Discovering Academic Literacy Skills in English of First Year ESL

Ambrose B. Chimbganda


The purpose of this study is to find out the academic literacy skills in English of ESL first year humanities students from their own point of view. It is motivated by the fact that many lecturers at this university (and perhaps at many other universities elsewhere) often complain about the limited academic literacy skills of their students, especially those who use English as an additional or non-native language. Using both quantitative and qualitative research methods, the views and final examination essays of thirty conveniently sampled students were analyzed. The findings show that the majority of the students rated many of their academic literacy skills ‘average’. In terms of their writing skills, the results indicate that the majority of the students have pragmatic competence which enables them to communicate their intended meaning reasonably well; but what they lack mainly is organizational competence, i.e. the ability to write ideas fluently and accurately. To help the students overcome some of their academic literacy limitations, it is suggested that teachers should first try to understand the students’ practices, and to give written work that fosters a sense of ownership, self-reflection and personal engagement.

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International Journal of Linguistics  ISSN 1948-5425  Email:

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