Magazine 2013
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
RH, VOL. 3 JULY 2013  
Development Of Writing Ability In Final Year  
Under Graduate Students Of Mumbai University  
Susmita Dey  
It is every English teacher’s concern that students do not write well despite composition being an  
integral part of the curriculum for several years both in school and college education. This study, an  
attempt to examine whether writing can be taught effectively, was conducted as part of the regular  
teaching in the TYBA class in whose syllabus there is a component on Academic writing. It was hypothesized  
that if students are taught the skills of Academic writing systematically, they will be able to internalize it  
and this will be reflected in their writing. At the start of the experiment, a pre-test was conducted to  
ascertain the entry level of the students. Students were then asked to distinguish between samples of  
writing that is rhetorically mature and that which is immature. Next, selected strategies of academic  
writing were taken up in isolation for familiarization and identification. This was followed up by practice  
exercises in the class in which students analyzed well-written extracts of writing for features that were  
typical of the selected writing strategies. In the next stage, students were made to write paragraphs  
using specified writing strategies in the class. At the end a post-test was administered to register the  
gains, if any. Statistically significant gains were seen in their performance from pre test to post test. This  
suggested that effective learning had indeed taken place. The conclusions record these findings and  
also make suggestions for increasing the duration of the course so that sustainable learning levels could  
be achieved.  
Keywords - Composition, Syllabus, Entry Level, Well-written Extracts, Specified Writing Strategies,  
Students’ apathy to writing is a common cause for concern amongst teachers. Post employment, it is  
the most addressed lacunae in young employees. Despite much discussion and effort, a lasting solution  
continues to be elusive.  
The optional course on Rhetoric, Composition and Applied Language Skills at the third year English B.A  
course aims to equip students with the ability to write correctly concisely and coherently. When introduced in  
the syllabus several years ago, it had envisaged that analysis of good writing would enable students to emulate  
some of these features and soon they would be able to incorporate them in their own writing. Students were  
expected to analyze good pieces of writing as part of their course work and were expected to be able to write  
effectively on this basis. In recent times, in the revised syllabus, the project component requires students to  
write an essay and analyse the rhetorical features in it. A similar exercise has been included in the final examination  
paper too. The course objectives as stated in the syllabus are:  
To make the student aware of the basic principles of Rhetorical organization of a written discourse  
To help the student acquire the skills for producing a coherent and logically developed written text for  
academic and professional fields  
To help the student understand the structure of the English Language  
To familiarize the students with various types of discourse  
Objectives at number 3 and 4 constitute 60% of the total marks in the syllabus and consequently teaching  
towards their achievement takes up a proportionate amount of time as well. The remaining objectives carry a  
0% weightage in the paper and another 20% in the guided project, i.e. 40% of the paper.  
This paper reports a study carried out in a suburban Mumbai college to examine the success achieved in  
enhancing the writing skills of students ( objectives 1 and 2) in the course of their final academic year in college  
June to February).  
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
RH, VOL. 3 JULY 2013  
Students would develop the ability to write coherently using appropriate rhetorical patterns after they  
had analyzed academic writing exhibiting such patterns and practiced writing using these as models.  
These students were in the TYBA English class, which had 22 students. They come from a variety of  
language backgrounds and have been educated at either English or mother tongue medium schools. However,  
they had studied English for two years in this college. Their competence in the language is also mixed…. some  
can use the language effectively while others do not have the necessary competence to study literature in  
English. Their motivation and commitment are also at varying levels, generally beingmedium or low. A few had  
taken up English major by choice , but most because it is perceived as a subject that will get them a job after  
graduation. They also have dismal reading habits and are quite reluctant to write extensively.  
There are a number of reasons why such students find it hard to write well.  
The Indian education system does not have specially designed courses in writing – academic, or  
creative at any level right from school to post graduation.  
Writing is an interactive skill, which is dependent on readers for constructive feedback; which is rare in  
our system of education  
Written style develops with reading and experience, both of which are not considered significant in the  
There is no one ‘set formula’ for writing an essay  
It is no wonder that most students are reluctant to write and are under extreme anxiety when they write.  
Academic writing has been defined as “ … expository writing , generally done in University settings, that  
observes certain rules and conventions about what is appropriate as far as the content and style of what is  
written are concerned”( Berger 14-15). The assumption was that students will be able to develop well defined  
writing strategies, after analyzing expert writers’ texts. Hence, the writing of students was tested before and after  
the teaching of the course and the results compared.  
Pre-Test: Students were asked to write short essays on topics, which would normally be written in  
the rhetorical styles selected for study. The essays were marked and constructive feedback was  
given as is normally done.  
Teaching Input 1: Reading of Selected Passages: Students were asked to read two sets of extracts  
on the same topic:  
of mature analytical writing typically using a defined rhetorical structure : statement-amplification,  
process, comparison, contrast and cause - effect etc.  
of immature writing on the same topics written without a clearly defined rhetorical organization.  
Teaching Input 2: Analysis: They were asked to take each pair of extract and comment using the  
following clues  
Reader friendliness  
Clarity and ease of communication of idea  
Steps they would take to improve any of the passages  
All comments were encouraged and no disparaging remarks were made, as these would demotivate the student.  
Relevant comments were isolated and a note made thereof.  
Teaching Input 3:Familiarization: Students were then assisted in listing the distinctive features of each  
type of writing. An explanation and illustration of the distinctive features of these typical writing styles  
were then discussed, elicited and listed using passages used above.  
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
RH, VOL. 3 JULY 2013  
Activity1: Identification: Students were given several other passages and asked to analyze the rhetorical  
structures. The teacher provided inputs wherever required. Distinctive Rhetorical features, thesis statements  
and its location, language markers were discussed at length for all the passages under discussion.  
Activity2: Students were made to write some essays on topics, which would necessitate the use of the  
knowledge gained thus far.  
Post-Test: Students were given four classroom assignments one each on the following: statement-  
amplification, cause – effect, process and comparison- contrast.  
Results and Discussion  
At first glance, the raw scores clearly show that the students have made significant gains in their writing  
ability. Their writing skills have improved and they can now write essays using rhetorical strategies appropriate  
to the topic they are writing on.  
Since this is a repeated measure experiment, where comparisons are being made in a matched group, the raw  
scores were analyzed using the statistical tool: ‘matched t-test’. The following results were obtained:  
S. No  
Rhetorical Pattern  
Cause- Effect  
Comparison- Contrast  
As can be seen from the table above, for all the rhetorical patterns, t-cal is significant at the 1% level as  
compared to t-tab (3.106). This signifies that the learning that has taken place is statistically significant showing  
that the students have made substantial improvement in their writing skills.  
A graphical representation of the gains below will provide further insights  
For writing essays using the four specified rhetorical patterns though there is a gain registered, it is quite  
evident that this gain is spectacular. Student scores have improved proportionally to their earlier performance.  
That is to say, a student who was a low scorer relative to the class earlier, now too is a relatively low scorer,  
though in absolute terms his score has improved. The better student has also improved, but the gap between  
them remains the same. This is evident from the pattern of the line graphs below:  
a) Statement Amplification  
b) Cause and Effect  
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
c) Process  
RH, VOL. 3 JULY 2013  
d) Comparison - Contrast  
In order to understand whether the average improvement over four strategies was significantly different or not,  
the non- parametric Kruskal-Wallis test was performed. (Since, the sample size was small by default, 12, it was  
not possible to test its normality, hence, the one way ANOVA was avoided).  
Since H = 8.77288876 , and χ  
= 7.814738, it implies that there is significant difference among average  
improvements.(H > χ  
Hence we test difference in averages of different pairs of methods.  
The critical point for the paired comparisons is :  
) = 7.814738*161.2021/18) = 8.365777434  
Ckw = χ α ,k1 s /3(  
ni nj  
Method i vs j  
,2 1.375  
,3 13.916667  
,4 4.5416667  
,3 12.541667  
,4 3.16667  
,4 9.375  
D= difference between means *= significant gains1 to 4 are the strategies: Statement-Amplification, Cause-  
Effect, Process and Comparison-ContrastFrom the above, it is seen that improvement in writing using strategy  
- Process is significantly more as compared to the other strategies.  
The following conclusions can be drawn from the above:  
Students have learnt the skill of writing using appropriate rhetorical strategies.  
Repeated use of the strategy has made them familiar with its distinctive features.  
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
RH, VOL. 3 JULY 2013  
Academic Writing can be effectively taught in a short span of time , even as they are busy with other papers as  
well as the other sections of this paper.  
However, despite the positive results of the course, it is a commonly known fact that youngsters and fresh  
graduates need to be trained specially in writing when they enter the corporate world. Why is this so, especially  
when the students’ gains are statistically significant as seen above.  
Some surmises can be made  
This could be primarily because they do not sustain the gains made here, over time. There are several possible  
Lack of practice is the primary reason for their inability in internalizinglearning.  
Lack of time is the reason for their not being able to practice beyond scheduled classes.  
Since the section on writing constitutes only 20 marks ( 25% of total marks in the paper) they are  
reluctant to spend more time on this activity.  
Writing skills can improve only with practice over time, both of which are not possible since the course  
is offered only in the final year.  
Ability to write cogently and coherently is also dependent on reading which gives valuable and necessary  
content to the written piece. Sadly, however, the reading habit eludes the present day student.  
A majority of students are internet savvy, and are members of social networking sites. When taught using ICT to  
supplement a course in academic writing, students will find it interesting and in all probability continue to use  
it beyond the classroom. This will help them sustain their learning over time. Some commonly used ICT tools  
that can be used to supplement class-room learning are  
Mind mapping tools to generate content  
Blogs to help students ‘publish’ their work. This can be a motivating experience especially since comments  
will also include feedback from peers  
Blogs and social networking sites for collaborative learning, peer reviewing etc.  
Developing a good reading habit, to see a variety of content, styles etc.  
Implications for Syllabus Design  
Since significant gains are seen in a short writing component in the language course, it is necessary to introduce  
a full fledged writing component in English courses from the first year, instead of it being a small component in  
a paper in the final year of graduation. ICT enabled learning will help make the course an integral part of their  
social’ life for three years, by which time they would have internalized their learning. This will also help sustain  
their learning and help them become mature writers, who can contribute meaningfully to the society later in life.  
Limitations of the study  
Due to the various factors related to the nature of the experiment under regular teaching conditions, certain  
limitations arose in this study.  
The college has only one class that can opt for the English Literature course, hence the class constituted  
the Experimental Group.  
No Control Group could be set up in the college, and an external Control Group was not be possible  
due to reasons of logistics.  
Group size was restricted due to attendance pattern and class size.  
Individual differences among students were not considered.  
Other external factors, such as motivation, which were beyond the teacher’s control, were ignored.  
Follow up of students to check whether they retained what they learnt was not possible as they had  
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
RH, VOL. 3 JULY 2013  
graduated from college.  
The elegance of an experiment designed for study is, thus, missing. However, the loss of experimental  
sophistication is adequately compensated in the resultant authenticity of the teaching situation obtained for  
Bailey, S. Academic Writing : A Handbook for International Students. Routledge:London and New York.  
001. Print  
Berger, A.A. The Academic Writer’s Toolkit. A User’s Manual. New Delhi: PHI Learning. 2009. Print.  
Oshima, A., and A Hogue, Writing Academic English, New York : Addison-Wesley. 2005. Print.  
Swales, J., and C Feak, Academic Writing for Graduate Students. Michigan Michigan University Press.  
004. Print.  
I sincerely thank Mrs. Sudha Phatak, Assoc. Prof. Statistics, B. N. Bandodkar College of Science, Thane  
for helping me with the statistical analyses.  
ISSN 2229-385X  
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
Subscription Rates :  
a) India  
Rs. 750 /-  
Year :  
Year :  
Rs. 500 /-  
Rs. 1200 /-  
Rs. 800 /-  
Rs. 1950 /-  
Rs. 2,000 /-  
Rs. 1,000 /-  
Rs. 2,750 /-  
b) Outside India  
Year :  
Year :  
Subscription charges should be sent by Demand Draft only in favour of Shree Chandulal  
Nanavati Women’s Institute and Girl’s High School and sent to the College address .  
DR. RAJSHREE TRIVEDI – 09820375069  
MS. TRUPTI SABHARANJAK – 09821333962