Comments on the Article “Writing in business courses: an analysis of assignment types, their characteristics, and required skills” by Wei Zhu (2004)

2019-11-07 04:07:59 校园英语·中旬 2019年10期

【Abstract】This article is a critical review of the paper “writing in business courses” by Wei Zhu in English for Specific Purposes. It introduces her study from the perspective of data analysis and the analysis of assignment types, their characteristics, and required skills. Then a comment on Wei Zhus Paper is made from the both sides of the coin.

【Key words】Wei Zhu; Comment; Writing in business courses


1. Concerning Wei Zhus study

Wei Zhu study took place at a large university in the Southeast of the US whose College of business Administration has six departments. Following the same inductive method that Horowitz(1986), Braine(1995),and Hale employed in their studies, Wei Zhu analyzed the syllabi and handouts to identify major genre type of writing assignments. She also examined the syllabi, handouts, interview transcripts, records of follow-up discussions with faculty members and writing samples for the features of major business assignments. Here altogether nine genre types of assignments are referred to by examination of the syllabi and handouts. For the types of business writing assignments by instructional level, case analysis constitutes the largest portion, followed by article/book report, the business report, and business proposal, etc. In her article, she identified four features of the business genres: problem-solving and decision making orientation; to socialize students into the business world; an emphasis in persuasion; and to require students to work with different data sources, different types of evidence/support, and to utilize different tools to solve problems and make decision. Wei Zhu also includes the types of skills to perform the major business genres: cognitive skills, rhetorical skills.

2. Comment on Wei Zhus article

Wei Zhu reflects upon the past research method and distinctly points out their shortcomings. She based her study on Canseco and Byrds often-cited research on business writing, yet she goes further by providing the descriptions of different types of writing assignment. Her study, compared with Canseco and Byrds, was conducted in a larger scale and thus proves more convincing and more objective. Her study differs from the earlier studies in that her study included handouts as well as course syllabi for analysis. In data collection she examined 95 course syllabi and 124 assignments from both undergraduate and graduate courses, which ensured the efficiency and validity of the research and she goes further to encompass other sources of data. She followed the same inductive approach that Horowitz (1986) adopted in their studies, however, she modified the existing category of assignment types and created new ones. Most distinctly she uses “business report” to incorporate the prior categories and her new categories were a development over the earlier categories done by early researchers. Wei Zhu contributed to the claim of the institutional role and professional role for the students in the university context. She raises some questions for the future researches. Another contribution is the suggestive results that there are discrepancies between the skills required for assignments in business courses and those taught in EAP writing courses.

Nevertheless, “this study examined writing assignments required in the College of Business Administration at one college only.” Courses in different business colleges vary from one another and assignments may vary too. Her study could have analyzed writing assignments from different colleges. And her study does not include all the courses provided, and she could have examined writing assignments from different courses within a particular business area. The data gathered were examined by one research only, and bias from the researcher might have affected the analysis and interpretation of the data. It would be better for the research if it the data was collected by more than one researcher. Despite the limitations, Wei Zhus study nevertheless contributed to providing useful information involving the types of writing assignments in business courses and to the characteristics of the assignment types, skills needed to successfully complete the assignments. The findings of her study also provided some implication for writing curriculum design and instruction in EAP programs.


[1]Canseco, G, & Byrd, P.. Writing required in graduate courses in business administration[J]. TESOL Quarterly,1989,23:305-316.