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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Exploring summary writing by introspection Yang, Luxin


In the past twenty years, there has been an emerging body of research on summary writing of university students. Few of these studies, however, have investigated how university students process course-related summary tasks. The present study explored the writing processes and strategies that first-year graduate students experienced in doing course-related summary tasks at a Canadian university. Six first-year MBA students participated in the study: three Chinese ESL students and three NES students. Each participant wrote a course-related summary task while thinking aloud. In addition to the think-aloud protocols, retrospective interviews, questionnaires, written drafts and grade reports on the final products were collected to compare the summary writing processes and strategies of the participating ESL and NES students. Three major findings emerged from the data analyses. First, similarities were found between the two groups. That is, both the ESL and NES graduate students were found to have devoted similar amount of attention to the writing processes of planning, composing, editing and commenting. Moving recursively rather than in a linear order, the participants planned carefully and referred to the source texts and lecture notes frequently for structure, themes and terminology. Second, the six participants were found to have displayed personal preferences to some specific writing strategies such as reading, commenting on the source texts and use of fist language as they planned what to write. Third, the study also found similarities across the ESL and NES groups. For example, two students, one ESL and one NES, were found to refer to the source texts frequently. Another pair of ESL and NES students was found to edit the texts more than the others. A third group, two ESL and one NES students, was found to use the reading strategy more frequently than the other participants. This study contributes to our understanding of the processes and challenges some first-year graduate students face when doing course-related summary tasks. It calls for and suggests appropriate curriculum and pedagogical methods to help students, especially second language writers, in dealing with the challenges in writing summaries and becoming confident learners in the academia.

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