Composition Studies Research & Methods

Examining EFL writer’s social networks: Impact on advanced academic literacy development

Orna Ferenz,  holds a PhD in Linguistics from Bar Ilan University, Israel. She is a senior lecturer in the EFL Unit at Bar Ilan University, where she teaches undergraduate and graduate EFL courses. In her article, she conducted an experiment based on six Hebrew speaking, NNSE graduate students, with experience in a required EFL academic writing course. Everything took place in 2003/04 at a large university in Israel.

With each participant having a different major (2 Ph.D and 4 M.A.), the purpose of this study was to see how a socially driven environment affects the students’ advancement in English literacy. Ferenz wants to know if social networking beyond the basic groups (teachers, classmates and etc) will progress the students’ abilities in building social and academic relationships. In order to achieve these goals, Ferenz conducted interviews and post interviews. Unfortunately, she doesn’t believe it is possible (341). From her small sample, she recognized the trouble students were approaching. It seems as though, the students were focused on improving their growth only within the university because they didn’t have many options for diverse English learning (343). 

I had to read this twice. It was that the concept was hard to comprehend, but I think I began overthinking what Ferenz was aiming to prove. The other articles that we have been reading conduct research that comes out a bit more confusing. I considered different possibilities, such as Ferenz, herself, not being a native English speaker or she is and moved to Israel for Hebrew learning continuation. She did say that she interviewed the six and wrote their answers verbatim, which threw me off trying to understand their thoughts. My natural instinct was to correct the word order or question what they were saying. But is it possible, this is Ferenz’s point? If more exposed to English literacy in social or academic networking then the students’ approach and word usage may be different. 

I think this study could have been done differently. Out of 31, 200, to choose only six representatives ( 5 females and 1 male), is not proper. I understand choosing different academic departments, but I think Ferenz could’ve used more samples, split the six into an equal gender amount (3 boys and 3 girls), or expand the study outside the university to possibly other universities with similar departments and/or increased the length of time for the study (half a year). If they’re using social networking, could it be the type of network being used or is it a particular social media?


Medea wrote a comment on, “Ferenz talks about social circles being necessary to advanced academic literacy. Aren’t they ubiquitous? Why or why not?”

Before I replied to her comment, I admit I wanted  to define Ferenz’s key words because although I may know the meaning sometimes it’s good to have a wider perspective. Ubiquitous means found everywhere, present. If I consider academic literacy to mean the ability to understand a range of vocabulary (academic). Then I am accepting that it is possible to gain an advancement in my vocabulary by simply being around people. I think this is true to an extent. Social groups choose to speak if their own lingo and associate themselves in a narrow minded way that suits them (personal interest), topic, location and purpose. If in an academic setting then I agree but it can be said that not uncommon to have a diluted form of vocabulary amongst casual group mates. We, meaning all people, will gain some form of vocabulary from various circles, that doesn’t necessarily mean academic like. Especially with social media involved within most groups, then we might as well get it directly from the internet. If we choose to remain within a small sample or parameter, then we won’t be able to progress.

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