Fostering topic knowledge: essential for academic writing

Abstract

Several researchers emphasize the role of the writer’s topic knowledge for writing. In academic writing topic knowledge is often constructed by studying source texts. One possibility to support that essential phase of the writing process is to provide interactive learning questions which facilitate the construction of an adequate situation model by initiating macro-strategies. In order to examine whether the provision of interactive learning questions during studying source texts leads to better results in academic writing both writing process and performance of a group supported by interactive learning questions was compared to a study-only group which read the source texts without learning questions. Results revealed that students provided with interactive learning questions wrote longer essays and spend significantly more time prewriting and writing/revising their essays than did the students of the study-only group. Studying source texts with learning questions resulted in text products of better readability and partly better accuracy and coverage of content. These findings suggest that engaging students in answering learning questions when reading source texts can positively affect both writing process and performance.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to thank Anna Kamphausen and Katharina Abel for their excellent work in preparing and conducting the study, as well as in rating the written products. Furthermore, we are grateful to Annemarie Hilbig and Gregor Damnik for their assistance during data collection.

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Correspondence to Antje Proske.

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Proske, A., Kapp, F. Fostering topic knowledge: essential for academic writing. Read Writ 26, 1337–1352 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11145-012-9421-4

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Keywords

  • Writing from sources
  • Academic writing
  • Learning questions
  • Writing process
  • Topic knowledge
  • Text comprehension
  • Macro-strategies