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Idea generation and planning time in second language academic writing: an empirical investigation at Howard College campus, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa.

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Ideas generation is a cognitive process which underlies the production of coherent writing. However, little is known about the nature of this process and how it is affected by different preparatory conditions. The current study examines the effects of three planning time conditions; “planning time” (10 minutes), “extended planning time” (20 minutes), and “no planning time” and two task conditions namely “topic given” and “topic and ideas given” and their effect on the quality and the quantity of idea units produced in the planning notes and essays of thirty English Second Language (ESL) learners at a South African University. The study aims to replicate an earlier study by Ong (2013) and tests four hypotheses: Hypotheses (1) and (2) state that an extended planning time has a positive effect on both the quantity and the quality of ideas generated in the planning notes (hypothesis 1) and essays (hypothesis 2). Hypotheses (3) and (4) state that additional ideas alongside a topic enhance the idea generation process in both the planning notes (hypothesis 3) and the essays (hypothesis 4). My findings do not verify hypothesis (1) as neither in the planning notes nor essays was the quantity of ideas affected by the planning time conditions. Hypothesis (2) was partially verified as the quality of ideas in the essays – but not in the planning notes – improved as an effect of an extended planning time. These results differ from Ong (2013) whose data fully support both hypotheses (1) and (2). My data falsify hypotheses (3) and (4) as the topic given condition consistently produced both a better quality and a larger quantity of ideas in the planning notes and in the essays of my participants. This finding concurs with Ong (2013). In conclusion, my attempt at a replication of Ong (2013) only partially yielded the same results. Interestingly, my data indicate that the idea generation process differed between the production of the planning notes and the production of the essays.


Master of Arts in Linguistics. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Howard College 2015.


Academic writing--Planning., Second language acquisition., English language--Written English., Theses--Linguistics., Idea generation.