Sentence openers in academic writing: A comparison between seminar texts and students’ reflective writing papers

Language used to report research findings and put forward arguments is at the heart of effective communication with readers. To this end, scholars use a variety of stylistic features. One of these is variety in language, which includes structures, lexis, and organization markers. Although much research has been conducted on these aspects, a particular feature has received limited interest from researchers: sentence openers, a strategic use of which helps authors develop an individual style, and avoid stagnant prose. This helps them maintain readers’ interest while communicating scientific knowledge. Due to the importance of sentence openers in scientific prose, university students’ awareness should be raised about this aspect of academic writing. This requires identification of commonly occurring sentence openers in the texts they study. It is also useful to identify student tendencies regarding sentence openers and their perceived competence in varying sentence openers. Prompted by these necessities, this research investigated a 10,949 running-word corpus compiled from professionally-written texts used in a first-year writing course, as well as a 42,070 running-word student corpus compiled from the reflective writing papers of 35 first-year students. Data on students’ perceived competence were collected using a survey. Results showed that the two most frequent sentence openers in both corpora were subject-verb and transition markers. However, the latter were used by the students with significantly higher frequency than they were by the professional writers. Data also revealed that the students lack awareness of sentence openers as a feature for making writing more interesting. Students further reported an inability to use a wide range of sentence openers in their writing. Results are discussed, and recommendations are made for increasing students’ skill in composing effective academic texts.

Akademik metinlerde cümle açılışları: Seminer metinleri ve öğrencilerin yansıtıcı yazıları arasında bir karşılaştırma

Argüman ortaya koyma ve araştırma sonuçlarının rapor edilmesinde kullanılan dilin doğru ve etkili kullanılması oldukça önemlidir. Ancak bu şekilde okuyucularla etkili bir iletişim sağlanabilir. Yazarlar bu amaçla dile ilişkin gramer, kelime kullanımı gibi farklı biçimsel özelliklerden faydalanırlar. Bu özellikler üzerine oldukça fazla sayıda araştırma yapılmış bulunmaktadır. Ancak cümle açılışları üzerine yeterli çalışma yapılmadığı görülmektedir. Cümle açılışlarının stratejik kullanımı yazarların kendilerine has bir stil geliştirmelerine yardımcı olacaktır. Ayrıca yazıları daha akıcı hale gelecektir. Bu şekilde yazarlar bilimsel bilgileri okuyucularına daha etkin şekilde iletebileceklerdir. Bu nedenlerden dolayı üniversite öğrencilerinin akademik yazmanın önemli bir unsuru olan cümle açılışlarına ilişkin olarak farkındalık kazanmaları gerekmektedir. Bunu elde etmek için ise öğrencilerin derslerinde okudukları metinlerde sıklıkla kullanılan cümle açılışlarının belirlenmesi faydalı olacaktır. Öğrencilerin kendilerinin kullanma eğiliminde oldukları cümle açılışlarının ve bu konuda yetkinliklerine ilişkin görüşlerinin de belirlenmesi faydalı olacaktır. Bu araştırmada Abu Dhabi’deki bir üniversitede birinci sınıf iletişim dersinde okutulan 10,949 kelimelik bir korpus incelenmiştir. Ayrıca öğrencilerin kendileri tarafından yazılmış olan 42,070 kelimelik ikinci bir korpus incelenmiştir. Öğrencilerin yetkinlik düzeylerine ilişkin görüşleri ise bir anket aracılığıyla toplanmıştır. Sonuçlar her iki korpusta da en sık kullanılan cümle açılışlarının özne-fiil ve geçiş belirteçleri olduğunu göstermiştir. Geçiş belirteçlerinin öğrenciler tarafından çok daha sık kullanıldığı belirlenmiştir. Ayrıca yazıların daha ilgiyle okunmasına katkı sağlayan cümle geçişlerine ilişkin öğrenci farkındalık düzeyinin düşük olduğu belirlenmiştir. Öğrenciler ayrıca farklı türden cümle açılışları kullanımına ilişkin yetkinliklerinin düşük seviyede olduğunu belirtmişlerdir. Sonuçlar tartışılmakta ve öğrencilerin daha etkili akademik metinler yazmalarına yardımcı olacak önerilerde bulunulmaktadır.

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