An investigation into common mistakes in essay writing of the first-year english majored students a case in can tho university

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CAN THO UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF SOCIAL SCIENCES AND HUMANITIES DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH An Investigation into Common Mistakes in Essay Writing of the First-year English Majored Students: A Case in Can Tho University B.A. Thesis Supervisor: Ms. Nguyễn Thị Việt Anh, M.A Can Tho, May 2014 Name: Trần Kim Thanh Student code: 7107006 Class: NN1054A3 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS This study would not have reached its aims without the help and support of many people. First and foremost, I would like to express my most sincere gratitude and appreciation to my supervisor Ms. Nguyen Thi Viet Anh for her wholehearted and invaluable guidance in completing my last but most important work in the university academic training program. She did invest her valuable time in reading, correcting and giving me her feedback to the draft of sections and chapters in my thesis. I really like the way she puts questions on my study which encourages my critical and in-depth thinking on the matter of the research. I owe her debt for her sympathy for any of my shortcomings during the course of the study. My final and greatest task would not come to the completion unless there were her advice, constant stimulation, and support. I would like to send my special acknowledgements to Mr. Huynh Van Hien. I really enjoyed the time I attended your Writing class, and I felt that I was an actual student of the class because I did learn many things from you especially your professional working style and your precious experience. Without your support, I could not finish the two most essential parts (data collection and interview performance) which decide the success of the research. Thanks to the great dedication of both teachers during the writing course, I am deeply aware of the meaning of education, and acquire a lot of methods of teaching and various methods of error correction in writing. This is more than what I expect to achieve after my thesis completion. I truthfully appreciate the assistance of the two groups of English majored freshmen in Writing 2. You generously lent me your valuable writing products and willing participated in my interview. Your writing papers and answers are the concrete souls for the current case study. I believe your theses and any types of scientific research you conduct in the near future will get a lot of supports and go smoothly. Last but not least, I would like to send my warmest love to my beloved family, my counselor, and all of my friends who have been by my side to enjoy and share many ups and downs with me in my student life especially four-year university life. All best regards, Cantho, April 30th, 2014 Trần Kim Thanh 2 DECLARATION I hereby declare that the research paper entitled “Common mistakes in essay writing of the first-year English majored students in Cantho University” is my original work which has been carried out during a semester period. I further certify that the research paper has not been published or submitted for publication anywhere else. Any materials obtained are cited and referenced. Student’s signature 3 ABSTRACT Writing in English language to ESL and EFL learners is a challenging skill. Therefore, a lot of mistakes are found in students’ writing performance. The study aims to investigate some common mistakes in essay writing of the first-year English majored students in Cantho University by using two instruments (essay writing test and interview performance). Essay writing tests are used to collect errors and measure the frequency of errors in 336 essays made by 84 English majored freshmen. The interview performance conducted with two teachers and six students from Writing 2 reflects both teachers and students’ perception on essay writing. Although the mistakes are categorized into morphological, lexical, syntactic and mechanic errors and errors in style and organization, the three first mention types are the most common ones which make up 36.3%, 30.6% and 19.7% respectively. Moreover, the study partly proves that a number of errors decrease thanks to teachers’ methods of correcting errors and students’ effort during the course. 4 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION 1.1. Rationale Since English has been regarded as an international language, it becomes an effective tool of communication for people from different first language background. Besides, the term “global language” is also used for English with wide acceptance. Statistics found in the study of Nguyen (2008) show that English is used as an official or semi official language in over 60 countries. It is either dominant or well established in all six continents. Over two-thirds of the world’s scientists write in English. Three-quarters of the world’s mail is written in English. Of all the information in the world’s electronic retrieval systems, 80% is stored in English. English radio programs are received by over 150 million in 120 countries. Over 50 million children study English as an additional language at primary level; over 80 million study it at secondary level. The popularity of English is a certainty. English makes people on Earth get closer and closer, and helps them understand each other and exchange material, cultural and spiritual values of their own countries. Kirkpatrick (2012) declared that the influence of incoming establishment of ASEAN community in 2015 definitely is remarkably highlighted with ASEAN’s language policy spelling out the use of English as the working language among its member countries including Vietnam. “Since the early 90s, the open door policy has brought good opportunities for foreigners to invest into Vietnam, for tourists to visit the country. As a result, English is not only an interest but also a practical and a great demand for many people.” (Nguyen, 2008) English becomes more and more important in the case of Vietnam- a developing country which is on the way of industrialization and modernization. Therefore, English among a number of foreign languages in the recent years has been chosen to teach officially in Vietnamese academic curriculum. 5 1.1.1. English teaching and learning in Viet Nam In the research of “The current situation and issue of teaching of English in Viet Nam”, Hoang (2012) gave a clear description of the history of English teaching in Vietnam. The following facts are also collected from the research of Hoang. English has become the foreign language being taught officially in Vietnam since the economic reform in 1986. Since then, English has bloomed throughout the country. It is not only taught in primary schools, secondary schools, and tertiary schools but in many foreign language centers as well. In the most current research, Le (2013) revealed truthfully the gains and losses of ELT in general and tertiary education in Vietnam during the past few years. He mentioned the present implementation of the 7-year program (700 hours) and 10-year program (1,050 hours) of English at secondary schools in the national education system. This means students learn English officially from grade 6 to grade 12 since 1980. After the project “Teaching and learning foreign languages in the national education system period 2008 – 2020”, English teaching for grade 3 to grade 5 students is piloted in some big cities as an optional subject. However, in the result cited in Le (2013), Van et al. (2006) indicated that the quality of English language teaching and learning at both general and tertiary levels in Vietnam is still very low, which is far to meet the demand of socio-economic development of the country at present. In the same study, Le emphasized that many school leavers cannot read such a simple text in English nor communicate with English speaking people in some most common situations. The result of students in the disadvantaged areas who just take the 3 year program is certainly worse. In contrast to the aim to train the four skills namely reading, listening, speaking and writing in language acquisition, the fact is that the real focus of teaching and learning English in both lower secondary and secondary schools is to deal with the exams (even the entrance exams of many universities and colleges in Vietnam). Therefore, it must be very difficult for those who take English as the core major at universities or colleges. There is no exception for English majored students in Cantho University mostly from rural areas. English in rural schools is usually ignored; teacher lacking experience and qualification cannot deal with students’ errors. Therefore, the matter is that even 6 students start studying English as early as in middle schools, or even in primary school or kindergarten, they are still weak in English especially in writing. As stated in Tuoitrenews, teacher qualifications and assessment methodologies are the two major problems blamed for Vietnamese students’ failure to use the language. As in the study of Phan (2010), he also pointed out that students learning English are not expected to deal with exams but to fulfill the four language skills: speaking, writing, reading and listening. However, the four skills are not equally treated by most of the students. Students spend the least time writing, which results in the incompetence of their writing skill. Robert (1998) found the answer to the question “Why do people write poorly?” He pointed out that many people feel that writing is time consuming, unimportant and unpleasant. Some do not know how to begin. One more group has the desire to write well, but lacks the proper training. In case of Vietnam, English learners have not been facilitated with the ESL environment. Students have less chance for further practice outside classroom, which causes the large number mistakes found in students’ performance of English. Common mistakes consist of grammar inaccuracy, inappropriate word-used, wrong spelling and poor organization frequently made in their writing. It is essential to learn from those mistakes and find out the causes of the weakness in writing of the students in order to better their writing skill. Writing itself is a difficult skill for not only the ESL/ EFL learners but the native speakers as well. Therefore, ESL/EFL learners must make afford to deal with this challenging skill. 1.1.2. The importance of learning writing The four skills are divided into 2 main groups- receptive skills (reading and listening) and productive skills (speaking and writing). In order to produce language, learners firstly have to spend a lot of time feeling the language. Saricoban (1999) pointed that listening and reading enable speaking and writing. On the other hand, many teachers in Hitachi Institute of Foreign Languages shared the view that the scores of receptive skill tests did not accurately represent the test takers' productive skills (Gilfert, 1996; Brock, 1998). It does not mean learners who are good at listening and reading can also speak well and write well. While the 7 means of speaking can be sound (verbal), gesture and facial expression (nonverbal), words are the only medium of writing to convey ideas, feeling, information or points of view. In the study about the integrated approach to improve students writing skill for English major students, Tangpermpoon (2008) explained that writing requires learners a certain amount of L2 background knowledge about the rhetorical organizations, appropriate language use or specific lexicon with which they want to communicate to their readers. For these reasons, writing is the most difficult skill for language learners especially for ESL and EFL. Therefore, the difficulties in writing also make writing important to learn. Many studies agreed that the benefit of writing is to learn and discover things around. Student’s thought and understanding can grow and clarify during the process of writing. Specifically, writing in English is very useful for English majored students to acquire the language and the culture where the language is from. It is certainly better when their written products are corrected or given comments by a teacher, a more proficient fellow or even the same-level one. According to the career guide of Roosevelt University, English major students have a wide and exciting selection of careers. They are trained to write well, to organize ideas in a logical way, and to develop arguments. Similarly, English major students in Cantho University have to finish five writing courses in their academic curriculum. Then, writing is essential for them to finish their thesis- the last work to mark their personal milestone. 1.1.3. The importance to learn from the mistakes in writing According to Szynalski, mistakes are inevitable and making mistakes is a good way to learn a language. Students should be aware of this so that they will not get hurt when they receive corrections from the teacher. However, Iseni (2011) emphasized that errors in spoken language can be allowed without correction, as long as the message comes clear, it is understood that in the written work errors should be corrected more carefully because if they are left without being corrected, these errors can become fossilized. In addition, if one written paper contains a lot of mistakes, it cannot convey the information the writer wants to say or even makes the reader understand it in other ways. Mistakes are divided into many different 8 categories. Therefore, to learn from all of the mistakes learners need a long process and serious practice. It is said that practice makes perfect. Students’ first writing performance might contain a lot of mistakes or errors. Thanks to their practice, their awareness of mistakes and the teacher’s help, their writing is improved and they can also produce an error-free paper. Pit Corder (1991) stated “A mistake is not an issue of knowledge, but it is an issue of its application” (as cited in Valero et al., 2008, p.23). As a result, error analysis is more and more important especially in writing skill. 1.2. Research aims and the significant of the study Mistakes made in essay writing of ESL/ EFL are unavoidable. The indication of common mistakes in writing plays an important role in writing performance of English majored students in Cantho University. The study focuses on the common mistakes in essay writing of the first-year students who have just finished the first writing course about paragraph writing. Paragraph writing is the basic kind of writing. However, as English major students, they need more expanded writings during their four academic years and even after their university graduation. Most of the expanded writings are built up from essay size or structure. Several studies (Makoni, 1993; Eun-pyo, 2002; Kasanga, 2006) agreed that error analysis in particular is one of the aspects of L2 learning processes that have received much attention from researchers (as cited in Mungungu, 2010, p.11). The present study analyses the English L2 language errors in the essay writing of English major students in Cantho University. This research aims to (1) analyze errors in all areas of grammar, spelling, vocabulary and organization produced by the first-year English majored students in their written performance (2) give suggested ways to help students improve their academic writing skill, particularly help them develop from writing paragraph to writing essay. 9 CHAPTER 2 LITERTURE REVIEW Writing as proved is the most difficult skill of the four skills. It demands both teachers and learners a lot of patience and effort. Thus, many researchers concern about this matter. The current study is supported with some related literature as references on (1) Concept of writing in English, (2) Concept of essay writing, (3) Mistake versus error, (4) Common mistakes in essay writing, (5 ) Error correction and feedback in writing, and (6) Teacher’s and students’ roles in error correction. 2.1. Concept of writing in English The concept of “writing” is defined differently in different research and even in the same-topic research. Barnett (1992) defined writing as an expression of the mental process and as means of communication. According to Negari (2011), writing is a complicated process which involves a number of cognitive and metacognitive activities as brainstorming, planning, organizing, drafting, and revising. In the recent study of Graham, Gillespie, and McKeown (2013) based on the social cognitive model of writing (Zimmerman & Risemberg, 1997), they defined writing as “a goal directed and self-sustained cognitive activity requiring the skillful management of (a) the writing environment; (b) the constraints imposed by the writing topic; (c) the intentions of the writer(s); and (d) the processes, knowledge, and skills involved in composing” (p.4). Therefore, many researchers concluded that writing requires high levels of self-regulation (e.g. planning, revision, and composition strategies) (as stated in Graham & Harris, 2000; Harris, Graham, MacArthur, Reid, & Mason, 2011; Zimmerman & Risemberg, 1997). Graham and Harris (2000) claimed writing is a complex activity. Hidi and Boscolo (2006) emphasized that this complex activity involves cognitive, metacognitive, and affective processes. Hillocks (1987) indicated that the writing task also demanded the mastery of different types of knowledge. Sarfraz (2011) mentioned about mother tongue in his definition: “While writing, a writer engages into the cognitive process of formulating ideas in the mother tongue and then translates 10 them into the target language” (p.30). In a more different way to exploit the concept of writing, Natilene Bowker (2007) defined writing as a skill that is required in many contexts throughout life. Writing can be in types of letters or emails to friends, or personal diary which are typically informal. Yet, the focus of this study is on academic writing where the terms of structure, grammar, and punctuation accurate use are required. One essential factor of an academic writing is to be clear because the consumers of the writer’s product are not always his/ her friends. They will not know what is referred unless the writer follows all of the rules of an academic writing. According to Natilene Bowker (2007), essay is a typical format for an academic writing. Therefore, the acquisition of essay writing is worth considering especially for the English major students. 2.2. Concept of essay writing In this part, the concept of essay writing is defined under the perspectives of different researchers. Besides, kinds of essay and the writing process are also included. According to Faraj et al. (2008), essays can be about almost anything. They can be speculative or factual, or emotional; they can be personal or objective, serious or humorous. There are many differences among articles, reports and essays, yet they still share a lot of similarities. In order to develop more in writing and vary the types of writing products, it is necessary to learn how to write a typical essay. A typical essay includes its elements, its beginning, closing, structure and so on. In the book “From Great Paragraph to Great Essay” edited in 2001, it was stated that “an essay is very similar to a paragraph in its organization and order, but an essay includes more information and depth about the topic. In an essay, each point is presented in an individual paragraph. This means that more examples, explanations, and details can be written about specific points of development” (p. 71). While the three main parts of paragraph are measured by sentence unit, an essay is the combination of at least three paragraphs namely introductory paragraph, supporting paragraph and concluding paragraph. Built up from the basis of paragraph writing, essay writing demands writers more proficiency in writing 11 skill because an essay presents more information and depth about the topic. Brandon (2005) defined an essay as a group of paragraphs each with a function of supporting a controlling idea called the thesis. Similarly, professor Muftah Latai stated “an essay is a series of paragraphs about one topic” (as cited in Lataiwish, 2001, p.87). Besides the definition and structure, kinds of essay and steps to write an essay are considered important to learn. It is said that there are many ways to write an essay. The writer will base on the topic or kinds of essay to choose the suitable method to present the ideas in the best way. According to a published book written by Folse, Muchmore-Vokoun and Vestri Solomon, narrative, comparison, cause-effect and argument are the four most common kinds of essay. It is noted that more than one method can be used in one essay. As students, they will learn each kind separately and they will experiment with weaving the methods together to produce well-written essays later when they did practice each kind carefully. The writing skill can be strengthened and improved when students choose good methods to study and practise regularly their writing skill. Many studies mentioned about the importance of following steps during the writing process. The process of writing is also investigated and experimented. Elbow (1981) distinguished three steps in the writing process: pre-writing; writing; and revision. In the study of Gillespie (1990), she outlined five steps of writing: rehearsal; drafting; revision; editing; and publishing or ‘making public’ (as cited in the presentation content “Importance of Learner Involvement and the Process of Learner Generated Materials” by Dr. Clifford Trevor Meyer in the National Workshop on the Preparation of Literacy Materials and Advocacy of Non-Formal Education in Bhutan, 1997). In the same presentation, Meyer used the picture as cyclical to describe the writing process. 12 Get Idea Make Public First Draft Edit Revise Meyer (1997) revealed, “these processes follow the same flow: from organizing ideas to first writing them down on paper; to reviewing the content; to rewriting them to correct grammar and style” (p. 58). Meyer continued to describe the process based on the chart drawn. Before the initial draft writing, learners are encouraged to spend time preparing ideas and outlining. In the drafting stage, learners feel free to express their ideas in order not to stop their flow of thinking. This stage is considered the most difficult stage, which leads to the number of draft for then. The revision step is made by almost all writers not just the beginners. The step number four takes place when all of the ideas are well-organized and the writers are sure with the content displayed in the paper and ready to concentrate on the format, style, spelling and punctuation. It depends on the purpose of the writing and the way to make public. For university students, their writing products are mostly the writing tasks their teacher asks them to finish. In fact, most students in literacy programs have not experienced the writing process, and have not had the chance to write a first draft, share in and revise it carefully before it is finalized. Especially, novice writers experience cognitive constraints while composing texts, according to Bereiter and Scardamalia (1987); as a result, planning, revision, and fluent text production processes barely occur (McCutchen, 2006; McCutchen, Teske, & Bankston, 2008). In the present research, the novice writers are the first year English major students who have just started with essay writing. Therefore, it is more essential for them to acquire fully the steps of writing specifically in essay writing. Many researchers suggest different process of writing. However, for the ones who have just approached the new writing type, it is better to choose a more detailed process. The published book “From Great Paragraph to Great Essay” (2001) provides the process of writing with eight steps: choosing a topic, 13 brainstorming, writing a purpose statement, organizing and outlining, writing a thesis statement, developing supporting details, writing the first draft, and revising the essay one or more times. Students can choose for themselves the most suitable process for their writing performance, but at least they have to apply the three basic steps: pre-writing; writing; and revision as in the research of Elbow (1981). Besides, the essays collected in the present research are academic writing. Therefore, students have to follow strictly the formal way of writing. The academic essay is one of the most common assignments English major students are asked to write in the university. The essay reflects how well students have understood the basic course material, how much extra work they have put into researching the essay topic and how analytical they have been in selecting and commenting on the material they use. It is believed that a good essay with good grade is an error-free essay or an essay with few mistakes. 2.3. Mistake versus error The term mistake and error are ambiguous. However, according to the studies of Brown (1994), Ellis (1997) and Richard et al. (1992), error and mistake are distinguished based on learner’s language competence and performance (as cited in Duong, 2009, p.6). Many analysts agreed that errors are systematic but mistakes are not. They explained that “mistake” is just the “slip” (failure to utilize a known system correctly), but “error” is the result of systematic competence (learners’ system is incorrect). Those can be the evidence for James (1998)’s conclusion: “an error cannot be self-corrected while mistakes can be self-corrected if the deviation is pointed out to the speaker”. Albader (2011) called error and mistake the two near-synonymous words. In his study, he compared the usage and distribution of the two near-synonymous words which are similar in meaning, yet different in distribution. Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines that error means mistake. Although their meaning is similar, their usage in the certain context is different thanks to the illustrative for the two words in the dictionary. The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary also defines error as mistake: an action or an opinion that is not correct, or that produces a result that you did not 14 want but adds more, but adds more for the definition of error: a mistake, especially one that causes problems or affects the result of something. Duong (2009) summarized “error may be deemed differently as an incorrect, unwanted, and inappropriate form or a deviation from Standard English”. Despite the discrimination between error and mistake, the present study following the study of Duong (2009) use the term error in both cases error and mistake. As the definitions in Cambridge International Dictionary of English (1996) and Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (2003), error simply refers to mistake and vice versa and error means something incorrect in English standard language. The present study does not aim to discriminate between error and mistake. Yet, a lot of research has distinguished the two terms. Richard (1992) considered that “incomplete knowledge” results in the occurrence of errors while mistakes are caused “the lack of attention, fatigue, carelessness or some other aspects of performance (as cited in Nguyen, 2008). Thanks to the definition, it is worth studying that incomplete knowledge, lack of attention, fatigue and carelessness are the reasons that cause students to make mistakes or errors in their writing performance. 2.4. Common mistakes in essay writing As stated in Duong (2009), common mistakes in essay writing are grouped into some categories: morphological errors, lexical errors, syntactic errors and mechanical errors. Besides, style and essay organization are also investigated. According to the conclusion of Ưeird (1988), the students’ writings show the characteristic defects of high frequency of grammatical errors, lack of variety in grammatical structures employed, use of inappropriate vocabulary, use of inappropriate grammatical structures, limited range of vocabulary, poor spelling, inadequate understanding of the topic, deficiency in clear self-expression, poor punctuation, poor handwriting and untidiness (as cited in Al-Buainain, 2006, p.4). Ferris (1977) divided writing errors into 2 groups- treated or surface errors and untreated or meaning errors (as cited in Tsao, 2010). Errors in verb tense, word form, subject-verb agreement, article usage, noun endings, and spelling are 15 treatable or surface errors, while errors in logic, word choice, word order, missing or unnecessary words, and idiomatic usage are untreatable or meaning errors. Many studies agreed that surface errors are easier to identify by students. Therefore, peer evaluation and teacher’s feedback are very necessary for students to avoid the mistakes. In the study of Valero et al. (2008), they mentioned different ways to classify the mistakes in writing. Mistakes are accordingly classified thanks to basic types: emissive, additive, substitutive or related to word order. Overt and covert errors are the other two terms to describe errors. While overt mistakes are obvious even out of context, covert errors are evident only in context. Errors can also be classified according to levels of language: phonological errors, vocabulary or lexical errors, syntactic errors, and so on. The way of error classification in the study will follow the levels of language. Besides, mechanic errors and errors in organization of an essay cannot be ignored in this study because students essay productions are highly appreciated only when they follow the formation of a basic essay. Ferris (2005) described clearly each type of errors thanks to its minor errors (as cited in Nguyen, 2011). Ferris stated that morphological errors consist of verb errors, noun ending errors and article or determiner errors. According to Ferris, lexical errors include all errors in word choice or word form, preposition errors, pronoun errors and spelling errors only in misspelling resulted of an actual English word. In the same study, Ferris confirmed that syntactic errors are referred to phrase structure errors, clause errors, sentence errors, and inter-sentence errors. Specifically, they are classified into word order, omitted words or phrases, unnecessary words or phrases, run-ons, fragments, and other unidiomatic sentence constructions. Mechanical errors as Ferris analyzed are errors in the wrong use of punctuation and word spelling capitalization. In terms of style, the writing assigned for English major students in their academic years is a formal, objective and factual type of writing. In the book “Academic Writing” (2013) of University of Technology Sydney, a checklist of academic writing features mentioned included leaner, informative, complex, formal, precise, objective, explicit, accurate, qualification and responsibility. Besides, the aim to write, the audience and the tone are also important in an 16 academic writing. As stated in the book, formal language is the essential condition for an academic writing. Therefore, informal speaking vocabulary, style, sentence structure and expression of opinion are not allowed. Moreover, using contractions and reductions in academic writing certainly degrades the quality of students’ work. As stated in Wikipedia, most contractions are the reductions of 'not' (as "can't" for "cannot", “don’t” for “do not”, “haven’t” for “have not”. Many contractions are the reductions between a subject and a verb. For example, "He is..." becomes "He's...", “I am” becomes “I’m” or “we have” becomes “we’ve”. Some linguistic reductions are well-known in the reduction of a verb and “to” (like “wanna” used instead of “want to” or “going to” becoming “gonna”). In summary, informal style is regarded as mistake in academic writing. Totally, mistakes in essay writing are described in the following table. Morphological errors Verb errors Noun ending errors Article or determiner errors Lexical errors Errors in word choice Errors in word form Preposition errors Pronoun errors Spelling errors Syntactic errors Errors in word order Omitted words or phrases Unnecessary words or phrases 17 Run-ons Fragments Unidiomatic sentence constructions Mechanic errors Wrong use of punctuation Wrong use of capitalization Errors in style Use of contractions Use of spoken language Besides, regarding to essay organization, Folse et al. (2002) noted that “an essay always has three main parts: the introduction, the body, and the conclusion. The introduction is the first paragraph, the conclusion is the last paragraph, and the body consists of the paragraph in between”. The overview on the structure of an essay is the first step of the readers before they want to go deeply into the written content. Therefore, if one of the three parts of an essay is lacking, it will spoil the first good impression of the readers on the paper. Systematically, the introductory paragraph usually has three parts: the hook, the connecting information and the thesis statement. An introductory paragraph including the three mentioned parts and being able to present the topic for the whole essay is regarded a successful introductory paragraph. Similar to the supporting sentences in the paragraph structure, the body paragraph(s) in an essay is used to support the ideas for the main topic of the essay. Therefore, the coherence and the unity are required for the body paragraph(s). The supporting points treated in each paragraph must start with a topic sentence. Finally, the concluding paragraph summarizes the main point and brings the essay back to the beginning to round off the piece. The concluding paragraph sometimes is skipped or ignored by students because of the lack of vocabulary used to restate the same main ideas already mentioned in the introduction the lack of time when they take the timed test. 18 Based on the theory on the organization of an essay, errors in essay organization are described in the following table. Errors in organization Over word limit Unsuccessful introductory paragraph Lack of concluding paragraph No topic sentence for the body paragraph (s) Lack coherence Lack unity The focus of the present study is to find out the most common mistakes in essay writing of the first-year English majored students and with a very important aim to contribute in the pedagogical field of writing skill. However, to be able to implement that intention, mistake correction methods and the role of teachers and students in mistake correction are necessarily investigated. 2.5. Error correction and feedback in writing As a common belief, error correction is thought to be an effective feedback in teaching writing. Tsui (1995) declared that “writing errors should be corrected, or else students would think that what they have produced is correct and will carry on using these enormous forms.” According to Stern (1992), it is quite obvious that errors are integral parts of language learning and error correction has a significant role in improving learners’ writing accuracy. Leki (1991) explored the expectation of students to mistake correction in college level writing classes. He found that students regard good writing in English as error- free writing. Therefore, students want all errors in their paper to be corrected. Creme & Lea (1997), Ennis (1996), Ferris (2002), Harmer (2001), Krashen (1987) and Kroll (2001) agreed that feedback is also essential because students need feedback and comments to facilitate them to compose an essay with minimal errors as well as maximum 19 accuracy and clarity. In summary, in order to improve students’ writing skill, besides their regular practice, mistakes correction and teacher or peer’s feedback are crucial especially for an English majored student. In the recent study, Jimena, Tedjaatmadja and Tian (2013) mentioned some methods of error correction: coded feedback, direct correction and reformulation method. Ferris (2002) stated that both direct correction and coded feedback constitute the most important dichotomy. Being differentiated from direct correction in which teachers are responsible for offering the correct forms to learners, indirect feedback or coded feedback involves both teachers and learners in the error correction process, in which teachers indicate the errors and learners are the ones to correct the mistakes. Both methods indicate learner’s errors, but how to indicate errors and who to correct them are their differences. In real pedagogical situation, the codes are designed according to learners’ common errors as a class group. In the same study Jimena, Tedjaatmadja and Tian (2013) consider direct correction as a common way of correction which is implemented through underlining the errors and providing the right forms in the learners’ written work. However, according to Gower, Phillips and Walters (1995), coded feedback involves learners in the self-correction process and helps them learn more effectively. Many studies argued which method is better and viewed the benefits and the drawbacks of the two methods. However, it is believed that whatever methods are used; the purpose and the way to apply the methods must give encouragement to students. Reformulation requires both the proficiency of the instructors, and the willingness and the patience of the students during the correction process. Reformulation can meet students’ need. As mentioned in Cohen (1990), after the revising step, the work is well-formed in grammar and mechanics and it should be reconstructed in a natively acceptable way thanks to the comments of the teacher or a native speaker. As a result, their writing skill will be improved as they compare the reconstructed and the reformulated version. The personalized feedback is also considered motivating learners to pay much attention to the correction and benefit from it. 20
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