Sunday, August 08, 2010

I've handed in my PhD thesis!

I've handed in my thesis! In the end, it was 254 pages long. I've sent it out to my committee, and now all I have to do is wait for my Oral Defence on August 24th. I know that there could still be changes recommended to be done on my thesis by my committee after my defence, but here is the abstract for you to read in the meantime. Enjoy!

Thesis Abstract for
Non-Native English Speaking Students at University: Lexical Richness and Academic Success

Increasing numbers of students in both the K-12 and Post-Secondary educational systems in Alberta do not speak English as their first language. However, immigrants face multiple challenges to taking full advantage of the educational opportunities afforded by their new home. This study focuses on one period of those educational opportunities, undergraduate university education, and one set of challenges, vocabulary and academic writing. The main objective of this study was to measure the lexical richness non-native English speaking (NNES) and native English speaking (NS) undergraduate students bring with them to university in terms of lexical breadth and depth of knowledge, and compare these measures to eventual undergraduate academic outcomes. To carry this out, the Effective Writing Test (EWT) was used to compile a corpus of novice academic writing. The NNES students in the study were academically competent, as shown by their Grade 12 math marks. Nevertheless, the results showed that NNES students came to university with less robust measures of lexical richness compared to their NS counterparts. While NNES students eventually graduated from university in higher numbers, they were faced with diminished academic outcomes in terms of Grade Point Averages, Length of Program, Courses Attempted and Not Earned, and Academic Standing. Using hierarchical regression analysis, a line was traced from the initial measures of lexical richness, through EWT, and on to the academic outcomes. Measures of lexical richness strongly predicted performance on the EWT, and EWT results predicted eventual academic outcomes. The conclusion of this study is that lexical richness plays a strong role in general undergraduate writing assessment, and university level writing competence plays an important part in academic success.