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Theses Doctoral

An Analysis of the Argumentative Writing Skills of Academically Underprepared College Students

Chase, Beth Jillian

The present study was conducted to extend what is known about the writing skills of low achieving postsecondary students. Using an archival data set, a sample of argumentative essays written by community college developmental (remedial) education students was analyzed. Scoring procedures for argumentation development were implemented based on a framework developed by Ferretti, Lewis, and Andrews-Weckerly (2009) and adapted by the current author to accommodate the tasks of the writing prompt. The goals of the study were: (1) to determine to what extent the argumentative essays written by community college remedial students are inclusive of functional argumentative elements, coherent, cohesive, and of high quality; and (2) to determine to what extent the written components (i.e., coherence, cohesion, inclusion of functional elements, length) and demographic characteristics of the writer (i.e., reading ability, science interest, science knowledge, gender, native language) contribute to the overall quality of argumentative essays. Descriptive statistics and ordinal logistic regression were used to analyze a total of 112 writing samples. It was found that on average, the argumentation in the essays was only partially developed and coherent; the essays contained a relatively moderate amount of functional elements and included a minimal amount of cohesive ties. The results also indicated that the written components of the argumentative essays and the demographic characteristics of the writer, when combined, significantly contribute to the overall quality of the argumentative essays. The coherence of the essays was found to have the highest odds ratio to essay quality in comparison to any other variable analyzed. These findings suggest the need for instruction focusing largely on essay coherence, as well as argumentation development, in order to improve argumentative writing quality.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
School Psychology
Thesis Advisors
Perin, Dolores
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 29, 2011