L2 writing problems (global issues)

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Some common global issues for second language writers include:

1 Focus and topic

  • More specific, better defined topic is needed.
  • The assignment or topic not addressed or discussed in appropriate detail.
  • Lack of appropriate focus throughout the paper; contents don't seem relevant to the main topic
  • or thesis.
  • A more academic topic, or a more academic focus in the paper, is needed.
  • The specific opinion(s) or argument(s) in the essay not so clear, or not clearly and explicitly stated and developed.
  • The essay covers several different topics, or too many aspects of the issue, and thus, too much for one essay.
  • Too much general / background info detracts from a focus on main arguments / proposals. (Unless the background info / explanation could be integrated more into discussion of solutions / proposals)
  • Insufficient planning, preparation, or information gathering
  • Insufficient effort in developing ideas
  • Insufficient effort in writing


2 Organization

Introduction and thesis
  • Lack of a well developed introduction paragraph
  • An introduction that does not clearly and directly lead to a specific thesis
  • An introduction that begins with very familiar, general, or familiar information
  • An introduction that is anecdotal, informal, colloquial, or general
  • Not stating a clear main thesis in the beginning
  • The thesis is vague, e.g., does not present a specific argument or point
  • Self-announcing expressions instead of an actual thesis

Self-announcements simply assert that some information, instead of actually providing the information in that sentence; e.g., in the first example, instead of non-informative announcements, the writer should actually state a specific thesis that includes that main points of the proposal.

X In this essay, I will explain my proposal for improving the program in my department. )
✔️ The program in Department X can be improved greatly by hiring more full-time non-tenured professors instead of part-time lecturers.


Body paragraphs
  • Not stating clear main ideas (topic sentences) in the body paragraphs
  • Lack of well developed body paragraphs and contents
  • Self-announcing expressions instead of actual topic sentences
  • Lack of clear logical flow and connection from one main idea to another
  • Short, choppy paragraphs that are under-developed
  • Overly long paragraph(s) need to be broken up.


3 Overall contents

General contents
  • Short, choppy paragraphs that are under-developed
  • Too much general / background info detracts from a focus on main arguments / proposals. (Unless the background info / explanation could be integrated more into discussion of solutions / proposals)
  • Insufficient paper contents & length
  • Insufficient development of thesis / main ideas
  • Some general or background information seems unnecessary, and could be removed or reduced - rendered more concise.
  • More detailed / deeper development of contents / main ideas / body paragraphs needed
  • Seems rather descriptive, rather than proposing specific analyses or proposals
  • Overly long paragraph(s) need to be broken up.


4 Effectiveness: Informativeness & persuasiveness

Effort & purpose
  • Writing indicates insufficient effort.
  • Paper fails to communicate to an educated audience.
  • Insufficient planning, preparation, or information gathering
  • Insufficient effort in developing ideas
  • Insufficient effort in writing
  • Some of the main points / ideas / arguments here are too general, common, or evident.
  • Lack of logical or relevant support for main ideas & thesis.


Weak argumentation
  • More informative contents need to be presented.
  • More unique, insightful main points / ideas / arguments need to be developed and presented.
  • More specific contents are needed, informed by use of good sources.
  • More specific ideas / main points / arguments are needed.
  • Logical fallacies -- poor or flawed logical arguments, illogical arguments
  • Emotional or subjective arguments
  • Not stating a clear main thesis in the beginning
  • Not stating clear main ideas (topic sentences) in the body paragraphs
  • Focusing on minor details, so that the main point of a paragraph becomes unclear.
  • A more systematic, detailed, and/or logical development of the main ideas is needed.
  • Weak logic or argumentation
  • Potential counter-arguments or objections to particular points (e.g., from potential skeptics or opposing views) need to be addressed, answered, or acknowledged, in order for the paper to be more persuasive and effective.
  • Lack of effectiveness due to weak sources, or weak use of sources.
  • More unique, insightful main points / ideas / arguments need to be developed and presented.


4.1 Coherence: Logical flow

Cohererence & flow
  • Paragraphs get lost in minor details
  • Focusing on minor details, so that the main point of a paragraph becomes unclear.
  • Lack of clear logical flow of ideas
  • Lack of logical sentence flow
  • Ideas or topics need to be developed better before moving on.
  • Topic shifts occur too often within the body paragraphs (e.g., sudden switches to new sentence subjects / topics).
  • Excessive or abrupt topic shifts among the body paragraphs.
  • More connectors (conjunctions, adverbials) needed for better flow.
  • More appropriate connectors (conjunctions, adverbials) needed for better flow.
  • A bit much explanation of common / general info/ideas, which detract from the flow of main ideas & the focus; such parts could be more concise, or omitted, in order to focus on the main points.


5 Support

Quantity
  • Lack of sufficient support for main ideas & thesis
  • Some points could be explained a bit more.
  • More contents and support are needed in the body paragraphs.
  • Not enough good sources or good use of sources


Quality
  • Lack of logical or relevant support for main ideas & thesis.
  • (Some) paragraphs seem short; the paragraphs and their ideas/contents could be better developed
  • A more systematic, detailed, and/or logical development of the main ideas is needed.
  • Need clearer, more specific explanation or discussion.
  • Need clearer, more specific examples, evidence, data, info, and/or details.
  • Some of the contents are merely familiar, anecdotal, or subjective examples or ideas.
  • Some of the ideas, explanations or examples are fairly common ones, and not so original, unique, or academic.
  • Poor / inadequate use of sources


6 Source use

General source use
  • Plagiarism, e.g.: (1) copying and pasting text; (2) copying ideas; and/or (3) not citing sources for information or ideas that are used
  • Not using sources meaningfully
  • More academic sources are needed.
  • Too many weak, popular / general, or non-academic sources are used
  • Appropriate summarizing / paraphrasing.


In-text citations
  • Not using or citing sources
  • Not using in-text citations
  • Simply including citations and/or dumping info from sources for the sake of citing sources
  • Sources are cited only briefly, when information or ideas from good sources can be more meaningfully in the essay
  • Citing a number of isolated facts that do not cohere with the main flow of thought
  • Citing from sources that the student could not have, or did not, actually read and understand, e.g., academic sources that are beyond the student's ability to comprehend and use meaningfully
  • Not following correct citation format


End references

Also called works cited or bibliography.

  • Not including end references (or works cited, or bibliography)
  • Not including all the sources that were cited in the paper in the references / works cited section
  • Some items are in the references that were not cited in the paper ("padding" the references with unused sources)
  • Not following correct reference format


7 Style

Global or discourse level issues
  • Emotional or subjective wording or expressions (unprofessional tone)
  • Short, choppy paragraphs
  • Writing in a colloquial or informal style
  • General level discussion, e.g., using common, general knowledge; not providing informative, new, insightful, or unique ideas or information
  • Insufficient editing, proofreading, or revision


Sentence level style
  • Use of second person forms ("you")
  • Use or overuse of first person forms ("I, we") and expressions (e.g., "I think")
  • Short, choppy sentences
  • Use or overuse of questions, especially non-rhetorical questions that a writer poses and then immediately answers, i.e., topic-raising questions; also, overuse of hypothetical questions, or suggestive questions (which imply a certain answer or assumption)
  • Grammatically awkward sentences
  • Significant grammar problems that impede understanding


Wording issues
  • Informal wording
  • Unclear wording or incorrect word choice
  • Emotional, negative, or unprofessional tone


8 Format

See also the following:

Document format
  • Not using a universal, readable file format (such as MSWord, PDF, LibreOffice)
  • Sending an assignment as text in an email instead of as an attached document
  • Problems with page layout or size


Font & text
  • Problems with font format, line spacing, capitalization, punctuation, word / letter spacing
  • Excessive text decoration