Academic writing needs: An exploratory study of the writing needs of ESL students

Ezekiel Angu Vifansi, Purdue University


The objective of this study was to determine the academic writing needs of students for whom English is a second language (ESL students) and to delineate between target and learning needs. Twenty-five students from three sections of a developmental writing course, English 087, at Howard Community College, Columbia, Maryland participated in the study. Focus group interviews were used as the sole method of data collection in a bid to ensure that the needs established were from the participants' (students') perspective. A pilot focus group interview was conducted with six ESL students enrolled in English 101 to test the interview protocol. Subsequently, three group interviews were conducted to elicit the participants' writing needs. The interview sessions were audio-taped, transcribed, analyzed and categorized. The analysis and categorization revealed that the participants articulated both target needs and learning needs. The target needs comprised the skills expected at the end of the course and usually stated in writing course goals, while the learning needs expressed difficulties students face learning to attain course goals. It was concluded that besides target needs, which are stated in course goals as the behavior expected of students at the end of the course, there are learning needs, which constitute the difficulties ESL learners encounter as a result of their previous experience and language background. The study suggests a number of implications for ESL writing instruction. ^




Major Professor: Margie S. Berns, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Language, Rhetoric and Composition

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