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International Journal of English Language Education

Investigating Individual Voice in Thematic Development in Academic Assignments Written by Iraqi and Australian Postgraduate Students

Ali Jabbar Al BAKAA
School of Education, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia PO Box 6, Clayton Campus, Victoria 3800 Tel: +9647801031703 E-mail: alibka@hotmail.com
Abstract :

The notion of individual voice is an important aspect of functional grammar in student’s academic writing, as taking a stance is one of the most important requirements of academic assignments at Australian universities. Jalilifar (2009), for instance, demarcated thematic development as an element which plays a crucial role in the message function of language. This raises an important question as to how postgraduate students as academic writers deal with the function of thematic development in terms of individual voice in demonstrating a critical argument. Unfortunately, few studies have focused on this aspect in relation to Iraqi postgraduate students in the Australian context of writing. To this end, four academic assignments were selected and analysed to uncover the similarities and differences in the function of the thematic development, and to determine whether and how students of different cultures stamp their individual voice on the text through the thematic development elements of their academic arguments. Using Eggin’s (2004) model of thematic development, this paper concerns a corpus of four academic assignments from four Masters Students (two Iraqi and two Australian students). The data analysis revealed marked differences in these four academic assignments regarding the functions of thematic development as a starting point for their academic argument. The findings showed that the Iraqi postgraduate students struggled both in expressing their individual voice through the function of thematic development, and in supporting their claims with evidence from what they had read. The study presents a critique of Kaplan’s claims (1966) that the zig-zag pattern is a characteristic of Arab students’ writing, in contrast to the linearity of English writers. Instead it found that the Iraqi non-native writers of English were writing their assignments by copying and writing what they read from their texts and one reason for this was that the element of individual voice has not been emphasized in the Iraqi education system.

Keywords :
Individual voice, thematic development, Iraqi non-native writers of English, Australian native writers of English, academic writing

Date Deposited : 10 Apr 2015 10:02

Last Modified : 10 Apr 2015 10:02

Official URL: http://www.macrothink.org/journal/index.php/ijele/issue/view/339

Volume 3, Number 1, - 2015 , ISSN 2325-0887

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