Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

How L2 legal writers use strategies for scholarly writing: A mixed methods study
by Bain Butler, Donna, Ph.D., University of Maryland, College Park, 2010, 356; 3426989
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation research fills existing gaps regarding the practices and processes of teaching second language (L2) writers at higher ranges of proficiency in law school context. It is a mixed methods, longitudinal, descriptive, writer-centered study. The research purpose was to explore strategic competence as a catalyst for professional proficiency in the scholarly (academic) writing of international Master of Laws (LL.M.) students who need to show analytical thinking and communicative precision in their research papers and law review articles. The theoretical framework views scholarly writing in a second language as developmental learning in two domains, language and law, and as socialized cultural practice.

The study showed how scholarly legal writing was both a cognitive and a social-cultural process for participants (N=6) as they shifted from the writer-centered activity of drafting to the reader-centered activity of revising and constructing knowledge. A triangulated, multi-stage design was used to collect the quantitative and qualitative data at recursive stages of writing (that is, pre-writing, drafting, and revising). The instruments developed for collecting the data raised strategy awareness for participants in the study and can be used for teaching. The research contributes to our knowledge of scholarly writing in the professions, helps us understand challenges and strategies for L2 writers in graduate programs, provides a useful way to conduct a mixed-methods writing study, reveals the interface between L2 and L1 academic legal discourse, and offers tested tools for developing professional-level competence in academic writers.

The study bridges the L1 research and L2 research literature by exploring how superior language learners used research-based strategies to build on their existing competences for professional-level research writing. This highly contextualized, learner-centered research contributes to several related fields by addressing L2 issues associated with plagiarism, the native-speaker standard, learner self-assessment and self-editing—all of which are issues of cross-cultural literacy. The following six fields are involved in and affected by this study: Applied Linguistics, Content-Based English Teaching, Composition Pedagogy, International Legal Education, Teaching English for Specific Legal Purposes, and Professional Development.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Oxford, Rebecca L.
Commitee: Alexander, Patricia, Koziol, Steve, Lavine, Roberta, Sullivan, Denis
School: University of Maryland, College Park
Department: Curriculum and Instruction
School Location: United States -- Maryland
Source: DAI-A 71/12, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: English as a Second Language, Teacher education, Rhetoric
Keywords: International graduate student writers, Legal writers, Mixed methods writing strategies research, Professional proficiency for writing, Scholarly (academic) writing, Scholarly writing, Second language, Second language (L2) composition pedagogy, Strategic competence
Publication Number: 3426989
ISBN: 978-1-124-29540-4
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