Academic journal article International Journal of Linguistics

The Effect of Writing Proficiency onWriting Planning Strategy Use: A Case Study of Saudi Learners of English

Academic journal article International Journal of Linguistics

The Effect of Writing Proficiency onWriting Planning Strategy Use: A Case Study of Saudi Learners of English

Article excerpt


This study investigated English language writing planning strategies (WPSs) of Saudi Arabian third-year male university students and the effect of writing proficiency on the frequency of use of these strategies. The participants were 197 Saudi learners of English as a Foreign Language attending their third year of university in Saudi Arabia. The data used in this study were obtained using a questionnaire and semi-structured interviews. The collected data were computed and analysed via descriptive statistics, the t test, and one-way repeated measure ANOVA. The participants reported applying most of the strategies in the questionnaire at a level higher than the midpoint of the scale. They reported applying only a few of those strategies (i.e. less than three) but all strategies were reported to be used by at least one of the subjects. Concerning English writing proficiency, a significant difference between good and poor writers was found in the frequency of overall use of WPSs (z = -2.527, P = .011). The results showed that good writers claim to use WPSs more frequently than do poor writers.

Keywords: Writing planning strategies, Writing process, Planning strategies, Writing proficiency

1. Introduction

Writing appears to be a difficult, complex cognitive task. Writers do not simply put their ideas on paper in a straightforward way. Smith (1989) claimed that writing is 'not simply a direct production of what the brain knows or can do at a particular moment' (p. 33). The act of writing forces writers to demonstrate control of a number of variables simultaneously. Such an effort forces a vast burden of responsibility on writers to capture their thoughts on paper. Simply stated, writing 'requires thought, discipline, and concentration' (White 1987, 266). As Widdowson (1983) writes, '...In writing one frequently arrives at a destination not originally envisaged, by a route not planned for in the original itinerary' (p. 41). Hence, the activity of writing may lead to an unknown destination as a result of moving in unplanned directions. In addition, it 'seems to require an expense of effort disproportionate to the actual results...Most of us seem to have difficulty in getting our thought down on paper' (Widdowson 1983, 34). Flower and Hayes (1981a) state that 'People start out writing without knowing exactly where they will end up; yet they agree that writing is a purposeful act' (p. 377).

In fact, writers struggle with their cognitive experiences. In other words, they think up and search out ideas, as well as organising, developing, revising, and shaping those ideas in the best manner to express their messages to readers in a logical, unambiguous, and clear way. Accordingly, Raimes (1985) argued that the task of writers is not easy because when 'writers struggle with what to put down next or how to put it down on paper, they often discover something new to write or a new way of expressing their ideas. They discover a real need for finding the right word and the right sentence'. Therefore, there is a strong relationship between thinking and writing. According to Flower and Hayes (1981a, 366), 'writing is a set of distinctive thinking processes' that writers goes through. The present study aimed mainly to explore writing planning strategies (WPSs) in a new context and so to contribute to the field of second-language (L2) writing. It considered the effect of writing proficiency on WPSs, which will provide the L2 literature with crucial information on such writing strategies. Finally, this study aimed to describe and analyse the WPSs that undergraduate Saudi Arabian male students of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) use while writing in their L2 (i.e. English).

This study is of particular significance within the Saudi males EFL context. To the best of my knowledge there has been only one empirical study examined the writing-composition processes used by Saudi males when writing and their use of writing strategies when writing in English. …

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