Investigating the Manifestation of Textual Themes in Argumentative English Assignments Written by Iraqi and Australian Postgraduate Students

Ali Jabbar Al BAKAA


This study investigated the manifestation of Textual Themes in argumentative English assignments written by Iraqi and Australian postgraduate students. Textual structure is a core component of argumentation in academic writing. How the themes in a text are organized as a message component constructs voice and authority. An important question is how novice writers and in particular international students are able to handle these textual devices when they write their English academic assignments. To this end, four academic assignments were selected and analysed to uncover the similarities and differences in textual features, and how students of different cultures stamp their authorial voice on the text through the element of theme and rheme in their academic arguments. The data were analysed based on Halliday’s (2004) model of thematic organization. The findings showed that the failure to use theme appropriately in constructing a voice and authority in academic writing may have disadvantaged the non-native writers. The paper argues that this has occurred because critical thinking requires a clear self-voice in forming an academic argument. This has not been explicitly emphasized in the writers’ Iraqi curriculum for writing. In contrast, these elements are more explicitly emphasized in the Australian writing curriculum.



English academic assignments; Iraqi non-native writers; Australian native writers; textual structure; voice and authority; thematic organization; critical thinking

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