A sociolinguistic study of postgraduate students' perceptions of using English for academic purposes
University of Wales
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English for Academic Purposes (EAP) has been increasingly researched in recent years. However, in this research the learner's voice is still not clearly evident. The current study investigates postgraduate students' perceptions of using EAP in studying for higher degrees in Wales and Syria. The study makes a contribution to the field by focusing on the learner's voice in two different contexts, where English is a native language or a foreign language. The students in the study were either home students in Syria or international students in Wales. The juxtaposition of two different contexts allowed for key points of comparison and contrast to be observed. The methodology employed in the research was that of a main and associated case study. A range of data were gathered from University Wales and University Syria through the two case studies. It was found that most University Wales interviewees, as international students, perceived cultural context as an inseparable part of their concept of EAP. They were also aware that they were engaged with a number of overlapping cultures in their use of English. By contrast, the majority of University Syria interviewees, as home students, often perceived clear boundaries between EAP and the cultures surrounding it. It was also found that both groups of interviewees perceived particular features of teaching styles and resources as important elements in their use of EAP. The study findings are valuable in illustrating the similarities and differences of the students' perceptions of their use of EAP in two different contexts. They are also valuable in highlighting the students' identity as EAP learners, a pragmatic one in response to EAP and one that was evolving in response to the broad context of their studies. A central finding was the key role enacted by context in students' overall perception of EAP. Context highlighted the necessity of re-defining EAP, closely considering the different contexts in which it occurs.
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