Exploring writing strategies employed by accounting/finance majors in the university and the workplace
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 18:30 by Susanna Pui-San Ho
In Hong Kong, one of the qualities employers require of university graduates is the ability to write effectively in English. Indeed, their writing ability can sometimes serve as a crucial factor as to whether they are employed or not. However, while the importance of writing is generally recognised, university students do not necessarily feel an urgent need to prepare themselves for their future professional writing needs. It seems logical for most if not all students to acquire as much knowledge related to their field of study as possible. As a consequence, time and effort spent on language learning may to a certain extent suffer. When students are not always keen on working hard to excel in their language skills, it is inevitable that employers in the business sector are concerned about graduates capacity to meet writing challenges in the workplace. In order to find out whether there are any gaps between what texts university graduates can produce and how they produce them, and what are required of them in the field of accounting/finance, the objectives of this thesis were threefold. First, the writing strategies, which were used by accounting/finance professionals for fulfilling writing tasks required in the workplace, were explored. Given the same writing tasks to a group of finalyear students, their use of writing strategies were also identified. Finally, the writing strategies used by the two groups of subjects were compared and contrasted. Two groups of subjects took part in this study in the spring of 2003: a group of accounting/finance professionals and a group of university students studying in the final semester of a degree for accountancy or finance. Subjects included three professionals from the workplace and five from the university. All workplace subjects were graduates from local universities, majoring in accountancy or finance, and they all had a considerable amount of work experience in their field, ranging from five and a half to eight years. While none of the university students had had any full-time job experiences, they had all worked in the summer in various fields, including accountancy or finance. The major tools in this study were three authentic writing tasks introduced by the workplace subjects. Each of the subjects' writing session was video as well as audio-taped. This was followed by a stimulated recall interview and a structured interview. This procedure was repeated for all the subjects. In the cases of the university subjects, this was repeated three times for each of the writing tasks. Results show that the workplace subjects used distinctly different writing strategies to tackle their writing tasks, and they did not necessarily use the "expert writer" strategies as identified in previous research (e.g. Cumming 1989). In two of the three text cases, the accounting/finance professionals seemed to find local planning sufficient for their contexts. The data of this study suggest that contextual factors such as the style of a company and the power relationship between the writer and his or her readers affect the choice of writing strategies. On the other hand, the use of "expert writer" strategies among the university subjects did not necessarily result in the production of effective texts. Comments made by the workplace subjects suggest that writing in the workplace emphasises the fulfillment of the social motive, that is, the production of practical solutions from the readers' point of view. This study has aimed to bring together the academy and the workplace, in order that information collected from one domain can be used in the other. The three authentic writing tasks used in this study shed light on writing in the accounting/finance workplace in Hong Kong. To help prepare accounting/finance students for the writing needs in their future workplace, this thesis proposes an interactive model of teaching writing in this field. The model suggests that different components such as the writer's experiences and knowledge of the field, the context of writing, the choice of writing strategies, an accurate interpretation of the social motive for writing and the choice of effective language, must all be taken into account. Considering the scope of this study is confined to the accounting/finance workplace in Hong Kong, this thesis urges that more research of this kind needs to be conducted in other contexts for a better understanding of writing in the workplace where English is used as an L2.