First Advisor

Marjorie Terdal

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages


Teaching English as a Second Language




Diaries -- Authorship -- Study and teaching (Higher), English language -- Study and teaching (Higher) -- Foreign speakers



Physical Description

1 online resource (2, v, 120 p.)


Over the past ten years, the use of student writing journals has become increasingly widespread in the TESOL field. Such journals serve a wide variety of purposes: a cultural diary, a free writing exercise, a forum for reaction or comment on readings or classroom discussions, in addition to a form of teacher/student dialogue. The main purpose of this study has been to determine the relationship of topic assignment to the quantity and quality of resulting entries. The data, 144 journal entries generated by ten adult ESL students over a period of ten weeks, were measured for length, in terms of total words and total number of T-units, and quality as assessed by the Jacobs profile (1981) which considers the following areas: content, organization, vocabulary, language use and mechanics. In addition, student reactions to instructor comments and attitudes toward journal keeping were explored in an end of term questionnaire. It was found that, on a group level, the assignment of four specified topic types (A. Topics relating to class lectures and discussions, B. Topics relating class discussions to the students' respective cultures, C. Topics relating to class or personal experiences and D. No topic assignment) did not appear to have any relationship with either the quality or quantity of writing. However, on an individual level, topic assignment did seem to have a relationship with the quantity of writing and in some cases, the quality as well. In considering student reaction to instructor comments, all students reported reading instructor comments, but rarely responded to them. When considering topic assignment, 74% of the students stated preferring an assigned topic, yet 60% actually wrote more when given a free choice of topic. Also, on the individual level, students stated a variety of topic type preferences that roughly corresponded with an increase in entry length. Finally, students seemed to have a positive attitude toward journal keeping as 80% stated they would like to keep a journal next term.


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