, such as a book, they might also be negatively perceived because of supposed plagiarism. The source of their distress is the failure of us academics, specifically the extreme opponents of any plagiarism, to fully understand second/foreign language learning contexts or students who have to write in an L2. They may be baffled by questions such as what follows. As second/foreign language learners/users, how can they learn the content in an L2 (except perhaps through translation to the LI) without copying the words? How can they write to express the learned concept if not by copying, physically (from text to text) or through memory, to a certain extent (except perhaps through translation from the LI)? Can they invent English words and expressions as often as they might wish? Even though Chinese-speaking students can translate from their LI when writing in English, they run the risk of being accused of using "Chinese English" or "Chinglish" (i.e., literal translation from Chinese not conforming to English usage) and being penalized. As L2 educators, we know all too well that imitation is one of the basic methods to learn an L2. Imitation and copying are not only essential learning strategies but can be the only choices for L2 students, and even LI students, who otherwise may have no way to learn a language. Thus, Pennycook (1996b) asserts, "all language learning is, to some extent, a practice of memorization of the words of others" (p. 202), especially for adults, and "a process of borrowing others' words" (p. 227). He further suggests that "many of the ways we approach supposed plagiarism are pedagogically unsound and intellectually arrogant" (Pennycook, 1996b, 25 p. 227). Copying is not only a learning strategy but a strategy which many ESL students rely upon to survive their studies at English-speaking institutions. ESL students are often faced with discrepancies between their academic workloads and their still developing linguistic and cognitive resources (Currie, 1998). In order to be perceived as competent students, they may "fall back on what they consider to be a 'safe strategy' as they opt for a more correct, more appropriate, more academic discourse" (Currie, 1998, p. 2). In her case study of a Chinese undergraduate commerce student, Currie (1998) finds that "staying out of trouble" through copying is the overarching strategy for survival. Moreover, Campbell (1990) finds copying to be the major strategy for both LI and L2 university students writing from sources. Thus, Pennycook (1996b) calls on us to "be flexible, not dogmatic, about where we draw boundaries between acceptable or unacceptable textual borrowing" (p. 227). Elimination of copying, if at all necessary, is a developmental process (Britton et al., 1975; Campbell, 1990). In fact, some university instructors are already showing flexibility in both attitude toward plagiarism and practice in treating plagiarism. 2.3.5 Attitudes and Reaction to Plagiarism in Practice Shaw and Crocker (1998), in their survey of both university faculty and L2 students in Britain and Denmark, reveal that while some disciplines show more tolerance than others toward copying, faculty in most disciplines were fairly tolerant of non-prototypical plagiarism/copying. They further note that copying is likely to be more frequent wherever people are writing in a foreign language, regardless of national educational culture. In Currie's (1998) study at a Canadian university, copying was not only tolerated but rewarded for supplying the terminology and discourse style desired by the instructor. Perhaps for this reason Currie calls the copying of her study participant "apparent plagiarism" (p. 1). As I shall discuss in more detail in Chapters 5 26 and 7, many science and engineering professors focus so much attention on the content when reading students' papers that they hardly care about the language as long as it makes sense. So, despite what faculty know of plagiarism, a variety of attitudes and reactions seem to be operating in practice. In summary, copying seems to be a fairly commonplace practice for L2 students in academic writings. In order to address the issues of plagiarism more appropriately, we need to look into the causes from cultural, contextual, psycholinguistic, and pedagogical perspectives. Thus we may hope to be in a better position to exercise our flexibility in treating copying and plagiarism and to gradually have plagiarism eliminated. As the issue has been related to Chinese students (Currie, 1998; Myers, 1998; Pennycook, 1996b; Scollon, 1995), I wish to see how a group of Mainland Chinese graduate students in sciences and engineering at UBC write their academic papers in English, under what circumstances and to what extent they resort to copying, if at all, and hbw both the students and faculty perceive the phenomenon. 2.4 Summary In this chapter I have reviewed literature showing that writing in an L2 is different from writing in an LI in both process and product. Therefore, it might be misleading to apply LI writing theories blindly to L2 situations. Further, L2 composition, that is, writing without responsibility for knowledge of source texts, is different from L2 academic writing which must display disciplinary knowledge of source texts and/or certain external realities. In reviewing the research in L2 academic writing, I have presented two approaches. One perceives students as "novices/apprentices" and emphasizes what the "expert" expects of the novice vis-a-vis the imperfections of novices' written products. This approach, however, has failed to acknowledge the strenuous processes of producing academic texts by L2 students, especially adults such as 27 graduate students. In order to understand the complexity of L2 academic writing and the tensions involved in the writing process, it is necessary to examine academic writing tasks as concrete historical activities situated in local contexts, which I called the second approach. Finally, I have reviewed recent research re-examining plagiarism, and how copying is viewed as a learning strategy in the Chinese culture, widely practised in learning an L2, and often resorted to in order to survive L2 written assignments. Indeed, copying seems to be widely exercised by both L2 and LI students and tolerated to varying degrees by Western university professors in practice. The major issues reviewed in this chapter will be further examined in Chapters 4-8 with respect to the Chinese graduate students in my study. The next chapter describes the research methodology and procedures of my study. 28 C H A P T E R 3: R E S E A R C H M E T H O D O L O G Y A N D P R O C E D U R E S In this chapter I first provide a rationale for employing a qualitative multi-case study to explore the academic writing experiences and perceptions of Chinese graduate students in sciences and engineering (S&E) at UBC. Then I explicate the process in which the study developed. Rather than presenting the research location, study participants, and methods for data collection in isolation, I embed them in my description of the development of the study. I then discuss the procedures for data analysis, and present my identity and role as the researcher in order to give some indication of the background I come from that may underlie my interpretation of the data. 3.1 Qualitative Multi-Case Study This study takes a qualitative approach to research, aiming to uncover an emic (i.e., research participants') perspective and interpretation of the participants' experiences in natural settings. When addressing narrative inquiry, Larson (1997) observes that "narrative researchers assume that people who live these lives can help us to understand these growing concerns [problems in schools]. When we understand circumstances, events, or conflicts from other people's perspectives, we can identify and implement better strategies for addressing these problems" (p. 455). This observation can also apply to other qualitative research such as my study. Further, Flowerdew (1999) asserts that "qualitative research methodology is particularly suited to studying culture-specific phenomena, which, of course, are best investigated by people from the cultures being studied" (p. 260). Based on Bogdan and Biklen (1992), Creswell (1998), Denzin and Lincoln (1994), Eisner (1991), Geertz, 1976; Flowerdew (1999), Larson (1997), Merriam (1988), and Norton Peirce (1995b), I summarize the characteristics of qualitative 2 9 research as follows: (1) an.interpretive, naturalistic approach to the subject matter; (2) a primary concern with process; (3) an interest in exploring participants' meaning and understanding of their own experiences and structures of the world; (4) the researcher as the primary instrument for data collection and analysis; (5) an involvement in fieldwork by the researcher actively visiting participants and the situation to observe/record behavior in its natural setting; (6) studied use and collection of a variety of empirical materials; (7) a description of the process, meaning, and understanding in a narrative, expressive, and persuasive style; and (8) an inductive approach to build abstractions, hypotheses, or theories. These characteristics directed my study and reveal themselves in the rest of my dissertation. In conjunction with a qualitative approach, the study adopts a multiple case study design. Johnson (1992) notes that the questions that motivate case studies often arise out of knowledge gaps or discontent with currently accepted explanations for phenomena. In my study, the motivation stemmed from a combination of these two factors. The knowledge gap, as described in Chapter 2, is the shortage of research on the academic writing experiences of Chinese graduate students in sciences and engineering by researchers who share the native language and cultural backgrounds of these students. Also, I am not content with the view of socialization embodied in the "novice-expert" and "discourse community" metaphors (see Chapter 2), since my observations and readings (e.g., Atkinson, 1998; Casanave, 1995; Ramanathan & Atkinson, 1999; Thesen, 1997) suggest that the view does not conform with reality. Further, Merriam (1988) states that a qualitative case study can provide investigators with an in-depth understanding of a problematic situation and its meaning for those involved. The problematic situation in my study is the juxtaposition of Chinese graduate students experiencing great challenges in academic writing and the lack or inadequacy of language support on the part of both faculty and the institution as a whole. Merriam (1988) asserts that the case study approach is often the best methodology for addressing problems in which understanding is expected to lead to improved practice. Yin (1994), 30 on the other hand, states that case studies are the preferred strategy when the investigator has little control over events and when the focus is on a contemporary phenomenon whose variables are impossible to separate from their context. As I aim to explore issues involved in the academic writing processes of individual Chinese graduate students in natural settings with the ultimate goal to improve the education of Chinese graduate students in academic writing, a qualitative case study is an appropriate design. In fact, Zamel (1983) claims in her classic study of advanced ESL students that case study is "the most effective way to examine the writing process" (p. 169). Further, Stake (1994) distinguishes between an intrinsic case study, performed because of intrinsic interest in the case, and an instrumental case study, in which a case is examined to provide insight into an issue or refine a theory, while the case itself is of secondary interest. As an extension of the latter, researchers may conduct a collective case study by examining a number of cases jointly in order to inquire into the phenomenon or population. Yin (1994) calls this a multiple case study (see also Creswell, 1998). Multiple cases are believed to lead to better understanding, perhaps better theorizing, about a still larger collection of cases (Stake, 1994). My study seeks insights into the academic writing processes of Chinese graduate students in sciences and engineering. As each case may be different, examining multiple cases is expected to generate : richer insights into and better understanding of the issues involved in the writing processes without losing the necessary depth. 3.2 The Development of the Study Data collection for the study started in January 1997 when I began inquiring into ESL support facilities at UBC, and ended, for the most part, with the last interview on April 8, 1998. The initial stage (01/1997-06/1997) aimed at an understanding of the larger social context and locating a specific academic unit at UBC as the potential research site. The main stage had two 3 1 sections. The first section (08/1997-09/1997) focused on two Chinese doctoral students in Wood Science at UBC in order to pre-test and refine the research questions, methods, and interview guides. The second section (09/1997-04/1998) was devoted to collecting data from 13 other Chinese graduate student participants. A follow-up of the study (02/1998-03/1998) was meant to obtain another perspective on Chinese graduate students' academic writing from seven faculty and staff members by means of interviews. Though the study and its follow-up were completed for the most part in a limited time, the study did not cease as I wrote up the dissertation. I continued to observe the ESL support facilities at UBC, check with participants regarding my questions and interpretations, and refine my coding for analysis (Glesne & Peshkin, 1992). In fact, the completion of my dissertation will not mean the end of my research (see section 8.4). As Wolcott (1994) observes, "perhaps qualitative studies do not have endings, only questions" (cited in Creswell, 1998, p. 20). Indeed, Leggo (1997) best exemplifies this observation when he invited us to think about curriculum as narrative with 114 questions. 3.2.1 Initial Stage: Identifying the Context of the Study (01/97-06/97) r The study started with informal ongoing inquiries into the ESL support facilities at UBC, as described in section 1.2. In addition, in January 1997,1 conducted a small-scale survey of ESL writing support in North American universities and colleges on WAC-L (Writing across the Curriculum List) to learn about the status quo at other pOst-secondary institutions. Twelve netters who were ESL teachers and/or administrators responded, representing 12 institutions, among them seven universities and five colleges, ten in the USA and two in Canada. The general conclusion I reached in the survey and posted on the discussion list was that writing support is generally well-received by ESL students. However, most respondents felt that the support was inadequate to meet the needs of the students. 32 In addition, I have been closely watching an e-mail list, zhong_hua@cs.ubc.ca, the community lifeline for over 500 Chinese students and scholars, the largest ESL geographic group at UBC. Messages of all varieties are posted on the list daily, ranging from looking for friends to extended debates on cultural adaptation. For example, one debate started in early May 1997 in reaction to two Chinese graduate student suicides in March 1997 at UBC allegedly due to "excessive financial and mental pressure" and "loss of belonging" (see excerpts in Appendix F). The debate centred around difficulties in cultural adaptation and strategies for coping. These messages also provided me with a sense of the level of the students' writing, albeit a different genre from academic writing. Initially, I intended to collect data from six first-year doctoral students in one department, following work by Casanave (1995), Leki (1995), and Riazi (1995). I conducted an informal e- mail survey in March 1997 with the department graduate advisors and some students in the ten departments which, according to the directory at the Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA) web site, appeared to have the largest numbers of Chinese graduate students. Then I applied the following criteria in selecting the department: (a) a large number of Mainland Chinese doctoral students; (b) requirements that students take courses involving considerable written assignments; and (c) expressed faculty/student concern over students' academic writing. As a result of that process, I decided to locate my study in the Department of Wood Science, which had 12 Chinese doctoral students at that time. However, as shown in 3.2.3 below, no Chinese students were enroled in Wood Science in September 1997, so I later had to reconsider the participant source and selection (see below). I regard these preparatory and supplementary activities as the initial stage of my study. 33 3.2.2 Main Stage I: Interviewing Two Chinese Doctoral Students (08/97-09/97) I conducted the first section of the main stage (i.e., Main Stage I) of the study in late August and early September of 1997, when I interviewed two first-year doctoral students from Wood Science who had come from Mainland China, Ming and Ting (see Tables 3.1-3). I had known Ming personally before the interviews. When I invited him to participate in my study by showing and explaining to him the purpose of my study and data collection procedures (see Appendix A for a modified version), Ming readily accepted my invitation. Then he introduced me to the second student, Ting, who was both his classmate at UBC and his colleague in Beijing. The major techniques I adopted were semi-structured qualitative interviews where I was guided by, but not restricted to, a list of pre-designed questions (Marshall & Rossman, 1995; Patton, 1990) (see Appendices B and C for modified versions), and document analysis. With each participant I conducted three interviews lasting from one to one and a half hours in their offices. The first interview focused on a questionnaire on the participant's background. The second interview inquired in some detail about how the participants wrote their academic assignments and other issues related to their study in general and academic writing in particular. The third interview centred on a course paper each had written for a course and had presented to me as their writing sample. Also at this interview I solicited their comments on my study and suggestions for my further research (see 3.2.3 ). At the beginning of each subsequent interview I member-checked with them the information I had gathered at the previous interview/s. When offered an option to use either English or Mandarin or a combination of the two for the interviews, Ming chose Mandarin but occasionally used English. Ting used English for the most part but switched to Mandarin when he encountered difficulty in expressing himself. I simply followed them in my use of the languages for interview. All the interviews were audio-taped with permission from the participants, and afterwards, transcribed in English and analyzed. At this point I wrote up the first 34 full-length draft of data analysis for Main Stage I and presented it to my supervisory committee on November 6, 1997. Table 3.1: Student Participants NAME PROGRAM MAJOR ENTRY TIME GEN- DER YEAR OF BIRTH TOEFL (TWE) GRE Ming PhD Wood Sci 05/96 M 1964 597 (4.0) 1910 Ting PhD Wood Sci 09/96 M 1966 583 (4.5) NA Ling PhD Wood Sci 09/96 F 1968 597 (4.0) 1970 Feng PhD Wood Sci 01/97 M 1965 603 (No) No Hang MS Forest Sci 01/96 M 1964 601 (3.5) 1680 Ning PhD Food Sci 09/96 M 1957 593 (3.5) NA Ding PhD Animal Sci 09/96 M 1971 603 (3.5) No Ping MAS EE 01/97 M 1969 653 (5.0) 2210 Qing MAS EE 09/96 F 1968 610 (4.5) 1910 Xing PhD EE 01/97 M 1964 627 (4.5) 2000 Wang MAS EE 09/96 M 1964 630 (5-0) 1800 Kang MAS EE 09/96 M 1970 620 (5.0) 2050 Bing MS Resource Eng 09/96 F 1965 593 (No) No Ying MS Audio- logv 09/96 F 1967 627 (NA) No Zong PhD Wood Sci 09/89 M 1963 580 (NA) No 35 Table 3.2: Student Participants' Educational Backgrounds in China NAME DEGREE MAJOR TIME Ming BS Wood Sci 81-85 MS Wood Sci 85-88 PhD Wood Sci 88-91 Ting BS Forestry 84-88 MS Forestry Eng 88-91 Ling BS Wood Sci & Tech 86-90 MS Wood Sci & Tech 90-93 Feng BS Biology 82-86 MS Cell Biology 86-89 Hang BS Forestry 81-85 MAeronomv Forest Genetics 85-88 Ning BM Medicine 77-82 M M Pharmacology 84-87 PhD Toxicology 90-93 Ding BS Public Health 87-91 MS Animal Sci (UBC) 94-96 Ping BE Automatic Control 87-92 BE Environmental Eng 87-92 ME Automatic Control 92-94 Qirig BS Automation 85-89 MS EE 89-92 Xing BS Industrial Automation 80-84 MS Control Theory & Applications 86-89 Wang BE Electronics 83-88 ME Electronics 90-93 Kang BE Eng & Nuclear Physics 88-93 MS Electronics 09/93-12/95 Bing BS Environmental Biology 81-85 MS Environmental Biologv 87-90 Ying BA English Literature 85-89 9 Zong BS Forestry 79-83 MS Wood Manufacturing 83-86 36 Table 3.3: Student Participants' Prior Work Experience NAME POSITION COUNTRY TIME Mine Ass. Prof China 91-96 Ting Research Intern China 91-94 Ass. Prof China 94-96 Ling Lecturer China 93-96 Feng Ass. Researcher China 89-92 Visiting Scientist France 93-95 Hang Ass. Prof China 88-95 Ning Doctor China 87-90 Cook Canada 93-96 Ding Government Food Inspector China 91-94 Ping Ass. Prof China 94-96 Oing Electric Engineer China 92-96 Xing Ass. Engineer China 84-86 Engineer China 89-96 Wang Ass. Engineer China 88-90 Engineer Singapore 93-96 Kang Software Engineer China 01/96-08/96 Bing Research Assistant China 85-87 Research Associate China 90-93 Ying Tour Guide China 89-93 Import & Export Co-ordinator Canada 93-96 Zong Assistant Researcher China 86-89 Table 3.4: Faculty and Staff Participants (Study Follow-Up) NAME DEPT POSITION CHINESE GRADS SUPERVISED THEN+BEFORE Ellis Wood Sci Prof 3+3 Irvin Wood Sci Prof 3+12 Oates Food Sci Assoc. Prof 5+6 Rav EE AssOc. Prof 2+6 Smith EE Prof 3+11 Adams EE Prof 4+14 Vivian EE Secretary NA 37 Though the first section of the main stage of data collection was completed in a limited period of time, I continued to interact with the participants on e-mail long afterwards, sometimes concerning my interpretations of the data. For example, in September 1998, Ming asked me to proofread his dissertation proposal which was based on the writing sample I had reviewed for him a year before. 3.2.3 Main Stage H : Interviewing 13 Chinese Graduate Students (09/97-04/98) I started to recruit participants for the second section of the main stage of my study in September 1997. I had planned to recruit 6-10 new first-year doctoral students who would come directly from Mainland China. In order to maximize the possibility of recruiting such a number of students, I expanded the scope of my participant source to the whole Faculty of Forestry, which included Forestry Science and Forestry Management in addition to Wood Science. I decided to study doctoral students rather than Master's students because the great majority of Chinese students in the Faculty of Forestry were doctoral, providing me more chances to find the desired participants. Other selection criteria were that the students had not been abroad previously for more than three months, had come directly from Mainland China, and had decided to take courses requiring major writing assignments (such as an investigation report or a term paper) in forestry during their first term of program study. My plan was partially informed by studies such as Huxur et al. (1996) and Perrucci and Hu (1995) and my own observations, all of which indicated that international ESL students typically face more problems at the early stages of their study in a foreign country. During this period they experience environment shock, language shock, and culture shock most strongly, so they need understanding most and for that matter, offer the best opportunity for research (Stake, 1994). In addition, the participants also needed to be willing to participate throughout the longitudinal study, including data collection during their first term (09- 38 12/97) and follow-up interviews in January-February 1998. However, the Faculty of Forestry did not enrol a single graduate student from Mainland China for Fall 1997. This was due partly to the increase of international graduate student tuition and partly to the lack of spaces for new international graduate students, according to the head of the Department of Wood Science. This was not at all what I had expected, given the Faculty's previous enrolment of Chinese students. Thus I had no choice but to approach other S&E departments to recruit new first-year doctoral students. Earlier, Ting, one of the participants in Phase II, had suggested that I recruit students from other departments, whom he had found to be different. Chinese Chemistry students, for instance, were more aggressive than he and his Chinese classmates in Forestry. After contacting several new Chinese doctoral students who were introduced to me by the CSSA or who came to the Spoken English Tutorial Program for which I was a tutor, I found that most either had little required writing to do or were too busy to commit themselves. I ended up with only one doctoral student from Botany. However, some new Master's students whom I met at the Spoken English Tutorial expressed interest in being interviewed. As I already felt that new students would not have much academic writing experience to talk about, I decided to recruit six "old" students..who (1) had come from Mainland China (directly or indirectly), (2) had been studying in either a PhD or Master's program at UBC for at least six months, and (3) had done or were doing considerable writing for their course work. By "considerable" I meant at least two term papers or one term paper plus some other minor assignments such as lab reports. As I had started interviewing the six new students, I did not give them up at that point. Like the new students, the old students came to attend the Spoken English Tutorial and agreed to participate in my study after I inquired about their academic writing experience at UBC and invited them to take part in my study (see Appendix A for Informed Consent Form). These participants were from several S&E departments such as Electrical Engineering, Botany, and Metals and Materials. 3 9 I included 12 of them, in the event that some might drop out of the study. But after the first round of interviews, I had to abandon the new students because unlike the participants in Casanave (1995) or Leki (1995), they typically had very little writing to do for the courses they were taking during their first term at UBC. One told me her advisor deliberately allowed her to postpone her written assignment for her Directed Study because she was having language difficulty. Since these new students had just started their studies in Canada, they had had very little writing experience to talk about. It was clear that they would not be able to supply me much of the information I needed for my study within the time I planned for my project. So in order to collect rich data needed for my study, while retaining the six old students: Ling, Feng, Ning, Ping, Qing, and Xing (see Tables 3.1-3), I recruited six more of the "old" category: Hang, Ding, Wang, Kang, Bing, and Ying (see Tables 3.1-3). I did so by revisiting the student record files for the Spoken English Tutorial Program from the previous year when I began as a tutor for the program. I e-mailed my invitation to 10 candidates (see Appendix A) and selected six who replied positively and who met the three criteria mentioned above. It is worth noting that S&E graduate students in general have far less written work to do for their courses than their humanities and social science counterparts. The two departments that furnished the largest numbers of the 12 participants were Wood Science and Electrical Engineering. The other departments were Forestry Science, Food Science, Animal Science, Audiology, and Bio-Resource Engineering. Zong (see Tables 3.1-3) came to my study through special circumstances. Unlike any of the 14 student participants I had studied, Zong was highly recommended to me for his exceptional academic success by a faculty member in Wood Science whom I interviewed the study follow-up. The faculty member suggested that I interview Zong to find out what study strategies he used when he was a graduate student in his department. Zong was now a shining young scientist at a research institute on UBC campus. Deeply intrigued by his success in his graduate studies, I decided to include him in my study even though he was no longer a student. Thus my study 40 evolved even further, unexpectedly but logically. While writing up my research, I felt obliged to include Zong, as Leggo (1997) reminded me, "we need to honour the multiplicity and meaning-making and mystery that are at the heart of the searching in our research" (p. 3). The methods I used for data collection in this section were largely the same as those adopted in the first section, but I had refined the interview guides (see Appendices B and C) and added another list of questions (Appendix D) in case I needed them for the final "free talk" I planned.. I had learned from my instructional experience that due to their education in China, most Mainland Chinese students in sciences and engineering would not talk on occasions such as my interview unless they were asked questions. Even when questions were posed, they would usually stick to the questions and seldom go beyond to other topics. "Free talk" in the sense of "talking about anything you like" would not work with most of these students, so I always carefully prepared questions in advance of each interview. From September 1997 to April 1998 I conducted five interviews with each of the five participants (Hang, Ning, Ping, Qing, and Bing): one based on Appendix B, two on Appendix C, one on Appendix D, and another on the participants' sample writings; four interviews with three participants (Feng, Xing, and Wang): one based on Appendix B, two on Appendix C, and one on Appendix D; three interviews with two participants (Ding and Ling): one based on Appendix B and two on Appendix C; three interviews with one participant (Kang): one based on Appendix B, one on part of Appendix C, and one on a combination of the remaining part of Appendix C and Appendix D; two interviews with one participant (Ying): respectively based on Appendices B and C, and one interview with one participant (Zong): based on a condensed combination of Appendices B-D. All the interviews were conducted in the seminar rooms in the Education Building at UBC except in the case of Feng, Ying, and Zong who preferred to meet me in their offices. Normally, the interviews each lasted one hour to one and a half hours. But the interview with Zong and the second interview with Ying each lasted two hours. Instead of an interview, 4 1 Ying had time only to respond to Appendix D on e-mail. The great variety in the number of interviews and use of my interview guides was due to the time each participant had available for interviews and their varied degrees of interest and ability to talk. While they all showed interest in participating in my study, some were more active and enthusiastic than others. The case of Zong was special: I only intended one interview with him as he was very busy. I audio-taped all the interviews with their permission, and then transcribed all of them - a total of 57 hours for this section. Though the participants were offered an option to speak Mandarin, all chose English to respond though all used isolated Mandarin phrases on occasion and some of them resorted to Mandarin for short segments of the interviews. I normally followed their choice and switched to accommodate them. They all appreciated being interviewed and having the chance to practice their oral English. Zong even valued the interview as his first opportunity to discuss learning English which he regarded as his hobby and at which he excelled: "I don't know if I do it right. I never had such a chance to talk with other people about my learning language" (April 8, 98). When I asked whether speaking English affected their expression of ideas (see Appendix C), they all replied negatively because they felt relaxed and comfortable during the interviews, able to say what they wanted to in a variety of English that made sense to me. This is in congruence with Bourdieu's (1977) position that "when people speak, they want to be in a position to command the respectful attention of their listeners. In the absence of such attention, learners not only become anxious, but they begin to question their own self-worth" (Norton Peirce, 1993, p. 226). On occasions when they indeed had difficulty expressing some concepts in English, they resorted to Mandarin. Even the awareness of having Mandarin as a second choice and/or talking with a bilingual who was or had been their tutor raised their comfort level. The following interview segments illustrate my points: 42 J: Why did you choose English to answer my questions? W: Because I think it's an opportunity for me to practice my English. As a matter of fact, if I make some mistakes or if I can't express myself, you can help me at once. (Interview with Wang, Dec. 4, 97) J: Why did you choose English to answer my questions? L: I want to take this advantage to practice my English because for us, you know, in UBC there are so many Chinese students here. If you don't practice English so much, you can speak Chinese every day. J: I see. L: You don't have any chance to speak English. J: Do you feel using English interfered with your expression of ideas so far? L:No. ' v J: Why not? So whatever you want to say, you have said it? L: Because if I have some problem, I will use Chinese. So, If you are English student, maybe I will feel a little nervous, I will not speak so free to talk to you because I think, OK, maybe my English is not so good, making mistake, they will think about my language problem. But for you because you can speak Mandarin and English for me, I feel so free to talk with you in English. Even I cannot express myself, I think I can use Mandarin. In Chinese say, 'ni you yi tiao hou lu' [you have a way out in the back]. J: You have something to fall back on. Right. We did in a few places, 98% we used English. That kind of feeling gave you confidence, I guess. L: Yeah. (Interview with Ling, Jan. 10, 98) In addition to the interviews, I collected course outlines, writing samples of lab reports, term papers, project reports, and thesis/dissertation proposals from the participants. I made sure to get at least one writing sample from each participant except Zong. The samples from Ning, Ping, Qing, and Bing were to be submitted to the faculty while those from the others were past assignments. I offered to proofread or review their writing samples and discuss my comments and suggestions with them. They all accepted my offer except Ying and Kang, who seemed too busy to review their past assignments. They appreciated my comments from an experienced English teacher's point of view and liked the one-to-one tutorial-style interaction when I discussed my comments with them. In fact, partly due to my proofreading and suggestions for rehearsal, Ning was able to pass his extremely tough comprehensive exam (see section 4.6 for more details). I had asked the participants to write e-mail journals, but none was able to do so. However, we often relied on e-mail to make interview appointments, ask each other questions, 43 and perform other daily communication functions. Ning, in particular, asked me to correct the mistakes in his e-mail to me. N: Whenever I write e-mail to you please correct my mistakes. J: You don't mind being corrected? N: I prefer so. J: If you like it, I'll do it for you. N: Writing e-mail is a learning opportunity. (Interview with Ning, Dec. 5, 97) Sometimes I used e-mail to ask for further information or member-check with the students to clarify my understanding of the interview data. It was during Main Stage II that I started a research log to record my thoughts of the moment, striking interview quotes, useful references and quotes from literature readings, and ideas for organizing the dissertation. I found the research log to be of great value in helping me manage the important information needed for such an extensive research project. 3.2.4 Study Follow-Up: Interviewing Faculty Members (02/98-03/98) In order to create a dialogue between the student participants and the related faculty as well as to obtain another perspective on Chinese graduate students' academic writing experiences, in February 1998 I invited via campus mail the participation of 17 faculty members who were (co)supervisors and/or course instructors of the student participants. Surprisingly, after a lapse of two weeks only two faculty members (Oates and Adams ; see Table 3.4) replied to my invitation. I re-sent the invitation by e-mail and gained five more positive replies (Ellis, Irvin, Ray, Smith, and another faculty member) and seven negative ones. The rest did not respond. I made an 2 As with the students, pseudonyms are used for all the faculty and staff members who participated in the follow-up. 4 4 appointment with each of the seven faculty members and held an hour-long interview with each of them in their own offices except Ray. Ray offered to meet me in a seminar room. During the interviews, I was assisted by a guide which I brought along, but the interviews often explored far beyond the guide. All the interviews were audio-taped with permission from the faculty participants. Of the seven interviews, six turned out to be useful. Smith kindly introduced me to a graduate secretary Vivian and suggested that Vivian was a right person to talk to regarding the study difficulties of Chinese graduate students. So I briefly described my research, obtained a quick consent, and interviewed Vivian without the benefit of an interview guide for half an hour. This and the other six interviews were transcribed afterwards. Apart from the interviews, I visited the home pages of all the related departments and faculty participants. These home pages provided me with an understanding of the program requirements and academic contexts for my student participants and points of reference for my interviews with the faculty. 3.3 Procedures of Data Analysis In congruence with the tenets of qualitative research (e.g., Denzin & Lincoln, 1994; Lincoln & Guba, 1985; Merriam, 1988; Meloy, 1994; Norton Peirce, 1995b; Strauss & Corbin, 1990), I adopted an interpretive, inductive approach in my treatment of the data. That is, I read and reread the transcripts of the interviews and other collected documents to search for recurrent themes. Specifically, for Main Stage I, I coded the transcripts on paper, searched for interrelationships between codes, and then for the themes and subthemes. I then pooled the segments with the same codes together in my discussion of the themes and in an attempt to address the questions I asked at the outset of the project. The research questions I asked and the interview guides I employed greatly influenced my induction of the themes. I felt that I did not 45 have total freedom to treat all the data equally but felt obliged to search for answers to the research questions. However, this does not mean that I found satisfactory answers to all the questions. For instance, based on my review of the literature (e.g., Leki, 1995a; Prior, 1991, 1995; Riazi, 1995) I had asked the following question, among others, in my research proposal and for Main Stage I: "How do the students react to faculty response?" I had assumed that the faculty in Wood Science would provide plenty of feedback on the students' written assignments as did the faculty studied by Leki (1995b), Prior (1991, 1995), and Riazi (1995), and the Faculty of Education at UBC. But as it turned out, the instructors offered very little feedback, and as I discovered in Main Stage II, that is rather common with science and engineering instructors. What is more problematic is that many of them simply did not return students' assignments (see Chapter 5 for more discussion). So, while still maintaining my interest in exploring students' response to faculty feedback, I removed the question as a major research question but instead went to the faculty with questions such as why some of them did not provide feedback (see section 1.3 and 3.2.4). Thus it is also true that while the research questions I had asked guided my data collection and analysis, the former did not control the latter. In "inquiry-guided" (Mishler, 1990) research, "research questions and answers evolve[d] in a mutually informative, dialectical manner" (Ramanathan & Atkinson, 1999, p. 53). Creswell (1998) also suggests that our questions are modified during the process of research to reflect our increased understanding of the problem. The analysis of the data in the interview transcripts for Main Stage II was much more elaborate than that for Main Stage I. While reading and rereading the transcripts, I coded in pencil meaningful segments on paper and in the meantime, wrote the codes in pencil on a large spread sheet which allowed me to see all the codes on one surface like an unfolded map (see Appendix E for a final coding system). Having all the codes on one map enabled me to compare the codes and categorize them as I added more or moved them around as necessary. Often I had to rename or modify the codes to stay closer to the meaning conveyed, to merge themes, or avoid confusion 46 with other codes. For example, I changed "suggestions for my study [SGS]" to "participant suggestions for my study [PS]." I dropped "language preparation in China [LPC]" and "teaching methods in China [TMC]" to merge them with "English education in China [EEC]." I had to change "[MI]" initially standing for "motivation/investment" to "[M]" to make room for [ME] which I thought would better stand for "methods for interview." Modification of the coding system continued throughout the process of analysis (see Glesne & Peshkin, 1992), whenever a new theme emerged or a new understanding of a theme necessitated recategorization. After I coded all the transcripts on paper, I coded them again in my computer file while continuing to refine the coding system. It is worth noting that each modification of the codes or the system signified a deeper understanding on my part of the data. Out of the individual files, I was able to build several larger files which allowed me to easily search for all the segments, or as many as necessary, under one code - without losing the context of the segments which I often had to refer to in order to help interpret the segments. 3.4 M y Role as Researcher One characteristic of qualitative research is that the researcher is an instrument for data collection and interpretation (Lancy, 1993). As such, the kind of data collected and the interpretations made of the data are dependent on the researcher's interest and understanding of the particular historical context (see also Norton Peirce, 1993, 1995b). While summarizing the tenets of critical research, Norton (2000) and Norton Peirce (1993, 1995b) points out that critical research, and I think all qualitative research, rejects the view that any research can claim to be "objective." In order for the audience to have an accurate understanding of what I collected and how I collected and interpreted the data and to judge the acceptability of my interpretations, I must explain who I am and what role I assumed in the research. 4 7 3.4.1 Who A m i ? I pursued a B.A. in English Language and Literature at a comprehensive university in East China from 1979 to 1983; my primary interests were grammar, rhetoric, and writing. Upon graduation, I was assigned to teach English as a foreign language (EFL) at a local key technology university. After one term of teaching undergraduate engineering students I was asked to teach EFL to graduate students in sciences and engineering. Though I taught all the language skills, my emphasis was on reading comprehension, grammar, and writing (composition). Two years later I returned to the same comprehensive university to complete a three-year Master's program in English Language Studies, and thereafter, resumed my teaching at the technology university. Like tens of thousands of other Chinese students and graduates, I took TOEFL in 1989, earning a score of 650 out of 677. Two years later I was able to enter the Master of Education program at The University of Eastern Canada (UEC; a pseudonym) with a graduate teaching assistantship. In my first term at UEC, I was overwhelmed by the amount of literature I was supposed to read for the three courses I was taking and the number of written assignments I had to complete - one critical analysis every week and one major paper every other week on the average. In China I was accustomed to intensive studies of limited readings and non-source-based (i.e., without referring to sources) compositions. Despite my strong language foundation from China and the fact that I had written my first Master's thesis in English, I found it difficult to write the assignments at UEC with the required format and structure specifications. Fortunately, I had some Chinese friends who had taken similar courses before and who were willing to loan me their written work as models. Partly because of these models and the detailed instructions in the course outlines, I was able to earn 85-91% as marks for all the courses. Before I left UEC I had had two articles accepted by a journal and co-authored a book chapter. 4 8 I came to the PhD program in Curriculum and Instruction at UBC in 1993. However, while I was prepared for a culture shock at UEC, I was not expecting the academic culture at UBC to be different from that at UEC. Possibly due to its huge geographical, if not demographic, size, I found greater distance between people at UBC, both physically and socially. Nevertheless, UBC had much better computer and electronic mail facilities. These facilities enabled me to communicate freely and efficiently with individual members of the community on and off campus and to join several academic discussion lists such as qualrs-l@uga.cc.uga.edu and a large number of community lists such as zhong_hua@cs.ubc.ca. Thus I read scores of e-mail messages and write many on a daily basis. My e-mail with two doctoral students is worth mentioning. After I met Helen, who came to my presentation at the TESOL conference in Seattle in March 1998,1 started a series of e-mail discussions on the writing and cultural problems of Chinese students with her. Helen was researching for her dissertation the writing experiences of six Chinese graduate students in education at Harvard University. We were soon joined by a third doctoral student researcher, David, from The University of Illinois at Chicago. David had taught English in China and was working on his dissertation research in composition writing by Asian students. The discussions helped clarify some important issues related to my research such as student-conference, interaction, student-teacher relationships, and professionalism (see Appendix G for sample excerpts). The academic e-mail lists, on the other hand, provided me timely input on issues involved in qualitative research in addition to the books I had read. Some of the discussion and debate topics were "generalizability," "grounded theory," "triangulation," "coding," and "researcher as instrument." These discussions proved very helpful for my research. E-mail, and to a lesser extent, world wide web more recently, are the primary channels through which I interact and keep myself connected with the outside world. If people at UBC are physically distant from one another, e-mail has undoubtedly made it appear less so. The more 49 laudable value of e-mail, however, lies in the connections, communications, and integrations that I have benefited from not only with the on-campus community but the off-campus and international community - on academic, social, and even emotional grounds. As such, e-mail has been an essential and invaluable tool in my research process. 3.4.2 M y Role as Researcher As researcher, I was first and foremost an interviewer as interviewing was the primary method for the data collection. Being a graduate student from Mainland China with Mandarin as my LI, having experienced a culture very similar to that of the participants, and being in the same age group of 25-40, put me on a relatively equal footing with the student participants. That is one major reason why these participants felt comfortable throughout the interviews and could express themselves mostly in English, their L2. The following segment from an interview with Wang is one such illustration. J: Do you think speaking English, your second language, would affect your expression of feelings, ideas? Like during the conversation with me? W:No. J: Do you have any difficulty expressing what you want to say, your feelings, emotions, ideas? W: Sometimes I can't find proper words to express myself. J: Do you think that affected your talk with me? W: No. J: How come? W: I can say that when I talk to you I feel even more comfortable than talk to other native English speakers. J: How come? W: Maybe because we have the same background. J: A lot more understanding between us. (Interview with Wang, Dec. 4, 97) When he indeed could not find proper words, he would use alternative, if less appropriate, expressions, or I would offer suggestions to help out (see below). The relatively equal footing and 50 resulting comfort afforded me an advantage to develop the rapport and trust necessary for case study and process-oriented research (Stake, 1994). Further, I was a spoken English tutor for most of them; also, I assured them that the data collected from the one-on-one interviews would be kept strictly confidential. For all these reasons, the student participants were very open and frank with their experiences, difficulties, and perceptions, at least as it seemed to me. The tape-recorder did not seem to distract them at all. On the other hand, because I had taught English to other Chinese gradate students and had been in constant contact with the Chinese student community orally and electronically, I was often able to detect what the students were trying to express when they had difficulty doing so, as shown in these two illustrations. J: The academic culture, the way people talk, the way people write. P: I'm always trying to find out what's their - J: - their way of doing it? The general term is culture. (Interview with Ping, Nov. 29, 97) X: But maybe at the beginning of the term, the teacher didn't give all these things. Maybe the students are not fully - J: - aware? X: Aware of the burden, the load. (Interview with Xing, Nov. 18, 97) As researcher, I was more than an interviewer. In my Informed Consent Form (see Appendix A), I promised the potential student participants that in return for their participation I would act as a resource person to help them with their cultural and academic adjustment difficulties. So, I carried over my capacity as spoken English tutor by offering advice to overcome their difficulties. For example, when Ning and Qing expressed their concerns over oral presentations, I advised them to rehearse, which they tried with very positive effects. Bing wanted an assignment back but the instructor never returned students' papers. I told her to go to the instructor's office and ask for it. This enabled her to retrieve her assignment. I also offered to proofread papers which they were writing or revising. Ning, Ping, Qing, Bing, Ding, and Xing 51 each presented me with at least one such paper. Ming, Ting, Ling, Feng, Hang, and Wang produced past assignments. I read each paper carefully and made suggestions to correct grammatical, rhetorical, and editorial errors or to improve the structures and expressions. Then I would meet with each participant and explain how and why I made those suggestions. The participants were very appreciative of my feedback since they did not often receive much feedback from their faculty. (See Chapters 5 and 6 for more discussion of the students' writing difficulties and problems and student perceptions on faculty feedback.) For illustration at this point, I reproduce Ning's salient metaphor. Sometimes you need feedback. That's very important. Feedback not means you really point out that point. But feedback is in one sense to me encourage. It's source of energy. No matter whether this is something right or wrong, give me energy, OK? (Ning, Dec. 5, 97) Thus as "academic consultant" and tutor, I directly participated in the construction of the student participants' academic experiences, albeit to a very limited extent. Furthermore, the interviews served as venues for exploring the participants' academic experiences in order to reach a better understanding for them and me. In the case of Ning, the interviews provided a foundation for knowledge construction, as illustrated in the following: N: No, when I talk to you, most like I talk too much. Sometime when I talk, it also organize my thought. Also clear my experience. J: Clarify your thoughts, reorganize your thoughts. N: Reorganize my thoughts, yes. Sometimes when something happened, I didn't pay attention to. When I talk to you, it's all things came together. J: You become more conscious as you reflect on them. N: Became conscious, became theory, become refined. Become refined experience or refined knowledge or something like that. (Interview with Ning, Jan. 2, 98) Therefore, as researcher, I sometimes worked with the students as they sought to articulate their ideas. 52 3.5 Summary In this chapter I have argued for the adoption of a qualitative multi-case study to explore the academic writing experiences and perceptions of some Mainland Chinese graduate students in sciences and engineering at UBC. Such a study affords both the depth and breadth necessary for my search for insights into the academic writing processes and issues. Then at great length I have explained the development of the study, especially the second section of the main stage. As typical of qualitative research, the development took an emergent course. In order to accommodate and make use of the unpredictable circumstances, I had to adjust and re-adjust my methods for data collection and analysis. In the explanation, I have chosen to embed the introduction of the research location, participants, and specific methods in the description of the development instead of following a traditional approach to display them discretely. Finally, I have presented an introduction of who I am and what roles I took in the study to aid readers in their interpretation of my study. C H A P T E R 4: PROFILES O F T H E STUDENT PARTICIPANTS In this chapter I present a profile of each of the 15 Mainland Chinese student participants (see 3.2.2 and 3.2.3). Although Zong, the last of the 15, was no longer a student when I interviewed him, I included him because our interview conversation was largely about his experience as a graduate student at UBC. Each of the profiles includes brief biographical information, TOEFL and GRE scores (where available), prior educational and work backgrounds, academic studies at UBC, especially language challenges, and other relevant non-academic experiences and thoughts in Canada. The information is drawn mostly from my first interviews with them but also other interviews. These stories are meant to help interpret the other findings in the rest of the study. I end the chapter with a summary of the profiles. 4.1 Ming I think it's [my research in China] all useless. It all belonged to history. No matter how good your academic background in China was, once you come here, you have a 'blank page.' (Ming, Aug. 25, 97) One of the participants, Ming (see Tables 3.1-3), came from Beijing, where he worked at a research institute in 1991-96. Ming was in his early 30's and appeared quite fit. His highest position before leaving China was associate professor. Previously, Ming had completed his studies at a forestry university in East China where he obtained a B.S., an M.S., and a PhD degree, all in Wood Science. The language of instruction for all his undergraduate and graduate courses was usually Chinese. He seemed to be very strong in his academic preparation and research career. By the time of his departure for Canada, he had published about 20 articles in national journals and written 40 entries for a dictionary of materials. Four of these articles were co-authored with his 54 doctoral supervisor and five had been out before the completion of his PhD in 1991. It was a requirement of the university that doctoral candidates publish at least three articles before graduation. As they were published in China, all the writings were in Chinese. When I praised him for his accomplishments, he appeared rather modest, explaining that it was normal for researchers at the institute to publish a large number of articles. Ming did not have any international publications. He had not been out of China except for a week-long visit to India prior to his departure for Canada. Ming entered the PhD program in Wood Science at UBC in May 1996 with a TOEFL score of 597 (out of 677). Despite his academic and professional accomplishments in China, Ming did not appear proud. Instead, he assumed a very pragmatic attitude toward being in Canada. In order to be a student, and then a research assistant, of a supervisor who was working on a theory- oriented project, he had to forget about the research he had previously done on the applications of wood-bamboo composites. Hence, he made the comment at the outset of this section, "I think it's [my research in China] all useless...No matter how good your academic background in China was, once you come here, you have a 'blank page'" (Ming, Aug. 25, 97). The following quote from our interview further reflects Ming's frustration over the lack of proper recognition of his past academic achievements as well as his disappointment at and struggles with his English skills. Let's take it the opposite way. Say he is learning Chinese and is a graduate student in China and I am his professor. I'm sure his level of abilities are much lower than mine here. We often make the joke that if I have money, say $2 million, I ask you to be my graduate student and learn Chinese for five years. Then I will test you on Chinese EPT [a hypothetical Chinese test equivalent to English Proficiency Test used in China]. I make you write Chinese papers and then mark with crosses and circles. It's true that some 'lao wai' [foreigners] make such marks on some Chinese students' papers. If I had $10 million, I could have you be my student. Wouldn't you accept it if I gave you more funding, say $200,000 a month? The condition of being a student is that you learn Chinese and pass all kinds of exams. Sometimes we feel unhappy about it. The difference between us is that they have a better grasp of the language. Mainly language. J: In terms of scholarship, you are no less good than them. M: Very similar. They probably have a little better technologies and computer uses. Otherwise, we are similar. 55 (Interview with Ming, Aug. 27, 97) Ming thought that the level of his research and disciplinary knowledge could match that of his professors. What distinguished him and his professors was mainly the language of his discipline at UBC. Ming had wanted to find a job in Canada. But since the chances in his area were very small, he had to keep on pursuing (his second) PhD research. Thus he could secure some financial support and earn his North American credentials while waiting for employment opportunities. During the previous 15 months, Ming had taken five courses, four of which were in the Faculty of Forestry. For these courses, he wrote numerous reports and papers. The most representative, however, was a 36-page paper he wrote for a Directed Study. I made a copy for document analysis. Though he complained about his difficulty in expressing himself orally, he did not do so about his writing. But as suggested above, this does not mean that he was free of writing problems. I will discuss the writing problems of Ming and other participants in Chapter 7. 4.2 Ting When I took exams, I had correct ideas. But when I put them on paper, they meant different things. (Ting, Aug. 27, 97) Another participant, Ting, worked at the same research institute in Beijing as Ming did during 1991-96 before coming to study in Canada (see Tables 3.1-3). Ting was in his early 30's. He obtained a BS. in Forestry and an M.S. in Forestry Engineering at a university in Beijing. He received his pre-university education in Inner Mongolia, one of the most underdeveloped remote areas in China. The highest position he held in China was assistant professor. He co-authored two articles published in a national journal based on his Master's thesis research on non-wood-based 56 particle blocks. Now he was expecting to have one or two papers published in an authoritative journal in Germany. In his undergraduate studies, Ting received his education almost exclusively in Chinese. He had English as a foreign language (EFL) for two years, six hours a week. His English teachers were Chinese, some of whom had previously shifted from teaching Russian. The teaching methods were largely grammar-translation of "scientific English" (easy science readings). He learned very little practical English. While in the Master's program, he continued to have his specialization courses taught in and by Chinese. However, during this time he was fortunate to have American teachers for most of his English classes, including listening, speaking, and writing. These English classes met for a total of eight hours a week for one and a half years. It was in his graduate years that Ting really began to learn some English. Partly for this reason, he was able to perform well in his English tests later on. Ting entered the PhD program in Wood Science at UBC in September 1996 with a TOEFL score of 583. He had also written the GRE and scored 560 (out of 800) on the verbal part, which is remarkably high. He lost next to nothing on vocabulary. However, since he memorized words mechanically right before the tests, he had a limited understanding of how to use them in other contexts. Before long, his memory of the words faded. That is why he still had difficulty with the everyday meanings of many words, though his grasp of such meanings as applied to his specialization was functional. He compared his level of listening comprehension to that of an elementary school student. When I was in class, I felt I understood. But after class I forgot everything. I don't have anything in my memory. This lack of memory suggests I was listening at the level of an elementary school student to the lectures of a professor. (Ting, Aug. 27, 97) But how could Ting still survive the courses he had been taking? He owed his learning to cognitive thinking in Chinese. But in courses which required much English description, his 57 cognitive thinking lost its advantage. So writing was still one of his big problems, as he admitted: "When I took exams, I had correct ideas. But when I put them on paper, they meant different things....And yet, you didn't realize that in your writing" (Aug. 27, 97). Ting had taken five credit courses and audited another. Four of the credit courses were offered by the Faculty of Forestry. Among these four, two courses were especially relevant to my study. One course, a doctoral seminar, required writing and presenting a grant proposal, which would then be read and marked by three professors. Because it was the first time Ting wrote a formal paper at UBC, his proposal revealed a good number of problems such as grammar, spelling, punctuation, clarity, and format (see Chapter 6 for a discussion of the students' writing challenges). The paper he wrote for a Directed Study, he reiterated, was longer and better. But unfortunately, it was not available since he had loaned it to another student. I made a few more inquiries about the paper afterwards, but he never said the paper had been returned. Ting appeared very humble. Whenever something went wrong with his language in listening, speaking, or writing, he would take it to be his own fault. He seldom blamed his professors. Yet, in China it is not uncommon to hold the teacher responsible for the student's academic well-being (or the lack thereof). Teachers are often blamed for not being strict enough with students and for not driving students to work hard enough in and out of class. Ting was very pessimistic about job prospects. In his words, finding a permanent job related to his area of study was "not hard in the usual sense but extremely hard, almost impossible" (Aug. 27, 97). This loss of hope doubtlessly had a negative impact on his studies, plunging him into a state of uncertainty concerning whether to continue his current program or to shift to a more practical area. The latter option would likely find him short of both academic preparation and institutional financial support, the means for his day-to-day living. To my knowledge, Ting was just one of many Mainland Chinese graduate students struggling with the dilemma over the conflict among academic interest, financial support, and job prospects, 58 especially at the doctoral level. 4.3 Ling In China even if I got some general chemistry education, it's just Chinese, no English. I remember the first day when my supervisor talked to me, he talked about copper sulphate, 'liusuantong' [Chinese pronunciation], it's really a common chemical in China. Even you just have very simple chemistry education, you will know this. But for me I cannot understand. I don't know the language. My supervisor talked about copper sulphate. I don't know what he was talking about. But he write down on the blackboard, I know it's 'liusuantong.' So in chemistry there are many, many new words. Every chemical is a new word for me. (Ling, Nov. 8, 97) Ling came to the PhD program in Wood Science in August 1996 (see Tables 3.1-3). In her late 20's, she had a B.S. and an M.S. degree in Wood Science and Technology from a university in central China. Her TOEFL score was 597 but she did not perform very well on the GRE due to her difficulty on the Verbal part. Ling had actually been lucky; she had two hours of English every day during her first year in the Chinese graduate program because "the university wanted us to concentrate on English training" (Ling, Nov. 8, 97). Her English courses included writing and reading taught by Chinese teachers and speaking taught by an American. But for writing practice, "I always first write down a Chinese paragraph, then translate into English" (Ling, Nov. 8, 97). Even though her spoken English teacher was an American, Ling had few chances to speak with him because he was also teaching young teachers. All of his students wanted to talk to him. Thus it is not surprising that she complained about her difficulty in English, especially in vocabulary. Even at the third interview on January 10, 1998, Ling still found herself baffled by her shortage of vocabulary. Sometimes I want to - I don't know how to express my ideas clearly. But I have some Chinese words in my mind, but I got to translate into English. But translate doesn't exactly express my idea. So I'm not happy when I translate English. But I can't find the words within my range of vocabulary. (Ling, Jan. 10, 98) 59 Ling's language difficulty was exacerbated by her choice to take up a somewhat different area of study, which she had to pursue in an entirely different educational system. Thus she found triple (or more) pressure arising from challenges in language, content, and culture. I feel the study pressure is too much, compared with the Chinese education system....Maybe also I find the language problem. For me, my research background is totally different from now I do wood preservation. Mostly it's pure chemistry actually. But for me I don't have so strong a chemistry background. So for me it's really difficult, very tough. (Ling, Nov. 8, 97) Ling revealed a similar feeling two months later. The language problem, still a problem. So you have to use this second language to do all of your work. Also the education system is different here. So you have to adapt to the new system. I don't know. I feel pressure, I think every kinds of pressure here, especially for Chinese students. (Ling, Jan. 10, 98) Ling seemed to have little choice but to face the pressures imposed on her, though she disliked the academic acculturation. Before she left for Canada in 1996, Ling had been a lecturer at a university in South China for three years. During this time she had published one article in China, co-authored with her Master's thesis supervisor. At the time of the first interview on November 8, 1997, she was submitting a paper co-authored with her doctoral supervisor to a journal, having presented the paper herself at an international conference. Despite the triple pressures (from language, culture, and discipline), Ling seemed to be making great progress in her doctoral program. She had finished three courses and was taking a Directed Study and auditing a fifth. She was also working on her dissertation proposal and her comprehensive examination. The Directed Study prepared Ling for the literature review section of the proposal. By the second interview on November 23, 1997, Ling had come up with a second draft of the proposal, and she was going to submit a 6 0 second proposal, co-authored with her supervisor, to an international conference to be held in Belgium the next year. Ling indicated that she was able to make such progress because she received strong support and guidance from her supervisor. L: I have finished the paper [dissertation proposal]. My supervisor also helped me correct it. I have to work on the computer first to correct this part [marked by the supervisor]. J: So your supervisor already gave you the feedback. L: Yeah, already. My supervisor is quite good, helped us to improve the writing. This is the second draft [showing the draft]. The first draft he corrected much more. He is quite strict. Here it should be capital [upper case]. You really have to be very careful. But it's helpful. L: My supervisor suggested for the Directed Study, he wanted me to put the literature review (for the comprehensive) together with the Directed Study paper because the Directed Study will be scored by another professor. (Interview with Ling, Nov. 8, 97) Thus with her supervisor's support, Ling might well be able to complete her studies on time despite the challenges she faced initially. "Yeah, getting better," she sighed. 4.4 Feng They [two papers] published in Plant Cell Reports. This was done in China. We have four authors. And one author, he is my former classmate. He write the article and submit but returned back. The editing manager told us that the contents is very good but English...he tried to correct the English but found it is very difficult to correct. So he suggest us you can contact some scientist....So at that stage I was in France. So my friend sent that copy to me because he cannot find a scientist who speak English: So I go to another scientist, but he is a native speaker form England. He work in France but he's an English guy. So he corrected something for us. Then we submitted [and got the paper accepted]. (Feng, Nov. 5, 97) Feng was 32 at the time of the first interview in 1997 (see Tables 3.1-3). He received a B.S. degree in Biology and an M.S. degree in Cell Biology, both from a university in Tianjin, China, and then worked at the Chinese Academy of Sciences as an assistant researcher for three 6 1 years. Feng was considered lucky among his colleagues in that he had an opportunity to visit an institute in France during 1995-97. There he did research as a scientist on the interaction between rice and bacteria. Though most people at the institute spoke French, Feng could meet almost all his communication needs, oral and written, in English. This special experience distinguished Feng among all my student participants. Like Ming (see section 4.1), he had published 13 co-authored articles in China, about half of which were related to his Master's thesis; later he was able to publish seven co-authored articles in international journals, all in English. He wrote these articles while in France but some were based on his research in China. Since his research was group ̂ projects, his publications were always co-authored, but he was often the first author. Feng's case seemed to reveal that for scientists in China the major barrier to publishing in international journals was the English language, rather than the quality of research. Indeed, most researchers in China were incompetent English writers and help was hard to find. This should come as no surprise as science students seldom paid attention to writing English. F: I think in China you don't care about your academic writing because I think the mark depends on the midterm and final normally. J: What about your Master's program? -> F: Similar. You have a mid term and final. J: You did not write many papers? F: No. The homework did not count toward the mark. Right? So just midterm and final. So you don't care about that, but here you should care about this. J: As long as you perform well on exams, then you are a successful student. F: Yeah. J: But here you have to do well on assignments. F: Because they have some percentage. (Interview with Feng, Dec. 23, 97) But when he was in France, Feng was able to get help from native-English speakers with his writing. Feng joined the PhD program in Wood Science at UBC in January 1997 with a TOEFL score of 603. He was attracted to the biotechnology group at Wood Science for its practical 62 research: ...because here we have a biotechnology group. They have that kind of group here. So I worked in biotech before. Even here is wood science, but our topic is plant and bacteria interaction, the same as I did in France before. So I came here. (Feng, Nov. 5, 97) At the time of our first interview, Feng was taking two courses; earlier, he had finished one course offered by the Department of Plant Sciences. By the time of our fourth interview in February 1998, Feng had almost completed the first draft of his dissertation proposal. So he appeared to be making good progress with his studies. Feng had some difficulty writing general English since he sometimes could not express his feelings accurately. But thanks to his practice writing research papers in France, he did not think he had serious problems writing technical English. Still, he found the discussion part of the research paper challenging, compared with "materials, methods, and results" since he had nothing to follow in discussions. He saw two reasons. First he was doing original research, which meant his data were new. Discussing new data and using them to support his arguments seemed to pose some difficulty to him. Second, Feng was very well aware of the consequences of following examples of published articles, for which he could risk being accused of plagiarism (see Chapters 2 and 5-7 for detailed discussions of plagiarism). When I contacted him again in June 1998 for a writing sample in addition to the three- page report he had given me earlier, he sent me another article he had just published in a British journal. Feng was the first of four co-authors, which means he probably had assumed the most responsibility for the research and writing. Possibly because he had few writing requirements for his studies by the time of our fourth interview and he did not find much difficulty with technical writing, Feng did not think writing was very important for him to complete his studies. However, he thought writing was of great importance for his future career as communications skills, oral and written, were placed high in the list of job qualifications. Once he had completed his PhD 63 studies, Feng intended to work in a pharmaceutical company where he could use his biotech expertise to produce drugs. 4.5 Hang If I want to improve my writing I generally select some papers again, one or two or three. Maybe sometime I translate into Chinese this paper. Then I put it aside for one month, then I translate Chinese [back] to English. (Hang, Nov. 25, 97) Hang was 33 at the time of our first interview in 1997 (see Tables 3.2-4). He held a B.S. degree in Forestry and a Master of Agronomy degree in Forest Genetics from China. From 1988 to 1995 he worked as an assistant professor at a Chinese research institute of subtropical forestry. While in China, Hang had published eight articles in Chinese, all co-written with two to four authors as he had worked with a research group during his graduate studies. But Hang was the first author. These articles reported on efforts to improve the growth of trees genetically. While a graduate student, Hang and two peers had translated a book from English into Chinese. The book was published under the name of his supervisor, who merely made mention of the three students in the preface. Hang entered the Master's program at the Department of Forest Sciences at UBC in January 1996. His TOEFL score was 601 with 3.5 (out of 6) on the Test of Written English (TWE) and his GRE score was 1680 (out of 2400). When I interviewed him in November 1997, Hang was considering transferring to the PhD program in his department. By the end of December 1997, he had completed a total of nine courses including one running for two terms. Several of these courses required language-based (i.e., language accounting for more than 50% of the work) term papers and lab reports, which proved a great challenge to him. When he was in China, Hang thought everything in Canada was beautiful and easy-going. But when he arrived, he 6 4 < found everything challenging, especially language. For example, on one course paper he commented: I spent too much time on this paper. Yeah, I started this paper from the begmning because at the beginning he told us we should write paper and this course's grade mainly based on this paper. The first time I submitted, he returned. He told me my language was...my written English...I submitted the second time, he told me write again because, I don't know why. Besides language, he told me I didn't grasp the main point of the seminar. Three drafts. (Hang, Nov. 14, 97) In order to practice and improve his writing, Hang adopted a unique method. He would find an academic article or book in his field, translate it into Chinese, a few pages at a time, then translate the Chinese back to English and compare it with the original. He felt that through such repeated assiduous practice, he would eventually develop his proficiency in written English. J: Do you think it will take you a long time to translate? H: A long time, but I think it's very useful. Just to read is not very useful. Just reading, I cannot find some problems. But when I write it the problem came. J: So you would compare your translation with the original article? H: Yeah, sure. When I translate to Chinese I put it aside for a week or two, then I translate the Chinese back to English. J: Was your English very different from the original? H: Very different, but for academic article, if you do several times, you get used to the style. (Interview with Hang, Nov. 25, 97) At the time of our second interview, Hang was planning such bilingual translation with a monograph of 500 pages. He believed that practice makes perfect and that after finishing that book, he would be able to write well in his area. His translation practice was actually a continuation of the way he learned and used English in China. Since he devoted so much time to improving his writing, Hang neglected the practice of speaking. Therefore, during my five interviews with him, he spoke English and Chinese alternately. Even though he had transferred to the PhD program by the time of our last interview in February 1998, he was trying to postpone his dissertation research proposal defence as he was afraid he might not be able to describe his 65 intended research adequately. If he failed in the defence, he would have to graduate with a Master's degree. Besides language, Hang found cultural integration intimidating. Several times he tried to socialize with his NNES peers but felt disappointed. In fact, the attempt at integration proved so frustrating that he wanted to give up. Hang also found the student-teacher relationships hard to accept. As a graduate student in China, he worked with a small research group headed by his supervisor. The relationships with his supervisor and other group members were very close. But in his department at UBC, that relationship was nowhere to be found. ...the relationship between supervisor and student is nothing like that in China, like father and son or like very close. The supervisor-student relationship here is very cold, just as teacher-student. (Hang, Dec. 15, 97) Hang envied Chinese graduate students in other departments such as Wood Science, who seemed to receive much better care and faculty support. This seemed to be the case with Ling (see section 4.3). To Hang, the coldness from his professors and the rejections of his drafts and requests for rewrites were not just matters of strictness on the part of the faculty; to him they revealed racial discrimination in his department, which he thought was more real than apparent. Like most Chinese students, Hang had landed in Canada as a permanent resident. He wanted to' find a job doing research at an institute, government agency, or industrial company. If he was offered such a job, he would take it immediately even before he completed his PhD degree. 4.6 Ning For me Learning is whole life process. Now what I do is just learning process, especially here I need more learning, but this learning is frustrated [frustrating]. I thought I have done this a lot. I thought I can do well. But I didn't do that well. I need to improve and I 66 want to improve. (Ning, Jan. 2, 98) Ning was one of the two participants in my study who had already earned a PhD in China before coming to Canada. Born in 1957, Ning was also the oldest among my student participants. While in China, he also received a Bachelor of Medicine degree and a Master of Medicine in Pharmacology. In his doctoral research at a university in Beijing, he investigated toxicology, in particular, the effect of lead on the human eryphrocyte and how to prevent lead from damaging human blood cells. Through the study he made five discoveries about how lead can affect blood cells. However, Ning claimed it was during his Master's studies and three years as an assistant professor at the same academic institute immediately afterwards that he started to "get into science" and gain experience. Based on his doctoral research, he published three Chinese articles with English abstracts in Chinese journals. So it could be said that Ning was a leading scientist in his field in China and possibly internationally. Ning came to Canada in 1993, and then worked for three years doing odd jobs, washing dishes, and cooking in restaurants to make a living. He was accepted to the PhD program in Food Science at UBC in September 1996 with a TOEFL score of 593. Since he had not been granted any financial assistance when I first contacted him in September 1997, he had to continue cooking for a restaurant on weekends. Many Chinese students studied in certain programs because they could get financial support there. But clearly this was not the case with Ning. His background was in medicine and pharmacology, but now he was in food science, a different, albeit related, field. In response to my curiosity about why he chose to undertake the PhD program, Ning replied: N: You have to get education in order to find a job. You don't have Canadian education. No one can recognize your experience in China. J: Why do you have to do a PhD? You can do a Master's to get experience. N: If a good graduate program, something very exciting, very challenging, I'd like to take Master's. For Food Science I don't think Master's program is suitable for me. I know PhD needs more time and more hard working. I don't like this, but I have to take this. J: You mean Master's wouldn't prepare you adequately for the market? 6 7 N: I think doing Master's degree wastes my time. For Master's degree you just do what you are told to do. You are machine, a technician. You don't have to have your own thought. I have my own thought, my own idea. Why do I have to follow others? It's a painful process. Better I choose this one. x J: So you want to do something creative. N: I always do something creative. Same thing. Why I want to take the PhD program in China? Why? I want to be independent; otherwise you have to be...But I don't know. I don't know whether I can get good result after I finish the program. I don't know. (Interview with Ning, Jan. 2, 98) Similar to Ming who also had an established history of research, Ning had to start all over again. By September 1997, he had completed seven courses in his department. Because he lacked a background in food science, five of them were at the undergraduate level. For these courses, he had written one lab report, two term papers (literature reviews), and one research proposal. He received 60 out of 100 on one term paper because of his language problems. When I met him for our second interview in November 1997 (see 3.2.3), he had just passed the comprehensive exam, which was a stay-or-quit exam and very tough for him. Based on a broad half-page question, the exam consisted of a written part, to be completed within one month, and an oral part, something like a dissertation defence. Ning recollected the tough experience: Actually, it's called defence. After you've done this, you are supposed to know everything about what you write. Even you haven't done anything; you are supposed to familiar with method, methods and also results, so everything they can ask you. What kind of instrument you are using. So last 3 and a half-hour. You stand there. Keep asking. They have 6 professor. OK. They have two rounds. One round everyone have 15 minutes. So whole session, 30 minutes to ask you questions. 6 members. So they have 3 hours to question. That's a lots of questions. They keep asking. Not stop. This finished. Another one next. (Ning, Nov. 13, 97) Ning had to pass the comprehensive exam in order to start research and get hired as a graduate research assistant and paid. If he failed in the exam, he had to quit; therefore, he had to prove as early as possible that he was able to stay in the program. While in China he had enjoyed academic program security by being able to enter programs through competitive exams; at UBC Ning felt an absence of such security. 6 8 N: ...Here different from China, here is: you die is you die. J: Sink or swim. N: Sink or swim. They don't care. If you can pass, you pass. If you fail, you go, quit. Kick you out of school. J: Very brutal. (Interview with Ning, Jan. 2, 98) By the time of our second interview in November 1997, Ning had started to find a research topic for his dissertation proposal. His supervisor had also promised to hire and pay him soon. Ning admitted having problems with various aspects of English including grammar, idiomatic expressions, style, sentence connections, and vocabulary. But he was willing to learn and often made deliberate efforts to learn. For example, he was the only student participant who asked me to correct mistakes in his regular e-mail. N: Whenever I write e-mail to you please correct my mistakes. J: You don't mind being corrected? N: I prefer so. J: If you like it, I'll do it for you. N: Writing e-mail is a learning opportunity. (Interview with Ning, Dec. 5, 97) 4.7 Ding Sometimes I just feel I cannot express it clearly. Sometimes don't know which is the most suitable for this meaning. How to express it? Especially during scientific writing sometimes it makes somebody confused. They don't know what you are talking about. (Ding, Nov. 17, 97) Ding, aged 26 in 1997, was the youngest among my student participants (see Tables 3.1- 3). He first came to the Master's program in Animal Science at UBC in January 1994. While in China, he received a B.S. degree, at the age of 20, in Public Health for the control of infectious 6 9 diseases among animals and humans. Then, he worked for three years as a government officer at an inspection center for fish and meat. During the last year, he also managed a food-processing company in central China. However, he was misinformed about what it might mean to "study at a Canadian university." When I first came here, even now I feel it's very funny. When I came here I was just 22.1 just think the impression of foreign countries because by that time I just watched Pekingese in New York [one of the first TV movies about contemporary Mainland Chinese abroad]. Even if I got the student authorization, I just think I came here to actually work here. So I even didn't bring any textbook. (Ding, Dec. 15, 97) Though Ding scored 603 on the TOEFL, he complained about his bad pronunciation as his teachers never taught him how to speak English. To prepare for tests such as TOEFL, he simply bought a book and studied by himself. Naturally, he was to meet with language difficulties in his studies at UBC. When I interviewed him, Ding had completed his Master's degree and was now registered in the PhD program in Animal Science. By that time he had taken a total of seven courses including two running for two terms, offered by his own department and the Faculty of Medicine. For these courses, Ding had written 16 lab reports and two term papers and given eight presentations. In addition, he had written a Master's thesis. The oral presentations in particular were hard for him in the beginning. "I remember clearly each day when I was waiting for bus, I had to try to remember what I'm going to say" (Ding, Nov. 17, 97). Fortunately, one graduate seminar came to his help. The course instructor videotaped the three presentations he gave and went over the recordings with him in detail offering constructive comments and suggestions. Thus Ding could perform with more ease in his later class presentations. Ding worked very hard. Besides his course work, he gave six conference presentations and was the first author of seven articles co-written with his supervisor and published in international journals of science. One of these presentations even won a second prize. 70 According to Ding, Chinese students are very strong in background knowledge. But they have difficulty expressing their ideas in English and therefore do not appear as strong in the English-medium classroom. The background, the knowledge...I believe Chinese students is stronger than foreign [non- Chinese] students, but just we cannot express it. But I think we are stronger than them. (Ding, Dec. 15, 97) Therefore, whenever he wanted a discussion, he would seek out another Chinese student. Ding had strong career ambitions. He knew exactly what he was doing, what he wanted to do after he finished his PhD, and what it would take him to reach his goal. For a start, he had studied for and received a trading certificate at a community college and set up his own company. Just biotech co.. Because I finished both experiments, so I can directly identify opoptosis, opopotic cells. This is actually a common mechanism for the cancer cells. So I also make some kits to sell to China. But I just started. I just got my second order from China. (Ding, Dec. 15, 97) Ding was very pragmatic. He knew it might be difficult to find a job if he continued to pursue theoretical research, so he changed his dissertation topic and persuaded his supervisor to agree to replace two of his committee members. One of the new members was from the clinic. When I met him for our second interview he had just finished redrafting his proposal, of which I made a copy with his permission. But his initiative surfaced only after he grew more confident and fairly established in his research. Before, sometimes I know this thing my supervisor did wrong or something. I feel not comfortable to say it. But I don't dare to say this. But now I don't care this because I have to be realistic. After I graduate I can't find a job, I'll be in big trouble. So I have to think about myself, think about my future. (Ding, Dec. 15, 97) Ding was very conscious of the non-academic requirements of being.a graduate student at UBC. In China, university students, graduate or undergraduate, received living subsidies from the government and/or family members, and job assignments upon graduation. So they did not have much to worry about except their studies. But being a graduate student at UBC meant studying, working, and living independently, and taking control of one's future. Because student is not same as when you were student in China. Anyway, you have so many pressure here because you come to this land, you have to face basic living, survival, how to struggle for this. So you cannot be like other students - don't need to worry about many things. You need to worry about work, future, everything. You cannot totally concentrate on your study. But in China you don't need to worry about anything. (Ding, Dec. 29, 97) Though native-English-speaking (NES) students at UBC, especially at the graduate level, also have to take care of themselves, Ding certainly seemed to be one of those Chinese students who had adapted to this aspect of Western student life. 4.8 Ping The problems is, the general impression you give is you are not a native speaker. I know it consist of many specific errors. But I'm not clear, myself is not clear about that. (Ping, Nov. 8, 97) Ping, aged 28, enrolled in the Master of Applied Science program in Electrical Engineering at UBC in January 1997 (see Tables 3.1-3). His test scores were exceptionally outstanding. He received 653 on the TOEFL with perfect marks on Grammatical and Written Expressions and Reading Comprehension, and 5 on the TWE. His GRE score was 2210 with 640 on the Verbal part. While in China, he had received a Bachelor of Engineering (BE.) degree in Automatic Control, a minor B.E. degree in Environmental Engineering, and a Master of Engineering (ME.) degree in Automatic Control Theory and Application from one of the leading engineering universities in Beijing. He was the lead author on three articles published in Chinese journals, and co-translated two articles published in the U.S.. Ping also had given five conference 72 presentations in China. Before he arrived at UBC, he was an assistant professor at the institution where he had been a student. When I interviewed him in November 1997, Ping was taking three engineering courses, having completed another three during his first term at UBC. For his course work he had written two lab reports, one term paper, and one project report besides other assignments. Because Ping received very little feedback on his language, he was still using some of the conventions common in Chinese writings but not in English, as revealed in a course paper he showed me in late November 1997 for proofreading. Though he tried very hard to "live in Rome as Romans do" and imitate reliable published writing samples by native-English speakers, he still had various language and mechanical problems in his writing such as the use of articles, prepositions, idiomatic expressions, and punctuation. Sadly, he was not aware exactly what his problems were: "I know it consist of many specific errors. But I'm not clear" (Ping, Nov. 8, 97). And yet, he did not expect feedback from his instructors on the formal aspects of his writing: P: Also I don't think it's their responsibility. J: No? P: No. J: To give you feedback? P: I mean the feedback on my language. It's not their responsibility. J: Why? P: You see, for example, maybe not true for your department. I came to this department of Electrical Engineering. They should teach you as much as possible about electrical engineering, this field. But language, I'm not in English or education. I don't think it's their responsibility. J: Then whose responsibility is it to help you with academic writing? P: I think first, it's myself. Second, if possible, the university, if they can afford the finance, like - J: - the ESL classes. P: It's [offering ESL classes] important, and useful, but they are not obliged to do so. (Interview with Ping, Feb. 9, 98) Ping thought the reason that instructors seldom offered him feedback was that they were so focused on the content that they did not care about the language or other formal aspects of the 7 3 writing. Thus without feedback from instructors or others and without self-awareness, I believe Ping's formal problems would have continued, had I not explained what I found problematic during my proofreading. Still, Ping hoped that "if they have time, if they can, rewrite or point out my mistakes, my inappropriate usage and return my assignments, my paper, my thesis to me" (Feb. 9, 98). Ping was very appreciative of corrective feedback. Ping used Chinese for daily communication about 80% of the time. At home he spoke Chinese all the time and at school, half of the time Chinese and half of the time English. Even though the larger environment for him was English, the immediate environment was still Chinese since he had Chinese classmates, friends, and roommates and they found it more convenient to talk in Chinese. When he spoke English, even though it might not be correct, his Chinese interlocutors could totally understand him. This environment with many other Chinese students had a negative effect on Ping's learning of English. The best way to leam English, he observed, was to totally avoid Chinese, if possible, in order to practice speaking English. Fortunately for him, at our last interview, Ping revealed that he would be getting some practical experience. You see, at last time I stayed there [Prince George] for one week, I didn't meet one single Chinese person. Of course I know there are several Chinese person. Actually I have made contact through e-mail [with some Chinese person]. But around me no Chinese. I think it's good. (Ping, Jan. 24, 98) However, since his contact with native English speakers at UBC was rather limited and the feedback he received from his instructors was very minimal, Ping did not feel a tremendous culture shock, unlike some other student participants (such as Ling). J: Any cultural conflicts? Are they serious? P: Not very serious. You see, at university, very often we just talk about the academic problems. For the culture we only talk with each other, asking for curious. 'Oh, something different from ours.' We didn't discussing some deep things. J: Like values. I think a big difference lies in social values between Chinese culture and western culture. P: Yes. I think the reason there's no big conflict is that we didn't touch it. 74 (Interview with Ping, Jan. 24, 98) As suggested by his exceptional test scores, Ping was an excellent student. He had received A's and A+'s for the six courses he had taken at UBC. He intended to finish his Master's degree program by October 1998, and then decide whether to find a job as electrical engineer or to continue his studies in a PhD program. 4.9 Qing Actually I have done a lot for the programming. Spent lot of time. But when I came to writing, I didn't want to write anything. Finally, I just got 20 pages, less than other students. For that course I didn't get a good mark just because of language problems. Actually I have done a lot. When I came to writing, I didn't know how to say it. When I write in Chinese I think it's OK. But I didn't know how to say it in English. It's very bad. (Qing, Nov. 1, 97) Qing, aged 29 in 1997, enrolled in the Master of Applied Science program in Electrical Engineering at UBC in September 1996 (see Tables 3.1-3). She had the same co-supervisors as Ping. Before she arrived at UBC, Qing had earned a B.S. in Automation and an M.S. in Electrical Engineering in China. She passed College English Band Four as an undergraduate and Band Six as a graduate student; these are tests administered in Chinese universities as English proficiency tests for non-English majors. Qing seemed to have learned the English textbooks very well in high school but did not work very hard at English after entering university, as she explained, My grammar was very good in secondary schools. I scored almost 100% in the national entrance exams. But after I entered my university, which was not a good key one, my English failed to improve. According to my usual and entrance exam scores, I could have entered Tsinghua University or USTC [University of Sciences and Technology of China]. But I didn't put them as my first choice....But after I entered university I didn't study very hard. At that university, not many students went abroad. So I didn't pay much attention to English. I just tried to maintain the same (top) class standing, even in my graduate studies. After that I worked for some years. Only in 1995 did I realize I should study English and took the course The New Orient for one month before I took TOEFL. My grammar 75 should be good. My vocabulary should be no big problem. But I didn't study a writing course. No systematic training. I don't know the theoretical part of writing. Also, I didn't writing a lot of things. Only in reading when I was a graduate student, my foreign teacher asked us to write a little bit description, exposition, etc. (Qing, Nov. 1, 97) Like many university students in China, Qing learned English with an emphasis on grammar and reading. Not surprisingly, she scored 610 on the TOEFL and only 4.5 on the TWE. She even scored 1910 on the GRE with 500 on the Verbal part. But since she received almost no training in English writing and had almost no experience writing essays and the like, she found herself unable to express her ideas in a paper. So, she was dismayed at the course report she wrote during her first term at UBC, as she described in the first quote above. While in China, Qing had published one co-authored article in a Chinese journal, based on her Bachelor's thesis. Between 1992 and 1996, she worked on commercial research projects as an electrical engineer at an institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. When I first interviewed Qing in November 1997, she had finished six courses and was taking another one and auditing an eighth. She had written four reports for courses, but still had difficulties presenting her ideas and research. One reason for her difficulties was that she normally coded her ideas in Chinese. When she wrote in English, she had to translate. Hence, she had to use many expressions from the literature to express herself in English. Despite her writing difficulty, Qing had generally received good grades on her papers. She appeared to work very hard on her experiments, computer simulations, and on constructing figures. Luckily for her, language was not a priority in her program. We pay attention to the result. We spent too much time on the figures. Finally we just compiled everything together and gave the report. So in this way if we can get the correct result and the result is good, it's [more] important than the writing. (Qing, Dec. 30, 97) 7 6 To devote as much time as possible to her research, Qing worked in her lab almost every day, including evenings, weekends, and holidays. Maybe the Chinese students are used to working every day. So now even today it's a holiday, I don't think I should stay at home. I just come here. I have a lot of things to do. (Qing, Dec. 30, 97) It was primarily due to her hard work that Qing could do well in her program. She intended to finish her Master's program in 1998 and then, if possible, work as an electrical engineer. She would consider doctoral studies only if her job hunting attempts failed. 4.10 Wang Normally you have got the ideas. Normally it's a new idea, a new discovery from your experiment. There is no one. You cannot find them in any other papers. Then how to describe it properly. That's hard. (Wang, Dec. 4, 97) Wang, 33 in 1997, entered UBC in September 1996 (see Tables 3.1-3). He was attracted by the comparatively low tuition UBC charged international students at that time. While in China, he attended a leading engineering university where he earned a Bachelor's degree and a Master's degree, both in Electronics. In 1988-90, between these two degree programs, he worked as an assistant engineer for a space science center. Between 1993 and 1996 he went to Singapore, where he designed computer hardware. Though the formal working language at that company was English, he spoke Mandarin with his workmates privately. So, unlike Feng's experience in France, Wang's three years in Singapore did not have much positive effect on his English or his technical knowledge. But he did gain some practical experience. Wang's highest TOEFL score was 630 with 5 on the TWE. That was from the test he wrote in Beijing in 1991. When he wrote another in Singapore later, whose score was accepted by 77 UBC, it turned out to be lower.3 He also took the GRE in 1991 but only received a total of 1800. Wang's program at UBC was the Master of Applied Science in Electrical Engineering. When I interviewed him in November 1997, he was taking one course, for which he was to write a technical report on his design of a computer chip and some simulation. Meanwhile, he had just started his Master's thesis research in wireless network communication sponsored by a local company and had to write a quarterly report on his thesis for the company. In addition, as his research formed part of a four-person project led by his supervisor, he was supposed to meet with the group once a week. Prior to September 1997, Wang had completed six courses, all in classes with 20 or more students, and had written five course papers. Wang had several concerns about his English. Typically when he read an English article, he would have to process the information in Chinese; otherwise, he would feel unsure whether he indeed understood what he read. In order to comprehend and remember the information from his reading, Wang had to add the information to his Chinese framework of knowledge as if he would not trust his English. He described his use of Chinese for information processing this way: J: While you read, it's in English. After you read, you process it in Chinese. W: I think so. J: Because you want to relate to something you learned before. W: Most probably in Chinese. W: I think only when you say in your mind in Chinese, OK I understand, then you are really understand about this paragraph. And if in your mind, your Chinese is totally a mess, then you really don't get the point. You just use this kind of things to think. I think it's still in Chinese style. (Interview with Wang, Dec. 4, 97) Wang was also concerned about the simple style of his writing. He felt that his simple vocabulary and sentence structure did not match the complex research he was trying to present. 3 As per the Educational Testing Services (ETS) policy, TOEFL scores are valid only for two years. 7 8 Moreover, he lacked confidence in expressing ideas for which he could not find expressions in the literature. Presenting original research was the most difficult: W: How to do the discussion, how to do the comparison between your result and those of others. J: So to discuss the work in the framework of the research. W: How to find the meaning of your work, summarize your work actually. J: Do you find it hard, the expression is hard or just to discuss it is hard? W: The expression is hard. J: Harder than ideas, the organization. W: Normally you have got the ideas. Normally it's a new idea, a new discovery from your experiment. There is no one. You cannot find them in any other papers. Then how to describe it properly. That's hard. (Interview with Wang, Dec. 4, 97) By the time of our last interview in February 1998, Wang had not published anything. Perhaps because of his language difficulty, he did not plan to continue studies in a doctoral program. Instead, he intended to seek a job at a communications company. 4.11 Xing The major problem is you have a lot of thing to write but you should organize them properly. I think this is a problem. (Xing, Feb. 15, 98) Xing came to UBC in January 1997 (see Tables 3.1-3), aged 33. He held a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and an M.S. in Control Theory and Applications, both from a university in central China. Before he left China, he had been an engineer at a university for seven years and an assistant engineer at a firm for two years. Xing had published four co-authored articles in Chinese journals. These articles reported his group projects that aimed to build up a supervisory control and data acquisition system to control the power systems of electrical rails. Xing had also given two conference presentations, on power control systems, at international academic conferences held in China. 7 9 Xing was enrolled in the PhD program in Electrical Engineering with a TOEFL score of 627 and 4.5 on the TWE. His GRE score was 2000 though his program at UBC did not require applicants to write the GRE (most Chinese students who wrote the GRE in China did so to satisfy the requirements of American universities). Ten U.S. universities had admitted him but offered no financial support since his GRE score, which was excellent, was still considered not competitive enough. So Xing accepted the offer from UBC. He was glad to be a student again with an opportunity to learn new knowledge that he had always desired. Further, he felt that at UBC he could learn actively with a purpose. His only regret was that he did not start studying in Canada at a younger age. I think it's quite good experience to be student again. What I feel is I wish I were still a young guy, just around 20 years old. Maybe as teenage I can study in undergraduate studies. In China we learn very passively, not actively. Here we still have some purpose and learn actively. This time I have a very clear idea, I should know what kind of stuff. But when I was a graduate and undergraduate in China, I don't know. I didn't know what I should learn, and at what I should spend more time and energy. But this time I know. (Xing, Dec. 20, 97) When I first interviewed him in November 1997, Xing was taking one course in computer science for which he was to perform a computer simulation and then write a report on it. He was also working on his thesis proposal, also known as quaUfying exam in his program. Earlier, he had completed three courses but had not had to write much for them. Partly for this reason, Xing found writing difficult. In particular, he had difficulty getting his thoughts organized and finding the appropriate words to express his thoughts. It seemed to him that in order to write well, he had to keep on writing. Once he discontinued his practice'for some time, his writing skill would deteriorate. X: In my writing I think another problem is I just want to find a word to express my meaning more accurately. Sometimes it is difficult to find such a word just because I don't writing things frequently. J: I see. Do you use a thesaurus? 8 0 X: Thesaurus? What's the meaning? J: A dictionary of similar words. X: Actually previously when I was an engineer at South China University [a pseudonym], I wrote a lot of things. I wrote documents for my institute, all in English. I also translated a lot of technical documents for other people and companies. So at that time I wrote quite a lot. But after that, I stopped writing for several years. So I find writing is not too easy. (Interview with Xing, Nov. 3, 97) One problem that Xing had in his writing at UBC, at least initially, was that he tended to focus on the plots (simulation procedures) and pay less attention to comments. His few comments turned out to be too general to be meaningful. He also pursued "good results," at the expense of thinking carefully how he would achieve the result. Xing attributed these practices to the Chinese way of thinking: Here we must be very specific. In China we just did it very generally, and give some general comments. Here the comments must be related to some concrete examples. When I came here, the first assignment I did a terrible mistake. I plot a lot of plots in my simulation. The prof said 1 would like to see more comments than plots...' Another I think is different. In China, maybe for this way of Chinese thinking, they pay more attention to the result, not the method. If you can get a very good result, you can get a good score or mark in China. But here, the profs pay more attention to the method you use. Maybe you don't get a good result just because the time is short, or your method is not well done, but it's unique. So at that time, it's impossible for you to get a satisfying result in a short time. But the prof say 'Oh, this method is original.' Even though you don't get a good result, you can still get a good score. (Xing, Dec. 20, 97) Obviously, Xing had received some feedback or advice from his instructors or supervisor. But like many other Chinese students, he expected more feedback, not only on the content of his writing but also on his language. He wanted to know where he was strong and where he was weak or wrong so that he could work hard to improve the negative areas. X: Oh, sure. I wish they look at it carefully and give me some correction on my English, some suggestions, comments about the method I use. I wish they can feedback this info to' me. J: Exactly, I think many students would appreciate that kind of feedback because that's where you can know - X: - feedback a lot of info. This method, whether it is good or not. I write it. It's good just 8 1 because it's my opinion. What's his opinion? If he can give me feedback, I can get more info. J: Right, and you can feel more confident. If it's not perfect, you can try to improve it. X: I can improve the way of my thinking. (Interview with Xing, Dec. 20, 97) Xing wanted to be perfect. I presume this desire for perfection is a carry-over from what he (and most other Chinese university students) had developed in the extremely competitive Chinese context, where only those students who performed perfectly or nearly so on exams could enter the university. He wanted the feedback from the professor because, for him, the professor was someone who must be responsible and omniscient, and have the right answer to his questions. 4.12 Kang I just transferred to Master from PhD. I was accepted as a PhD candidate. But the job market these years is pretty good. So when I finish, if I go ahead for my PhD, when I finish, it will be 4 or 5 years in our department. So after that, how can I know if the job market is good any more? (Kang, Nov. 11, 97) Kang was 27 in 1997 (see Tables 3.1-3). He had an English name but preferred to be called by his Chinese name. Kang held a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Engineering Physics and Nuclear Physics and an M.S. in Electronics from two of the best universities in China. Based on his Master's thesis research, he wrote one article and gave two conference presentations in China. The article was later published in a Chinese journal. Before he came to UBC in September 1996, Kang worked as a software engineer for seven months in China and among all my student participants, had the least working experience. Kang indicated that he came to UBC by accident, implying that he had wished to study elsewhere. He had scored 620 on the TOEFL, 5 on the TWE, and 2050 on the GRE, all excellent 8 2 scores. But his GRE score was below the average in Beijing, which he quoted as 2100 for the year he wrote the exam. When he first came to UBC, he enrolled in the PhD program in Electrical Engineering but later switched to the Master of Applied Sciences program in the same department to take advantage of the opportunities in the current job market. Pursuing the PhD degree would take four to five years - too long for him. Besides, he thought that in his field a Master's degree was more than enough to find a job. Kang was very job-conscious. When we met in November 1997, he had just "got landed." But he was ambivalent as to whether to stay in Canada as a permanent resident or move on to the U.S., where the job market was even better. At the time of our first interview, Kang was taking one course, for which he was to write a full-length research report that included a proposal and later, a final report of 40-50 pages. Further, as stated in the course outline, "the more you exceed the page limit, the better it has to be." Earlier, Kang had completed six courses for which he had written four laboratory reports, one term paper, and two project reports (similar to term papers in structure and length). He had also submitted two proposals for conference presentations in the States. Kang found it difficult sometimes to organize sentences because he believed that technical writing, unlike general writing, should have long formal sentences with complex structures. Though complex sentences could be confusing, they were considered signs of high quality in technical writing. If he wanted to write good English in his assignments, he should emulate those typical sentence structures. Sometimes it's difficult to organize sentence. You know, in technical writing the sentence is pretty long. Sometimes, you have to give many conditions. You have to describe many things, preconditions, and post conditions in whole sentences. Sometimes in one paragraph only one or two sentences. That's hard to organize that in formal English structure. Technical English is quite different from general English, from spoken English....Formal words, long sentence. In general English you don't use very long sentence. That means confusing and misleading. But in the technical writing people often use long sentences - just kind of trick. (Kang, Nov. 11, 97) 8 3 Moreover, he believed that to write good English, he had to think in English. "If you want to improve your English, improve your English writing, you have to force you to think in English and write in English. Sometimes I force me to do it" (Nov. 22, 97). While he might not have to always write long complex sentences, he was on the right path to writing English by trying to think in it. Kang relished the academic freedom allowed at UBC. A student could choose virtually any topic for research, and could even change the program supervisor if necessary. In China a student could only dream of such freedom, for graduate students are selected and admitted by individual professors, rather than the department, and normally have to study under the supervision of the same professors throughout the program. Moreover, Kang was amazed at the information technology he had access to at UBC; he could retrieve huge amounts of information in minutes. Campus environment is quite different from there in China. You can propose to do anything you like in the academic. You can choose topic you like. If you don't like, you can change the supervisor if you like. No one can force you to do something you don't like it. But in China sometimes you have to do it (no choice). Yeah, there's the highly developed technology here. It's very benefit to, students to do research or study in the...you can retrieve some paper very quickly. (Kang, Nov. 11, 97) As an immediate beneficiary of information technology, Kang thought that the Internet really changed our lives, including how we communicate and conduct research. His amazement was one force that motivated him to choose electrical engineering as his future career. 4.13 Bing When I think, I have a lot ideas in my mind. When I try to put them to words, I just can't bring the ideas out, don't know how to express them. (Bing, Nov. 14, 97) 8 4 Bing, aged 32 in 1997, arrived in Canada in April 1995 with her husband, a research associate hired by UBC (see Tables 3.1-3). From September 1993 to April 1995, she lived in North Carolina with her husband, who was working there. During this time, Bing stayed at home taking care of her young daughter. But she managed to learn some conversational English from an ESL class at a church. Before she came to North America, Bing had received a B.S. and an M.S. in Environmental Biology from a university in northeast China. Upon graduating with her B.S., she worked for two years as a research assistant for a government environmental protection bureau and then, after earning her M.S., worked as a research associate for a hospital for three years. While she was completing her M.S. studies, Bing co-wrote one article with her graduate supervisor and published it in a Chinese journal. Bing enrolled in the M.S. program in Bio-Resource Engineering at UBC in September 1996 with a TOEFL score of 593. Upon enrolment, she was hired as a research assistant by her supervisor, a Chinese Canadian who spoke Mandarin. Indeed, most of Bing's conversations with her supervisor were in Mandarin blended with some English. During my five interviews with her, Bing frequently switched to Mandarin, when she found it difficult to express herself in English. During our first interview in November 1997, Bing was taking a flexible seminar course that would run for two terms and focus on her thesis. The assignments were two presentations, one on her thesis proposal and the other as a mock thesis defence. Before September 1997, Bing had taken six courses and audited another two. When I interviewed her in February 1998, she was taking one more course, offered by the Department of Pathology. For these courses (excluding the seminar course mentioned above), Bing had to write four term papers, three of which were literature reviews, and 11 lab reports. In addition, she had to give three class presentations. Bing was used to thinking in Chinese. When Chinese ideas came to her mind first, she would take notes in Chinese. This meant that when she communicated in English, she often had to undergo a process of translation, which sometimes created problems. 85 For me I want the paper write in real English not Chinese style English. That's really hard. Because the thinking, sometimes I use Chinese to think something. Then after that I translate to English. And also I find it difficult to use appropriate words. Also the sentence, and grammar. (Bing, Dec. 9, 97) B: Sometimes I don't [know] what should I say [at the presentation]. You have to organize the sentence for next speaking in your brain and sometimes you have to translate from Chinese to English. J: That's even worse. It takes time. People here are waiting for you. Come on, come on.1 It's hard. The best way is to try to think in English. If you translate, it's like a double process. It takes much longer. I always do a rehearsal for a formal presentation because that way gives you an idea of what to say, what not to way, how much to say about which point.... B: Yeah. Last year I gave 3 or 4 presentation. Every time I have to write down what I'm going to say. And then I remember [memorize] that thing. So I just remember in the brain, and when I give the paper...and I just read the transparency. The professor said 'you didn't have eye contact.' J: It looks like whenever you come to presentations, you feel... B: Feel nervous. J: Feel less confident. B: Yeah. Just like usually I'm speaking English, I always feel like I make a mistake. (Interview with Bing, Nov. 14, 97) Another reason for Bing's poor delivery style at the presentations was her lack of experience, which was also true of most Mainland Chinese students. As indicated elsewhere in this dissertation, students in Chinese universities had little chance to speak in front of the class. Moreover, Bing was nervous whenever she spoke English, because she had had little practice doing so. Nor did she have to at home, on campus, or around town since she could survive very well just by speaking Chinese. Furthermore, Bing deliberately spoke Chinese at home. She did not want her daughter, in grade one, to lose her Chinese language, and perhaps later on, to lose the ties with the parents and the Chinese identity. The following interview excerpt elaborates on this point. J: But you do speak Chinese at home? B: That's right. That's for the benefit of my daughter because we don't want her....We have to force my daughter to speak Chinese at home; otherwise once she was in school, she speaks English all the time from in the morning to 6 o'clock. That means most of the 86 time she speaks English. Now she can't speak Chinese very well. J: How old is she? B: Six, grade one. J: She is forgetting her Chinese. B: Yeah, almost totally. Now she used like English sequence, dao zhuang ju [inverted order sentences]. J: Really? She would speak Chinese in the English way? B: Yeah, like somebody keep zow-ing [going], and a little bit gao-er [higher]. J: What a mixture. J: So you are worried that your daughter might lose her Chinese. B: Yeah, so I have to speak Chinese at home. J: If you work with her on story books.... B: Yeah, we read story every day. Like one story, one Chinese, one English. They have Chinese translation. So she will know. J: Right. There are novels like Amy Chan's Double Happiness, the other one, Joy Luck Club. B: The other one, I read the book and see the movie, Joy Luck Club. J: You can see the difference between generations. (Interview with Bing, Dec. 9, 97) It is worth noting that even after more than four years in English-speaking countries, including a year and a half in a graduate program, Bing had not developed the habit of speaking English, nor did she find it easy to communicate orally in English. I collected three of her written assignments and found that they contained some conventions typical of Chinese writing (e.g., colon after a subheading) as well as various citation and grammar errors. Apparently, she had not received enough feedback on her written work. As she admitted, many instructors in her faculty simply did not bother to return students' assignments. Upon my suggestion, she approached some professors and was able to retrieve a few of her papers. 4.14 Ying Style could be difficult. If you write in your native language, you know what language, what vocabulary, is appropriate, what kind of writing style to use, but I don't quite get the proper sense of how certain vocabulary is to be used, how the sentence should be organized. Not just grammar. (Ying, Nov. 24, 97) 8 7 Ying came to Canada in 1993 at the age of 26 (see Tables 3.1-3). She held a B.A. in English Literature from a teachers' university in China and had worked as a tour guide there for four years. She had no publications or presentations, but as an English major, wrote her B.A. thesis on teaching methodology in English. For the first two years in Canada, she worked as a coordinator for an import and export company in another province. Then she spent one year at a Canadian west coast university taking basic undergraduate courses in preparation for graduate studies at UBC. Ying enrolled in the M.S. degree program in Audiology and Speech Pathology at UBC in September 1996 with a TOEFL score of 627, though she had hardly any background in audiology or speech pathology except for her one year undergraduate course preparation. When I asked why she chose to study in a totally different field, she replied, Well, it's a good profession. I like the work, and good employment prospect. I want to learn something useful. I don't want to just go there and a degree, do a PhD. You spent a lot of time, spent a lot of resource, but what do you do with the degree after you finish. (Ying, Nov. 10, 97) Unlike Ting and many other Chinese students who studied in programs related to their education in China but offering few job opportunities (see section 4.2), Ying selected her program purely on the basis of job prospects. In this sense, she was very job-minded, similar to Ding and Kang. When I first met her in November 1997, she had finished one summer practicum and 12 required courses and was taking another five. Most of her courses involved a considerable amount of reading and writing. The written assignments included lab write-ups (up to four pages), short papers, term papers (up to 20 pages), and oral presentations. Despite the large number of courses she was taking in any given term and throughout the program, the scientific nature of the, course work, and the tremendous reading and writing loads, Ying handled the courses quite well generally, thanks to her hard work and English language background. She performed poorly only 8 8 on one small test and one lab report. Unlike most of the other Chinese student participants in my study such as Hang and Bing, Ying would use English to think when she read English texts or planned and composed writing. She did not have a related framework of subject information from her Chinese education to refer to. Instead, she had studied English as her major for four years in her undergraduate program. Ying actually found it hard at times to translate English to Chinese when she had to explain her work to her Mandarin-speaking friends as she did not know many Chinese equivalent terms. In her writing, Ying did not encounter many difficulties with grammar, nor did her writing samples show many problems on the sentence level. But she did have her own challenges, which are more typical of HSS students (see Connor & Kramer, 1995; Connor & Mayberry, 1996; Leki, 1995a; Riazi, 1995; Schneider & Fujishima, 1995). These included reading all the required references under time pressure, selecting salient information from the readings to write assignments, organizing her thoughts, and writing in an academic style using appropriate words and sentence structure. To help herself over the challenges, Ying would refer to at least one model when writing a term paper. J: You said the term paper is the hardest. Why? Y: First, a lot more info needs to be organized. J: OK. Maybe also you have to write many, many pages. Y: Yeah, just lots of references. Just organizing material, and organizing your thought. That's the major part of your work and get all the references, the selections, also the major part. J: And you have to read all the references. Y: Yeah. And also the language you want to write properly. That's also challenging as well. J: So from organization to writing per se, all of this is hard. Why do you think writing itself is hard? In other words, what aspect of the composing process is hard? Y: Style. The style of writing, the flow of thought. J: Does it have to do with diction, expressions? Y: Expressions, sure. Y: I don't know if it's conflict. You do have difficulties. J: Like what? Y: Writing style. 8 9 J: The English writing style is more complicated. Do you mean that way? Y: Style could be difficult. If you write in your native language, you know what language, what vocabulary, is appropriate, what kind of writing style to use, but I don't quite get the proper sense of how certain vocabulary is to be used, how the sentence should be organized. Not just grammar. J: Rhetoric maybe. Y: Yeah. J: But you try to write in an academic style. Y: That's why you have to follow a writing model. (Interview with Ying, Nov. 24, 97) Following models is a strategy that almost all Chinese and other ESL students practice in their initial writing stage (see more discussion on this in sections 5.2 and 7.1). In this respect, Ying was no exception. Despite her English language competence, Ying felt socially disconnected because she was the only Mainland Chinese student in her department and it was difficult for her to participate in discussions with her NES peers. Her extremely heavy course load left her little time to reach out to students in other departments. But after one year and a half in the program, she was beginning to feel better. t Socially disconnected. Not well connected. You have some cultural differences, so you don't have a shared cultural background with the people in class. So it's hard to join discussions, to express your views, and sometimes it's hard to know what other people are talking about. But it's getting better and better. (Ying, Nov. 10, 97) Most Chinese graduate students shared this challenge soon after their arrival in Canada: The difference is that those like Ying and Zong (see section 4.15 below) would overcome the challenge after a few years, whereas others would face it for much longer, even their entire life. 4.15 Zong I think for any foreigner the biggest challenge is language. Depending on profession, I think in our area, I think this is probably THE most important area. If you can do well in 9 0 mastering the language, I think you would have a much better chance of progress in your career than somebody who is excellent in research but very poor in communication. (Zong, April 8, 98) Zong was no longer a graduate student when I interviewed him on April 8, 1998 upon recommendation from a professor in Wood Science. He was a scientist employed by a research institute located on the UBC campus. I decided to include him as an impromptu study participant because much of what he said during the interview was about his graduate student experiences at UBC. Further, his reflections on those experiences and the insights he gained out of the experiences and those afterwards about learning English were invaluable to my study. Zong came to UBC in 1989 at the age of 26 (see Tables 3.1-3). In China, he had earned a B.S. in Forestry and an M.S. in Wood Manufacturing. Then, he had worked there for three years at a research institute on projects of engineering and machinery design. When he entered the PhD program in Wood Science at UBC in September 1989 with a TOEFL score of 580, he was put on probation, even though he held a fellowship. His department was not sure whether he was qualified to undertake doctoral or Master's studies. Indeed, the very beginning of his studies proved tough. Two months into the program he gave a presentation for a seminar attended by graduate students across his faculty; he had to memorize a good part of the talk and not surprisingly, received a poor mark. But he did not feel discouraged. Six months later, when he gave another presentation for the same course, he miraculously received the highest mark in the class. Reflecting on this experience, he commented: Z: It's a learning process..! mean you know that's coming. You know that's going to be the case. That's one thing I learned. I mean you never get discouraged because you are expected to go through the steps. So I guess you learn language in lots of ways. I guess the most important way of learning is talking with people who speak well and pay attention to what they say and don't be afraid to ask question. J: Are you referring to native English speakers? Z: We don't speak English with fellow Chinese speakers. Z: I think the best way of learning is interacting with native English speakers, and 9 1 watching TV. But when you do this you have to have that purpose in mind. So every time when you go through a conversation, you pick up something. (Interview with Zong, April 8, 98) Zong tried to make use of every chance to learn English. It became a hobby for him. He enjoyed asking friends language questions. For example, when he made a trip with a colleague to Alberta, he asked his companion at least ten language questions. There was no pressure for him, no pressure for his interlocutor. So he had great fun. Zong was also a hockey fan. He would read about hockey, listen to hockey game broadcast on the radio, and talk to friends about hockey. Gradually he was able to understand every word about hockey during the game. Through hockey games he also learned about the North American culture: how people react to victories and defeats In time Zong felt quite comfortable dealing with everyday activities in English. These included his comprehensive exam presentation and'his dissertation defence. ...I had a very easy time going through the comps, which is also a presentation type of exam. I also had a very easy time going through my [dissertation] defence. I did not feel any pressure at all. The comps, in fact I had fian to do that. I really don't have the pressure because once you got the basic language ability, I mean, you can express what you want to explain. (Zong, April 8, 98) In the beginning writing was difficult for Zong, too, more difficult than speaking. Even when he wrote the first couple of journal articles, he still had to compose in Chinese first and then translate it into English. But Zong was a quick analytical learner. When he read published writings, he would pay close attention to how others wrote and try to emulate. He even stopped reading from time to time to admire what he considered good sentences with some connoisseurship. I guess one of the hardest things about writing is to make it flow, make it readable. You can mechanically put what you want to express on paper, but it doesn't flow well. That tells the difference I think.. just flow. 92 I think writing is one of the most difficult things to do. Speaking you can manage it, but you know you are not doing well. I remember the first time I did a term paper, I had a hell of time to put it together actually. When you read a paper, again, just to think about how I could write the sentence, why people write this way, you almost analyze and try to find what's the secret behind the way you would write and other people would write....I found...it's such a learning curve. You really can't pick one thing - that's the way I got to a different level. It's a process. So I think I pay a lot of attention to how other people write. Sometimes I even stop and think: hey, if I write this sentence it would be different. Why? I would admire people who write well. Gradually you learn the way the native people would express themselves. (Zong, April 8, 98) Zong mastered English very well. Partly on this account, he was first hired by a Canadian university on the east coast before he defended his dissertation. Then he won an award in his field. The president of his current employer, who had not bothered to interview him earlier, talked to Zong's graduate supervisor and then spent an hour talking to Zong on the phone before making his final decision to transport Zong across the country. Zong was well treated at the institute; he was one of the young scientists who were paid the highest salary in his group. 4.16 Summary In this chapter I have provided narrative snapshots of each of the 15 Mainland Chinese participants, emphasizing their academic language challenges. These snapshots provide backgrounds of the individual participants which are important for discussions in the rest of the dissertation. In this sense, they serve to complement the analysis and discussion in the chapters that follow. Clearly, each participant was unique in certain ways. But various issues and concerns cut across multiple cases, and my interest in seeking insights into the academic writing processes and challenges of Chinese graduate students calls for a "cross-case analysis" (Creswell, 1998, p. 188; see section 3.1). I take up this analysis and discussion thereof in the following three chapters. 9 3 C H A P T E R 5: ANALYSIS: W R I T T E N ASSIGNMENTS A N D W R I T I N G M E T H O D S In this chapter I characterize some of the major written academic assignments that the student participants had to complete as required by their study programs. In particular, I examine what the faculty expected of the students in terms of course assignments and proposals for theses and dissertations, what feedback the faculty provided them, and how the students reacted to it. Then I explore in some detail the methods the students used to prepare for and complete the written work. I do so by examining the three stages that writing academic assignments normally involves: pre-writing, initial-writing, and post-writing. I must point out, however, that actual writing is not a linear process but one where writers "constantly shift among pre-writing, writing, and revising tasks" (Grabe & Kaplan, 1996, p. 19). I choose to describe the methods on the basis of the three stages primarily for the sake of presenting the methods in a certain order. In the meantime, I consider the issues involved as the students applied the methods. Finally, I sum up the major issues addressed in this chapter, in particular, the findings significant to educational research and practice. 5.1 Written Academic Assignments The assignments that these Chinese students had to write included those for courses in their own fields or disciplines, and research proposals for particular courses or their thesis or dissertation. I present the characteristics of some of the major assignments, and then explain what the course instructors and graduate supervisors would expect their students to write, how they would evaluate their assignments, whether they would provide feedback, and how the students reacted to the faculty feedback where available. 9 4 5.1.1 Course Assignments and Research Proposals In all cases the Chinese student participants were required to write a number of assignments for the courses they took. Some were required to write proposals for their theses, dissertations, or special courses. Ymg*'afid'Ding, in particular, seemed to have written more assignments than the others (see sections 4.14 and 4.7). They not only had taken many courses but had written abundantly. Clearly, some courses carried a heavier writing load than others. For example, one course Ding took, M E D G 521 (a pseudonym), required ten lab reports (6-7 pages each) while another course, E L E C 566, which Wang took, involved only exams. The participants felt that if the written assignment chiefly involved calculation rather than language description or argumentation (e.g., for FRST 555 and M E C H 555), then they would not think the assignment involved much writing. Writing, to them, meant language-based writing. Feng, on the other hand, did not think he had a great deal of writing to do, for he had only completed three courses. For these courses he had not written any language-based paper of over five pages. So, the amount of written work one had to accomplish depended primarily on the individual courses one took and on the proportion of courses requiring written assignments. The written assignments were in various genres including weekly exercises, lab reports, project reports, literature reviews, and research proposals. Ping and Wang distinguished between weekly exercises called assignments and other course papers. Wang explained, Assignments may be once a week. There are some problems for you to solve, small projects, to write some source codes, to divide the code, like an exercise. For term paper, you have to read more. (Wang, Dec. 5, 97) Weekly exercises seemed to be the simplest to accomplish, as they tended to be problem-specific, requiring solutions to be presented in simple forms such as calculation rather than much language description. It is worth noting, therefore, that to Ping and Wang "assignments" had a special 95 meaning, different from what we as language educators normally understand as any academic work to be completed after class. Lab reports had various meanings depending on the courses the participants took, as the report requirements varied considerably. For Ying, a lab report was like a weekly assignment mentioned above except that her reports involved much language presentation. But Ding understood a lab report to be quite complex. For example, for one course, he had to write 10 lab reports, 6-7 pages each. Each report had to follow the format of a research paper including abstract, introduction, methods and materials, results, and discussion. Project reports were a type of research paper in that they usually included the three major components typical of a research paper: background, methodology (or experiment procedures), and discussion of results. They also included references if the sources for those references were indicated in the text. In some cases an abstract was added; in others one component such as background might be presented in multiple parts such as introduction and literature review. Qing and Ling explained what their project reports were like. Q: For the courses we don't just write a report. We should do some simulation, why do it, some background, how we do it, and some results. That's the line we follow. J: Rationale or background, methodology or design, result. Pretty straightforward. Q: Most of them have calculation, figures, graphs. (Showing one assignment for a course) actually this is for the report for one course last term. This is Part One [11 pages plus 8 pages for appendices]; Part Two [27 pages plus 10 pages for the appendix] (showing the papers). All these figures are results of the simulation. J: A lot of figures. Q: Yeah, a lot in the first part. But in the second part we have some description in each part, how everything is done, how it is derived. (Interview with Qing, Nov. 20, 97) Usually for our papers, usually include abstract, introduction, methodology, result and discussion, conclusion, and reference. Usually I do methodology first, then result and discussion, and then introduction; sometimes introduction first. (Ling, Nov. 23, 97) 96 Thus, project reports are the assignments closest in format to the scientific articles published in academic journals. The participants seemed to understand the format very well and normally followed it in writing their project reports. Some participants were required to write research proposals as part of their course work. For example, all those in Wood Science and Forestry Science had to take a graduate communications seminar (for two terms), for which they each wrote and presented three reports. The third report, a grant proposal (see Zong's presentation of the proposal in section 4.15), accounted for 60% of the final grade. Another type of research proposal was required for their theses or dissertations. For some participants (e.g., those in Wood Science, Forestry Science, and Electrical Engineering), the dissertation proposal primarily or even wholly constituted the comprehensive exam, also known as the qualifying exam (by passing which the participants entered doctoral candidacy). But for Ning, the dissertation proposal was totally separate from the comprehensive or qualifying exam (see section 4.6). His qualifying exam was very broad and comprehensive, whereas his proposal was narrowly focused. These two kinds of proposals, (a) for certain courses and (b) for theses or dissertations, form part of the written assignments that are the central concern of my dissertation. The written assignments were either relatively flexible or relatively restrictive, depending on the course and the instructor. Some student participants were to write on a topic of their own interest within the broad range of the course content, especially at the graduate level, or within the field of specialization in case of research proposals. Kang and Qing explained: K: The supervisor and lecture let you pick up a topic yourself. So you can pick up a topic depending on interest. J: Pretty flexible. K: So, in fact I could write according to my interest. (Interview with Kang, Nov. 22, 97) , I remember for this course, and the instructor allow you to choose different topics. For this one the general topic is same. This is the topic the instructor was very familiar. But 97 suppose you are not very interesting in this topic, you can choose another one concerned with your thesis. Maybe that way the topic is useful for you. A n d you can choose that one. But you cannot choose one has nothing with this course. (Qing, Nov. 20, 97) However, some assignments were relatively restrictive; they required students to write on only the prescribed topic. Ning, for example, wrote his comprehensive exam on a topic set by his supervisory cornmittee. In case of a course assignment, all the students taking the same course wrote the same assignment on the same topic, such as most of the course assignments Ying wrote. J: H o w flexible are the assignments? In other words, are they flexible enough so that you can write according to .your interest? Y : Little choice mostly. (Interview with Ying, Nov. 2 , 9 7 ) \ Sometimes it was the instructor, rather than the course, that determined the degree of flexibility of the assignment. For instance, for Directed Independent Studies, normally the student was allowed to choose what s/he would study with further approval from the supervisor. In the case of Ting and Ming, their supervisors picked topics for them rather than let them pick what they liked. Because of this confusion in understanding, Ting had to write the assignment twice. H e wrote his first draft according to his interest, comparing four models for moisture absorption. But his supervisor preferred that he characterize the absorption of five tree species in British Columbia, a personal interest o f the supervisor. So Ting had to start all over. Ting reflected, Oh, I remember I wrote four drafts for the directed study. The first one was total garbage according to the prof. H e said I did not understand him [his requirements]. It's like this. I'm not sure if I did not understand his question as a directed study has no writing prompt. Y o u write on what you decide on. But after I decided my topic, he said what I wrote did not address my topic at all. I originally planned to compare four models for moisture absorption....I used four models to predict how much moisture they can absorb. I compared four models to see which one is more accurate, which one has more potential for use. I needed to find out if the amount of absorption is accurate for each of the models or how much the differences are. Another thing I wanted to find was how much moisture can be accumulated as a result of absorption. I tried to compare on these aspects. The prof 9 8 said that it was my idea but nobody had ever done such comparisons. Not reliable. Then he wrote a topic for me to describe the characterization of absorption of five species [of trees] of BC. There's a big difference. I focused on four models; now he wanted me to focus on five species. But there's little difference among the five species. So my second, third and fourth drafts had to refocus on the differences of the five species. It is maybe my lack of understanding or maybe a mismatch between my interest and the profs. (Ting, Aug. 29, 97) Not surprisingly, Ting felt very unhappy about his supervisor's lack of respect for his interest. By the time of the interview he had not fully recovered. He was actually feeling rather pessimistic about his future in the field of his program. As is now evident, written assignments differed considerably depending on the particular course or project and the instructor(s) offering the course or supervising the project. I focus more on the second factor below. 5.1.2 Faculty Expectations and Feedback Faculty Expectations Examination of the data from the student participants revealed some variation in faculty expectations on the written assignments produced by the Chinese students. Many faculty members in the sciences seemed to place a higher demand on the linguistic aspect of the students' written assignments (than their engineering colleagues). As Hang quoted his professors, his papers must be publishable, which suggests high standards for all aspects of the paper, language and content included. H: All the instructors said that our papers must be publishable. J: Publishable. H: This guy asked me to do that even though the paper may not actually be published. (Interview with Hang, Dec. 15, 97) 99 This demand was evident when Ling's supervisor time and again tried to help her correct the language errors and improve the clarity in her paper for the Directed Study. Ning, on the other hand, received the lowest possible passing mark for a course because of his language, and was advised to take language lessons. The requirement of attending to language was further indicated in my interviews with the science faculty, who claimed to consider the formal aspects when evaluating graduate students' papers. To me as a graduate student in education, this demand does not sound surprising at all as my instructors constantly remind me to write publishable work. However, the student participants in Electrical Engineering did not perceive a high demand in terms of language for the assignments (though the faculty did insist on correct language in the theses, which are documents accessible to the public). In terms of content, they were still required to produce graduate-level research, as discovered in my interview with Ping: P: It means because I'm not the first Chinese student the professor has. They know Chinese students or some other foreign students. So their expectation is not very, very high. J: You do not have much difficulty. Do you think they have different expectations for Chinese students than for Canadian students? P: Just with respect to the language itself. For example, they ask you to give a presentation. You speak slowly, not very fluently. They will not regard this as 'oh, you have not done the research work very well.' J: Your research is still good if it is good. P: Yeah. J: In terms of research, content, you are on equal basis. P: Yes. (Interview with Ping, Nov. 29, 97) Xing agreed with Ping, explaining that the faculty focused primarily on the content of their writing - how the students conducted, or would conduct, the process of the project. Their writing style was less of a concern. The faculty would at best give suggestions on how to modify the writing if they were not satisfied with it. Based on their study of academic writing assessments at an Australian university, Ballard and Clanchy (1991), similarly, concluded that faculty in academic disciplines are more concerned with thinking skills, content explication, and culturally appropriate 100 attitudes to knowledge as represented in the ESL students' writing than with language accuracy. As Wang and Ping in my study explained, the faculty assumed that as graduate students, the participants had mastered English prior to their enrolment and that how to write papers was the students' own business. This assumption was based on a prior requirement of satisfactory TOEFL scores of 600 or above for Electrical Engineering. But Ray, a professor in Electrical Engineering, doubted the reliability of TOEFL as indicating the students' language proficiency to meet academic demands. Though many faculty members in the sciences placed high demands on the formal aspects of students' writing, others seemed to closely resemble the faculty Xing and Ping referred to. A good example was supplied by Feng (see Appendix H, with my markings). Even though the report contained various formal problems such as grammatical errors and non-parallel structures, the instructor gave it a 90%, commending the impressive research Feng reported having conducted. Clearly, the faculty differed tremendously in their expectations, even within the same department. Another expectation of some faculty was for detailed information. Some of the students found this particularly hard to meet, as least initially. The faculty expected the participants to describe the background, methods, and so on in detail. But as Ning complained, at least one of his instructors, did not communicate this expectation to him. Naturally, he would not know. Nor did the faculty provide details of his evaluation criteria. So Ning had no idea what a good assignment should look like. This lack of clear expectations caused Ning much frustration: N: He said not enough. You have to write more. Before, I wrote two pages, I don't know. Finally I wrote 12, or 15 pages. J: Did he specify how many pages it should be? N: No. Later I know at least 15 pages. J: But in the beginning you didn't know? N: I think I had idea. My idea is new. But I didn't put my idea in details. They require everything in detail, e.g., the method, which method are you using? how you do this experiment? Like a proposal. Not just a idea. You have to write everything. So just find 101 everything, very in detail. 1 N: Not clear to students how to write a good paper. OK. It's clear in evaluation [marks], but not clear what kind of paper is good paper, something like that. J: I see, more descriptive terms about the evaluation criteria. (Interview with Ning, Dec. 5, 97) Bing had a somewhat different perception on the requirement for detail. In China, if she was asked a question, she just needed to directly answer the question; she did not have to provide additional information, extra details, or supporting evidence, unless that was part of the question. Trying to offer too much unsolicited information could be boring or even insulting to the professor because of the underlying assumption that the professor was not knowledgeable enough to comprehend the students' answers (see also Edwards, 1998). To Bing, details that were not directly asked for would be irrelevant for the question: B: Here when I answer the question, usually my answer is too short, like several sentence. But some professors, they need more. They just thought you didn't grasp the points. So they thought we should answer more in detail. But for me I think that thing is just outside [irrelevant]. J: I see. You think more details would be irrelevant. B:Yeah. J: What do you do then if the professor asks for more, more? Do you try to give more later? B: If I can't remember, how can I give more information about it? (Interview with Bing, Jan. 5, 98) As she explained in an earlier interview, Bing paid close attention to the results of her experiments but made few efforts to record or remember the processes. To her, the results were the most important. Naturally, she found it difficult to provide all the details of the process afterwards. 102 Faculty Feedback Normally if faculty were to provide feedback on students' written assignments, they would do so right on the assignments or assignment draffs, which they would then return to the students. However, while some students regularly had their assignments returned, others received their work far less often. The former group included those from Wood Science, Forestry Science, and Audiology and Speech Pathology (such as Ming, Ting, Ling, Hang, Feng, and Ying). The second group were all from the two engineering departments and Food Science (such as Ping, Kang, Bing, and Ning). One reason the faculty gave for not returning the students' work was that the marked paper would usually show the mark awarded to the paper. If the student was not happy with the mark, s/he might approach the instructor for an explanation - especially if the paper also contained some language feedback which the students found hard to understand. When I brought up this concern in my faculty interviews, Prof. Smith confirmed that this was his reason. Varieties offeedback When the students did get their written work back, the feedback they received varied tremendously. Ling and Bing received detailed feedback from their supervisors on the language, clarity, and content of their writings for the research proposals and courses they took with them. Their supervisors even corrected many errors and offered alternative expressions or rewrites (see samples in Appendices I and J). Ling's supervisor even provided feedback on her papers for courses taught by other instructors. After the written feedback, Ling would meet with her supervisor, who would then offer oral comments in the fashion of a conference. Ling commented, Also I discussed my work with my supervisor. He is very helpful. He is a good writer. Usually every time when we write something, we show him and he will do many corrections and then return to us and then correct again and then show to him. Repeat. It's quite helpful. (Ling, Nov. 23, 97) 103 The feedback Feng, Ping, Qing, and Kang received on their written work related to content only while Hang and Ying each got feedback on one course paper focusing on the language including grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Hang had another paper read by a professor who paid almost exclusive attention to matching references in the text with the bibliography. For one initial draft for a course Ning was asked to provide more details. In other cases, the feedback was either very brief (as on most of Ying's papers) or absent except for a grade or mark. Those who received faculty feedback also said that their supervisors usually provided much more feedback and one-on-one conference to them than did other instructors. They gave two reasons. First, the supervisors felt more responsible for the supervisee's academic well-being; second, their supervisors were also their employers, so they inevitably had more opportunities to meet. In fact, Ling, Bing, and Feng saw their supervisors almost every day they were in school. The employer-assistant relationship naturally led to a third one in co-authorship: Ling, Feng, and Ding co-wrote academic publications and presentations with their supervisors. Such close collaborations were bound to yield not only feedback on the "co-writings" but by habit, on the students' course assignment writings as well. Not surprisingly, some of the assignments Ling and Ding wrote for their supervisors' courses turned out to be publications and presentations co- authored with their supervisors. Effects of feedback What effect did the feedback, or lack of it, have on the students' writing? In most cases when faculty feedback was provided, it made a difference in the students' subsequent writing. This happened at least to Ling, Hang, Bing, Ming, Ting, and Ning, because they paid attention to the comments and suggestions and tried hard to follow them. 104 On the other hand, when the assignments were returned with no comments or corrections, Wang cared only about his grades and Ping and Xing threw theni out. The feedback had almost no effect on Ying because it was too brief and sometimes so late - as in the following term - that she had lost interest. When I asked her, she complained: J: Do you get your paper back from the professors? Y: They give you back but quite late. Simply when you want to find the answer, they wouldn't give you back on time. But when they give back, you don't care that much. J: So you care period is past. Y: Yeah. (Interview with Ying, Nov. 24, 97) Some participants such as Ming, Ting, Feng, Ping, and Kang mentioned that their faculty never made high demands on the writing proficiency of ESL students but placed more emphasis on content and ideas. As a result, the students did not pay close attention to their written language, knowing they would not be penalized for language or other formal imperfections (see Appendix H for such a sample). Ironically, when the faculty marked Ming's and Ting's papers, they picked more grammatical and typographic errors than anything else. So, even though some of the faculty did not explicitly ask the students to improve their written language, they showed little tolerance for language errors when marking the papers. For that reason, Ming learned to have other Chinese students proofread his drafts before handing them in. Ping held a different view on feedback on language. He thought that if professors picked out his language errors, that might affect his grade, which would be unfair because English was his second language. He should not be judged by the same linguistic standards as those applied to native English speakers. He reasoned in one interview: P: ...if he took language into consideration, then international students will get lower mark than Canadian students. J: I see. You think instructors should not comment on your language? P: As far as it is not too bad to make yourself misunderstood, I think. But for the thesis, it's totally different. 105 J: Why? P: Because your thesis will be kept in the library, in different places. People later will read them. So it's a formal one. But for ordinary assignments or paper, to say something frankly, after some time they are thrown away. J: I see. So the instructors care whether the papers will be read by the public or will be read by himself and yourself. P: And if for a long time or the time being. J: I see. If he picks on your language, it's probably unfair for students for whom English is a second language. P: I think (so): (Interview with Ping, Nov. 29, 97) However, if language errors are not tied to marks (except in the case of serious problems), such feedback should be welcome to all the student participants because they desired to improve their English, to improve their academic performance, and to be competitive as they had always been back in China. The conditions for education in China were such that only the most competitive were able to enter the university and the graduate school. Even Ping, ironically, implied a desire for negative feedback, as long as it was not tied to the grade. The problems is, the general impression you give is you are not a native speaker. I know it consist of many specific errors. But I'm not clear, myself is hot clear about that. (Ping, Nov. 8, 97) Thus, Ping felt students might not recognize their writing problems or weaknesses unless someone else, such as the supervisor, instructor, E S L teacher or tutor, were to point out and explain the problems and then preferably suggest alternative expressions. The following interview excerpts display the students' desires for feedback and why it was important to them. N: Sometimes you need feedback. That's very important. Feedback not means you really point out that point. But feedback is in one sense to me encourage. It's source of energy. No matter whether this is something right or wrong, give me energy, OK? It kind of remind me a lot of thing. For example, I said someone told me to speak slowly. Everything, suddenly, light my brain. J: Enlightened. N: Enlightened. 1 0 6 (Interview with Ning, Dec. 5, 97) I just expect them to give me feedback. OK. Let me know how I can improve my writing, which sentence, which paragraph, and where I need to improve. I need exactly information. J: Reasons and explanations why you should change. (Interview with Ning, Jan. 2, 98) Oh, if they have time, if they can, rewrite or point out my mistakes, my inappropriate usage and return my assignments, my paper, my thesis to me, I think definitely it's very helpful. (Ping, Interview, Feb. 9, 99) For Xing's research on automatic control systems, faculty feedback was not only desirable but absolutely essential as his success in designing the system depended on feedback. He was still wishing for more feedback when I interviewed him: X; Sure. Actually you know, the field I'm learning is control. Automatic control system is a feedback system. Without feedback you can't implement automatic control system. This is very crucial I think for you to get information from others, correct your action. J: Feedback is essential for your studies. Maybe next time you should ask for feedback if the instructor doesn't give it to you. Ask for it. Maybe they will think about it if you ask. X: Yeah. (Interview with Xing, Dec. 20, 97) As can be discerned, the participants not only preferred to receive corrective feedback indicating places to be corrected or revised, or even better, providing "correct" rewrites; they also longed for comments which would reassure them that they had done well in certain parts of.the paper. To them, such positive feedback, which I might call psychological nourishment, meant encouragement from the professor, reinforced confidence, and motivated them to carry on their studies. But depending on the nature of the problem, feedback alone may not be sufficient. Student conference after written feedback, that is, interactive feedback-based conference, is much more effective than feedback alone, which is better than no feedback, which is in turn better than not returning students' assignments. But unfortunately, the latter two practices seemed most common among instructors in engineering programs. 1 0 7 At a conference, the instructor meets with the student on a one-on-one basis and talks over the written feedback, explaining what s/he wants the student to do and why, and answering (further) questions the student might have on the instructor's comments and intentions. The conference can build up a closer relationship, which Chinese students appreciate and which can translate into motivation. Ling and her supervisor, Prof. Ellis, seemed to enjoy a good student- supervisor relationship, which partly accounted for the vast progress Ling had made in her English and her interest in conference presentations. At the request of the students, and partly in return for their participation in my study, I proofread some students' papers, wrote feedback on the papers and met the students to explain my feedback. The students appreciated the meetings because they were able to see their weaknesses, and understand my explanations and suggested changes. On the other hand, without conferencing, feedback may not be very helpful if students have difficulty understanding the feedback. In addition to the insights I obtained through contacts with my participants, I learned more about the problems of feedback and the value of conference through e-mail discussions with Helen, a doctoral student at another institution who was also observing the academic writing of Chinese graduate students (see Chapter 3). On the problems of feedback she wrote: ...maybe for some students, simply learning to decode the feedback is akin to learning a whole other language. (April 21, 98) She continued, pointing to the value of conferencing: I also have a theory - that students from more collective cultures may be more inclined to learn through personal contact, whereas we who have grown up in the west may be more willing (though it still isn't as much fun) to learn from decontextualized marginal feedback. That is, my Chinese students know the principles, they read the feedback, but it's only when they really have to get something right - and they get the chance to chew it through with a faculty member or friend, or with me - that they really take it in. So once again this points to the value of conferencing over written comments ... (April 21, 98) 108 I saw other values of conferencing: To me, conferencing simply supplies an opportunity for explanations which (hopefully) can drive the message across to the ESL student. For example, if the student still does not understand after an explanation, the professor or tutor could try another way to explain. Mere written feedback simply cannot afford such needed and (usually) appreciated interactions. (Jim, April 21, 98) And we agree that conferencing lets students feel that faculty care: The other point I'd like to comment on is cafe. Ltfuhk Chinese students are used to being cared for/about since childhood...Thus whether the supervisor is caring or not makes a big difference to the success or failure of a Chinese student in his/her grad studies. (Jim, April 26, 98) See Appendix G for more excerpts of the e-mail discussions on conferencing. In my study, only Ling seemed to have benefited regularly from conferences with her supervisor. This is not surprising since most of the other students often did not have their papers returned. 5.2 Academic Writing Methods In this section I describe the methods which the students used to complete their written assignments. In particular, I focus on those the students used in the three stages that writing academic papers typically involves: pre-writing, initial-writing, and post-writing (though actual writing may not assume a linear process, as pointed out at the beginning of the chapter). I take pre-writing to include the stage when students learn to write academic papers prior to writing, as well as planning or preparing to write a given paper, although learning to write continues through the remaining two stages. Thus pre-writing involves methods for learning to write in general, reading source materials in order to write a given paper, and planning to write the paper. Initial 109 writing here indicates the stage during which students literally compose or try to compose the initial draft of an assignment in part or whole. The first attempt at a text may yield as little as a sentence and as much as a paragraph or more. Post-writing ensues when the student has finished composing and tries to revise and/or edit the initial draft. These three stages serve as a heuristic path for me to describe the methods applied to academic writing, which are my primary interest. Hence, I focus on the methods applied rather than aiming at a seamless typology of the stages which are bound to overlap. 5.2.1 Pre-Writing Methods Imitation My interviews with the students suggested that the most common and fundamental approach they needed to learn to write was imitating model papers. Since few students had received much English-writing instruction or had had many opportunities to write extended English texts (such as a complete essay) before, it was natural that they imitated what they believed to be good models. The most common models for them were the reading sources: journal articles and some books in their disciplines. For some, T V programs and speech by native English speakers also served as model language input for writing. However, the students differed in the ways they imitated others. For example, Hang would first try to memorize expressions and sentence structures from readings, and then translate the readings into Chinese and then back to English. By comparing his version with the original, he tried to learn the English style of writing: H: I think memorization is important. J: Do you mean words, sentences, expressions [phrases]? no H: I think expression, and sentence structure. The words are not important. When I want to remember something, generally speaking I remember the expression, what expression they use in writing. J: In your opinion, how did you learn to write English papers? H : Imitation is very important. I translate into Chinese and then back to English, just to imitate the style. J: Right, the structure, style, language, everything. Through translation you imitate the language. H: Yeah, what I do is just to imitate. (Interview with Hang, Dec. 15, 97) Xing also emphasized the value of imitating articles, which he thought symbolized high standards. In order to write good papers, he had toffyto follow their style and organization: When I want to write something, at first I don't know how to write it. Actually I think write a paper is good or not should have a standard. Maybe the best standard is what other people use in the renowned journals. So I read various journals, I pay attention to how they structure, organize. (Xing, Nov. 18, 97) Ding liked to watch T V programs such as "Seinfeld," which the teacher in his advanced ESL class had used; he would take note of what he thought to be good words and expressions, and later try to use them in his own writing. Unfortunately, when he moved to a new house without cable TV, he lost access to many good T V programs. On the whole, it seemed that course readings supplied the best models for the students to imitate. However, not every paper written by a native-English speaker could serve as a good model. As Ping found out, some papers contained poor writing, including obvious mistakes. Just by the way, originally I thought every native English speaker can write very good English. Some time later I found it's not true. Some people, their first language is English, they also make mistake. I'm not referring to casual [occasional] mistake - they repeatedly make some mistake. So I think when you choose the paper or thesis, be careful. (Ping, Interview, Feb. 9, 98) i l l Ping suggested that ESL students be selective and critical when reading models. Some so-called "models," by virtue of being NES writing, were actually examples of poor careless writing. In my own reading of academic papers such as those contributed to Educational Insights, a graduate educational research journal, I have frequently come across NES writings with numerous mechanical and stylistic errors. This suggests that even some experienced NES writers may face challenges in producing competent writing (see also section 1.2) The reading sources actually served a double function: they not only supplied models for writing, but more importantly, also supplied information on the subject matter the students were seeking. As reading sources for information constitutes an important procedure in preparing to write academic papers, I look briefly at what sources the students read and then examine some specific methods they used. Reading Sources As indicated earlier, academic journal articles were usually the most common sources for information the students read. As graduate students, they were more concerned about research- based information, whereas textbooks often supply basic information, more regularly used by undergraduates. Still, the students in engineering seemed to use textbooks more than those in the sciences. Though Chinese was their native language and most of their publications in China had been in Chinese, the students seldom referred to Chinese sources. One reason was the scarcity of Chinese journals; another was that as knowledge is always constructed in social, cultural, and historical contexts (Norton, 2000), the research conducted in China might not be immediately relevant for their written assignments. As Ming commented: I think it's [his 20 plus publications] all useless. It all belonged to history. No matter how good your academic background in China was, once you come here, you have a Wank 112 page.' (Aug. 25, 97) Thus the students typically read only in English. In order to find useful articles, many resorted to CD-Roms and websites for abstracts and references. This reference information helped them locate the articles to read. Often too, the articles to read were clearly stated in the course outlines. Xing summarized his reading sources in a way typical of most participants: First, journal articles. They deal with specific problems in depth and up to date. Second, textbooks. They provide a foundation and broad coverage but not too specific. Third, world wide web information. (Xing, Nov. 18, 97) Reading Methods In order to gather conceptual information for written assignments, the students usually had to read source texts. When searching out articles to read, they were very careful to select those with the most potential to supply the desired information. One method to select articles to read, or to detennine if a given article was worth reading, was going over the abstract. For example, Xing explained, "I usually browse the article first, look at the abstract. If not interesting, I discard it. If interesting, I'll read carefully" (Nov. 18, 97). Once they found the articles, they would often read selectively, by attending only to the parts that could best provide the information they were seeking. These parts were often the introduction and conclusion, and sometimes the methodology or other sections. If the article was very important for their written assignment, they might read it thoroughly, and even a few times: Sometimes some important articles, I read all the parts. Sometimes I just read method, conclusion, etc. I get what I want because I don't have that much time to read everything. Too much literature for one paper. (Ning, Dec. 5, 97) 113 ...But first, I read the abstract, but if I don't find the abstract interesting, I just forget it. But if I find the abstract important for me, I'll read the paper. But I think there is a different situation. Sometimes I just want to check info about preparation materials, methods. I just find the paper and read this part. (Ling, Nov. 23, 97) Xing and Bing highlighted sentences that contained potentially useful information. Thus when they had to review a certain article they had already read, they just needed to look for the highlighted parts: I use a marker to highlight important sentences. When I go back to the article later, I don't have to read everything again. I just look for the highlighted parts. (Xing, Nov. 18, 97) But if an article was very useful, they would read it thoroughly and might even follow up on the references, as Ding did. They might even read the article a few times, especially if it was not an easy piece. As Ping described it: P. It depends the situation...if I encounter something not very familiar or I find it hard to understand, I read sentence by sentence. Sometimes I have to read it again and again. J: It is hard to understand. P: So depends the situation. J: But when you get hold of an article, do you scan? P: Yes. And try to find out if it is interesting. (Interview with Ping, Nov. 29, 97) In sum, to decide which journal articles to read or whether to read a given article, the students would first read the abstracts and/or introductions, or scan the whole piece. Then they might read selectively, attending only to the parts that might contain desired information or interest. Often, the reading amount, language difficulty, and time pressure were considerations for selecting readings. Alternatively, if a certain reading source was crucially important and especially if it also presented challenges for comprehension, the students would read it thoroughly, and in some cases, several times. Occasionally they even had to follow up on further readings suggested 114 in the references of the source. When the students read English sources, they used English and/or Chinese for thinking. The choice varied with their habit, the reading difficulty, and their prior knowledge. If they were in the initial stage of studies in the English milieu and still had limited English but much corresponding knowledge base and terminology in Chinese, they tended to fall into their previous habit of thinking in Chinese. As their exposure to English accumulated and their attempts to think in English increased, they gradually began to think more in English. However, some developed faster than others. At the time of my interviews, when they all had studied at U B C for at least two terms, most were thinking in English most of the time while reading the English sources. I focus my discussion here on some specific situations with special attention to complexities. Situation A If the language of the reading source was difficult, and especially also if the content was unfamiliar, some students tended to think in Chinese, particularly when their English proficiency was on the lower end and they were used to thinking in Chinese. In doing so they would have had to translate the reading, at least in part, to Chinese in order to comprehend the text. Hang provided an example. H: I think in Chinese. I cannot do in English. Maybe my English is too poor. J: So right now you are still thinking mostly in Chinese. H: Yeah. But for some material, if I very familiar, I can just English idea. But if I met some material I'm not very familiar, I should translate into Chinese. J: You said you think in Chinese. Why do you do so? H: Just accustomed. J: Did you consciously try to switch to English? H: Yeah, sometimes I try but doesn't work well. (Interview with Hang, Nov. 25, 97). 115 Situation B On the other hand, if the reading was not difficult, they might be thinking in English. But when they came to a difficult word or sentence, they would either ignore it or switch to flunking in Chinese in an attempt to figure out the meaning. They almost always had the option of consulting a dictionary but obviously, did not often bother to do so. For example, Qing (Nov. 20, 97) explained, "Actually when I met some words I didn't meet before, I think in Chinese [in order to guess]." For this practice, Kang supplied a good reason:, Chinese, being his first language, allowed him to access his prior cultural background knowledge, to think logically, and to make a sound guess. He reasoned, K: Yeah, if I met some tough sentence, I really can't find the exact meaning to explain that in English, so I will come back to my mother language, because when you [try to] understand some sentence, you have to use your cultural background to understand that. I think you must have such experience, right? J: Sometimes I do. K: So you have to come back to your mother culture background and get a sense about that, and go back and you understand what this [is] in this English environment, what's the meaning for that. J: You mean to process that information to get your thinking or concepts/ideas straight? K: Because sometimes when this word, you know its meaning, and the environment, the other word, you know the meaning word by word, but you don't know - J: - the contextual meaning. K: Yeah, contextual meaning. (Interview with Kang, Nov. 22, 97) I must point out that Kang was referring only to situations when he accessed a broad basic cultural background and found it helpful. Qing, Ming, and Ting did so when they had a specific knowledge base in Chinese, as they studied in the same fields as they had done in China. Situation C Several students (Ying, Ning, Ding, and Kang) were studying in areas at U B C different from their educational background in China; if a specific knowledge base in Chinese was called 1 1 6 for but unavailable, they might think in English: Actually my major is different than before. Sometimes I even cannot think in Chinese. I don't know how to say in Chinese. I have to think in English. (Ding, Dec. 15, 97) But this process of starting anew was an uphill struggle at least in the beginning. When the students' English is not very good, they may have to translate the English into Chinese to understand and remember. But if the students have a good command of English, they are likely to comprehend and remember the English phrase in English, as Ying did. Ying was an English major in China but at UBC, she studied audiology and speech pathology. Situation D While most students would comprehend the English text, in English since they had little difficulty understanding the language, they had to process and retain the information in Chinese. Ping explained why he had to do so. J: But when you do reading, it's mostly, or almost, always in English. P: Yes. Almost always because I'm forced [to think in English]. J: Why do you think you are forced? What forces? P: Because I'm very interested, I'm concentrated in reading the contents. And I have forgot whether it's English or Chinese. I need just to know the content. Because the content is written in English, so my thinking is forced this way. J: Therefore your concept must be English too. P:Yeah. J: But how come here you said you translate into Chinese in order to memorize it? P: Because when I reading, I just got the concepts. But I cannot get the exactly way, the whole way to express the concepts in English. So if I try to remember the whole thing, I cannot do so in English. J: So it seems that while you are doing readings, you think in English. But after you finish the article, then you come and sit back to process the information in Chinese? P: Yes. J: Why do you do so? P: Because -1 cannot think always in English. I can not. That's the reason. If I can, I don't bother to translate between Chinese and English. That's the reason. But when I was 1 1 7 reading, I can't because everything has been written here. I just get. But I cannot process myself all in English. That's the problem. J: What's the difficulty? P: I think there are two difficulties. One is habit. I'm used to doing so. The second is there are some problem because I cannot remember exactly how such meanings are expressed in English. I cannot do it all by myself. And also it's not convenient for me You know people like to do things if possible. J: So it's easier for you to process it, or bank it, keep it in Chinese. You have a more solid memory if you keep it in Chinese. If you keep it ih English, you may lose it. P:Yes. J: Is it because you cannot relate to your Chinese background? P: It's part of the reason. J: You have to do - as we call it - information restructuring. So you have to relate to something you learned before. What you learned before was in Chinese. P: A lot of my concepts is in Chinese. (Interview with Ping, Nov. 29,~97) " " " " *'"'" Wang was even more dependent on Chinese. To him, Chinese was the only means through which he could feel secure about what he learned. J: So while you read, it's in English. After you read, you process it in Chinese. W: I think so. J: Because you want to relate to something you learned before. W: Most probably in Chinese. I think only when you say in your mind in Chinese, OK I understand, then you are really understand about this paragraph. And if in your mind, your Chinese is totally a mess, then you really don't get the point. J: Then the English is not quite reliable. W:Yeah. (Interview with Wang, Dec. 5, 97) It is worth reiterating that in the reading process at their particular stages, these students used English to gather information, but used Chinese and their Chinese knowledge to process and retain the information. What was involved here was a process of information restructuring (McLaughlin, 1990), resulting in a reconstruction of knowledge with added or modified ideas. If they tried to store new concepts in English, they might either forget the concepts quickly or simply not mix them with the Chinese concepts. Hence, no information restructuring would occur. 118 Reading-Writing Relationships Connor and Kramer (1995) observed a lack of in-depth analysis of the relationship between reading and writing in graduate disciplines. With this calico action in mind, I tried to find out what reading-writing relationships were like to my student participants. As indicated in Chapter 2, the assignments the graduate students in my study undertook were typically text-responsible academic writing (Leki & Carson, 1997). That is, the writer must display knowledge of the content, and possibly limitations, of the source text(s) and/or some other external realities such as experiments and field work. In other words, the students must usually read source texts in order to write. But how did the students make use of the readings in order to write the assignments? And what did the students see as some of the reading-writing relationships? Without doubt, one of the main purposes the students had for reading source texts was to learn the content or ideas related to their assignments. Sometimes they would evaluate this knowledge critically to find the limitations, upon which they could generate their own research. Xing, for example, developed his research space from the source texts he read: Through reading I know what has been done on a topic and what methods have been used. Then I know what the drawbacks for those methods. This way I find my own research topic and sometimes try to improve those methods. (Xing, Nov. 18, 97) The students sought not only the content of the readings but also the form, namely, the language such as sentence structure and expressions, and style such as the structure and format of the source texts. They took the form as their model to imitate or emulate. However, how a student practiced this approach could vary. For example, in order to imitate the source texts (i.e., the language), Hang tried to translate his readings into Chinese, and then translate the Chinese back to English. He compared his translation with the original texts, thus finding out 119 where he either made mistakes or was weak. Reading alone, to Hang, was not sufficient for him to learn to write a similar text: H . [It takes] A long time, but I think it's very useful. Just to read is not very useful. Just reading, I cannot find some problems. But when I write it, the problem came. J: So you would compare your translation with the original article. H: Yeah, sure. When I translate to Chinese I put it aside for a week or two, then I translate the Chinese back to English. J: Was your English very different from the original? H: Very different, but for academic article, if you do several times, you get used to the style. (Interview with Hang, Dec. 15, 97) Through translation he could learn the vocabulary, sentence structure, and style of the source texts. While some ESL students may favor this kind of translation at the initial learning stage, it tends to restrict the extent to which they can write while thinking in the target language. Thinking in English, I would presume, is a basic requirement for advanced ESL students to write like a native English speaker. Not surprisingly, Hang thought in Chinese during his writing, as well as most of his reading, throughout the period of my data collection. Wang was another student who frequently revisited the source texts. But he was looking for expressions for the ideas he already had in mind, or was trying to remind himself of what he remembered from earlier readings. So it may be inferred that Wang learned the expressions mainly through memory, which so often fades over time and may need to be refreshed. Consider the following interview excerpt: J: When you later write papers, do you go back to it [a source text] for information or for expressions? W: I think most of the time for expressions - how to expression this idea in English. Actually you have the idea in your mind but you don't know how to express it. J: Is it like phrases or whole sentences? W: I think whole sentence, actually the structure of the paragraph, how to express it clearly, and you can learn from it. J: So when you refer to those sentences in order to write your paper, do you just try to learn and study those expressions or do you like, use them in your paper without any 120 change, or do you try to use some of the words but use your own sentences? W: Actually I try to use some new words from...to replace, to do substitution, and try to learn the sentence structure and try to use it in the future. Sometimes you know it but forget it. You have to go back several times. J: But you don't copy, like whole chunks. W: You mean direct copy everything, no. (Interview with Wang, Dec. 5, 97) To Wang, expressions meant not just phrases or technical terms but also sentence structures, paragraph structures, or even complete sentences from the source. However, Wang was fully aware of the implications of plagiarism and tried to avoid it by using some substitute words. To him, unless it was direct copying, or word-for-word copying, it should not be considered plagiarism (see section 2.3,, and section 7.2 for more on plagiarism). It may be observed that simply reading good writing from sources such as journal articles might not help the students much with writing, but paying attention to good expressions may actually enhance the process of learning to write (see Schmidt, 1990, for the role of consciousness in learning a second language). Still, attention to and memorization of the expressions did not prove sufficient for some of the students to learn to write well. Therefore, they would go beyond memory to pay attention to, or study, how competent native English-speakers compose texts, and learn the how, not just the what of the source texts. Zong, for instance, when reading good writing, would often stop to analyze the text, try to find the thinking method underlying the writing, reflect on his own thinking method, and notice the difference. That way, he was able to imitate, or learn, not only what met his eyes but how to compose his own good writing. The following segment documents his approach and my response during the interview. Z: I remember the first time I did a term paper, I had a hell of time to put it together actually. When you read a paper, again, just to think about how I could write the sentence, why people write this way, you almost analyze and try to find what's the secret behind the way you would write and other people would write...Gradually you learn the way the native people would express themselves. J: I think you made a good point just now about paying attention to language, not just 1 2 1 grammar but the structure and what makes it good writing, what makes it good style, and that's really special and I think that's what can make your writing at least close to native writing. (Interview with Zong, April 8, 98) Learning how to write from source readings through understanding undoubtedly is more challenging than learning what to write through memory. But the effect is different. One not only learns how to write but learns it more permanently. Another way writing related to reading was that the students made use of the readings to create the writing mood/sense. Almost all the students emphasized the importance of reading right before writing. It seemed that immersing themselves in the source readings helped create a mood in which they would feel like writing, and writing like their reading. Obviously, it is not difficult to see that immediately after reading, one has a better sense of what one reads in terms of both the content and the form. For the students this sense could translate into an understanding of their course assignment or research topic. For some of them, this sense meant an understanding, or sometimes a fresh memory, of the language, paper structure, and style of what they were about to write. Wang described this process: J: What have been the effects of your readings on your writing? W: Actually if you read more, after that, you write, will be fluent or much easier. J: In what ways? W: Actually I don't know how to say. Just a kind of feeling. After you read a lot, you just feel you want to speak in English, you want to write in English. J: You are in the mood. Create a mood for you to write in English. (Interview with Wang, Dec. 5, 97) Not surprisingly, once that reading momentum discontinued, their sense of writing (i.e., writing competence) might become weaker, to the point of once again not knowing how to write. This happened to Bing. J: Does your reading help your writing? B: Yeah, sometimes they did. For the last two term when I took the courses, my writing is 122 getting better. But now after I stopped reading and taking courses, I think my writing, I don't know how to start. J: You feel more rusty? B: Lose confidence about my writing. J: How long have you discontinued writing? B: Almost a term or two. (Interview with Bing, Dec. 8, 97) So when Bing came to writing her Master's thesis, she would have to re-read the references. Similarly, after Xing had been writing English on and off for ten years, he concluded that his writing ability was closely related to how much he had just read prior to writing. To sum up, individual students used readings in their own ways to benefit their writing, depending on their habit of source-referencing and the particular context in which they undertook a given assignment. The way they used the reading sources in a given situation determined how they perceived the reading-writing relationships in that situation. Therefore, while they normally took readings for granted as sources of information or concepts, the readings also furnished models for writing for the students on the level of form, ranging from vocabulary and sentence structure, to the organization and style of a genre of writing. In other situations, the readings served as raw materials in the creation of a writing mood which immersed the students so that their writing would flow. Obviously, in certain situations several of these phenomena might occur at once. Plannmg/Outlhung Following reading sources came the process of planning writing. Analysis of the data yielded two groups of writers, the planners and non-planners. The planners usually formed an outline, either mentally or physically, about what they were to write for an assignment. Thus, this group included mind-planners, who planned mentally only, paper-planners, who planned on 123 paper, and computer-planners, who planned on the computer: Non-planners did not habitually create a definite blueprint upon which to base their writing. Among my student participants, Ping was a good example of a mind-planner. He explained his planning process: P: First I will try to find sufficient materials. After I think I have collected enough, I will first make an outline. Although I often do not write them down, but I do have an outline. J: In your mind? P:Yes. (Interview with Ping, Nov. 29, 97) Though she was also a mind-planner, Bing seemed to follow a longer process of thinking for outlining. If she did not succeed at once, she would keep on thinking; sometimes she had to make several attempts. Bing gave this very vivid description during one interview. J: Before your writing do you do some planning? B: Actually before writing my paper I did like thinking. Take some day only to think how to organize the paper, like the outline of the paper, and then I will write down the contents like one, two, different sections. J: Yeah, that's an outline. B: For subject. Afterwards I will fill in some contents. J: When you do that outline, do you do it mentally or what? B: Mentally. J: You don't put it on paper or make some notes. B: Like the final [paper]. Like I take some days only think. During maybe lunch time or before sleep, I just working somewhere I can think and think about that. And then if I don't know how to do it, I just stop thinking. I will continue sometime if I want. Afterwards, I will write, use the computer most of the time. J: So you do an outline. Do you write on the computer right away? B: No, remember the outline in my mind, then when I have time, I write. B: Because I take some days thinking about the outline, then remember the detail. J: Don't you forget if you don't write down? B: Actually I remember. I just keep adding some new things in my mind. (Interview with Bing, Dec. 8, 97) In fact, Bing was a great "thinker." Not only did she think of how to organize the paper before writing it, she also had an extraordinary memory. She was able to virtually hold the outline in her mind until she had a more complete plan ready. 124 Hang was a paper-planner. Before composing the paper, he would produce an outline on paper and seek the approval of the instructor: H: Generally speaking, when I write, I write an outline first. If he didn't prove [approve], I should check it. J: So you first do an outline and get approval. H: Everybody should do; otherwise I cannot get a good grade. (Interview with Hang, Dec. 15, 97) It seemed that Hang wrote and printed his outline in order to let the instructor review it, and almost always, make some suggestions. Thus sometimes he had to write multiple drafts of the outline until the instructor granted him the "go-ahead." This way, Hang was able to write "correctly" and secure a better grade than if he did not seek the instructor's prior approval. Ling was like Hang. She wrote her outline on paper because she had to discuss it with her supervisor. Should that necessity be removed, she would become a mind-planner, as she admitted. J: Do you put it down on paper? L: On paper. Sometimes we have to discuss with the supervisor about the outline. J: Right. L: But not every time. If my supervisor wants to discuss with me about the paper before I began to write, I will plan it out. If he didn't ask me to do so, maybe just in my mind, or just draft [the paper]. (Interview with Ling, Nov. 23, 97) Ning was a computer-planner. He would write an outline on the computer before composing the paper, perhaps because he normally collected "bricks" - pieces of information - from his readings and store them on the computer. So it was convenient for him to generate an outline right on the computer. Ying was the only student in my study who did not typically write from a definite outline unless her instructor requested one. Several factors could be relevant. One is that taking five courses each term, she constantly struggled with an extremely heavy course load, which left her little time to work out a detailed outline. Furthermore, by the time of our last interview she had 125 not had a chance to write a research proposal or a more elaborate research document than a course paper. However, as she admitted, she would write an outline if required to do so. J: How do you start writing your papers? Y: First, you read about the subject. J: Do you do some planning before you write? Y: Not a lot. The ideas come as you write your paper. J: So you don't do any outlining? Y: When it's required, I do. J: So if it's not required, you just go straight to write. Y: Right. J: Do you have some kind of outlining in your head? Y: In a very general sense. Then after you write something, you reorganize your ideas and everything. (Interview with Ying, Nov. 24, 97) Given that Ying did have some general plan about what she was to write, she might be considered a marginal planner rather than a straight non-planner. 5.2.2 Initial-Writing Methods As indicated earlier, initial-writing methods are those the students used to compose or try to compose the initial draft of an assignment in part or whole. In what follows I discuss some of the methods and related issues, in particular, those I perceive as significant to their writing process or worthy of examination in light of the research in second language writing. Accommodating Faculty Expectations When completing their assignments, all the students tried to meet the expectations of the instructors, whether they liked it or not. Unfortunately, not all the expectations were clear to the students. When this happened, Ning would seek out the faculty and then go to great lengths to 1 2 6 accommodate them, as he reflected, N: And also, my [dissertation] proposal. Before the proposal, I asked different professors. I think I told you. What are their expectation? They say 'you write in detail. And we need some new idea.1 J: Before you do the experiment, it's kind of hard to give the details. Right? N: Oh, proposal, [for] that one I read a lot. I spent a lot of time try to write as detail as possible. Very detailed. Every experiment, even temperature, everything is [as if] almost I have already done. And also you can use my proposal to do this as [an] experiment plan or menu. (Interview with Ning, Jan. 2, 98) Typical of many Chinese students writing in English, Ning had riot attended to details in some of his earlier assignments which were not highly valued. Now that he knew what was expected, his writing was better appreciated. But supplying the details for this research proposal took considerable pains. Bing, however, was not satisfied with expectations as general as those mentioned above. Whenever possible, she would meet with the professor to obtain prior approval of her ideas or get some clues and suggestions. To her delight, she usually succeeded in getting what she wanted: "... usually I talk with the professor in detail. And I can get something from the talk" (Jan. 5, 98). Ting's supervisor liked long papers, for that showed students had worked hard. So Ting produced a 50-page paper for his Directed Study, though that meant he had to include some superfluous content. Ming was careful to make his ideas as close as possible to those of his supervisor because "the supervisor is a boss" (Ming, Aug. 27, 97). Further, Ting and Ming normally tried hard to follow all the suggestions made by their supervisors and instructors in their drafts. Ting explained, "I take a course not only to learn something but also to earn credits. If I don't do as he said, he might give me a low mark. He may even fail me. That would be very face- losing" (Aug. 29, 97). Often, the faculty were "right" by North American standards in their suggestions. For example, when researchers write papers in China, they are very straightforward 1 2 7 in presenting their ideas. But in Canada authors usually have to take special care to provide rationales and specific information as well as following prescribed formats. So the Chinese students had to learn to write like Canadians. The faculty feedback was mostly fair and helpful. But sometimes even though they did not like the supervisors' ideas, as in the case of Ting's Directed Study paper (see 5.1.1), the students still accommodated their supervisors. Completing Academic Writing vs. General Writing One kind of routine academic assignment was the laboratory report or experiment-based research paper. Such papers usually follow a set format that includes abstract, introduction, literature review, methodology, results and discussion, conclusion, and references. Unlike students who usually followed the order of introduction, development, and conclusion when undertaking general writing such as creative writing (e.g., Emig, 1971; Lay, 1982; Zamel, 1982, 1983), the Chinese students often did not follow the order as stated above which appeared in their final product of the research paper. They might start with methodology, literature review, or. conclusion or any part they preferred for a given paper. As Ling said, Usually for our papers, usually include abstract, introduction, methodology, result and discussion, conclusion, and reference. Usually I do methodology first, then result and discussion, and then introduction... (Nov. 23, 97) Also, against the belief of some writing theorists (e.g., Cumming, 1989; Raimes, 1985; Zamel, 1982) that writing is tliinking, the participants often had completed much of their thinking during experiments before they actually set out to write the laboratory reports. Such thinking might include part of the introduction and discussion, most of the methodology and results, and even part of the conclusion. For these parts, all the students needed to do after the experiment was to record, often mechanically, those thoughts and procedures in words. 128 In fact, Ting had done so much scientific writing in his studies at U B C that he suspected his general English proficiency was declining because he had no chance to practice it. Thus, just as Silva (1993) pointed out that writing in English, by ESL students is different from writing in English by native English speakers, so writing research papers such as those based on experiments is in many respects different from general writing such as creative writing based on personal opinions and experiences. The difference suggests that an ESL student who performs the former at a given level may perform the latter at a different level. This finding is in keeping with Carrell and Connor's (1991) observation that "writing a 'good' personal essay does not necessarily translate into writing good academic prose" (p. 315). Copying and Modified Copying Copying here simply means taking sentences exactly from an assigned reading or another source and using them in one's own writing without providing quotation marks or the source of the reference. Though the concept can apply to one sentence, it more typically suggests a block of text of two or more sentences. Copying becomes modified copying if the source sentence is changed. Some researchers (Howard, 1993, 1995; Hull & Rose, 1989) have used the term patchwriting to refer to "copying from a source text and then deleting some words, altering grammatical structures, or plugging in one-for-one synonym substitutes" (Howard, 1993, p. 233). Patchwriting typically applies to writing a block of text and has been traditionally classified as plagiarism (Howard, 1995). In order to avoid the historical implications involved and facilitate my further discussions, I prefer the term modified copying, which is flexible in reference to any length of text thus copied. , Among my student participants, two said they sometimes copied when writing term papers but several others indicated their typical method of writing assignments as modified 129 copying: they knew very well that copying, which was regarded as plagiarism in North America, was prohibited in academic writing. I explore below why and how they used these methods, and in the meantime consider some of the issues involved. Kang sometimes copied when writing term papers. He did so because he believed it was common practice in his department among international students. But he did not copy a whole source article to produce his own assignment. He used multiple sources from the Internet and printed materials (see Appendix K for a sample of supposed copying). While on line, he cut/copied and pasted the parts into a file, mixed them up, and then smoothed out the connections. Consider this interview excerpt: K: The students, foreign students, our focus on one or two papers, and sometimes I just, not writing, I have to say it's a kind of copy. Just copy paragraph and paragraph on my term paper or project. J: Do you think the professor will know this is something you copied from others? K: That depends on your skills. J: Do you make any changes or just copy word for word without any change? K: Sometimes just word by word. J: When you copy word by word, do you use quotations? K: No, copy. J: So as if it's your own writing. K: Yeah, just organize them and let them smooth. OK. Just mix the several papers. J: Ok, you copy some sentences here, some sentences there. K: Yeah, that's right. And all those [students do this]. (Interview with Kang, Nov. 22, 97) Qing, who was in the same department, confirmed what Kang referred to as a common practice. She, too, admitted copying sentences when writing term papers, but she also rewrote sentences while retaining the content. She did so because her course paper would only be read by the course instructor, who I would assume would accept her paper without questioning. She was quite aware that copying in her thesis, a public document to be housed in the library, could bring her trouble or at least make her look bad. 130 Q: When I begin to write something, I seldom write myself. Always find some articles, copy this part and this part, and then organize. Most of them [other students] do this way, I think. J: Do you copy sentence by sentence, word for word? Or do you copy it but then you process it, using the information when you use your language? Q: Just part of them. J: Without any change. Q: Seldom without change. Q: Yeah, I guess maybe this is for the...for some thesis you should quote some result of others. But for my topic, most of them are in some particular area. Actually the teacher is not very strict with some literature because every student is asked to do the same thing. (Interview with Qing, Nov. 20,97) Some professors in Kang's and Qing's department, cognizant of this practice, took measures to try to prevent or discourage copying. Kang said some professors had asked the students to hand in photocopies of the references listed at the end of the paper. But obviously, if a student did not list the reference, s/he might not have to hand it in. Copying the source language may not necessarily indicate a lack of one's own ideas. Ling, for example, regarded copying as a learning method. When she had difficulty expressing herself, she would look for an article and try to learn from it, as she observed, Now every time I write a paper, I have to read many related papers and try to find their structure and use their structure. For example, I said I have some problem to conclude this paragraph. I will try to learn from someone else. They use this sentence to conclude. So I will use this sentence to conclude. (Ling, Nov. 8, 97) To Ling, borrowing others' sentences on certain occasions to express oneself was merely a way of learning to write - to write like a published academic professional. A more common practice among the student participants was modified copying. This seemed to result naturally from taking notes while they read source materials. In fact, Ning used a metaphor to describe how he made use of source texts. He compared writing an assignment to building a house. Gathering excerpts from the readings was collecting bricks. The bricks were 131 ideas from the readings or his own ideas which could be expressed using the words he collected from his readings. Ning knew that when he copied exact sentences from source readings, he had to use quotes in his writing. But he did not want to use quotes since that way, his writing would appear to be full of quotes. He did not want to be accused of plagiarism, either, which to him (and several other students) meant only using the exact sentences from reading sources without acknowledgement. So he changed some words while or after taking notes. Once all the bricks had been collected, he would build a house, namely write his paper (see Appendix L for a sample excerpt, supposedly an outcome of collecting bricks). Ning had to use expressions from his readings because to him that was the only way he could ensure his language was correct. ...those things [copied sentences from readings with or without change] is like bricks. You use bricks to build the house. I have to collect all the bricks there in the place, in the address of the house. OK. When everything is almost done, I build a house in the same place. (Ning, Dec. 5 , 9 7 ) Usually I took sentence from literature. I didn't use my writing; just organize different writing from literature. But I don't copy whole paper. I use different information in one paragraph. So just collect information. I don't need to spend my time thinking [about] the sentence or something like that. OK. Different way of writing. First I put important thing to me in the computer. I saw this paper, type in. When I type in, same time I make change. Sometimes I type in, then make changes as my information data base. When I make all the information here, I organize them, put them together. This way [I] make sure my writing is correct. (Ning, Dec. 5 , 9 7 ) Ning's approach to writing through modified copying is very similar to how Kang utilized copying mentioned above. On the other hand, Ning saw no way to avoid using references in terms of either content or language when writing scientific papers. He had to use others' ideas. Even the ideas he developed himself were based on the ideas from his readings. Strictly speaking, many, or perhaps most of his ideas were not entirely his own. But the question for us to ask is: Should he provide references for A L L those ideas? Indeed, is it possible for him to provide the references for A L L those ideas, some of which he might have learned in Chinese earlier in his life? This begs the more general but fundamental question: Should we acknowledge all our learning in our 132 writing? To express his own ideas, Ning had to use the English he learned from his readings. He could not normally invent English words, and certainly, could not normally use Chinese in his assignments. As he argued in one interview, N: You write the scientific paper. Everything you say, you have to use reference [meaning others' ideas]. If you say, this thing, or protein, will be nurtured by 70 degree, this experiment not done by myself. J: So you have to refer to somebody. N: You have to refer to somebody. That's the brick of your paper. But when you use this bricks through [to express] your own-idea,- whatyou want-to say, so the difference - you have your idea, you use different bricks [others' language], build up your own thing. So you can write without reference [other's ideas]. But you use reference [others' language]. (Interview with Ning, Dec. 5, 97) So reference to Ning refers to others' ideas or others' language. In other words, when he wrote in English, he had to use references, one way or another, almost all the time because English was not his first language but one which he had just learned, and was still learning, from others. Nonetheless, modified copying was not always easy. Ning met another challenge when he tried to change words in the copied sentences. Those sentences to him were "perfect." With changes, the sentences might not be "perfect" any more. So when I met him for the final interview, he was still learning how to make changes so as,not to be accused of plagiarism. With regard to Ning, further questions need to be asked. If Ning did not borrow others' words, which he thought would allow him to write "correctly," how could he write using his own Chinese or his imperfect English? Could he create good English writing given his current developing stage of learning English and learning to write in English? If so, would or should he be punished for using "Chinese English" (i.e., literal translation from Chinese) and having other language imperfections? While clearly Ning could be blamed somehow for his imperfect English or inability to write correctly and well on his own, I would presume that U B C as his educational institution bears some responsibility as well. As Hughes (1999) observes, "institutions are failing 133 to prepare students for scholarly research and then punishing them for their confusion about the process of scholarship" (p. 1). The institutional responsibility, however, can be fulfilled through the offer of accessible English language courses designed for ESL graduate students, which are currently absent in the regular curriculum at UBC. A less obvious form of copying is writing from memory or using words and sentences one has memorized from other sources. Since the students simply used the language they had learned by heart, usually they did,not provide the reference; indeed, often they would not bother to memorize the sources along with the source language. Most students who have gone through the Chinese education system were used to such memorization as a way of learning right from kindergarten. In fact, at least two students in my study, Ding and Bing, were still practicing this method. Ding reflected on one method he used: "I always try to memorize all of them, sometimes words, sometimes if I think this sentence is important, I try to memorize it" (Dec. 15, 97). To his advantage, Ding had a good memory. But to his disadvantage, his memory subjected him to what he knew as plagiarism. Therefore, he had to deliberately avoid consulting the sources again while writing so as to minimize the chances of plagiarism. Still, if Ding used those memorized sentences in his assignment without providing the source, he might still be accused of plagiarism. But what then is the difference between language learning, especially rote language learning (still widely practiced in many parts of the world), and plagiarism? I know of no definite answer, but what I find illuminating is Pennycook's (1996b) conclusion to his thought-provoking article on borrowing others' words: All language learning is to some extent a process of borrowing others' words and we need to be flexible, not dogmatic, about where we draw boundaries between acceptable or unacceptable textual borrowings, (p. 227) 134 Thinking Media As they planned, outlined, or organized the paper, most of the students thought in Chinese most of the time. One reason was that they were focusing on ideas rather than language and their ideas, including the organization of the ideas, were in Chinese. Consider what Feng, Qing, and Ping had to say: J: In your planning, do you think of the ideas in English or Chinese? F: Ideas in Chinese. - v - (Interview with Feng, Nov. 19, 97) J: But for what purposes and in what situations do you think in Chinese? Q: Maybe some, for some logical problems. Before you write, you think what you should talk about each question. Right? Maybe in this case. J: You mean procedural? Q: Just basic procedures. (Interview with Qing, Dec. 30, 97) J: But you said sometimes you still think in Chinese. P: Yeah. J: At what stage, in what ways, for what purposes? P: Mainly the whole construction - J: - the outline. P: Yeah because when I planning, naturally I want to think in Chinese. (Interview with Ping, Nov. 29, 97) It was natural for Ping to plan the paper in Chinese because he had developed the habit of thinking of the organization of his research papers in Chinese, at least up to the time of the interview. In fact, like almost all the others, he had been thinking in Chinese throughout his life. It was very difficult, if not impossible, to switch to another language to think, especially when his stay in Canada had not been significantly long and the subject matter was in the same area as his university studies in China. Closely connected with the previous reason was the effect of the habit. The well- established habit of thinking in Chinese enabled the students to think quickly and reliably, as, it 135 seemed to them; thinking in English was simply unreliable for them at this stage. Wang explained: J: Why do you use Chinese in the planning stage? W: It is more convenient, more reliable, more clearly. You can organize your ideas more efficiently, more quickly. After that in composing you have to use English. J: Otherwise you can't write idiomatic English. (Interview with Wang, Dec. 6, 97) Ding was more conscious that thinking in Chinese could lead him to produce non- idiomatic English. But for the purpose of an outline, he considered thinking in Chinese a "safe" practice. J: In what language do you normally think about your writing? D: When I write, I usually do an outline. Usually for the outline I think in Chinese. But when I do the writing I try to think in English. J: Why use Chinese for the outline? D: I think it's pretty easy, because I always think that's for outline, just know the whole things. It doesn't matter. It won't affect your writing. It's easier and quickly to think about it. (Interview with Ding, Dec. 29, 97) As indicated above, when the students actually composed their papers, some of them would think, or at least try to think, in English. They understood very well that thinking in English was essential for producing idiomatic English writing. Kang even forced himself to do so: I understand that if you think in Chinese but write in English, that's only the first stage of English study, English learning. If you want to improve your English, improve your English writing, you have to force you to think in English and write in English. Sometimes I force me to do it. (Kang, Nov. 22, 97) Some students thought in English while writing the paper owing to the force of inertia. Having read many English references and probably thinking in English while reading, they would continue doing so when they tried to use the references, as Ding did. 136 J: So why do you switch to English in actual writing the paper? D: I don't know because at the beginning when I first write a paper in English, I think for me it's difficult. So usually I read lots, lots of papers. So it's like a format. So when I write this, if I read many papers, it's like a format. When I think I'm going to write in this sentence, just English come first, not Chinese. J: Because you read the English references. It's natural to tend to think in English that way. (Interview with Ding, Dec. 29, 97) This was more the case for Ying, who had been reading English sources in speech pathology and audiology at U B C and had no Chinese background at all in her current area. The same was true with Kang to a certain extent. Since he had shifted-from studying nuclear physics in China to electric engineering at UBC, he learned many English terms for which he had no Chinese translation. Therefore he had to think in English, as he observied, "But now I would think in English because I don't know how to exactly translate those words into Chinese. That's the new academic term I just learned" (Nov. 22, 97). Ping had a different reason for thinking in English during the writing process: he wanted to. Though his language proficiency was still limited, the composing process allowed him time to think of and express his ideas in English, albeit slowly. In speaking he might not have the needed time to do so; therefore he often had to translate Chinese to English during speaking or speak English in a Chinese way. J: But how come when you write you use more English? P: Because in writing the speed is certainly slower than in speaking. So I can control the speed and I will feel more comfortable to write in English. You see I have mentioned. Only I cannot express myself fluently in English, I will resort to Chinese. But in writing this situation is better. So I will more tend to think in English. (Interview with Ping, Nov. 29, 97) Still, the students also thought in Chinese during the composition process, some more than others. From the interviews I identified the following reasons or situations for thinking in Chinese which applied to one or more of the students at one time or another. 1 3 7 Throughout their writing process Ming and Ting, for example, used Chinese extensively in thinking. Ming acknowledged doing so 50% of the time and Ting 70%. One reason was its relative ease though Ming condemned it as a bad habit. The most typical situation was to write assignments involving a considerable amount of mathematics or calculation (see Qi, 1998), which they had been learning and practicing in Chinese all their life; Ting also said he was often so pressed for time that he simply could not afford to think in English. A third reason related to their professors' expectations: in their department, many instructors did not care much about the students' language as long as the ideas were correct and-understandable. Therefore, the students had no pressure to think in English, which was presumably more likely to generate English language with better rhetoric: and idiomaticity. In fact, Ting suspected that his general English proficiency was getting worse because he had no chance to practice it, nor was he obliged to pay close attention to it in writing. The substantial use of Chinese in thinking may help explain why Ting complained that often his ideas were misinterpreted by the professors, or simply called unclear. English and Chinese are entirely different linguistic systems involving considerably different thought processes, different sentence structures, and many non-corresponding expressions (see Cadman, 1997; Fox, 1994; Silva, 1993; Shen, 1989). If Chinese sentences are translated literally into English or English is written in Chinese ways, the writing will very likely have problems (see Appendix M for a sample; for more details on the students' writing problems, see Chapter 6). A further reason some students thought in Chinese was the difficult or complicated topic, it was simply not possible for them to process the information in English, at least initially. In this case, Hang would translate his Chinese thoughts into English: J: But do you find it hard to translate? The thing is if you think in Chinese, and you have to write in English, there must be a process of translation going on. H: Yeah. But if the topic is familiar, English and Chinese are the same. But if some topic is very difficult, maybe I think in Chinese. 138 (Interview with Hang, Dec. 15, 97) Ting revealed yet another interesting point about thinking in Chinese. He defended his thinking in Chinese on the ground that he had acquired most of his knowledge, or intake (see Chaudron, 1985; Gass, 1988) of wood science in Chinese. Thus when he tried to use this knowledge base or retrieve information from it, he just resorted to Chinese. This is consistent with Frielander's (1990) notion that topic knowledge stored in a certain language seems best used when retrieved in the same language. I call it the intake-retrieval phenomenon. Ting explained in one interview, What does that depend on? If I received the information in Chinese, I am likely to revert to Chinese. But if I don't quite understand something in English, then...Let me give you an example. I specialize in wood science. If I take a wood science course, I always change to Chinese. But suppose I have a friend who does not specialize in wood science and who does not have a good understanding of my specialization. If I say a wood science term, he doesn't know its Chinese meaning. If you ask him, he can't tell you the Chinese meaning but may be able to explain it in English [provided that he has read the English text or dictionary]. His understanding then is very mechanical [repeating the book]. The same applies to me. If the information I receive in English is something I never learned before, I am very likely to think of it in English. (Interview with Ting, Aug. 29, 97) Ting's friend who knew little about wood science but received input about it in English would be likely to store and retrieve that knowledge in the same language, namely, English, given that he already had a considerable mastery of English. This was the case for Ying. She was studying audiology and speech pathology, for which she had neither educational nor work background. All she read of her area was in English; consequently she thought in English. J: In what language do you normally think about your writing? Y: English. J: All the time from planning to proofreading? Y: Yeah. J: Why don't you use Chinese? Y: I don't know how Chinese...It's hard to translate and back. Just all the readings are English. All the terminology are English. I don't have a background in this area in Chinese. 139 J: So you have no resource to go back to. Y:No. (Interview with Ying, Nov. 24, 97) Rather than translating Chinese to English, Ding applied a different strategy. When he met complicated concepts, he would think in Chinese first, and then switch back to thinking in English to reprocess the thoughts. Thus, he had a better chance of not writing "Chinese English." J: Do you switch to Chinese in the middle of writing? D: Sometimes if I don't know. I'm not sure whether I can, how to express my ideas in English. So I just switch to Chinese, to think-if in Chinese, what should I say. J: Do you think it helps? D: I think it helps. J: Do you do a kind of translation? D: But what I mean is if what I did is too complicated to use [my limited] English to express, so you use Chinese to think about. When you think it through, so you just use English to think this again. (Interview with Ding, Dec. 29, 97) As Ding's story suggests, perhaps a more common phenomenon is that instead of thinking in English or Chinese entirely when writing a paper, most of the students would use both, but separately. The transition or switch from one language to another viewed from a psycholinguistic perspective is called language-switching (cf. Qi, 1998).4 The students would switch from English to Chinese when they met conceptual difficulties or could not express their ideas in English during writing, and then either translate or switch back to English for thinking. Consider what Ling and Xing said: I try to think in English but sometimes it can't be avoided to think in Chinese. When I meet difficulty I think in Chinese. (Ling, Jan. 10, 98) Sociolinguists have used the term code-switching mainly in the analysis of speech discourse to refer to the switch from one language or language variety to another during one communicative episode (see e.g., Beebe, 1977; Ellis, 1995; Heller, 1988; Meisel, 1994; Scotton & Urg, 1977). Milroy and Muysken (1995), for example, used code-switching to describe "the alternative use by bilinguals of two or more languages in the same conversation" (p. 7). 140 I usually think in English. But sometimes I do it in Chinese especially if it is a difficult concept. (Xing, Nov. 18, 97) Apparently, the students tried to think in English during writing. When they had to think in Chinese, they might then have to translate their Chinese thoughts to English. Ding's language- switching was not typical of other students who usually resorted to translation, as Wang did: W: Yes. For example, an English sentence, in a Chinese structure like an English sentence, just put English words into the sentence. Direct translation. J: Sometimes you do that? W: Yes. Sometimes you cannot find a proper expression-in English, you have to translate them from Chinese. But afterwards, you read papers on this topic, just similar to what you want to say. Then you find it in English. J: Chinese translation is different. The point is translation is a strategy you have to fall back on. You have no resort, absolutely no expression. Obviously you have to fall back on something because you have to get on, get ahead. You cannot stop there, get stuck. Translation is a backup strategy to help you out. W: Yeah. (Interview with Wang, Dec. 5, 97) My response in the interview did not suggest that students should use translation as much as possible, but that it serves as a remedy or strategy to get the writing started. Of course, translation has its drawbacks as it often results in "Chinese English," or fails to express desired ideas and effects accurately. Indeed, Ling complained about the use of translation: I'm sure my native language interferes. Sometimes I want to...I don't know how to express my ideas clearly. But I have some Chinese words in my mind, but I got to translate into English. But translate doesn't exactly express my idea. So I'm not so happy when I translate [into] English. But I can't find the words within my range of vocabulary. (Ling, Interview, Jan. 10, 98) When the students met difficulties expressing their ideas in English, some would turn to Chinese-English dictionaries. But these dictionaries have only limited use in that they provide only literal translation of Chinese terms. The students had to turn to English-English or English- Chinese dictionaries to seek explanations of the meanings and uses of the words. Ping explained: 141 J: What do you do in such a case? P: I have to look up in a Chinese-English dictionary. After that, I again use English dictionary, to make sure. Sometimes, the Chinese-English dictionary cannot give you accurate explanation. J: They just give you the translation, but not how to use the word. You have to go to the English dictionary to look for the meaning and explanation P. I do it this way. (Interview with Ping, Feb. 9, 98) Some students would use Chinese-English dictionaries just to get the spelling of a word, especially of technical terms which are hard to spell. But if a student could spell the word, the English dictionary might be of no use, as happened to Ling. Sure. Sometimes Chinese-English dictionary. Because only in the dictionary can you find the spelling, such as 'promising.' If I can't remember how to spell it, I go to that dictionary and find the English word in translation. If I don't know how to spell a word, it will be difficult for me to find it in an English dictionary. (Ling, Nov. 23, 97) No one thought in English or Chinese all the time; there is a continuum from thinking in Chinese to thinking in English, on which they took different points at a given time. As their English skills developed, they would move from one end of the continuum toward the other. Consider Kang's generalization and my conversation with Ping: I think everybody, I mean for every Chinese, if he is born in Chinese [China] and studied English in a Chinese environment, the simple procedure he has to go. First, he read English but think in Chinese and translate sentence by sentence; and keep on going, he'll try to think in English. Right now, like you, you can speak English. Most of the time you can think in English. But only depends how far to this extent. (Kang, Nov. 22, 97) J: In what language do you normally think about your writing? P: I think gradually at least in my writing I tend to think in English. J: I see. You tend to, or you are starting to think more in English than in Chinese. P: Yeah. Starting to think more in English when writing. (Interview with Ping, Nov. 29, 97) The difference, however, is that some students such; as Ying, Kang, Ping, and Zong would probably move faster on the continuum because they had a better mastery of English, thought 142 more in English when reading English, had less interference from their studies in China, and/or tried harder to think in English while writing in English. Others, such as Hang, Bing, and Ting, would probably move more slowly because they had lower English proficiency, suffered more from the Chinese influence, and/or relied more on translation. 5.2.3 Post-Writing Methods To analyze the Chinese students' writing-process^-1 use-the term post-writing methods for those methods the students used to proofread, revise, or edit the initial draft of a paragraph segment, a paragraph, a section of a paper, or a whole paper. Post-writing normally occurs after the completion of the initial draft. Ding performed post-writing after drafting a paragraph. But once the whole paper was completed, he would not normally proofread it. Ling proofread after drafting one part or section of a paper, sometimes one or more days later. Then she would discover some of her own errors in the first draft or find new ideas to add; or she might be surprised that she was able to write better sentences than she expected. Ling had used this method in her Chinese writing in China. Her practice at U B C could be regarded as a transfer: J: Do you use editing and revision in your writing? If so, how and at what stages? L: I do this. J: Do you do it while you write or after you finish the first draft? L: After I finish one part [section], like methodology. After I finish this part, I will review. J: Like I finished this part today, come back to it tomorrow or another day? L: Yeah, it's quite helpful. J: Do you do that? L: Yes, sometimes. I find it's helpful. Sometimes one day or one week passed. When you go back to your writing, you will find many mistakes, or you will have new ideas to add. J: I recommend this strategy as I found it very helpful. L: Sometimes I find, OK, I'm very surprised I can so good sentence when I come back. Even in China when I write Chinese article, I write this way. (Interview with Ling, Nov. 23, 97) 143 The rationale for such postponed post-writing is that one is likely to approach the draft with a fresh mind on another day and thus be able to have better ideas for the language and/or content of the initial writing. A related consideration might be that during initial drafting the students were preoccupied with their ideas. Only during the post-writing stage could they pay more attention to expressing their ideas. Therefore, for Zong editing constituted an essential stage of writing: Z: The other thing to improve writing is to read after you put something down. You read through it and find this sounds funny. It doesn't read well, it doesn't sound well. J: You mean proofreading or editing skills. Z: Yeah, editing skills. You always go through different stages of editing [writing]. First you put ideas down. Then you make it more readable. It's not just logic, it doesn't flow very well. J: The feel for the language. Z: That also comes from the speaking part. When you read you listen to yourself at the same time. (Interview with Zong, April 8, 98) Similar to, but somewhat different from, Ding and Ling discussed above, Wang would review a draft after he finished addressing a topic in one or more sections. The transition between topics provided him a convenient break to edit one topic before taking up another. But if the paper contained only one topic presented in a few pages, he might not need a break. Hang and Qing normally did their editing right after drafting the whole paper, and seldom visited the writing again, unless the instructor requested a revision. The practice of "what is done is done" was actually true for most students, the possible exceptions being Ling and Zong. But when writing a thesis, a dissertation, or a journal submission, they would be more serious and careful. Unlike most of the others, Ying would normally edit her writing as she composed. Perhaps since she had majored in English as an undergraduate, she paid much attention to her language as well as to her ideas while she wrote. In fact, she always aimed at a clear logical 144 organization of her thoughts expressed in a flowing style. But like most others, she normally would not undertake postponed post-writing: J: Do you use editing and revision in your writing? If so, how and at what stages? Y: Sure. J: How do you do this? Y: One thing is the organization of your thoughts. And the other thing is the general flow of your language. So you need to modify that a lot - J: -1 see, as you write. Y: Yes. J: You do proofreading, I guess. Do you proofread or edit another day? Y: Normally I don't. J: So once it's done, it's done. Maybe you don't have timer Y: Yeah, it's not a short process. It's not it's done. But you spent so much time while doing it. (Interview with Ying, Nov. 24, 97) Though most students performed post-writing after or during drafting, only perhaps Ying and Zong paid special attention to the flow of the language, or rhetoric. English writing proficiency certainly was relevant, as Ming admitted, We don't care about style or strategy. As long as we can turn out the paper, we are satisfied. Attention to style is too difficult for us including those who have graduated with theses in our dept. The concept of style perhaps applies to you language majors. But to us it is too early to think about it. If we can write something that the prof can understand, that is already an accomplishment for us. We can't,afford to care about styles. (Ming, Aug. 27, 97) The students' and the professors' attitude to writing was another factor. As presented in section 5.1 and 5.2.2, most faculty in sciences and engineering were more concerned about ideas than about language. This created an impression among the students that language was not very important as long as it was understandable and that the experiment findings were correct or valuable. Further, Ming believed that the straightforward nature of scientific writing did not require much rhetoric. It is not surprising then that Feng rarely revised course assignments in order to improve the language, though he would treat a journal submission differently. 145 In short, most of the Chinese students would proofread, edit, or revise their initial drafts before submitting them to the course instructors. Some, such as Ling and Zong, were more serious and spent more time revising the language as well as the content. Their attitude toward post-writing had much to do with the expectations of their course instructors or supervisors: Ling's supervisor had high expectations and spent much time of his own to revise her drafts. But Feng's supervisor did not appear to be demanding about formal aspects, so Feng seldom proofread his assignment drafts for formal improvements. Though the students paid attention to grammar and spelling during post-writing, most of them did not seem to have a strong sense of the flow of language, or rhetoric. Some, such as Ding, Ling, and Bing, sometimes asked their supervisors to perform post-writing for them. Only Hang and Ning mentioned having peers read their drafts on certain occasions. Since faculty were generally very busy, the students assumed that seeking peer assistance with post-writing, especially from strong native-English-speaking writers, would improve their final products. 5.3 Summary In this chapter I have addressed the kinds of assignments and research proposals the Chinese student participants had to complete for their course work and theses or dissertations. The most common and most weighted assignment was the project report, much like the scientific article in academic journals in style. However, the specific requirements for project reports and proposals varied from one faculty member to another. Similarly, faculty members differed considerably in their expectations of the students and in how they reacted to the students' papers. Some professors provided very detailed feedback and even rewrites while others did not even return the students' papers. In general, the Chinese students preferred to receive faculty feedback regarding both the form and the content of their writings rather than content alone. They were 146 often disappointed when the faculty failed to get their papers back to them or failed to provide feedback that would help them improve their writing. Further, using my data, I have explored the methods the Chinese students used at the pre- writing, initial-writing, and post-writing stages, and have discussed relevant issues related to the methods. Among others, the following methods or issues are worth reiteration: 1. All the participants were aware of what plagiarism meant and its consequences. However, because they were not confident of their English and were pressed for time, most had to copy from sources, in varying amounts and with varying frequencies. Partly to avoid being accused of plagiarism, they sometimes utilized modified copying by making changes to the source language. One fairly common approach to writing assignments such as literature reviews seemed to be to combine borrowings from different sources and then reorganize them. While most faculty may disapprove of word-for-word copying of one or more source sentences without providing the references, modified copying by international students appeared to be acceptable. 2. Since learning a second language or learning to write in a second language inevitably involves imitation, it is not always easy to distinguish learning from imitation, learning from copying, imitation from plagiarism, or learning from plagiarism (including modified plagiarism). Certainly, more research needs to be carried out in this direction. 3. In planning or outlining papers, most students used Chinese as the thinking medium, because their background knowledge was largely stored in Chinese, and it would be much easier to access the knowledge bank in the same language. Hence, I proposed the intake- retrieval phenomenon (for information processing through language) which can be elaborated as follows: when one learns something for the first time in a particular language and stores the learning in that language, one tends to retrieve or think of the learning in the same language afterwards. 1 4 7 4. Some difference existed between first- and second-hand information processing. When some students wrote reports on experiments they had conducted, they experienced first- hand information processing, which more likely involved more thinking in Chinese and possibly translation afterwards. When they only reported on the work done by others such as in a literature review or explained la concept learned from an English source, they usually experienced second-hand information processing, which more likely involved more thinking in English. 5. Even if the students tried to comprehend English sources in English, most of them would resort to translation to Chinese to understand difficult concepts. Some had to translate the concepts to Chinese in order to store them in long-term memory as they had acquired their previous knowledge background in Chinese. If they tried to store new concepts in English, the concepts would not integrate with the Chinese concepts. Similarly, most had to switch to Chinese when thinking about difficult complicated concepts during writing. 6. There was a long continuum from thinking completely in Chinese to tWnking completely in English. The students developed along the continuum though some moved faster than others. 7. Unlike composition where writing is believed to be thinking, laboratory report writing might simply involve mechanically recording what has transpired and therefore would not involve as much thinking. Thus, that a student could write well in scientific English might not necessarily mean that s/he could write equally well in general English, and vice versa. 8. Finally, since their own research was supposed to be original, the students had to rely more on themselves than their readings to report and discuss their research findings. As Feng and Ming admitted, it was the discussion part of the research paper that presented the most challenge. To further describe the' writing challenges, I turn to the next chapter. 148 C H A P T E R 6: ANALYSIS: WRITING C H A L L E N G E S In this chapter I present the challenges the Chinese students encountered in the process of completing their written course assignments and thesis proposals. Most of these were the difficulties the students reported in our interviews. Others were suggested by the problems I found in the students' sample writings and then discussed in interviews. For the sake of presentation I divide these challenges into four categories: 1) vocabulary and grammar, 2) stylistic concerns, 3) thought transcription (or expressing ideas in writing), and 4) information management and organization. The categories might not be mutually exclusive: though I choose to discuss a certain example under one category, it might also fit under another. Then, based on my data, I offer explanations for the challenges under discussion from cross-linguistic and cross- socio-cultural perspectives. 6.1 Vocabulary and Grammar Among the many language difficulties the students initially encountered in their studies at U B C were technical terms. Since they had studied their subjects in China mainly in Chinese, many English technical terms were new to them. They could not spell the terms, know their meanings, or identify their sound representations even though the terms were in their own fields. This difficulty was more serious for students in chemistry, medicine, and biology, which seemed to be full of technical terms and expressions. The technical terms added to the students' existing language difficulty, especially in the beginning. As Ling recalled, I remember the first day when my supervisor talked to me, he talked about copper sulphate, 'liusuantong' (in Chinese). It's really a common chemical in China. Even you just have very simple chemistry education, you will know this. But for me I cannot understand. I don't know the language. My supervisor talked about copper sulphate. I don't know 149 what he was talking about. But he write down on the blackboard, I know it's 'liusuantong.' So in chemistry there are many, many new words. Every chemical is a new word for me. (Nov. 8, 97) Other students also complained about technical terms. In writing, if they were thinking in Chinese and did not know the English terms, they would have to consult a Chinese-English dictionary. But unfortunately, many of these terms and expressions could not be found in their dictionaries, so they had to revisit the books and journal articles for help. A s suggested above, these students had difficulties with technical terms mainly because they had little English material to read ihlfie^field^s'mCHma': Their textbooks were almost always in Chinese and English journal articles were scarce. In contrast, university students in Taiwan were much better off; their readings were mainly in English. Wang revealed some of the root causes. W : Another example, we have more difficulties than Taiwan people. I ask them. They say that they use original textbooks in English especially in science and engineering. But in China we translate them all into Chinese. So they have no difficulties to grasp the concept, the terms used in engineering or sciences. But when they take lectures they speak Chinese. The readings is English. J: Maybe their instructors got their education in the States. W : I'm not sure. Besides, there's very few textbooks in Chinese on science and engineering. Most of them are directly imported from the U S . J: Only a small number in Chinese. The majority are in English. In China it's the opposite. W : [In China] Everything they translate into Chinese. J: It must have to do with the professors. Their English is not very good. Also the culture is suspicious of the foreign. (Interview with Wang, Dec. 5, 97) A s suggested elsewhere in this dissertation, even today many of those in power in China are still bent on trying to prevent students from "spiritual contamination," which often refers to the influence of Western culture such as critical thinking. Another difficulty that Kang and Xing mentioned was using varied vocabulary. When Kang wrote English papers, he found himself using a limited number of words again and again. 150 He simply did not have the resources to use more varied vocabulary. He felt a similar paucity with sentence structures: K: You'll find you use some words quite often. It means you have a very poor vocabulary. J: Limited vocabulary. K: I think it always happens to Chinese students. J: What? K: The limited vocabulary in the writing sentence. J: Right. K: Or even the sentence organization [structure]. Always like use two or three or some type of sentence. (Interview with Kang, Nov. 22, 97) One reason for the limited variety of words could be a difference between English and Chinese: English has an unusually large vocabulary including rich synonyms expressing different shades of meaning. Chinese, however, has a relatively small number of characters and readers depend largely on context for sense-making and interpretation.5 If the students think in Chinese, even partially, when writing in English, they tend to use a very limited number of corresponding English words and expressions, especially if they do not have a large English vocabulary. The fact that Kang could not use more sentence structures does not mean that he did not know of other structures. After all, he scored 620 on the TOEFL. Instead, more likely, he was simply not used to using other structures. Ming, on the other hand, deliberately avoided using more complicated structures or those he was not very sure about because he feared making errors and being penalized for them. Still, some students, especially Bing, Ming, and Ting, admitted to or showed many grammatical errors in their writing. Apparently, having a good knowledge of grammar and displaying it on the TOEFL test does not mean that one can use those structures well. There is a gap between "know-that" and "know-how." Ting was one such student: 5 This does not mean that English is a better language than Chinese. They are simply different in certain ways in certain contexts, and such differences may present challenges for Chinese speakers 151 J: Aside from discussion, is there any other aspect that is challenging to you? T: Grammar. I have no big problem with tenses, but with prepositions, articles, sentence structures, and usage. I think the most challenging [of these] is structure. It's often confusing. J: It's no easy thing to produce good structures. That also requires rhetoric. Even though the grammar may be correct, the structure may not be beautiful. (Interview with Ting, Aug. 29, 97) My analysis of the students' sample writings revealed more problems. For example, I read the Directed Study paper Ming wrote three months after his arrival in Canada and the grant proposal Ting wrote five months after his arrival. The common problems that both papers exhibited were improper use of punctuation (especially commas), subject-verb agreement, misuse of prepositions, non-idiomatic usage (e.g., was got; as following), and non-alphabetical listing of reference sources in the text. Ming's paper also showed misuse of upper case in headings (for function words), non-parallel structures, overuse of the passive, dangling modifiers, run-on sentences, and overly long sentences presumably due to translation. Ting failed to explain acronyms, left out "and" before the last listed item, overused colloquial expressions (e.g., say), and left an unusual number of typographic errors. Some of the problems Ting exhibited suggested that he failed to proofread the last draft before submission. Indeed, he said that he did not like to reread what he had written. So, it appeared that even to bring himself to proofread proved a challenge. One explanation for the numerous problems in the students' writings had to do with the faculty demands. While some faculty members were more strict with students' writings as demonstrated in their careful markings of grammatical and stylistic points, others showed more tolerance, which turned out to be an excuse, letting the students pay less attention to language. to learn English. 152 My professor doesn't care much about rhetoric when I write scientific papers. He only cares if he can understand my ideas. [Language should be] simple and clear. He doesn't care much about grammar. (Ting, Interview, Aug. 29, 97) In other words, as long as the writing was understandable, the faculty member would accept it even though grammatical and stylistic errors were abundant. Another explanation was the refuge offered by student identity. As students, some felt that it excusable to produce imperfect writings, or make errors. If they assumed some executive position and therefore, critical responsibility, they would have to try to be faultless. For instance, Wang was pleased that as a student heTelt a W;nfere1Brwla*hiake mistakes in contrast with his experience when working for a company in Singapore. W. ...But if you are a student, you can have more space to make mistakes. Your responsibility is less than if you were an engineer. J: It's OK for you to make mistakes. W: Yeah, because you are a student, you come to learn something. J: I see. It's natural to make mistakes as a student. W: As engineer it's your responsibility to make everything right. J: That's a matter of identity too. W: When you are an engineer and when you write a report, you must be very careful: Don't let your boss to pick any serious mistakes. J: I see, because you are in control, because in that position, that can have serious consequences. But as a student it doesn't matter that much. (Interview with Wang, Dec. 5, 97) Finally, the students' challenges in vocabulary and grammar could be attributed to their lack of writing practice. Before coming to Canada, they had generally written very little in the form of essays or research papers in English. English for non-English-major university students in China is primarily orientated to exams which emphasize multiple-choice questions on grammar and reading comprehension (see White, 1998). Not surprisingly, completing course papers and thesis proposals would also pose challenges in other aspects of writing as I continue my examination below. 1 5 3 6.2 Style In this section, I discuss the challenges the students had concerning style. I use the word style, or its derivative "stylistic," in a broad sense to include concerns about rhetoric (such as clarity, exactness, variety, and conciseness; see Hu, 1995) and format as well as other stylistic concerns (such as oral vs. written). While some students (such as Ting and Bing) highlighted more difficulty producing grammatically correct writing than others, almost all found writing with good rhetoric and appropriate style a challenge. In fact, some rhetorical and stylistic concerns were so challenging that a few students thought them to be beyond their reach. I examine these challenges in some detail with reference to the individual students. Since Ying majored in English in China, she had no problem writing grammatically correct sentences. However, she perceived much difficulty in producing writing in what she called appropriate style. Style could be difficult. If you write in your native language, you know what language, what vocabulary, is appropriate, what kind of writing style to use, but I don't quite get the proper sense of how certain vocabulary is to be used [appropriately], how the sentence should be organized... [to achieve] the flow of thought. (Ying, Interview, Nov. 24, 97) Zong, who had recently earned his Ph.D. in Wood Science at UBC, expressed a similar challenge even though he had published several articles in English journals since arriving in Canada. He explained the "flow" difficulty: Speaking of flow, I guess one of the hardest things about writing is to make it flow, make it readable. You can mechanically put what you want to express on paper, but it doesn't flow well. That tells the difference I think [between good writing and poor writing]...just flow. When you read, you grasp the meaning and you are eager to read. (Zong, Interview, April 8, 98) 154 I For writing to flow, it must, at least, be clear, coherent, and smooth in both language and meaning. Ping expressed difficulty in style too. But his understanding of style was a little different, more about idiomatic expressions, or writing in pure English rather than Chinese English. J: You mentioned style is hard. Why? P: You see, for vocabulary, I may know the meaning. In writing you do not know which words should go with others. Maybe you can write with correct grammar. Maybe it appears to native English speaker - it's not English. J: So you can write, but you are not sure whether it's acceptable or not. P: No, I'm not sure. (Interview with Ping, Feb. 5, 98) - Thus Ping pointed out one challenge common to many ESL writers, especially those who have had little exposure to the target language. Even for more advanced ESL writers, writing in idiomatic English may still pose a considerable challenge. Another difficulty for several students was using the written academic style. Probably because they were not aware of this stylistic concern, or the difference between the oral and written styles, some of the students used various colloquial expressions in their writing, the most common being contracted forms involving auxiliary verbs (such as there're, I've, it's, and wasn't). For example, Qing admitted this difficulty after I reviewed my feedback on one of her papers with her: J: What other linguistic difficulties? Q: Sometimes you can't maybe make the difference of the oral expression and writing [written] expression. (Interview with Qing, Dec. 30, 97) Perhaps more challenging than the written style perhaps was to write with clarity of meaning. Misuse of words, non-idiomatic expressions, inappropriate placement of sentence elements, the misuse of sentence connectives (to express logical relationships), and the 155 juxtaposition of incoherent ideas can all make a sentence unclear. For instance, Ting admitted his writing often lacked coherence and that his sentence structures were sometimes confusing. In fact, all the students had some difficulty with clarity. No wonder Ming remarked that they would be satisfied as long as they could express their ideas and their instructors could understand them, suggesting rhetoric and other higher-order writing qualities(such as style appropriateness) were somewhat beyond their reach at this stage. But did the instructors have any problem understanding the students' writing? In other words, could the students clearly express what they intended to convey? One professor in electrical engineering had to'ask a student to write eight or nine drafts of a paper because the first few drafts had many problems, including clarity. As I reviewed some of the students' writing samples, I, too, often noticed places where meaning was unclear. Another stylistic challenge concerned the use of references. Some students were not used to providing the references when they quoted sources directly or indirectly. Ding, for example, recollected: I think when I first came here, it's about reference. I usually don't want to give too much reference. Reference, is boring to type reference and easy to type wrong. But their request is so strict. As long as every sentence has reference, you have to give it. (Dec. 29, 97) This had to do with the cultural differences in academic or research writing between Canada and China, as Hang described: H:...But western journals give more space to discussion and rationale, like how much past research has done. J: Acknowledging prior research. H: Previous research, in the introduction. You can spend one page on it. In China you only need a line or two. If more, the editor would ask you to delete it because it takes too much print space. Other issues like format and quoting are different too. But in China not so strict. However, China is starting to make these requirements. (Interview with Hang, Nov. 25, 97) 156 While a comprehensive review of past research and a well-developed rationale for proposing new research are regarded as essential parts of a research paper in North America, doing so in the Chinese culture is often considered redundant and unworthy of the valuable space reserved for reporting research findings. Moreover, the number of Chinese books and academic journals for student use is very limited especially in advanced sciences and engineering. English materials with such contents are even more scarce. This scarcity of reference materials contributed to the habit the students had developed of not using many references. Though Ling could change the habit, as she showed in the following interview segment, others still found it difficult. L: At my stage I didn't use much reference. For my master's thesis [in China], maybe 20 references. But you know even for this directed study [project] I got 60. J: That means you had to read a lot more here in order to write a paper than in China. Was it because of the lack of references there? L: Maybe. In China we didn't use the English reference so much. But if you just use the Chinese reference, it's very limited. J: There were not many such publications. L:No. (Interview with Ling, Jan. 10, 98) I see many reasons for the challenges the students had related to style. One is the differences between English and Chinese, especially variations in sentence structure. English allows for clause-imbedding and subordination often at multiple structural levels within one sentence, and the subordinate elements at initial, middle, or final position of the sentence depending on information or rhetorical considerations. This is especially true in academic and scientific writing. Chinese, on the other hand, usually does not seem to have such rich and complex sentence structures in scientific writing. Instead, simpler and shorter sentence structures seem to be typical. Another difference is that English has many connectives to express a whole range of logical relationships and their shades of meaning while such connectives in Chinese are 1 5 7 far fewer.6 My interview with Hang further elaborates these differences: H : [Linguistic] Conflicts? I think it's the coherence between paragraphs and arguments. I feel that from my own writing experience That may have to do with our different cultures. Native English speaking writers are very logical. The following sentence comes from the previous one. Their arguments link one another. That's not easy for us to learn. When I read Chinese papers, I felt that discussion is very general, on the superficial level, logic is not very strong. But the NES writings are well connected. Every sentence has its place. Jumping doesn't happen often. J: You said the conflicts have to do with language. Do you mean that Chinese as a language is inherently not strong in connection? H: I guess it is possible. But if you write in English, it's easier. When I was translating a book for my supervisor, I found it easier to express some thoughts, by using clauses. If you do this in Chinese, the sentences would become too long. So you have to use short sentences. With short soitencesltVnaluirau^ moire rdu%clirf to handle connections or logic. J: Thank you. I felt this way too. English has complex sentences, compound sentences, relative clauses, which allow you to build many ideas into one sentence. But in Chinese, no. We seldom have very complicated sentences. (Interview with Hang, Nov. 25, 97) These differences add to the difficulty for Chinese students to shift from the habit of writing simple short sentences to writing long complex ones, and to get used to using sentence connectives. In fact, since composing long complex sentences is likely to pose more risk of errors and lack of clarity, some students, like Ming, simply sought refuge in less complicated structures. Another reason for the simple writing style of the Chinese students is the huge differences between the academic culture in China and that in Canada. As suggested above, academic writing in sciences and engineering in China tends to be straightforward, simple, and to the point. As the Chinese saying attests, you "open the door and see the mountain" (kai men jian son). But academic writing in Canada usually requires substantial supporting details, rationalization, and argumentation as well as prescribed formats. The following segments of interviews with Ting and Ling offer more explanations and comments: ...The time I have conflicts with them [the faculty] is when my paper is too simple. We do this all the time in China. Here your paper has to be logical. If you have an assumption, See note 5 for an explanation. 158 you need to give the rationale for it. Sometimes if I don't have the rationale, the teacher would like me to have one. I think this is the strictness of North America. I usually try hard to adapt. (Ting, Interview, Aug. 27, 97) L: Actually the homework is very simple [in China]. If you write the experiment report, it's quite simple. But here if you write an experiment report, you have to go through the whole thing - literature review, and methodology, everything, just like a paper. In China, no, OK. You just present the result, and answer some questions. J: You don't have to give background. L : Here it's more formal, elaborate. (Interview with Ling, Jan. 10, 98) Added to the simple writing style is the Chinese tendency to write for the writer. This makes it harder to write for the reader,"whichnativerEh^fi'speakers value as effective writing. Ting commented on this common difficulty: When I write, sometimes it's like a Chinese language major, writing fanatically to express oneself. But the following day when I look at my writing again, it could be nothing but garbage. Maybe that has to do with my Chinese, which I didn't learn very well. Incoherence is my big weakness. I only want to express my ideas in the way that makes sense to me but give little attention to whether others can understand me or not. Whenever my supervisor returns my paper, he'd say "when you hand in a paper or proposal, ask yourself if ordinary people or laymen can understand." If they understand, at least your writing is OK, pass. But if laymen cannot read it...Then I talked with my friends. Some papers especially at the PhD level are, by nature, not easy to understand. Maybe it's a characteristic of English writing that others [including laymen] must understand you. (Sept. 6, 97) In contrast, the Chinese language is more writer-oriented. Chinese essay writers, especially those well-versed in Chinese, tend to make liberal use of idioms and set phrases, paying more attention to personal display of linguistic richness than to readability for the audience. If the reader cannot understand the writing, it is often because the reader does not have a good enough knowledge of the language or the subject and therefore should study more before attempting to read. Zhu (1992) in her dissertation on Chinese ESL writing also commented that Chinese writings were writer-centered, and demanded more of the reader to make sense of the text. The discussions in the English writings she studied were general and implicit. Alternatively, Block and Chi (1995) 159 characterize Chinese text as more writer-based. The argument they give is that in a homogenous culture, the reader, if well-educated, is assumed to share the knowledge of the writer and therefore the writer does not have to be overly concerned about the reader. On the other hand, English is reader-oriented, working the opposite way, especially in case of research proposals. The writer has to constantly check to make sure even lay persons can understand the writing. If the reader cannot understand it, it is because the writer has failed to produce clear writing. The reader-orientation may relate to Western values such as humanity and equality in a culture which is highly heterogeneous. Hinds (1987) suggested the phrase "reader vs. writer responsibility" to describe this language difference. It seems that reader vs. writer responsibility is based on the perspective of interpretation: who is responsible for interpreting the text by the reader? I use a different term: writer/reader orientation, which is based on the perspective of composition. Hence the question is who the writer is thinking of, the reader or the writer. Another cultural difference which could help account for the students' stylistic problems is that the English way of expressing ideas or opinions is more democratic, more tolerant of deviations, while the Chinese way tends to be more definitive, more restrictive, and harsher. In fact, this cultural difference is reflected in the respective languages. Consider my interview with Zong: Z: If you compare the Chinese way of speaking with English, if you translate it directly, they are quite different. Because of the culture difference, that could turn people away. I think so. J: What do you mean by differences? Z: I find one of the differences, I like the way NES people express, to voice you want to voice a different opinion, let's say. Chinese way of saying something different is more definitive, more harsh. The English way is much more acceptable, acceptable to your opponent, if you want to say something different, for argument's sake. J: It allows for a different opinion. Z: That's something I find very useful. Let's say you and I have a different opinion. That happens all the time. But if you use the Chinese way to express it, or if you directly translate what you feel what you would feel in Chinese, to English, and say it, you would 160 turn people away. But if you use the English way to say it, to express your different opinion [e.g. using the subjunctive and various modal verbs], it would be much more acceptable to the people you try to get the message across. J: I don't want to use the word 'democratic,' but it looks like... Z: You COULD. I think. I find it's very interesting. J: I agree. I find it too. Z: Like in my job you constantly negotiate [with others]. (Interview with Zong, April 8, 98) Even though my conversation with Zong was mainly about speaking, similar cultural differences apply to writing. Compare what Ting said on this issue: I think the formats are similar. But in the [English] discussion and conclusion parts the tone is flexible and conservative. In China, many ideas which have not been proved are claimed as true. Here as long as an idea is not thoroughly proven, people do not make conclusive conclusions. In the sense the papers here are more conservative. (Aug. 29, 97) Ting perceived the English style of stating conclusions as conservative (not necessarily in a negative sense) and the Chinese style as more definitive. He thought he wrote English in the Chinese style because his professors often marked his writings for not providing sufficient evidence. In a recent study of Hong Kong Chinese scholars writing in English for publication, Flowerdew (1999) finds that his participants also experience difficulty in making claims for their research with the appropriate amount of force and are often overly assertive. Writing in the accepted English format initially posed other challenges to some of the students. While some instructors gave very detailed explanations in their course outlines about the format students should follow in writing their course papers, it was obvious from the course outlines I collected from both students and faculty that not every faculty member did so. As a result, students were left groping in the dark. For example, some of Ping's instructors did not explain in the outlines the format to use, so in writing his papers Ping used the format he learned in China. True, he had read many English articles as course readings. But he was not told that those journal articles contained the format he should follow when writing English papers and 161 journal articles. Not surprisingly, the sample papers which he gave me were all written in the Chinese format. When I asked him to explain, Ping complained about the lack of detailed instructions from his professors: P: Yeah, I think I have difficulties because the most important one is, I don't know exactly what's the standard I should follow. So there is ho Conflict. I don't know the English format. So I have to write according to my Chinese style. J: Because you have no idea of what the English style is. But don't you think - you must have read some journal articles. Right? Didn't you notice the differences when you read the [English] journal articles? Or you just paid attention to ideas, not to format, style, etc.? P: I have to say I paid attention. But when I write it, you see, I can follow principles. But after that, how to write each sentence? How to organize the whole paragraph? I know the first sentence should be a topic sentence,""and'lhe'l'ast'bnis' [should be a conclusion]. But how about in the middle? How to make your opinion step by step? That's not very clear. J: I see. P: Because the content you want to express is different from what you have read. So there are some differences. (Interview with Ping, Nov. 29, 97) More surprisingly still, his professors did not seem to mind the Chinese format that Ping used, for he received as good grades as his content and language deserved. Ning, however, did not get away with writing in his Chinese style. He was penalized for not writing in the format which was expected but which nonetheless was not made clear to him: N: So I put table. I put title. English I try to get from literature. Still, I don't get a good mark. They say 'you didn't organize well.' So I don't [know] how they require organize well. If I know that, I can do better. Actually they didn't have a very formal format there. J: So there is no clear format that everybody can follow. N: They think clear. J: Not clear to students. N: For my part, I think I didn't fully understand their expectation. And for their part, I think their expectations or requirements were riot clear. (Interview with Ning, Jan. 2, 98) Only when he came to write his comprehensive exam paper and consulted some of his committee members did he realize that he had to make effort to provide supporting details for his statements and generalizations. Ning further recollected on his bitter experience: "...they said they require 162 students' writing is in detail. But when you write in detail, it is difficult to process. So you have to be pushed to be in detail" (Jan. 2, 98). What Ning and Ping suggested was that to change their Chinese habits when writing English essays, they sometimes needed the teacher to point out and ideally, explain what exactly s/he wanted. Otherwise, the students were likely to keep using the Chinese style or format in their English writing, until some future time when they received feedback on their publication contributions. This suggestion, in principle, should also apply to problems in the other categories. 6.3 Thought Transcription A general writing challenge that seemed to concern all the Chinese students, to varying degrees, was how to put their thoughts into appropriate English. In other words, they often found it difficult just to express themselves using accurate English words and expressions. In this section I first discuss this general challenge, and then explore it in terms of parts of the research paper. One or more students specifically referred to discussion, conclusion, rationale, and experiment design though not all found all these parts difficult. As part of the discussion, I try to indicate why thought transcription in English was difficult for the students, and in some cases, what they did to try to overcome the challenges. Several students reported difficulty in expressing themselves in English. They had ideas in Chinese but simply to express them in English proved difficult, more difficult still if they wished to use appropriate words and expressions. Consider what Qing and Xing had to say on this challenge: Q: Just how to express. Sometimes when you have done something, you think it's much easier to tell somebody in Chinese what you have done, what's the importance of your work. But how to express in English? J: You have the ideas but hard to express them. Are these ideas coded in your mind in 163 Chinese or English? If the ideas in your mind are coded in English, it will be easy for your to express. But if in Chinese, then... Q:...Chinese. I guess mostly should be Chinese. (Interview with Qing, Nov. 20, 97) Especially I find it hard to express my ideas in precise and accurate words and expressions. I know the ideas but often cannot find a satisfactory expression. (Xing, Interview, Nov. 18, 97) As a result, Qing received a poor mark on the term paper she was talking about. Even though she believed she had conducted satisfactory experimental research, her work could not be duly presented and evaluated. Her inability to describe what she had accomplished in research using competent English made her feel very unhappy: Actually I have done a lot. When I came to writing, I didn't know how to say it. When I write in Chinese I think it's OK. But I didn't know how to say it in English. It's very bad. (Qing, Interview, Nov. 1, 97) Wang, too, had such difficulties. To overcome them, he consulted or revisited the English source texts and articles, and tried to find or remember the English expressions that could convey his ideas: W: Actually you have the idea in your mind but you don't know how to express it. J: So you go back for expressions. W:Yeah. (Interview with Wang, Dec. 5, 97) When Ling met such difficulties, she had to translate her Chinese ideas into English, often with the help of a Chinese-English dictionary: However, she did not seem to like her translation: Sometimes I want to...I don't know how to express my ideas clearly. But I have some Chinese words in my mind, but I got to translate into English. But translate doesn't exactly express my idea. So I'm not so happy when I translate [into] English. But I can't find the words within my range of vocabulary. (Jan. 10, 98) 164 Bing, like Ling, also resorted to translation in such cases. But what came out of her translation was what she perceived to be Chinese-style English. Bing elaborated: B: For me I want the paper write in real English not Chinese style English. That's really hard. Because the thinking, sometimes I use Chinese to think something. Then after that I translate to English. And also I find it difficult to use appropriate words. Also the sentence, and grammar. J: So to express it in the English way is hard. (Interview with Bing, Dec. 9, 98) As could be expected, Bing's Chinese-style English contained problems in diction and grammar, and most likely, clarity of meaning too In "fact, such ^ often unavoidable for the students when they used translation to write English (see 5.2.2, especially, for more details on translation as a writing method). In terms of parts of the research paper, the discussion presented a challenge to many .students: the discussion of one's own research, presumably different from that of others, was supposed to be original. So, strictly speaking, the students, if they were to produce original writing, could not find sources to borrow sentences from. Instead, they had to be creative, relying on themselves. To some students the discussion part posed more difficulties than any other part of the research paper. Ling attested: L: Because you have to express your ideas clearly in this part but literature review is just summary of someone else's work, it's not so difficult. There's something there, you just summarize. For the methodology it's not difficult. You just describe the procedure one by one. But for the results and discussion, even you get very good results, sometimes you cannot explain clearly. I really find this part the most difficult and also spend more time. J: Several students have expressed the same difficulty. L: It's true I think. (Interview with Ling, Nov. 23, 97) Wang spelled out why discussion was difficult when I asked him what he found to be the most challenging aspect of paper-writing: 165 W: Actually how to describe. For example, you got some data from your experiment, how to explain them, how to interpret them, relate them to the formal work. Sometimes your work based on some papers. J: Discussion. W: How to do the discussion, how to do the comparison between your result and those of others? J: So to discuss the work in the framework of the research. W: How to find the meaning of your work, summarize your work actually? J: Do you find it hard, the expression is hard or just to discuss it is hard? W: The expression is hard. J: Harder than ideas, the organization? W: Normally you have got the ideas. Normally it's a new idea, a new discovery from your experiment. There is no one. You cannot find them in any other papers. Then how to describe it properly. That's hard. J: OK, I see. It's still a kind of expression, how to express it in a way that makes it interesting, that makes it deserving because that's something important. (Interview with Wang, Dec. 5, 97) Wang had new ideas from his experiments. But how to discuss his new ideas by relating them to previous research was not easy. Although he could consult reading sources to find appropriate expressions, the original nature of his research meant that those expressions might not always be out there. Feng also found discussion challenging because discussing his new content was difficult. Moreover, he had to argue for his new methods and findings against competing alternative possibilities. This kind of argument not only was difficult in terms of its requirement for accurate and forceful expressions but also caused him to feel somewhat uncomfortable as he had been used to "exchanging ideas" with colleagues in China instead of arguing with other researchers. Feng responded in one interview: J: What aspect of the paper-writing is most challenging? F: I think discussion in paper. J: Why? F: Because when you discuss results, they have challenging content. Also when you write some sentence, you cannot get model, right? J: What do you mean by content? You mean your content is new in a sense because you are doing something new? F: It's new. Sometimes you cannot say this is this. There's some argument from other papers. So from this content, you should say maybe this, why maybe this; maybe not this, 1 6 6 why? Give some reasons. Language concern is the first concern. Other concern is yes, they have argument, ideas. J: So there is something about ideas and content. J: Do you do that [argument] in China or you just do your own work? F: In China they have idea exchange [no argument]. (Interview with Feng, Nov. 19, 97) Feng touched on one element highly valued in Chinese culture: maintaining harmony, even in research writing (cf. Ballard & Clanchy, 1991; Cadman, 1997; Shen, 1989). If two researchers have different views or findings on a common topic, they may exchange ideas. But if one researcher chooses to attack or fiercely argue with another who has different views, that could cause the latter a "loss of face," which in turn would be likely to create an enemy for the former. Kang also found discussion difficult but also mentioned conclusions: J: OK. And you find the conclusion is difficult or the discussion part? K: Discussion part and conclusion part. J: OK. Those two. K: Even in your thesis examination, that's the most important part. J: Yeah. That's probably the hardest part. K: Every reviewer will focus on this part, not your result, your experiment. They will say 'what do you get? what's the meaning of [what] you get?' J: What do you make out of it? K: Yeah, you have to be very serious in this part. Otherwise, you'll be in trouble. J: So, not only just language. You'll also have to be careful about your argument, your Mamtaining harmony in Chinese research writing, as suggested by Feng, appears to contradict Zong's description earlier of Chinese research writing as being more restrictive and harsher than English. This apparent contradiction can be explained this way: the two seemingly opposing views were each stated in a different context. Zong made the comment when comparing Chinese with English. His view helps to account for an observation that Chinese research articles often exaggerate claims by using superlatives (e.g., the most). In doing so, they restrict alternative claims or the possibility of having their own claims further improved. In this sense, the language can be perceived to be definitive, restrictive, and harsh. Feng suggested that Chinese scholars do not like to openly criticize others, especially authorities, so as to save face. If they have new ideas or findings, they usually just claim them as such without having to reject particular opponents in order not to stir up a war. At best they may just refer to the field in general. Feng's view can also be explained in another way. Chinese scholarly tradition favors a conserving attitude to knowledge over controversy and values appreciation over criticism (see Ballard & Clanchy, 1991). One of the driving forces is the desire for harmony. In this tradition there is a willingness, and often a pressing force, to respect authority and tolerate ambiguity, especially opponents who are in a powerful position. 1 6 7 thinking. K: You know sometimes the same thing depends on how do you say. You say in this way, that's in this stage; but you say it in the other way, it will be the other stage. But we have the same experiment, the same result. That kind of language skills. (Interview with Kang, Nov. 22, 97) Kang could be referring to the use of modal verbs such as could, might, may, can, must, and will. I found by reading the writing1 samples that most of the Chinese students were not used to using these verbs to express different levels of modality. Instead, they usually used full verbs (e.g., produced) and the strong modal verb will, which tend to express more definite happenings rather than allow for alternative possibilities as some circumstances might require. On the basis of argument, rationale is similar to discussion. That is why Ming specified writing the research rationale as his challenge since the rationale involved strong reasoning and arguments. Frankly, writing the research rationale and discussion can also pose challenges to native English speaking students, while to Chinese students who have just transferred to Canada, these challenges appear much more taxing. In a recent study of Hong Kong Chinese scholars, Flowerdew (1999) also notes introduction and discussion/conclusion to be the most difficult parts of a research paper to these scholars. The reason is that such parts require a persuasive style of writing to convince their readers of the importance of their research and the arguments to put forward. Ning was the only student who found it difficult to describe the experiment design. However, the reason he gave was similar to that for discussing one's original research: i The most difficult part is experiment design. Not literature review because literature review, you just put the information you collected on here...Experiment design, you have to use your own words. No one has done this. You have to write your own words. (Jan. 2,98) As his experiment design was new, Ning had to create his own description rather than rely on source readings for information and language as he had done for the part of literature review. 168 To conclude, one of the greatest challenges for most of the students was to present their original research in their own language in various parts of the research paper. While some eventually accomplished the writing on their own, others had to borrow sentences from source readings. For some parts, such as literature review, which was not based on their own experimental research, they often copied sentences from source readings, sometimes with modification. The consequent challenge remaining for the students was to use references properly when they quoted sources directly and indirectly. It was a challenge because they had to use others' expressions, and even sentences, so often, while they, were not used to providing many references or always crediting quoted sources as required in Canada. 6.4 Information-Management and Organization In close relation to, and consistent combination with, challenges in transcribing thoughts were those the students had in managing information and organizing the paper. Specifically, information management means sorting out the information the students had gathered from their readings and experiments or field work, and deciding which parts to include and exclude in the paper to be written. Organization pertains to arranging the selected information in the desired logical order and getting prepared, sometimes in the form of a plan or outline, to start writing the paper. In addition, organization can also mean getting prepared mentally, as well as materially (i.e., in terms of information), so that one can have the necessary concentration to start and keep writing. Below I examine these challenges in more detail, using data from my interviews with the individual students. When I asked Xing what aspect of the paper writing was most challenging to him, he specified the introduction: 169 Writing the introduction. Finding the topic, decide what to talk about in the proposal or paper....The major problem is you have a lot of thing to write but you should organize them properly. I think this is a problem. (Feb. 15, 98) Writing the introduction was challenging to Xing because in this part he must select and present his research topic and introduce what he intended to write in the rest of the paper and how to proceed with the writing. Similarly, Ying found the term paper the hardest of all her assignments because it was a research paper; she had to organize not only the information she had spent much time in gathering but also her own thoughts about the paper: J: You said the term paper is the hardest. Why? Y: First, a lot more information needs to be organized. J: OK. Maybe also you have to write many, many pages. Y: Yeah, just lots of references. Just organizing material, and organizing your thought. That's the major part of your work and get all the references, the selections... (Interview with Ying, Nov. 24, 97) On the other hand, Hang found the literature review difficult to write because it normally contained "much language." He must summarize his readings on the chosen topic, and then also analyze and discuss the findings in the readings so as to create a niche for his own research: J: What aspect of the paper-writing is most challenging? H: I think the review. J: You mean the literature review? H: Yeah. J: Why? H: Because it uses much language. J: Do you mean the language is difficult or do you mean to summarize is difficult? H: Both. The language is difficult. You should comprehend and combine the different authors. Not only summarizing. You should analyze and discuss. J: So it's both language and content. (Interview with Hang, Dec. 15, 97) Ding had a challenge writing up the discussion part. Faced with so much information and/or so many findings about his topic or problem, it was difficult to decide on the aspect with 1 7 0 which to start discussing his research problem. In this situation, he would ask the instructor about the length of the paper required, and then simply present what he thought to be the most advanced information or the findings with the most potential of being interesting or significant: D: I don't know how should I discuss this problem. I don't know from which point, from which aspect I should start the discuss. J: You mean for a term paper there is a lot of information, you don't know what to put in. D: Yeah. J: So what do you do about it? D: Just ask the instructor how many pages do you need. J: I see. D: Just write most advanced things. (Interview with Ding, Dec. 29, 9 7 ) " " " While the most advanced findings were likely what he set out to find in his study, his most advanced findings might also be something else, given the developmental nature of scientific research. If he did not properly present what he thought to be important information or advanced findings (by relating them to the research problem and indicating the developmental process of his research), then his paper could appear disorganized. Like Ding, Ting had problems with discussions. But unlike Ding, who often had too much information to deal with, Ting often lacked proper information or experimental evidence to support his new conceptions and claims: The most challenging aspect for me in writing scientific papers is the discussion part. It's not a language problem but one of evidences. I don't have enough evidence in hand. When I write papers, I like my ideas to be new. So I often can't find sufficient evidence for the time. (Aug. 29, 97) While I reviewed with him his sample writing, a research proposal written for a seminar course, Ting believed that one reason he did not have sufficient evidence was that the students were asked to write research proposals too early in their programs. Since they had just arrived from a totally different environment and culture, they lacked ready ideas for a project. Therefore, much 1 7 1 of what they wrote was "forced thinking" devoid of adequate theoretical consideration and empirical support. Ting suggested that after the second or third term might be a better time to write research proposals than before the end of the second term. An equally important kind of organization for writing research papers was to get organized mentally: to become concentrated, to get into the writing mood, so that writing might flow. When I asked Zong about the hardest part of writing, he said, I guess it's always hard to get started, like everything else. I still have the problem with me. If I want to write a report (I do less paper writing now), you want to put yourself in that mood. Once in the mood, actually everyihirig''iQbws7''(April 8, 98) I would imagine that most Chinese students, myself included, had this problem. These students often found it a challenge just to get prepared mentally to start writing, or to get into the mood, because of a variety of pressures and distractions. These pressures might range from language, to culture, and to student identity. While the language pressure may be evident for most Chinese students, that of student identify needs some explication as there are special causes to consider. The word "student" has very different meanings and implications in China from what is understood in Canada. Students in China, at all levels, are supposed to study and do nothing else. Once in university, the student receives financial support from the government and/or parents. Graduate students normally receive a small stipend from the government, live in bachelors' rooms with other students for free, and usually remain unmarried before graduation unless they are in service (i.e., holding a job) or have worked for some years. Upon being awarded degrees, they will either be assigned to work positions or have the freedom to choose from many job offers. Seldom do they remain unemployed. But being a Chinese graduate student in Canada implies very different challenges and responsibilities. The student has to study, work, worry about the future, and if married, take care of his/her families and sometimes even parents. Consider what Ding said on this issue: 1 7 2 D: Because student is not same as when you were student in China. Anyway you have so many pressure here because you come to this land, you have to face basic living, survival, how to struggle for this. So you cannot, not be like other students - don't need to worry about many things. You need to worry about work, future, everything. You cannot totally concentrate on your study. But in China you don't need to worry about anything. That's different. Little by little, you find you get old. You find it's not good. You find the student is so young. You are so old, still a student. You don't want to be a professional student. J: So you want to get out of it, and start your career and begin your full-time work. I think it's a good point. J: Students in China, they can concentrate on their studies. The government still provides some money? D: I think [so]. (Interview with Ding, Dec. 29, 97) Undoubtedly, NES students at U B C also have worries and pressures. But for the Chinese students, the pressures mentioned above were most likely greater. More importantly, they were not used to handling their worries and pressures. Naturally, they took longer to get into the writing mood. Even once in the mood, they still had to struggle with the other challenges examined so far. 6.5 Summary In this chapter I have discussed the challenges of the Chinese student participants in writing course assignments and thesis proposals in four categories: vocabulary and grammar, style, thought transcription, and information management and organization. The challenges in vocabulary were typically related to technical terms and the use of sentence connectives. Despite what they knew about grammar as shown in their scores on the TOEFL, a test they must pass before admission to UBC, they displayed a lack of facility in using a variety of sentence structures in academic writing and often made grammatical errors. These findings revealed a gap between their formal knowledge and practical language skills. While not every one of the students reported considerable difficulties in vocabulary and grammar, all of them encountered challenges in rhetoric 1 7 3 and style. Typical rhetorical concerns included the lack of clarity which resulted from awkward language, illogical thoughts, and writing for the writer. Some students also reported challenges in using appropriate styles of writing either because they were not clear what the written style was, or because they tried to avoid using complex structures that were more likely to cause errors. Some students had difficulty supplying detailed information and references when necessary. Some tended to write definitive statements and conclusions without sufficient evidence. One reason would be the influence of the Chinese language which is typical for its relatively short structures. Another reason was that few students had ever been formally taught the appropriate style for academic writing. Putting thoughts into words, especially appropriate words and expressions, was often difficult, especially in writing certain parts of the research paper such as discussion, conclusion, rationale, and experiment design. Such difficulties arose because they were presenting original research and they had to write in their own words since they could not find phrasings in other sources that exactly expressed their ideas. Further, some students met a challenge in reasoning and providing arguments for their views and findings. If they borrowed language from other sources, they needed to provide references properly in order to avoid being accused of plagiarism. Finally, some students faced challenges in managing the information from their readings and their own research experiments, and in organizing the paper to logically and adequately address the research topics or problems. Except the case of Hang, these difficulties with information management and organization could have more to do with writing experience and writing skill development in general than with writing in an L2 per se. In other words, they might be just developmental (see Mohan & Lo, 1985). In addition, several students encountered a challenge in getting into the writing mood. One common reason for this challenge was their numerous worries and pressures imposed by life as they adopted the identity of students in the new culture. 1 7 4 C H A P T E R 7: T H E O R E T I C A L D I S C U S S I O N In this chapter I present a theoretical analysis of some of the findings of my study described in Chapters 4-6 and relate them, where possible, to relevant theories and proposals advanced in the research literature. Thus I hope to contribute to the research in L2 writing in general and L2 disciplinary writing by ESL graduate students in particular. To this end, I choose to focus on three major issues which I think are especially significant for my study and for L2 disciplinary writing research. Firstly, since my student participants were writing text-responsible assignments (i.e., those in which the writer must display knowledge of the content of the source text(s) and/or some other external reality such as experiments), I wish to examine what reading- writing relationships meant to the participants. Secondly, as Chapters 5 and 6 indicated, when most of my student participants wrote assignments, they had to resort to copying and modified copying to varying extents. However, this strategy has been traditionally associated with plagiarism (Howard, 1995) and prohibited by the regulations in most of the Western academe, especially in North America. Yet, some research in both LI and L2 writing has started to question the traditional notion of plagiarism (e.g., Dillon, 1988; Howard, 1999; Hull & Rose, 1989; Pennycook, 1994, 1996b). With reference to the research and my study findings, I challenge this traditional notion. In particular, I scrutinize the very nature of writing English text-responsible assignments by Chinese ESL graduate students in sciences and engineering. Then I try to reconceptualize language reuse by ESL writers who are in the developing stage. Finally, I consider some theories and propositions related to the medium of thinking in L2 writing in light of the evidences of my study. A thinking medium means the medium in which thinking takes place, whether in the mother tongue or a second/foreign language. I then offer my interpretation of thinking media and language-switching of L2 writers. 1 7 5 I choose to focus my discussion on the first two interrelated issues because they are especially important for my student participants who relied heavily on reading sources to write source-based assignments. This reliance, however, could pose threats to their academic well-being and jeopardize their academic careers unless the traditional notion of plagiarism is modified to recognize the nature of writing disciplinary English texts by ESL graduate students. Further, as Pennycook (1996b) rightly pointed out, the study of textual borrowing is particularly significant for L2 education because it goes to the heart of a number of key 'Issues'' iii second language education: the role of memory, the nature of language learning, the ownership of texts, the concepts of the author, authority, and authenticity, and the cross-cultural relations that emerge in educational contexts, (p. 226) In other words, textual borrowing issues are critical for L2 education, more so because they have raised considerable controversy among both researchers and practitioners. I choose to focus on the third issue, flunking media, because it has important pedagogical and educational implications for L2 writing, as I discuss later in the chapter. . 7.1 Reading-Writing Relationships As indicated in Chapter 2, the assignments the graduate students in my study wrote were typically text-responsible academic writing (Leki & Carson, 1997). That is, the writer must display knowledge of the content, and possibly limitations, of the source text(s) and/or some other external realities such as experiments and field work. In other words, the students usually must read source texts and/or rely on source information in order to write. Conversely, how did the students make use of the source readings in order to write the assignments? Or what were some of the reading-writing relationships or connections to the students? Before addressing this 1 7 6 question, I wish to see what research in ESL writing has to offer, whether the theories presented in the literature can account for the findings of my study, and how my study can contribute to this line of research. The studies that investigate reading-writing relationships to benefit writing among ESL/EFL students have mainly been concerned about composition by E S L undergraduate students and motivated by pedagogical purposes (e.g., Carrell, 1987; Eisferhold & Carrell, 1987), namely seeking techniques to teach students to write better compositions with more ease. For example, Carrell (1987) utilizes schema theory previously applied to research in E S L reading comprehension (e.g., Carrell, 1983, 1984a, 1984b, 1985; Carrell & Eisterhold, 1983) to see how schema theory may help with ESL composition. Schemas are mental representations or organizations of knowledge. Linguistic schema relates to the reader's prior linguistic knowledge (such as knowledge of vocabulary and sentence structures); content schema to the reader's prior background knowledge of the content area; and formal schema to the reader's prior knowledge of the rhetorical structure of the text (Carrell, 1988). Schema theory views reading texts as sources for linguistic, content, and formal schemas or structures (Swales, 1990). Using schema theory, Carrell (1987) examines reading-writing relationships in order to better teach written composition for intermediate-level ESL students. She suggests that teaching ESL writers about the top-level rhetorical organization of expository text (i.e., formal schemas), teaching them how to choose an appropriate plan to accomplish specific communication goals, and teaching them how to signal a text's organization through appropriate linguistic devices should help E S L students at the intermediate level to produce more effective writing. By extension, an immediate implication can be drawn from her study; that is, when reading narrative and expository texts, intermediate-level ESL students could gain knowledge from the reading texts to form linguistic, content, and rhetorical schemas and that these schemas, in turn, should aid the students in writing narrative and expository compositions. As expected, this implication is suggested in a separate study 1 7 7 (Eisterhold & Carrell, 1987) which shows that explicit training in rhetorical structures for ESL reading facilitates ESL writing, especially in the persuasive mode. However, in-depth analyses of reading-writing relationships among ESL students in graduate disciplines is lacking (Connor & Kramer, 1995). In an attempt to fill the gap, Connor and Kramer (1995) conducted a study"!of three ESL"''and two 'native-English-speaking (NES) graduate business students writing a business course assignment. In particular, they tried to find out how the ESL students filtered information from a lengthy business case and wrote a persuasive argument. In keeping with Raimes (1985), they observed that the unskilled ESL students who were insecure in vocabulary choice resorted to the strategy of directly borrowing words and phrases. They further noted that Asian students, in particular, who were taught to i. respect written texts (Matalene, 1985), tended to summarize and synthesize information in source i texts by relying on the "truth" rather than build arguments from evidence. However, they made no attempt to formulate any significant theory regarding reading-writing relationships. Swales (1990) explicates his genre analysis of academic and research writings, but does not directly address the reading-writing relationships that occur in writing practice. Yet, by relating to schema theory he seems to suggest that by reading texts, students can acquire frames (or schema