The Second-Language Essay as Cognitive Task: Complexity, Subjectivity and Emotion

  •  CA DeCoursey    


Models of task complexity indicate the multiple processes and challenges second-language university students face when learning to write an essay. Studies of complex cognitive tasks frame emotion as an aspect of individual differences. This study used Appraisal analysis to assess subjective attitudes realised across four weeks of writing an essay, content analysis to identify how students took up instructor input, and co-frequency to identify strong connections. Results indicate that students focus on researching essay content at the expense of structure and language. They find topic sentences more difficult than thesis statements, and have difficulty collating sentence-level proficiency with the sophisticated discourse-level demands of the essay task. Content and attitude frequencies suggested that relatively little work was done in the first week, substantial work was done in weeks two and three, and realisations dropped sharply in the final week, suggesting resource-dispersing impacts in the final stretch. Results highlight the need for somatic measures of task complexity and effort, due to frequent realisations of stress and stress relief, and their co-frequency with misery.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
  • ISSN(Print): 1923-869X
  • ISSN(Online): 1923-8703
  • Started: 2011
  • Frequency: bimonthly

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