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Academic writing
Writing difficulties
Writing instruction
First-year undergraduates
Issue Date: 
Cheung, Y. L. (2013). Exploring first-year undergraduates’ difficulties in writing the discussion section of a research paper: A Singapore study. The English Teacher, 42(2), 117-136.
Much of academic writing research is conducted with academics and
postgraduate students in the United States, Hong Kong, and Saudi Arabia. There
is less published research on how undergraduate students reflect on their writing
activities in Singapore. Little is known about what challenges these students face
in writing academic papers, in particular, the discussion of results of their first
academic paper written in their first year of study. The present study fills this gap
by investigating Singaporean undergraduates to uncover their perception of
difficulties in writing their first research papers in a compulsory academic
writing course offered by a teacher training institute. In-depth interviews were
conducted to the four undergraduate students. Results found that, with regard to
undergraduates‟ perceptions of writing the discussions section, the main
problems were selection of content, organization of content, demonstration of
appropriate stance, grammar, and choice of words. Additionally, based on the
instructor‟s comments on the students‟ term papers, results revealed that there
were mismatches between the writing instructor‟s professional understanding
and students‟ understanding of their own difficulties. The findings of this study
have pedagogical implications pertaining to ways to improve the teaching of
undergraduate student teachers‟ discussion of results not only in Singapore, but
also in similar contexts outside Asia.
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