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Reviews on Pre-writing Strategies Used by ESL Students

Updated on May 28, 2016

As English language has become a universal language nowadays, second language (L2) writing has proved its important roles towards every aspect of the society in general and educational activities in particular. L2 writing is hot topics for L2 researchers, though it has been a rather difficult area for L2 learners (Jun, 2008).

Jun (2008) argues that most of the research on L2 writing focuses on five major field including: learners’ characteristics, writing process, feedback, writing instruction and writers’ texts. Each of these fields is filled with a huge amount of valuable research.

Besides, there are two approaches towards writing in English as Second Language (ESL) contexts at tertiary level – product and process (Horowitz, 1986). While product approach attaches great importance to the final outcome, process approach focuses on the process (Steele, 2004). Each of the approaches has the pros and cons. A product approach is “a traditional approach in which students are encouraged to mimic a model text, usually is presented and analyzed at an early stage” (Gabrielatos, 2002, p.5). Writing only one version by imitating the model text is said to have negative effects, though this method is easy to carry out. On the other hand, process approach involves “stages of drafting and receiving feedback” (Kroll, 1990, p. 2210), giving L2 learners a chance of revising their texts. Nevertheless, Horowitz (1986) addresses criticism about this approach, because drafting several times does not lead to the ability to write examination essays quickly and fluently. Have acknowledged these issues, Hasan and Akhan proposes that product and process approaches be balanced in L2 classroom, while Bloor and John considers the marriage of these two approaches.

As regards the writing process, Wang and Wen (2008) state that L2 writers can use more than one language in their disposal, so L2 writing is much different from first language (L2) writing. There are two main areas in the field of writing process, namely the impact of L1 to L2 writing and writing strategies (Jun, 2008). Several researchers have carried out the study on writing strategies used in ESL classroom, for example: planning (Akyel, 1994), translation (Gosden, 1996; Sasaki, 2000), or restructuring (Roca et al., 1999).

Pre-writing is an important stage of the writing process. Ackerman (1989) states that professional writers employed pre-writing techniques when creating their work. For example, Balzac, French journalist and writer, drank more than fifty cups of coffee a day to generate the ideas for his work. Therefore, a large amount of study has been conducted to investigating pre-writing strategies. Some research aims to make a list of pre-writing techniques widely used in academic writing (e.g. Byrd, 2011). Some focuses on analyzing the impact of adopting pre-writing techniques on the efficiency of writing (e.g. Sahbaz & Duran, 2011; Donahoo, 2009).

A small amount of research aims to investigate how pre-writing strategies are employed in the activities of academic writing teaching and learning in ESL classroom. However, most of the existing research studies the influence of pre-writing techniques on the efficiency of academic writing under the perception of teachers, or instructors in ESL classroom, not L2 learners’ self-report of their practice.

These above facts generate strong motivation for the author to carry out the study titled: “Pre-writing strategies used by 3rd English major at FELTE, ULIS, VNU”. He expects to clarify how the pre-writing strategies are actually employed in the students’ practice of academic writing, identify the potential difficulties and propose some solutions to enhance the efficiency of adopting these techniques for effective writing.


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