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Summary writing performance of ESL exchange students Feng , Guoqing


This study examines performance of summary writing of 14 Japanese students. Participants completed a summary task on two pre-selected texts at the beginning of an eight-month exchange program and then revised or rewrote the summaries at the end of the program. Students' original and revised drafts were analyzed in terms of 1) number of important points/ideas included from the source texts; 2) number of single summary sentences that combined important points from the source texts; 3) number of topic sentences invented to summarize source paragraph(s) or text(s); and 4) number of sentences that were paraphrased or copied from the source texts. Apart from these textual analyses, students' own perceptions of their summary writing tasks were also collected through a follow-up interview after they completed the second drafts. Results show that most of the students included half or more of the ten important points identified by two doctoral students who were native speakers of English. Students included more than half of the important points using the reproduction strategy. Most of them used paraphrasing and partial copying, while a third of the students used exact copying. Most of the students applied the combination strategy at least once in each draft, but half of the students included only 50% or fewer important points using this strategy. When students combined important points, no one used exact copying, a third of students used partial copying and most of them used paraphrasing. Results also show that most of the students could write topic sentences using their own words. A third of the students wrote topic sentences by copying the titles of the original texts, but in contrast, almost the same number of students produced their topic sentences totally in their own words. The writing and interview data revealed that most of the students had difficulties in comprehending the source texts or the writing task, and many were not aware of summary writing strategies. Results suggest that some students copied rather than using their own words because of difficulties with the source texts, or because of their lack of confidence in their own English competence or cultural differences.

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