International EFL Learners’ Perceptions about Factors Leading to English Academic Writing Difficulties in a Private University in Malaysia
Academic writing, as the most crucial skill needed for EFL learners, is challenging for the international students in Malaysia. Such difficulties among university students appear to affect EFL learner’s academic performance as compared with that of native language users. This study aims to investigate the perceived difficulties in English academic writing among international undergraduate students in a private university in Malaysia and the reasons causing the difficulties. The study enjoyed an embedded mixed-method design. The qualitative data was collected by semi-structured interviews whereas the quantitative method was collected by questionnaire-based survey. A total of 348 participants participated in the survey in two rounds of data collection within 2 years. The qualitative data played a primary role, and the quantitative data had a supportive role to obtain comprehensive information. The findings revealed that the participants faced difficulties in their academic writing in terms of lexico-structural (insufficient English vocabulary, making more spelling and grammar mistakes), logical organization (making coherent and cohesive writing, making outlines and expressing their own ideas clearly), content (writing clear thesis statement and topic sentence, and difficulty in using examples for illustration), and finding-and-citing (finding related sources and making in-text citation). These difficulties were attributed to external factors (few opportunities to practice the English language, L1 influence, medium of instruction, and the status of the English language) and internal factors individuals’ weak English foundation, low English proficiency and lack of practice in English writings). Based on the findings, implications were drawn for EFL students and instructors.
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