The Use of English Transition Markers in Chinese and British University Student Writing

  • Chao Han Han

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Chinese students are the largest group of overseas students in the UK (Leedham 2015), so various studies have been conducted to compare their academic writing with native English speakers’. Metadiscourse resources are very important devices to show how the writer responds to his or her potential readers (Hyland 2005; Ädel 2006), but little research has been carried out to examine how Chinese and English student writers employ them in detail in their
assignments. Furthermore, fewer studies have been carried out to compare the writing of the two groups of students with highly-matched texts. The present study was carried out to investigate Chinese and English student writing using a highly-matched corpus in terms of level, discipline, and genre family. It aimed to identify transitions and the use of transitions in student academic writing.

The findings show similarities in the writing of the Chinese and English students. They both tended to use transitions more frequently in non-science disciplines (e.g. Law and Linguistics) and discursive genre families (e.g. Critiqueand Essay), while they both tended to employ less frequently in science disciplines (e.g. Food Science and Biology) and in technical genre families (e.g.
Methodology Recount and Design Specification).

Since English students are native English speakers and they may have greater prior exposure to academic writing, their writing reflects better understanding of the transition items in terms of meaning and formality. On the other hand, since Chinese students are non-native English speakers, they have more English
grammar courses before their undergraduate education. As a result, the use of punctuation with transitions is more accurate in their writing. Furthermore, English students appear to be more sophisticated in their use of co-occurring transitions (e.g. and thus, but nevertheless). This has not been previously revealed in the literature. Both groups of students make both appropriate and
inappropriate use of transitions which are worthy of note.
Date of Award2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Coventry University
SupervisorSheena Gardner (Supervisor) & Hilary Nesi (Supervisor)

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