Developing linguistic strategies for source use among international undergraduate engineering students (Alys Avalos-Rivera, The University of British Columbia, Canada)

1:30 PM, Thursday 29 Apr 2021 EDT (30 minutes)
  Virtual session
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Alys Avalos-Rivera , The University of British Columbia, Canada

Title: Developing linguistic strategies for source use among international undergraduate engineering students

Keywords: Systemic Functional Linguistics; Academic Writing; International Students


Academic writers embed other authors’ ideas in the context of their own writing by utilizing linguistic tools such as synonyms, superordinate terms, hyponyms, projecting verbs, and grammatical transformations, known in Systemic Function Linguistics (SFL) as grammatical metaphors (Rose & Martin, 2012). These tools allow writers to show their understanding of the literature while complying with principles of academic integrity.

This study traced the development of meaning representations in paraphrased and summarized in-text citations generated by six undergraduate engineering students who received SFL-based instruction on source use. Three types of texts generated by the students during their first year were analyzed: a descriptive report, a problem-solution report and a research report. A clausal analysis at the textual and interpersonal level (Yasuda, 2015) identified synonym substitution as the participants’ most recurrent lexicogrammar choice to paraphrase or summarize their sources. The analysis also uncovered fluctuating patterns that moved from patchwriting, to synonym-based transformations, and in some cases reached some successful use of projecting verbs and grammatical metaphors. The amount of patchwriting was substantially reduced in some of the cases (from 17% to 3%); in some others it was completely eradicated. However, in an exit survey, the participants admitted that although they were careful to avoid plagiarism in their writing, they still lacked confidence to express other writers’ ideas using their own words. The persistence of some instances of patchwriting in their writing may be an expression of this insecurity.

These findings support a view of source use development as part of a complex dynamic system in which the acquisition of specific features fluctuates in time (Larsen-Freeman, 2019) before it can reach a more consistent use. These results will be discussed considering implications for academic literacy development in science and applied science.

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