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E-dictionary Use under the Spotlight: Students' Use of Pocket Electronic Dictionaries for Writing

A Boonmoh


This article reports on the utilisation of pocket electronic dictionaries (PEDs) for writing by learners of English at a Thai university. It aims to enrich the study of dictionary use behaviour by investigating, through the use of combined research methods, exactly what happens when students use PEDs for production. The participants in this study included 13 students who were chosen from a group of 1211 students enrolled in a foundation English course at a university in Thailand. Data were collected using a think-aloud protocol, observation, and retrospective interviews as data collection methods. The first eight participants were asked to read a passage in Thai. Using dictionaries in their PEDs, they were asked to write a summary in English (the Water I experiment). The remaining five participants followed the same procedure, but after the summary task was completed, they were asked to review their summaries using the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, and the English–English dictionary in their PEDs (the Water II experiment). The experimental study revealed how the participants tackled the reading passage and wrote summaries, the problems they encountered, and the strategies they used to solve these problems. A graphic representation of the PED consultation process was also proposed. The use of the English–
English dictionary in their PEDs helped some participants review their English summaries. It was found that some participants failed to display (extended) knowledge of the PEDs they were using. The investigations revealed several factors that may have hampered dictionary lookup success as well as factors that may have promoted dictionary lookup success.

Keywords:Dictionary Use, Pocket Electronic Dictionary, Dictionary Consultation, Monolingual Dictionary, Bilingual Dictionary, Writing
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