Mastering Academic Language: Organization and Stance in the Persuasive Writing of High School Students

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Mastering Academic Language: Organization and Stance in the Persuasive Writing of High School Students

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Title: Mastering Academic Language: Organization and Stance in the Persuasive Writing of High School Students
Author: Uccelli, Paola; Dobbs, Christina L.; Scott, Jessica Armytage

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Citation: Uccelli, P., C. L. Dobbs, and J. Scott. 2012. “Mastering Academic Language: Organization and Stance in the Persuasive Writing of High School Students.” Written Communication 30, no. 1:36-62. doi:10.1177/0741088312469013. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0741088312469013.
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Abstract: Beyond mechanics and spelling conventions, academic writing requires progressive mastery of advanced language forms and functions. Pedagogically-useful tools to assess such language features in adolescents’ writing, however, are not yet available. This study examines language predictors of writing quality in 51 persuasive essays produced by high school students attending a linguistically and ethnically diverse inner-city school in the Northeastern U.S. Essays were scored for writing quality by a group of teachers; transcribed and analyzed to generate automated lexical and grammatical measures; and coded for discourse-level elements by researchers who were blind to essays’ writing quality scores. Regression analyses revealed that beyond the contribution of length and lexico-grammatical intricacy, the frequency of organizational markers and one particular type of epistemic stance marker, i.e., epistemic hedges, significantly predicted persuasive essays’ writing quality. Findings shed light on discourse elements relevant for the design of pedagogically-informative assessment tools.
Published Version: doi:10.1177/0741088312469013
Terms of Use: This article is made available under the terms and conditions applicable to Open Access Policy Articles, as set forth at http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:dash.current.terms-of-use#OAP
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:11143739
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