International graduate students' appropriation of the genres of academic writing
Braxley, Karen Mayhew
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International graduate students studying in American universities must meet the challenge of producing high-level academic writing that may differ considerably from the writing they have done before. This study investigated how they do so. Using a sociocultural theoretical perspective, this qualitative study investigated the social, personal, cultural, and experiential factors that influenced eight international graduate students’ appropriation of the genres of written English in two graduate classes. Data consisted of four interviews with each student participant, two interviews with their instructors, observation of the two classes throughout a semester, and collection of all written materials related to the classes. The methodology combined ethnographic methods with Charmaz’ constructivist grounded theory. The major findings of the study are summarized as follows: 1) the participants were resourceful and strategic learners who created opportunities for learning written genres; 2) they valued their independence and wished to be self-sufficient in their writing; 3) they varied in their need and desire to seek assistance with their writing; 4) they found peer review of limited use; 5) prior experience exerted a greater impact on their performance than their level of linguistic proficiency; 6) time played a major role in how they “did school.”; 7) in some cases, factors in their personal lives had a major impact on their performance in class and in their written assignments; 8) in one case, different cultural expectations for classroom discourse undermined a student’s ability to demonstrate appropriate procedural display; 9) there was little incidence of plagiarism among the students, but in one case plagiarism resulted from unfamiliarity with Western concepts of textual ownership; 10) the students’ relationships with their advisors were critical to their success in writing; 11) the participants reported a need for more substantive feedback on writing from their instructors; 12) many of the international students in this study were outstanding writers who engaged in “deep participation” in their academic communities of practice through collaboration on research projects and in the writing of manuscripts.