Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 25

Javid, C.Z., Farooq, U., & Umer, M. (2013).

An Investigation of Saudi EFL learners'


Writing Problems: A Case Study along Gender-lines. Kashmir Journal of Language
Research, 16(1), 179-203.

179



An Investigation of Saudi EFL learners Writing Problems: A Case Study
along Gender-lines

Dr. Choudhary Zahid Javid
Assist. Professor, Department of Foreign Languages,
Taif University, Taif, KSA
Email: chzahidj@hotmail.com
Tel: +966-502312949; Fax: +966-7284299


Dr. Muhammad Umar Farooq
Assist. Professor, English Language Centre,
Taif University, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
E-mail: umar.fui@gmail.com
Tel: +966582912894


Dr. Muhammad Umer
Lecturer, Department of Foreign Languages,
Taif University, Taif, KSA
Email: m.khan@tu.edu.sa
Tel: +966-594187312; Fax: +966-7284299



Javid, C.Z., Farooq, U., & Umer, M. (2013). An Investigation of Saudi EFL learners'
Writing Problems: A Case Study along Gender-lines. Kashmir Journal of Language
Research, 16(1), 179-203.

180

Abstract
The study in is a comprehensive investigation to identify the important writing
tasks, major areas of difficulty in academic writing, the factors causing these difficulties
and the corrective measures in the Saudi EFL academic context. It attempted to identify
gender-based differences for the above-mentioned factors and the results of
independent-samples t-test did not show major differences in the perceptions of both the
groups partially accepting the null hypotheses. Several research studies were reviewed
and a 40-item Likert-scale agree-disagree questionnaire was developed by the
researcher. It was translated into Arabic and piloted before it was administered to 194
Saudi EFL learners (108 male & 86 female) studying at Taif University. Descriptive
analyses and Independent-samples t-test were run using SPSS version 17. The findings
reported that these particular Saudi EFL learners have serious problems in their
academic writing due to their weaknesses in using appropriate lexical items,
organisation of ideas and grammar. The other weaker areas include wrong use of
prepositions, spellings, irregular verbs, articles, punctuation, suffixes and prefixes. It is
recommended to implement a stricter admission policy, increase language courses,
develop tailor-made activities, provide increased practice in academic writing, exploit
modern teaching techniques and equip the classrooms with modern teaching aids to
improve Saudi EFL learners academic writing.
Keywords: Academic Writing, Perception, Syntactic Errors; Gender
Introduction
Because of the English language being a storehouse of world knowledge, it has
been chosen as the medium of instruction for higher studies in general in many regions
of the world including the gulf countries and, of course, the English language teaching
in particular (Crystal, 2003).
When it comes to the teaching and learning of language skills, writing comes at
the end according to the natural order hypothesis of language learning, but this does not
make writing skill insignificant. Rather, its significance increases manifolds in the
Javid, C.Z., Farooq, U., & Umer, M. (2013). An Investigation of Saudi EFL learners'
Writing Problems: A Case Study along Gender-lines. Kashmir Journal of Language
Research, 16(1), 179-203.

181

academic contexts in which students are required to apply this skill as a main tool to
show what they have learnt. A growing mass of research has offered valuable insights
into the significance of this skill for academic success. Bjork and Raisanen (1997, p. 8)
argue that
We highlight the importance of writing in all university curricula
not only because of its immediate practical application, i.e. as an
isolated skill or ability, but because we believe that, seen from a
broader perspective, writing is a thinking tool. It is a tool for
language development, for critical thinking and, extension, for
learning in all disciplines.
According to Fageeh (2011), many EFL learners heavily rely on writing as integral
skill to language learning as supported by much research that EFL learners listening,
speaking and reading skills mainly depend on their writing competence (Hefferman,
2006; Hinkel, 2004; Al-Ghamari, 2004; Cayer & Sacks, 1979).
Though writing skill is considered extremely important, a lot of research studies
conducted in the various EFL contexts strongly suggested that EFL learners, who study
in institutions that use English as a medium of instruction, face severe problems in
writing skills that hinders their academic progress (Tahaineh, 2010; Rababah, 2003;
Bacha, 2002; Kharma & Hajjaj, 1997). Tahaineh (2010, p. 79) reiterated that the writing
skill . is needed for taking notes, describing objects or devices and writing essays,
answering written questions, writing their compositions, writing experimental reports,
etc. Like other EFL contexts, the situation in the Arab world has also been reported
poor and Arab students seriously lack in all English skills in general and writing skills
in particular. Several studies conducted in the Arab world revealed that Arab students
face maximum problems in their writing (Abdul Haq, 1982; Zughoul & Taminian,
1984; Al-Khuweileh, & Al-Shoumali, 2000; Al-Hazmi, 2006; Al-Samdani, 2010;
Grami, 2010; Ezza, 2010).
Writing is defined as ". the logical organization and arrangement of the
written sentences within a paragraph and paragraphs within the units of discourse
and the expression of the ideas" (Abu-Ghararh, 1998, p. 87). Concerning the
problems of ESL learners in writing, Al-samadani (2010, p. 53) stated that it is a
Javid, C.Z., Farooq, U., & Umer, M. (2013). An Investigation of Saudi EFL learners'
Writing Problems: A Case Study along Gender-lines. Kashmir Journal of Language
Research, 16(1), 179-203.

182

complex, challenging, and difficult process because it includes multiple skills such as
identification of thesis statement, writing supporting details, reviewing and editing. This
complex process makes it rather difficult to teach it. The difficulty of teaching/learning
of this skill is due to the fact that it involves a comprehensive knowledge of grammar,
suitable vocabulary, writing mechanics (e.g., punctuation & capitalization),
organizational skills, style, imagination etc. Another factor that makes teaching of
writing rather difficult is that it has been historically dealt with vis--vis the other skills.
Writing skill is formally defined as the recording of human communication, using
signs or symbols to represent the spoken words (McMillan Encyclopedia, 1986,
p.1317) whereas functionally speaking it is defined as a curiously solitary form of
communication, addressed to an absent and often unknown reader (Peters, 1986,
p.169). The challenge faced by the faculty members in teaching this skill is that it is
either considered a secondary activity in ELT or taken as a desocialised communication
pattern. This problem rather intensifies when it is not the learners first language
because of the additional problems encountered in this regard. Highlighting these
difficulties, Hopkins (1989) stated that writing is the most difficult skill to be learnt for
non-native speakers. Piper (1989 cited in Grami, 2010) reported that instructional
methods are instrumental in shaping the learners behaviour towards writing skills as
well as their writings. It has also been pointed out that the approaches to teach writing
skills vary in the different academic contexts due to the indigenous specific
circumstances.
As for the history of teaching of writing is concerned, it was not given much
attention as evident from scarcity of research studies related to this skill till the
beginning of the last decade of the twentieth century (Krashen, 1984). Long and
Richard (2003) reported that writing skills teaching was given importance during 1990s
when English established its status as a language of international communication and
consequently English as L2 writing skills do not only play an increasingly important
role today in the lives of professionals in almost every field and discipline (p. XV). A
closer look through the history of teaching of writing skills reveals that among the
different approaches that have been experimented to teach writing effectively, three
Javid, C.Z., Farooq, U., & Umer, M. (2013). An Investigation of Saudi EFL learners'
Writing Problems: A Case Study along Gender-lines. Kashmir Journal of Language
Research, 16(1), 179-203.

183

approaches have been the most influential which are product approach, process
approach and genre approach. Much research has strongly suggested that all these
approaches carry their own weaknesses and strengths but they are complementary to
each other as well (e.g., Grami, 2010; Hayland, 2007; Paltridge, 2004; Badger & White,
2000; McDonough & Shaw, 2003).
Research has offered valuable insights into the fact that all the approaches of
teaching writing skills have their own strengths and weaknesses; therefore, it is not
advisable to follow any one of these exclusively; rather, the teachers should have
thorough knowledge of all these approaches so that they should inculcate the
professional ability to exploit all these approaches to pick and choose appropriate
techniques according to the students level/needs, social context and their peculiar
academic echo system (Badger & White, 2000; Asiri, 1997; Raimes, 1991).

Like the rest of the world, English language teaching (ELT) has embedded
firmly in the Arab world during the last few decades and a growing mass of research
produced in this region has been related to English teaching and its sub fields (Al-
Seghayer, 2011). Though tremendous efforts have been made, as reflected by the huge
funding allocated to ELT, the research studies conducted in the Arab world reported
that EFL learners in the Arab world including Saudi Arabia suffer from serious
problems in this regard such as students' poor performance low proficiency level in the
target language (Javid, Farooq, & Gulzar, 2012; Al-Jarf, 2008; Rababah, 2003). Bacha
(2002) suggested that it might be due to the fact that the students are not motivated to
develop their writing and that "L2 writers are known to face problems in developing
their writing skills at the university level. These problems are even more accentuated
with L1 Arabic non-native speakers of English in required English composition
courses" (p. 161). A report published by the Cambridge Examination Center in 2009
about the proficiency level of Saudi students "ranked them 39
th
of the 40 nations
participated in both academic and general training tests" (Cambridge ESOL: Research
Notes, 2010 cited in Al-Seghayer, 2011, p. 45). This poor performance has been more
strongly revealed by the studies which were conducted to evaluate Saudi students'
Javid, C.Z., Farooq, U., & Umer, M. (2013). An Investigation of Saudi EFL learners'
Writing Problems: A Case Study along Gender-lines. Kashmir Journal of Language
Research, 16(1), 179-203.

184

writing skills (Bersamina, 2009; Grami, 2010; Al-Eid, 2000). Grami (2010) cited the
results of IELTS test report of Saudi students which revealed that they scored
comparatively low in all English language skills (5.17, 4.97, 5.81 out of 9 in listening,
reading and speaking respectively ) but the average in writing skills was the lowest
(4.83 out of 9).
Numerous studies have been conducted to identify the problems of Saudi EFL
learners in their writing. The findings of these studies reported that despite the fact that
Saudi students study English as a compulsory subjects for six years before joining any
university but actually only a few of them are able to show satisfactory performance in
the university entrance examinations (Grami, 2010). Tahaineh (2010) has stated that
Arab students errors in writing mainly fall in the category of syntax and grammar and
quoted Hashims (1996) findings, who reviewed and analysed a number of studies
conducted on Arab EFL learners syntactic errors and stated that Arab learners errors
can be categorised in seven syntactic subcategories: prepositions, verbs, articles,
conjunctions, relative clauses, adverbial clauses, and sentence structure. Kharma and
Hajjaj (1997) is another study that reinforced the previous findings and revealed that
Arab EFL learners errors in writing are syntactical and especially in prepositions. Most
recent studies conducted to investigate Arab EFL learners syntactic errors also found
out that verbs and prepositions are the most problematic areas in this regard (Zahid,
2006, Muhammad, 2005, Muortaga, 2004). Concerning the problems of Saudi
university undergraduates, Khan (2011), who recently conducted a study to investigate
the problems of Saudi university undergraduates, has mentioned that they face several
problems in phoneme clusters, spellings, grammar, mistakes due to L1 interference,
structure, doubling of subjects, doubling of preposition, tenses, articles, appropriate
vocabulary, wrong use of prefixes & suffixes etc.
Much research has offered valuable insights into the reasons of Arab EFL
learners weaknesses in English in general and writing skills in particular. Khan (2011)
reviewed several studies in this regard and concluded that Arab EFL learners problems
are caused by the following reasons:
Javid, C.Z., Farooq, U., & Umer, M. (2013). An Investigation of Saudi EFL learners'
Writing Problems: A Case Study along Gender-lines. Kashmir Journal of Language
Research, 16(1), 179-203.

185

a) school graduates have lack of information regarding the university
or college they enrolled in; b) there is deficiency in the English
language curricula offered by some schools and universities; c)
dreadful teaching methodology; d) problems with proper language
environments; and e) lack of personal impetus on the part of the
students. (p. 1250)

According to his findings, the causes of the problems may be dealt with from four
perspectives, i.e., the learners, faculty members, curricula and the environment of
teaching /learning context. It has been reported that Saudi EFL learners are more
interested in getting better scores instead of learning the target language and they are in
the habit of memorising passages without understanding, grammatical rules and lexical
items to achieve high grade point average (Grami, 2010; Zaid, 1993). Another very
strong reason behind this marks-oriented behaviour of Saudi EFL learners is that a vast
majority of them lack intrinsic motivation and bear various extrinsic motivational
factors to learn English language (Javid, Asmari, & Farooq, 2012). Concerning the role
of EFL teachers, a growing mass of research has suggested that a vast majority of EFL
teachers are hired from the Arab countries (such as Egypt, Sudan, Jordan etc.) to serve
in Saudi Arabia. These teachers seem to lack the following: a) a proper and appropriate
training to teach English, b) a proper motivation to indulge in teaching process, and c)
willingness to incorporate innovation and modern techniques in their teaching practices;
thus, causing the continuation of traditional, outdated and teacher-led teaching practices
that is a major impediment in the way of effective and efficient ELT in Saudi Arabia
(Bersamina, 2009; Grami, 2010; Syed, 2003; Zaid, 1993). Another important factor in
this regard is the absence of appropriate and learner-centered curricula to cater for the
specific EFL needs of the learners. It has been frequently reported that the curricula
taught in several Saudi university is outdated, traditional and textbook-based that
encourage the students to merely memorise instead of making them grasp the target
language (Khan, 2011; Bersamina, 2009; Hazmi, 2006; Zughoul, 1987).
The context of the study
This study was conducted in the second semester of academic year 2012 at
foreign languages department, Taif University (TU). It offers 4-year graduate and 2-
Javid, C.Z., Farooq, U., & Umer, M. (2013). An Investigation of Saudi EFL learners'
Writing Problems: A Case Study along Gender-lines. Kashmir Journal of Language
Research, 16(1), 179-203.

186

year masters programmes majoring in English language and linguistics. The students
who are enrolled in the graduate programme have to take 59 compulsory courses of 2-
credit hour each in eight semesters. These courses include language, linguistics,
literature and translation courses. During the first three semesters, the undergraduates
are taught various language courses to improve their four English language skills.
Though the undergraduates are given intensive courses in various English language
skills including writing but research, such as a study conducted at TU by Javid, Farooq,
and Gulzar (2012), strongly suggested that Saudi EFL learners suffer from serious
handicap in all language skills including writing.
Research Objectives
This empirical study intended to investigate the following research
objectives:
a. Identifying the kinds of academic writing as perceived by male and
female Saudi EFL learners studying at TU,
b. Identifying the academic writing problems as perceived by male and
female Saudi EFL learners studying at TU,
c. Identifying the causes of academic writing problems as perceived by
male and female Saudi EFL learners studying at TU,
d. Identifying the solutions to overcome academic writing problems as
perceived by male and female Saudi EFL learners studying at TU.
Null Hypotheses
H
0
1
:
There is not any statistically significant difference in the perception of
male and female Saudi EFL learners regarding the kinds of academic
writing at TU.
H
0
2: There is not any statistically significant difference in the perception
of male and female Saudi EFL learners regarding the academic
writing problems at TU.
Javid, C.Z., Farooq, U., & Umer, M. (2013). An Investigation of Saudi EFL learners'
Writing Problems: A Case Study along Gender-lines. Kashmir Journal of Language
Research, 16(1), 179-203.

187

H
0
3: There is not any statistically significant difference in the perception
of male and female Saudi EFL learners regarding the causes of
academic writing problems at TU.
H
0
4: There is not any statistically significant difference in the perception
of male and female Saudi EFL learners regarding the solutions to
overcome academic writing problems at TU.
Participants
For the purpose of this study all the junior and senior students, who have already
spent two to three years at TU, were taken as the population whereas the freshmen and
sophomores were not investigated. Considering the fact that the study in hand was
perceptive in nature and the researcher considered it important to elicit the responses of
those EFL learners who knew the academic echo system at TU so that authentic and
reliable responses may be ensured. The questionnaire was translated into Arabic to
collect reliable data. The researcher coordinated with the faculty members and visited
the male participants of the study during their lectures to collect the data whereas the
female faculty members were requested to administer the translated questionnaire to
collect the data from the female cohorts. Incomplete questionnaires or the ones with
same values assigned to all the items were rejected by the researcher. One hundred and
eight questionnaires filled in by the male cohort and 86 by the female participants were
selected for the final analyses.
The participants of the study were investigated once when the questionnaire was
administered and they were given the option of free will to respond to the questionnaire.
Furthermore, it was optional to mention their personal information. They were also
informed that their personal information would be de-identified and data would be used
for the purpose of this study only. Their submission of the questionnaires was
considered as their informed consent.


Javid, C.Z., Farooq, U., & Umer, M. (2013). An Investigation of Saudi EFL learners'
Writing Problems: A Case Study along Gender-lines. Kashmir Journal of Language
Research, 16(1), 179-203.

188

Instrumentation
The researcher consulted many related research studies including the ones
conducted in the EFL context of Saudi Arabia (such as Al-Seghayer, 2011; Grami,
2010; Al-Khasawneh, 2010; Al-Hazmi, 2006) to collect data to develop a suitable
questionnaire to elicit the responses of male and female English-major undergraduates
of Taif university related to various dynamics of writing skills. A 40-item Likert-scale
agree-disagree questionnaire was developed and translated into Arabic (See
appendix#1). The Arabic translation along with the English version was given to two
senior professors of translation at TU to identify any inconsistencies. Their suggestions
were incorporated in the final Arabic version that was piloted with 20 EFL learners at
TU. A Pearson correlation matrix was run for all the forty items using SPSS 17 that
yielded a Cronbach's alpha coefficient of .75 which was a high value for ensuring sound
judgments as George and Mallery (2003) have reported that alpha coefficient of more
than .70 is acceptable for reliable scientific investigation.
Statistical Analysis
The descriptive analyses, namely the means, medians and standard deviations,
were run for all the questionnaire items to identify the most and least preferred
questionnaire items. Furthermore, independent-samples t-test was used to see whether
or not any gender-based statistically significant differences existed. The data analyses
generated the following results.
Results and Discussion
The 40-item questionnaire was divided into four sections to elicit the
participants perceptions towards important writing tasks for their English-major studies
at TU, the areas of difficulties in this regard, the factors that cause these problems and
the probable solutions. The results generated through the descriptive analyses and
independent-samples t-test have been summarised in tables 1, 2, 3 and 4.
The first section of the questionnaire contains ten items that were included to
elicit the participants perception to identify important academic writing tasks for their
Javid, C.Z., Farooq, U., & Umer, M. (2013). An Investigation of Saudi EFL learners'
Writing Problems: A Case Study along Gender-lines. Kashmir Journal of Language
Research, 16(1), 179-203.

189

EFL studies at TU. Table 1 details the responses of the male and female Saudi EFL
learners in this regard.
Table (1): Analyses of important academic writing tasks at TU
Academic writing tasks Group N M SD T df p value
1 Topic sentences /
supporting details
Male 108 3.6667 1.0590 -2.747 192 .007
p < 0.05
Female 86 4.0465 .8103 -2.830 191.72
2 Paragraphs
Male 108 3.9259 .8395 .658 192 .028
p < 0.05
Female 86 3.8372 1.0388 .642 161.66
3 Summaries
Male 108 4.1111 1.1051 -.969 192 .118 p > 0.05
Female 86 4.2558 .9354 -.987 191.25
4 Letters
Male 108 3.4444 .9795 1.021 192 .341 p > 0.05
Female 86 3.2907 1.1153 1.006 170.41
5 Critical Appreciation
Male 108 3.1296 1.0598 -.210 192 .313 p > 0.05
Female 86 3.1628 1.1361 -.208 176.34
6 Reports
Male 108 3.2407 1.0400 1.614 192 .867 p > 0.05
Female 86 2.9884 1.1323 1.599 174.87
7 Narrative Essays
Male 108 3.2407 1.1590 1.471 192 .724 p > 0.05
Female 86 2.9884 1.2223 1.462 177.86
8 Descriptive Essays
Male 108 3.2593 1.0445 -.767 192 .850 p > 0.05
Female 86 3.3721 .9828 -.773 186.69
9 Argumentative Essays
Male 108 3.3704 1.2722 -.642 192 .726 p > 0.05
Female 86 3.4884 1.2718 -.642 182.41
10 Expository Essays
Male 108 3.6667 1.1107 1.552 192 .924 p > 0.05
Female 86 3.4186 1.1004 1.424 157.63

Descriptive analysis results reveal that both sample groups saw eye to eye to
each other as far the most important writing task is concerned and writing summaries
has been assigned the highest values in favour of the female cohort. The first and
second questionnaire items have been identified as the second and third most important
tasks but in reverse order: the female participants allocated the second highest to writing
topic sentence and supporting details and third highest to paragraph writing whereas the
male cohort did the same but in a reverse order. Furthermore, the male participants also
allotted the third highest value (3.66) to writing expository essays as well. Lowest
value of less than 3.0 is not assigned to any item by the female cohort but the males did
it for two items, i.e., to writing reports and narrative essays. The results of this empirical
study contradict with the research conducted by Al-Khasawneh (2010) who investigated
Javid, C.Z., Farooq, U., & Umer, M. (2013). An Investigation of Saudi EFL learners'
Writing Problems: A Case Study along Gender-lines. Kashmir Journal of Language
Research, 16(1), 179-203.

190

Arab postgraduate students studying at the College of Business, University Utara
Malaysia and found out that summary writing was among the least important tasks for
their postgraduate studies whereas writing article reviews and reports were the two most
important tasks. One probable justification for these contradicting results is due to the
different levels (i.e., undergraduate v/s postgraduate level). The participants of this
study need to write summaries for different concepts related to their various literature
and linguistics courses; thus, ranked it the most important task for carrying out their
studies effectively. The findings are partially in line with the results of Al-Khasawneh
(2010) towards their perceived responses towards essay writing: postgraduate students
considered it the least important as the participants of this study also reported it among
the less important tasks.
Standard deviation of more than 1 was calculated for nearly all items except the
top three ones showing that the participants carried wide differences in their
perceptions. Independent-samples t-test results indicated that though both groups bear
differences in their perception towards all items but significant difference has been
recorded only for the first and second items; thus, partially accepting the first null
hypothesis because both groups have not shown any significant difference except items
1 and 2.
Table (2): Analyses of problems faced in academic writing tasks
Problematic areas in
Academic writing
Group n M SD T Df p value
11 Vocabulary
Male 108 3.8519 1.0836 .172 192 .686 p > 0.05
Female 86 3.8256 1.0197 .173 186.68
12 Spellings
Male 108 3.3148 1.2047 .358 192 .144 p > 0.05
Female 86 3.2558 1.0537 .363 190.27
13 Articles
Male 108 3.2037 1.1337 -.181 192 .766 p > 0.05
Female 86 3.2326 1.0702 -.182 186.48
14 Punctuation
Male 108 3.1111 1.2023 -.376 192 .452 p > 0.05
Female 86 3.1744 1.1187 -.379 187.35
15 Prepositions
Male 108 3.2037 1.1978 -.589 192 .782 p > 0.05
Female 86 3.3023 1.1069 -.594 187.74
16 Suffixes/Prefixes
Male 108 3.2593 1.1790 -.865 192 .047 p > 0.05
Female 86 3.3953 .9614 -.886 191.88
17 Irregular Verbs
Male 108 3.1481 1.1982 -1.724 192 .915 p > 0.05
Javid, C.Z., Farooq, U., & Umer, M. (2013). An Investigation of Saudi EFL learners'
Writing Problems: A Case Study along Gender-lines. Kashmir Journal of Language
Research, 16(1), 179-203.

191

Female 86 3.4419 1.1541 -1.731 185.17
18 Question Words
Male 108 3.2222 1.1547 .803 192 .271 p > 0.05
Female 86 3.0930 1.0586 .811 188.17
19 Grammar
Male 108 3.7407 1.2257 .722 192 .536 p > 0.05
Female 86 3.6163 1.1496 .727 186.88
20 Organisation of
Ideas
Male 108 3.4630 1.1392 -.497 192 .412 p > 0.05
Female 86 3.5465 1.1947 -.494 178.36

The descriptive and comparative analyses of ten items that constitute the second
section of the questionnaire eliciting participants perceived responses regarding the
difficulties they face in their academic writing have been summarised in the above
given table. An interesting finding is that none of the ten items has been allocated high
value of 4.0 or above by either group indicating that the male and female participants of
the study did not perceive any of these areas as a very serious problem. This does not
seem consistent with the previous research that was conducted in the various Arab
countries and strongly reported that Arab EFL learners face serious problems in all
English language skills in general and writing skills in particular (see for example Khan,
2011; Al-Samdani, 2010; Bersamina, 2009; Grami, 2010). Concerning the seriousness
of the problem, Zaid (1993) stated that Arab students tend to cram grammatical rules,
required lexical items and even important passages in English due to their lack of
understanding and inability to write even few correct sentences in the target language.
Item analysis for this section of the questionnaire exhibits strong affinities in the
perceptions of the male and female participants. Use of suitable vocabulary has been
declared the weakest area with the highest mean values that hinder their English-major
studies at TU. This finding is in accord with the previous study conducted by Al-
Khasawneh (2010) who also reported that the postgraduate Arab students studying in
Malaysian university also ranked vocabulary as the most difficult area. Difficulties in
grammar have been unanimously identified as the second most problematic area with
comparatively high mean values. The next item in this regard remains the organisation
of ideas and that also unanimously by both groups. Comparatively lower values (i.e.,
3.15 to 3.30) were assigned by the male and female groups to the use of prepositions,
irregular verbs, articles, suffixes and prefixes. This result is in line with much research
Javid, C.Z., Farooq, U., & Umer, M. (2013). An Investigation of Saudi EFL learners'
Writing Problems: A Case Study along Gender-lines. Kashmir Journal of Language
Research, 16(1), 179-203.

192

conducted in the various regions of Arabic peninsula such as the findings of Hashim
(1996) who reviewed many studies related to the syntactic errors of Arab EFL learners
and reported that their problematic areas include use of prepositions, verbs, articles,
conjunctions, sentence structure etc. Many other studies as well revealed that Arab EFL
learners face severe problems in using prepositions and articles correctly (Khan, 2011;
Zahid, 2006; Mourtaga, 2004 etc.) The least mean value was allocated to punctuation
suggesting that the participants of this study do not have serious problems in
punctuation. The participants assigned medium values to the remaining six items but
their responses carried differences for all these items.
The results exhibited some interesting trends. Three items with maximum values
and one with least value bear complete similarity in the perception of both the male and
female participants but SD of more than 1.0 for these item reports high inter rater
differences. The same is true for other items because nearly all the remaining ones also
have high SD of more than 1.0. The results of independent-samples t-test reported
significant difference for only one item that elicited their responses regarding the use of
suffixes and prefixes. The results indicate that the null hypothesis # 2 is also accepted
with a minor difference of only one item out of the total of ten items in this section.
Table (3): Analyses of the reasons of weak academic writing
Reasons of Weak Academic Writing Group n M SD T Df p value
21 Low proficiency in the target
language
Male 108 4.0556 .9154 1.461 192 .013
p > 0.05
Female 86 3.8372 1.1668 1.422 158.49
22 Lack of language courses at Taif
University
Male 108 4.5556 .6604 -1.311 192 .035
p > 0.05
Female 86 4.6744 .5829 -1.330 189.93
23 Teachers' lack of interest in
writing tasks
Male 108 3.5185 1.1559 -1.702 192 .201 p > 0.05
Female 86 3.7907 1.0417 -1.722 189.03
24 Limited opportunities to practice
English outside the classroom
Male 108 4.4074 1.0325 -1.370 192 .016
p > 0.05
Female 86 4.5930 .8026 -1.409 191.90
25 Interference of your mother
tongue
Male 108 3.4630 1.4688 -3.088 192 .001
p > 0.05
Female 86 4.0581 1.1413 -3.176 191.89
26 Inappropriate teaching methods Male 108 3.8704 .9676 -1.436 192 .055 p > 0.05
Female 86 4.0814 1.0761 -1.418 172.78
27 Lack of writing practice at Taif
University
Male 108 3.8333 1.0722 -1.838 192 .933 p > 0.05
Female 86 4.1163 1.0563 -1.841 183.54
Javid, C.Z., Farooq, U., & Umer, M. (2013). An Investigation of Saudi EFL learners'
Writing Problems: A Case Study along Gender-lines. Kashmir Journal of Language
Research, 16(1), 179-203.

193

28 Use of Arabic in the classrooms Male 108 3.5926 1.1684 1.321 192 .382 p > 0.05
Female 86 3.3605 1.2734 1.308 174.77
29 Lack of audio visual aids in the
classrooms
Male 108 4.2778 1.0837 .435 192 .999 p > 0.05
Female 86 4.2093 1.0967 .434 181.43
30 Insufficient use of dictionaries Male 108 3.7778 1.0170 .302 192 .402 p > 0.05
Female 86 3.7326 1.0563 .301 179.21


Table 3 details the descriptive and comparative analyses for the ten items
included in the third section of the questionnaire meant to elicit the participants
perception towards the causes of weak academic writing. The participants assigned
comparatively much higher values to the various items of this section as compared to
the previous two sections: the female participants allotted high value of more than 4.0 to
six items and the male group did it for four items. Lack of language courses at TU has
been ranked at the top with extremely high values of 4.67 and 4.55 by the female and
male cohort respectively confirming the findings of Zahid, Farooq and Ajmal (2012)
that insufficient number of languages courses has been a major cause of ineffective ELT
in Saudi Arabian universities. Furthermore, the SD has been calculated as 0.58 and 0.66
for the female and male participants confirming that they bear strong agreement as far
as this item is concerned. The female cohort assigned the second highest value of 4.59
to 24
th
questionnaire item suggesting that the limited opportunities to practice the target
language outside the classroom is a major reasons for their weak academic writing. The
other group allocated it the third highest value. This finding is in line with the much
research conducted in the Arab world and revealed that lack of support from the society
and family in terms of providing Arab EFL learners with sufficient opportunities to
practice the target language cause a major handicap in effectively learning the target
language including the writing skills (See for example Kahn, 2011; Tahaineh, 2010).
Though there are contradictory voices as well such as Al-Khasawneh (2010) who
reported that the postgraduate Arab students perceived it one of the least important
factors in this regard. Another major reason, the second most favoured item by the male
participants and the third most favoured item by the female participants, held
responsible for weak academic writing remained the lack of audio visual aids in the
teaching process. Both sample groups saw eye to eye to each other as far the least
Javid, C.Z., Farooq, U., & Umer, M. (2013). An Investigation of Saudi EFL learners'
Writing Problems: A Case Study along Gender-lines. Kashmir Journal of Language
Research, 16(1), 179-203.

194

preferred items were concerned. Use of Arabic in Classrooms has been allocated the
lowest values by both groups followed by insufficient usage of dictionaries. This
finding is not consistent with the study conducted by Javid, Farooq and Ajmal (2012) in
the same context and reported that frequent use of Arabic language in the classrooms by
the faculty as well as the students has been a major cause of ineffective ELT in Saudi
universities.
The results of independent-samples t-test revealed that four items (21, 22, 24 &
25) bear statistically significant gender-based differences partially accepting the third
null hypothesis.
Table (4): Analyses of measures to improve academic writing
Measures to Improve Academic
Writing
Group n M SD T Df p value
31 Using multiple teaching
techniques
Male 108 4.5370 .7416 -.314 192 .631 p > 0.05
Female 86 4.5698 .6952 -.316 186.91
32 Using pair/group work
Male 108 4.3333 .7488 1.251 192 .094 p > 0.05
Female 86 4.1744 1.0197 1.209 151.48
33 Using English as a medium
Male 108 4.2037 .7582 -2.255 192 .494 p > 0.05
Female 86 4.4535 .7770 -2.248 180.39
34 Diagnosing students'
problems in academic
writing
Male 108 4.3148 .8823 -1.834 192 .007
p > 0.05
Female 86 4.5233 .6458 -1.898 190.73
35 Frequent use of modern
teaching facilities
Male 108 4.2222 1.0170 -1.992 192 .008
p > 0.05
Female 86 4.4884 .7933 -2.048 191.92
36 Additional coaching facilities
for weaker students
Male 108 4.2037 1.1337 -.873 192 .195 p > 0.05
Female 86 4.3372 .9531 -.891 191.41
37 Timely correction of
students' errors
Male 108 4.2778 .9937 -1.766 192 .021
p > 0.05
Female 86 4.5116 .8080 -1.808 191.90
38 Increased language courses
Male 108 4.4259 .9192 -.576 192 .634 p > 0.05
Female 86 4.5000 .8506 -.581 187.67
39 Using peer reviews
Male 108 4.0556 1.1008 -.896 192 .433 p > 0.05
Female 86 4.1977 1.0935 -.897 182.91
40 Frequent dictionary usage
Male 108 3.8333 1.2642 -.622 192 .195 p > 0.05
Female 86 3.9419 1.1309 -.630 189.37

The analyses of the last ten questionnaire items which were included to elicit the
participants suggestions regarding the correctives measures to improve their academic
Javid, C.Z., Farooq, U., & Umer, M. (2013). An Investigation of Saudi EFL learners'
Writing Problems: A Case Study along Gender-lines. Kashmir Journal of Language
Research, 16(1), 179-203.

195

writing demonstrate interesting trends because all the items except the last one has been
assigned extremely high values of more than 4.0. The results of this section are in
contrast to the results of the previous section to a great extent. Using multiple teaching
techniques has been assigned extremely high values of 4.56 and 4.53 by the female and
male participants respectively clearly indicating that Saudi EFL learners strongly feel
that the teachers follow traditional methods of teaching that are monotonous and
uninteresting. This finding is supported by high mean values allocated to the item that
elicited their perception regarding the frequent use of modern teaching facilities in
English classes to make them lively, interesting and appealing for the learners. The
results of these items strongly support the findings of the growing mass of research
(e.g., Javid, 2011; Khan, 2011; Grami, 2010) conducted in the Arab world. A relatively
contradictory finding is reported by Al-Khasawneh (2010) that ranked the use of
multiple teaching techniques among the least preferred items. The female participants
allotted the second highest mean of more than 4.5 to the need of diagnosing the EFL
learners specific writing problems so that appropriate corrective measures may be
taken by the ELT faculty. This item was ranked as the fourth highest by the male
cohort. The finding is in line with the recommendation of Al-Khasawneh (2010) who
suggested that error analysis of EFL learners writings is quite instrumental for
improving writing skills because ..it helps to build students awareness of the
different types of grammatical errors they are making and encourage them to check
their errors by using grammar handbooks (p. 19). The third most important item as
considered by the female group has been the timely correction of EFL learners
academic writing errors. Increasing the number of language courses has been ranked the
second highest by the male cohort and 4
th
highest by the female participants. Frequent
dictionary usage is the only item that has been allocated low mean value of less than
4.0 by both groups suggesting that frequent use of modern gadgets has weakened their
association with print material including dictionaries.
Javid, C.Z., Farooq, U., & Umer, M. (2013). An Investigation of Saudi EFL learners'
Writing Problems: A Case Study along Gender-lines. Kashmir Journal of Language
Research, 16(1), 179-203.

196

The comparatively analyses generated by independent-samples t-test indicated
that three items (34, 35 & 37) carried statistically significant differences partially
confirming the fourth hypothesis of this study.
Conclusion and Recommendations
This study is a comprehensive investigation to identify the important writing
tasks, major areas of difficulty, the factors causing these difficulties and the corrective
measures in a Saudi EFL academic context. It attempted to identify gender-based
differences for the above-mentioned factors and the results of independent-samples t-
test did not show major differences partially accepting all four hypotheses. It has been
found that the participants of this study need writing skills to paragraph level for
carrying out their undergraduate English-major studies and that they also have serious
problems in their academic writing due to their weaknesses in using appropriate lexical
items, organisation of ideas and grammar. The other weaker areas are prepositions,
spellings, irregular verbs, articles, punctuation, suffixes and prefixes. The findings
strongly support the previous research that Saudi EFL learners who are supposed to
have a reasonable command of English commit serious errors of various syntactic
categories even at sentence level.
The findings also suggested that the number of language courses as well as the
opportunities of writing practice in the classrooms are not sufficient considering the fact
that the participants of this study reported that they do not have appropriate English
language proficiency when they joined Taif university for their English-major studies.
This finding may resonate with the undergraduates who join other Saudi universities for
their higher studies. Therefore, it seems important to implement a stricter admission
policy and only those students are given admission in English departments who have a
reasonable command of the target language so that they may be able to effectively
handle technical courses of English literature, linguistics and translation. It is strongly
recommended that along with other content based courses, English departments need to
provide their undergraduates with sufficient number of language courses to improve
Javid, C.Z., Farooq, U., & Umer, M. (2013). An Investigation of Saudi EFL learners'
Writing Problems: A Case Study along Gender-lines. Kashmir Journal of Language
Research, 16(1), 179-203.

197

their all language skills in general and writing skills in particular. Another important
factor that should be considered for better results is to identify Saudi students specific
errors and to develop tailor-made activities, in the form of on-campus and home
assignments, to address to their common mistakes. This will not only help them with
their problematic areas but also enhance their practice time ensuring better results. In
line with the findings of much research it has been found out that EFL learners do not
get any support in terms of practicing the target language in the real world context
because of limited use of English in Saudi Arabia. Therefore, it also seems imperative
that the English faculty members should provide their students with as many
opportunities to practice the target language as possible. In this regard it is also worth
mentioning that effective use of group/pair work will be extremely instrumental to
materialise it with an additional benefit of making their students learn from each other.
These groups should include learners of different levels so that the students with
comparatively better proficiency help the weaker ones. Use of traditional teaching
methods is reportedly a major cause for their weak writing and it is strongly
recommended that the faculty members should exploit modern teaching techniques and
the classrooms should be provided with the latest teaching aids to ensure enhanced
learning possibilities.
There seems a scarcity of research related to the writing problems of Saudi
undergraduates along gender lines as the researchers could not find any relevant study
in a Saudi context. This study is an effort to fill this gap but the findings of the present
study are limited to the context of the current study and should not be over-generalised
to other academic settings without conducting further investigations. Therefore, it is
suggested that further research is imperative to understand this area in a better and more
comprehensive manner.




Javid, C.Z., Farooq, U., & Umer, M. (2013). An Investigation of Saudi EFL learners'
Writing Problems: A Case Study along Gender-lines. Kashmir Journal of Language
Research, 16(1), 179-203.

198

References
Abdul Haq, F. (1982). An Analysis of Syntactic Errors in the Composition of Jordanian
Secondary Students, Unpublished MA Thesis, Jordan, Yarmouk University.
Abu_Ghararah., & Hamzah, A. (1998). Teaching English as a Foreign Language:
Procedures, Techniques and Activities. Riyadh: Tawbah Library.
Al-Eid, S. (2000). The Use of Pictures and Drawings in Teaching English Paragraph
Writing in Saudi Arabia Schools, King Saud University: unpublished MA thesis.
Al-Ghamari, T. (2004). Integrating writing with other skills. Muscat Message, April,
78- 81.
Al-Hazmi, S. (2006). Writing Reflection: Perceptions of Arab EFL Learners. South
Asian Language Review, XVI(2), 36-52.
Al-Hazmi, S.H. (2003). EFL Teacher Preparation Programs in Saudi Arabia: Trends
and Challenges. TESOL Quarterly, 37(2), 341 344.
Al-Khuweileh, A. A. and A. Al-Shoumali (2000). Writing Errors: A study of the
Writing Ability of Arab Learners of Academic English and Arabic at University.
Language, Culture and Curriculum, 13 (2), 174-183.
http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content
Al-Jarf, R. (2008). The Impact of English as an International Language (EIL) upon
Arabic in Saudi Arabia. Asian EFL Journal, 10(4). 193-210.
Al-Khasawneh, F.M.S. (2010). Writing for Academic Purposes: Problems Faced by
Arab Postgraduate Students of the College of Business, UUM. ESP World, 2(9),
1-23.
Al-Khatib M.A. (2000). The Arab World: Language and Cultural Issues. Language,
Culture and
Curriculum. 13(2), 121-125.
Alsamdani, H.A. (2010). The Relationship between Saudi EFL Students Writing
Competence, L1 Writing Proficiency, and Self-regulation. European Journal of
Social Sciences, 16(1), 53-63.
Al-Seghayer, K. (2011). English Teaching in Saudi Arabia: Status, Issues, and
Challenges. Hala Print Co. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Asiri, I.M. (1996). Universitys EFL Teachers Feedback on Compositions and
Students Reactions, University of Essex: unpublished PhD Thesis.
Bacha, N.N. (2002).Developing Learners Academic Writing Skills in Higher
Education: A Study for Educational Reform. Language &Education, 16(3), 161-
177.
Badger, R., & White, G. (2000). A process genre approach to teaching writing. ELT
Journal, 54(2), 153 160.
Javid, C.Z., Farooq, U., & Umer, M. (2013). An Investigation of Saudi EFL learners'
Writing Problems: A Case Study along Gender-lines. Kashmir Journal of Language
Research, 16(1), 179-203.

199

Bjork, L., & Raisanen, C. (1997). Academic writing: A university writing course. Lund,
Sweden: Studentlitteratur.
Bersamina, F.V. (2009). English as Second Language (ESL) Learners in Saudi Arabia.
Associated Content Society. Available online www.associatedcontent.com
Cayer, R.L., & Sacks, R.K. (1979). Oral and written discourse of basic writers:
Similarities and differences. Research in the Teaching of English, 13(2), 121-
128 .
Crystal, D. (2003). English as a global language. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press.
Ezza, E. (2010). Arab EFL learners writing dilemma at tertiary level. English language
teaching, 3(4), 33-39.
Fageeh, A.I. (2011). EFL learners use of blogging for developing writing skills and
enhancing attitudes towards English learning: An exploratory study. Journal of
Language and Literature, 2(1), 31-48.
George, D., & Mallery, P. (2003). SPSS for windows step by step: A simple guide and
reference 11.0 update (4
th
ed.), MA: Allyn and Bacon.
Grami, G.M.A. (2010). The Effects of Integrating Peer Feedback into University-Level
ESL Writing Curriculum: A Comparative Study in a Saudi Context. Doctoral
dissertation submitted to Newcastle University, School of Education,
Communication and Language Sciences. Available online
https://theses.ncl.ac.uk/dspace/bitstream/10443/933/1/grami_
Hashim, N. (1996). English syntactic errors by Arabic speaking learners reviewed. Eric.
Doc 423660 Full Text.
Heffernan, N. (2006). An Integrated Approach to Teaching Academic Writing. The
Asian EFL Journal Quarterly, 8(3), Special Conference Proceedings Volume:
Task-based Learning in the Asian Context, 249-258. Available online
http://www.asian-efl-journal.com/PDF/September-2006.pdf.
Hinkel, E. (2004) Teaching Academic ESL Writing: Practical Techniques in
Vocabulary and Grammar. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Hyland, K. (2007). Genre Pedagogy: Language, Literacy and L2 Writing Instruction.
Journal of Second Language Writing, 16(3), 148 164.
Javid, C.Z., Farooq, U., & Gulzar, M.A. (2012). Saudi English-major undergraduates
and English Teachers' perceptions regarding effective ELT in the KSA: A
Comparative Study. European Journal of Scientific Research, 85(1), 55-70.
Available online
http://www.europeanjournalofscientificresearch.com/ISSUES/EJSR_85_1.htm
Javid, C.Z., Asmari, A.A., & Farooq, U. (2012). Saudi Undergraduates' Motivational
Orientations towards English Language Learning along Gender and University
Javid, C.Z., Farooq, U., & Umer, M. (2013). An Investigation of Saudi EFL learners'
Writing Problems: A Case Study along Gender-lines. Kashmir Journal of Language
Research, 16(1), 179-203.

200

Major Lines: A Comparative Study. European Journal of Social Sciences, 27(2),
183-300. Available online http://www.europeanjournalofsocialsciences.com
Khan, I.A. (2011). Learning difficulties in English: Diagnosis and pedagogy in Saudi
Arabia. Educational Research, 2(7), 1248-1257. Available online
http://www.interesjournals.org/ER
Kharma, N., & Hajjaj, A. (1997). Errors in English among Arabic speakers.
Beirut:Librairie du Liban.
Krashen, S.D. (1984). Writing: Research, theory, and applications. Oxford: Pergamon
Institute of English.
Long, M.H., & Richards, J.C. (2003). Series editors preface. In B. Kroll (Ed.),
Exploring the dynamics of second language writing (pp.xv xvi). Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press. McMillan Encyclopedia. (1986). London:
McMillan Limited.
McDonough, J., & Show, C. (1993). Materials and methods in ELT: A Teachers.
Guide. Oxford: Blackwell.
McMillan Encyclopedia. (1986). London: McMillan Limited.
Mohammed, A.M. (2005).Collocation errors made by Arab learners of English. Asian
EFL Journal. Teachers Articles, 5(2), 117-126
Mourtaga, K. (2004). Investigating writing problems among Palestinians students
Studying English as a foreign language. PhD dissertation Indiana University,
USA.
Paltridge, B. (2004). Approaches to Teaching Second Language Writing. Paper
presented in 17
th
Educational Conference Adelaide 2004, University of Sydney.
Available online
http://www.englishaustralia.com.au/ea_conference04/proceedings/pdf/Paltridge.
pdf
Peters, P. (1986). Getting the Theme Across: A Study of Dominant Function in the
Academic Writing of University Students. In B Couture (Ed.), Functional
Approaches to Writing: Research Perspectives (pp. 169-185). London: Frances
Printer.
Rababah, G. (2003). Communication Problems facing Arab learners of English: A
personal perspective. TEFL Web Journal 2(1), 15-30.
Raimes, A. (1991). Out of the woods emerging traditions in the teaching of writing.
TESOL Quarterly, 25(3), 407-430.
Raimes, A. (1996). Out of the woods: emerging traditions in the teaching of writing. In
B Leeds (Ed.), Writing in a second language (pp. 10-26). New York: Longman.
Tahaineh, Y.S. (2010). Arab EFL university students errors in the use of prepositions.
MJAL, 2(1), 76-112.
Javid, C.Z., Farooq, U., & Umer, M. (2013). An Investigation of Saudi EFL learners'
Writing Problems: A Case Study along Gender-lines. Kashmir Journal of Language
Research, 16(1), 179-203.

201

Zahid, C. (2006). Righting writing errors. The Seventh Annual UAE University
Research Conference, UAE University, Al-Ain.
Zaid, M. (1993). Comprehensive analysis of the current system of teaching English as a
foreign language in the Saudi Arabian intermediate school. Doctoral
dissertation, University of Colorado at Boulder.
Zughoul, L., & Tamimian, L. (1984). The linguistic attitude of Arab university students:
Factorial structure and intervening variables. The International Journal of the
Sociology of Language, 50, 28-45.
Zughoul, M. (1987). Restructuring the English department in the Third World
universities: Alternative approach for the teaching of English literature. IRAL,
XXV(3), 221 236.
































Javid, C.Z., Farooq, U., & Umer, M. (2013). An Investigation of Saudi EFL learners'
Writing Problems: A Case Study along Gender-lines. Kashmir Journal of Language
Research, 16(1), 179-203.

202

Appendix # 1

QUESTIONNAI RE

I- PERSONAL
Name: Email:
Level: GPA:

II- Circle the most appropriate choice.
1 = strongly disagree 2 = disagree 3 = neutral
4 = agree 5 = strongly agree

A: Which of the following tasks are significant and relevant for your studies at
Foreign Languages Department, Taif University?

Strongly
disagree
Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly agree Academic writing tasks No
Topic sentences/supporting details 1
Paragraphs 2
Summaries 3
Letters 4
Critical appreciation 5
Reports 6
Narrative essays 7
Descriptive essays 8
Argumentative essays 9
Expository essays 10

B: Which of the following problems do you face in your academic writing tasks?

Strongly
disagree
Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly
agree
Items No
Vocabulary 1
Spellings 2
Articles 3
Punctuation 4
Prepositions 5
Suffixes / prefixes 6
Irregular verbs 7
Question words 8
Grammar 9
Organisation of ideas 10

Javid, C.Z., Farooq, U., & Umer, M. (2013). An Investigation of Saudi EFL learners'
Writing Problems: A Case Study along Gender-lines. Kashmir Journal of Language
Research, 16(1), 179-203.

203

C: Which of the following are the reasons for your weak academic writing skills?

Strongly
disagree
Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly
agree
Items No
Low proficiency in the target language 1
Lack of language courses at Taif University 2
Teachers' lack of interest in writing tasks 3
Limited opportunities to practice English
outside the classroom
4
Interference of your mother tongue 5
Inappropriate teaching methods 6
Lack of writing practice at Taif University 7
Use of Arabic in the classrooms 8
Lack of audio visual aids in the classrooms 9
Insufficient use of dictionaries 10

D: Which of the following steps are necessary to solve the above-mentioned
problems?

Strongly
disagree
Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly
agree
Items No
Using multiple teaching techniques 1
Using pair/group work 2
Using English as a medium 3
Diagnosing students' problems in
academic writing
4
Frequent use of modern teaching facilities 5
Additional coaching facilities for weaker
students
6
Timely correction of students' errors 7
Increased language courses 8
Using peer reviews 9
Frequent dictionary usage 10

Thanks a lot for your cooperation