Sunday, March 10, 2013

ESP: To what extent the condition of “stuck in the text” becoming helpful for Indonesia students at university level to be able to write academically?

Thus far the research in genre analysis that we reported has been very much text-based. … but there is a danger of becoming “ stuck” in the text by which we mean being interested only in the surface features rather than the context and other outside influences on the text ( Dudley-Evans & St. John,1998 : 91)
·         To what extent the condition of “stuck in the text” becoming helpful for Indonesia students at university level to be able to write academically?

            As a member of community in education field, university students are expected to be able to produce pieces of academic writing as a partial fulfillment to finish their study. Therefore, since the first year of their study in the university, they already introduced with subject writing and followed by academic writing subject in the following semester. Here, they learn about how to produce good pieces of writing which start from grammar up to discourse. They also give exposure to some kind of text in order to give model of certain text. However, there is an assumption that it will be danger if students only expose and stuck in the surface feature of the text than the context and other outside influences on the text. This paper tries to discuss whether or not it is “danger” if students only focus on the surface features of the text. Then, it tries to see to what extent the condition of “stuck in the text” becoming helpful for the students.         

            In order to produce good academic writing pieces, a student is expected to know all aspects that he is going to write such as the purpose, content, and the audience or reader of his writing. Especially in genre analysis, the purpose of doing writing have an important role to distinguish what structure or pattern that students going to use. Badger & White (2000) stated that for genre analysts, the central aspect of situation is purpose. Different kind of writing, or genres such letters of apology, recipes or law reports are used to carry out different purposes. Because of this different purposes, the structures of the text also different because it has own feature which influence the text. Badger & White argues that genres are also influenced by other features of situation, such as the subject matter, the relationship between writer and audience, and the pattern of organization. Therefore, in producing good academic writing, all these aspect should be put in consideration.
 However, for Indonesia students, producing good pieces of academic writing is not easy.  Most of them are not familiar with this activity because academic writing as a subject in Indonesian universities seems to be relatively new (Jubhari, 2009). Moreover, the focus of academic writing in Indonesian universities nowadays is more on formal aspect of the language than the content or new ideas offered. Therefore, forcing students to know all aspect of writing at once is quite less powerful. So, starting teach academic writing by introducing students to the surface features of the text is good choice.
 The surface features of the text can be define as features in the text which includes content of a specific text, the difficulty or readability of it  and even the type font and size of text (Pardo, 2004). Related to genre analysis, surface features can be seen to the regularities of pattern in organizing a text. Combining these two definitions, it can be stated that the surface features in a text can help students to stay focus in the content and still show the characteristic of certain text type. It really helpful for Indonesia students whose commonly write an academic genre always use “circular” pattern and seldom to straight forward if there is no guideline given to control their writing. Even though it does not touch the deep surface of the text such context and relationship writer and reader, the surface structure still able to communicate the text to the reader. Tracey & Morrow (2002) argue that many studies have shown that the quality of the text at the surface level is important for reader to be able to make meaning effectively. It indicates that surface features can help student as a writer to connect with the reader.
After looking at the facts of surface features of the text, it implies that “stuck in the text” is not danger for students who going to be introduced to academic writing and for students who categorized as beginner in writing academically. It will be danger if after familiar with the surface features but students still could not show their progress in paragraph development and critical thinking.

            It cannot be ignored that other aspect besides surface feature is really important in composing academic writing for students. However, as a starting point, introducing students to surface feature of the text for certain times can help students to familiarize with the text. After getting a lot of exposure of surface features of the text, students can moves to learn other aspect that influences the text. Therefore, in some extent, surface features of the text can be helpful for Indonesia students.

Badger, Richard & White, Goodith. 2000.A process Genre Approach to Teaching Writing. ELT Journal Volume 54/2 April 2000. Oxford University Press.
Dudley-Evans, Tony & St.John, Maggie. 1998. Developments in English for Specific Purposes : A multy-disciplinary Approach. Cambridge University Press
Jubhari,Ria. 2009. Academic Writing as Discourse Practice in Australian and Indonesian Universities : A Critical Review. Educationist Journal Vol.III No.2 Juli 2009
Pardo,Laura.2004.What Every Teacher Needs to Know about Comprehension. The Reading Teacher Journal Vol.58 No.3.
Tracey, D.H & Morrow, L. 2002. Preparing Young Learner for Successful Reading Comprehension .New York: Guillford.

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