Summary Production: A Topographical Analysis of the Strategies Used by University ESL First Year Science Students

| June 24, 2010
Summary Production: A Topographical Analysis of the Strategies Used by University ESL First Year Science Students

Keywords: ESL/EFL, summarizing, generalizing, paraphrasing, distortion, combination, proficiency, autonomous, discourse community, academic literacy

Ambrose B. Chimbganda
University of Botswana, Botswana

Bio Data
Dr Ambrose B. Chimbganda is a Senior Lecturer in Communication Studies in the Centre for Academic Development, University of Botswana. He has wide experience of teaching EAP/ESP courses, ESL teaching methodology, academic writing; and is a language advisor to Masters and Doctoral students. He has published several papers in international journals on various aspects of applied linguistics, focusing on English language learning and teaching. His current research interest is in the area of academic literacy.

In our institutions of higher learning, there is a general outcry about students lack of academic literacy skills, especially their ability to understand the texts they read. Although there have been a number of studies on the summarizing protocols of secondary school pupils and undergraduate students (e.g. Johns & Mayes 1990; Campbell 1990; Currie 1998), little has been done to document the ways in which ESL students who learn in a multi-lingual environment, in which the language of education is not their primary language, select the main ideas of a text. This study examines the summary production strategies of ESL first year science students at the University of Botswana and how they combine the ideas to form a coherent text. Using a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods, the researcher obtained data from a sample of 120 students. The findings suggest that high-proficiency students are able to select the main points and to combine them to form a coherent summary; but the vast majority of average and low-proficiency students find it difficult to produce the required information and to avoid distortions. The findings also suggest that there are no significant differences between high and low-proficiency students in the manner in which they combine ideas from different paragraphs. To improve the students ability to identify the required information, it may help to give them discipline-specific tasks that require the selection and paraphrasing of the main points.

See pages: 117-143

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Category: Main Editions, Volume 12 Issue 2