An analysis of thematic structure in argumentative writing of Chinese undergraduates

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An analysis of thematic structure in argumentative writing of Chinese undergraduates

 

Author: Zheng, Xiaofan
Title: An analysis of thematic structure in argumentative writing of Chinese undergraduates
Degree: M.A.
Year: 2014
Subject: English language -- Rhetoric.
Persuasion (Rhetoric)
Report writing.
English language -- Study and teaching -- Chinese speakers.
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Department: Dept. of English
Pages: iii, 64 pages : illustrations
Language: English
InnoPac Record: http://library.polyu.edu.hk/record=b2775911
URI: http://theses.lib.polyu.edu.hk/handle/200/7696
Abstract: Based on the theory of Systemic-Functional Grammar, this dissertation examines the thematic structure of ten argumentative essays with 4,126 words are selected from WECCL (Written English Corpus of Chinese Learners), which are produced by Chinese undergraduates majoring in English and written for the same topic within 40 minutes. By identifying the thematic choices, the distribution of thematic progression patterns and the periodicity of information flow in essays, this study aims to explore how Chinese college students exploit thematic structure to construe meanings and organize the texts. Concerning meaning-making process, the findings indicate that there is a high frequency of using textual Theme to signal the stages of the texts while fewer students master the ability to express interpersonal meaning flexibly. The evidence also suggests that students tend to put important experiential meaning in thematic position as marked Theme, mainly for the purpose of providing background information. As for development of the text, the result indicates that writings with constant and linear thematic progression patterns contribute to the discussion and interpretation process of argumentative writings. Another finding is that periodicity of information flow plays an important role in making a coherent text, which is achieved by making prediction and accumulation of information in different stages of the text. The results also suggest that thematic progression patterns and periodicity of information flow jointly contribute to the coherence both at clause level and beyond clause level. The dissertation concludes by discussing the pedagogical implications for EAP writing. Future studies can be improved from three aspects: the size and representativeness of the samples, the factors of the interpretations and the variety of research methods.

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