The writing strategies of three freshman students at Middle East Technical University
Aydınlı, Julie Mathews
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One of the baffling areas for the designers and instructors of EAP programs is that of academic writing. What academic writing exactly includes, what parts of it and how it should be taught, are issues that have been much debated on. Another issue in the teaching and learning of languages, learning strategies, also much debated, has gained popularity in recent years and has found its way into the classroom. The combination of these two concepts, the teaching of academic writing and learning strategies are the two broad topics in this study. If learning strategies are to be considered in writing instruction, the strategies students use outside and beyond the English class seem to be a good source to look at to derive insights and implications for the design of writing programs. In light of these thoughts, this study aimed to discover the writing strategies used by three freshman students at Middle East Technical University (METU). The main concern of the research was to derive implications for the writing instruction carried out by the Department of Basic English (DBE), which serves as the preparatory school for the university. Data were collected from two freshman students in the Department of International Relations and one in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration, all of whom were former DBE students. During the study, the participants were all enrolled in a course called Introduction to Politics, in which they had to write five essays in response to the assigned reading articles. The participants were interviewed midway through the period in which they were trying to complete the task. The participants were also provided with small notebooks in which they were asked to report on a daily basis what they were doing to complete their writing assignments. The texts that they produced, the essay prompts that they were given, and the assigned reading articles which the participants were expected to base their writing on were other sources of data. For the analysis of the data, a framework of writing strategies expected to be evident in the oral and verbal reports of the participants (interview transcripts and notebooks) and in the written texts that they produced was created. The framework was based on the goals and objectives of DBE as stated in their curriculum. The results of the study indicated that although the participants had similar characteristics, there was variety in their strategy use. Looking at the strategies the participants used, it is possible to say that some of the strategies taught at DBE, though not taught under the name strategy, are being used, and therefore, DBE might consider continuing to teach them. In addition, DBE might consider teaching more strategies. In a broader sense, the data suggest that EAP programs would benefit from adopting an approach which combines reading and writing instruction as a means for reacting to input. Such an approach is believed to equip the students for the academic tasks that they will be faced with in their content courses, beyond the English class.