Perceptions of science and engineering majors' L2 academic writing

Erica L. Meyer Lewko, The American University in Cairo AUC


Writing in different disciplines can be challenging for students whose second language is English. While this issue has received some attention in the literature, it has not been addressed in a Middle Eastern context. This study, carried out at an English-medium university in Egypt, was undertaken to examine the perceptions of undergraduate students majoring in science and engineering disciplines and their professors of the quality of the students’ writing. In the first part of the study, 35 undergraduates completed an online questionnaire containing both Likert scale and open-ended items about writing for classes in their major. Six student participants were also interviewed, as were five professors from the science and engineering departments. Questionnaire results were analyzed with descriptive statistics. The questionnaire contained items addressing student attitudes about their writing and training, their use of strategies and resources, and views of their own strengths and weaknesses in writing. The results suggested that students generally recognized the importance of writing and were positive about their training, that they were using certain strategies and resources but not others, and that they were generally confident in their abilities. The student interview participants recognized their strengths, but also noted areas that they felt needed more emphasis in their respective departments. The faculty participants were less positive about student writing and also noted areas of weaknesses where students were not applying what they had learned in previous writing classes. It also appeared that there was a gap in which there were areas possibly not being covered because it is unclear where the responsibility lies for teaching it. Overall, the results suggested that students are generally confident in their writing abilities, although they have some criticisms of their training, while professors had more mixed views of their students’ technical writing abilities, but also acknowledged that changes in the students’ instruction might be needed.