Date of Award

8-2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Lilia P. Savova, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Sharon K. Deckert, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Gian S. Pagnucci, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Jeannine M. Fontaine, Ph.D.

Fifth Advisor

Marlene San Miguel Groner, Ph.D.

Abstract

This study examines how Chinese philosophical values and rhetorical traditions that contribute to coherence differ from those prevalent in English. It attempts to discover how six Chinese ESL undergraduate participants demonstrate coherence in their persuasive writing, and how their practice of, and views toward coherence in writing change over a semester during which they are exposed to an American college writing classroom. Three types of essays were collected for qualitative analysis in this study: a diagnostic departmental pre-test essay at the beginning of the semester, a final essay given as a post-test, and two drafts of a CATW (CUNY Assessment Test in Writing) practice essay that were written for the advanced writing course. In addition, data were also collected from a background questionnaire, a classroom observation, and two rounds of interviews during the course of a semester. The study examined the features of coherence at both local (sentence) and global (discourse) levels. The knowledge of cohesion and coherence was employed to investigate how the Chinese learners of English achieved coherence within and beyond the paragraph level. The study discussed how the participants struggled to learn the appropriate use of explicit transitions and patterns of development to create a logical flow of ideas, how their writing generally cohered around one controlling idea throughout the essay, and how they changed their perceptions of coherence in an American university setting. The findings suggest that the Chinese ESL learners' writing quality could be improved in the Western context through coherence-related classroom instruction, revision practice, and teacher-student writing conferences, all aimed at helping them to understand Western notions of coherence while continuing to value their own cultural traditions. The study's goal is to help both writing instructors and students; it is hoped that the findings of the study will help instructors to design appropriate writing instruction for such students, as well as helping the students to become familiar with coherence, in the process allowing them to get the most out of their college education and their efforts to improve at writing.

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