Generic versus discipline-specific writing interventions: Report on a quasi-experiment

  • Adelia Carstens


Departing from a socio-constructivist perspective, the main purpose of the research on which this article reports was to indicate the effectiveness of both discipline-specific and generic approaches in teaching academic writing to  undergraduate university students. A quasi-experimental design was followed, comparing the pre- and post-test essay ratings as well as the results of post-intervention opinion surveys. The statistical analyses of the essay scores show that both the discipline-specific and the generic interventions were effective in their own right. Although the size of the improvement on the dimensions of the scoring instrument differs, the overall improvement of the students in each group is statistically significant. Overall, the discipline-specific group performed  significantly better than the generic group. Their performance was also more consistent across the dimensions of the scoring instrument. The results of the opinion survey indicate that students in both groups were generally positive  about the effect of the respective interventions on their academic writing abilities. The only significant difference was the discipline-specific group’s more positive experience of skills transfer. It is likely that their more positive appraisal of transferability resulted from more in-depth exposure to authentic  materials, a deeper level of engagement with scholarly sources, more content  knowledge, and more extensive discipline-specific writing.

Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 2011, 29(2): 149–165

Author Biography

Adelia Carstens
Department of Humanities Education, Faculty of Education, University of Pretoria, Groenkloof Campus, Pretoria 0002, South Africa

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1727-9461
print ISSN: 1607-3614