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Cracking the Code to Writing Success: Prewriting from a Student's Lens

What is it about the writing process that English as a Foreign Language (EFL) students find challenging? 

This question has puzzled educators for years, with writing often being the most daunting skill for language learners. A recent study by N. Algharabali delves into students' perceptions of the prewriting phase and reveals some surprising findings.

Algharabali's study, published in the Open Journal of Modern Linguistics, explored why many EFL students resist prewriting techniques and how they perceive this essential stage of the writing process. The study included 71 participants attending an English writing course and used a combination of quantitative and qualitative data collection methods.

Perceptions of Prewriting

The study found that EFL students have conflicting perceptions of prewriting. Although prewriting is considered helpful, students often view it as a separate part of the writing process that can be skipped unless they receive guidance from the teacher or extra credit. 

Challenges in Prewriting

One of the challenges identified in the study is that students often perceive prewriting as time-consuming, too much work, distracting, or unhelpful. They tend to view it as an additional task imposed by teachers and believe it should involve the teacher's assistance.

Preferred Prewriting Techniques

Students revealed that they prefer "free writing" as a prewriting technique. This technique allows students to write freely without immediate concern for editing, focusing more on the process of writing than the final product.

The Word Bank Solution

To address the challenges students face in prewriting, the study introduced a simplified prewriting activity known as a "word bank." This technique encouraged students to think about keywords related to a given topic before they began writing. Many students found this approach less challenging and time-consuming, highlighting its potential as a more accessible prewriting method.

Benefits of Prewriting

Despite their reservations, students acknowledged the benefits of prewriting. They mentioned that prewriting activities helped them with creativity, preventing them from going off-topic, generating vocabulary, narrowing down the topic, and dealing with complex vs. simple topics. Additionally, students recognized that prewriting could be particularly useful in classwork and assignments.

Future Directions

The study's findings shed light on the importance of addressing students' perceptions of prewriting and the need to clarify its role in the writing process. While the study provides valuable insights, future research could explore how students' perceptions align with their actual writing performance and consider a more diverse and representative sample of students.


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