An academic writing needs assessment of English-as-a-second-language clinical investigators

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Academic writing for publication is competitive and demanding for researchers. For the novice English-as-a-second-language (ESL) researcher, the pressure to publish compounds the difficulties of mastering the English language. Very few studies have used ESL graduate and post-graduate students as academic writing research subjects. The purpose of this project was to assess the learning needs of ESL clinical investigators regarding academic writing for English scholarly publication.


A qualitative evaluation approach was used to examine the gap between the current and desired proficiency level for the academic writing of ESL clinical investigators. We considered the perspectives of seven ESL clinical investigators plus three mentors and three writing instructors. Semi-structured questions were asked. Field notes were organized using a field-work recording system. They were analyzed using the constant comparative method.


ESL clinical investigators do not accurately perceive their writing deficiencies. They have little knowledge of criteria for academic writing and they are influenced by their prior English learning experiences in their home culture, which engender passive attitudes toward seeking appropriate writing resources. Adequate time is especially needed to develop successful writing skills.


Four basic steps are recommended to guide program planners in developing ESL writing activities for professional learning: (1) recognize discrepancies, (2) establish clear standards and performance criteria for scholarly writing, (3) develop individual plans, and (4) organize long-term writing assistance.

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