Volume 40, Issue 1
  • ISSN 0155-0640
  • E-ISSN: 1833-7139
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes


This study focuses on lexical diversity and the use of academic and lower frequency words in essays written by EFL (English as a Foreign Language) students enrolled in Years 1 and 2 at the undergraduate university level. The purpose of this study is to find out the extent to which EFL students become more proficient in their use of academic and lower frequency words and make more diverse choices in their writing after one year of undergraduate university education in English. The study also compares essays written by EFL students and NS (native speaker) students to determine inter-language differences. Essays written by 62 EFL students and 198 NS students at Years 1 and 2 were analyzed for this study. The findings showed no statistically significant difference between the essays written by EFL students in Year 1 and those written in Year 2, either in terms of lexical diversity or in terms of the use of academic and lower frequency words. EFL students in both year levels had a preference for highly frequent words (words in the 1k frequency band). This is in contrast to the NS students, whose use of academic and some lower frequency words improved in Year 2. The findings also showed a statistically significant difference between the essays written by the EFL and the NS students in both year levels. The EFL students made less diverse lexical choices and used fewer words in various frequency bands than the NS students. Findings are discussed and recommendations are offered to EFL students and their educators on how to focus on these aspects of academic writing.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. British Academic Written English Corpus (BAWE)
    British Academic Written English Corpus (BAWE) (2004–2007) Retrieved fromwww.coventry.ac.uk/bawe
  2. British National Corpus (BNC)
    British National Corpus (BNC) (2007) Retrievedwww.natcorp.ox.ac.uk
  3. Browne, C. , Culligan, B. , & Phillips, J.
    (2013) A New Academic Word List. Retrieved fromwww.newacademicwordlist.org/
  4. Cooley, L. , & Lewkowicz, J.
    (1995) The writing needs of postgraduate students at the University of Hong Kong: A project report. Hong Kong Papers in Linguistics and Language Teaching, 18, 121–123.
    [Google Scholar]
  5. Coxhead, A.
    (2000) A new academic word list. TESOL Quarterly, 34, 213–238. doi: 10.2307/3587951
    https://doi.org/10.2307/3587951 [Google Scholar]
  6. (2011) What is the exactly word in English?: Investigating second language vocabulary use in writing. English Australia, 27, 3–17.
    [Google Scholar]
  7. (2012) Academic vocabulary, writing and English for academic purposes: Perspectives from second language learners. RELC Journal, 43, 137–145. doi: 10.1177/0033688212439323
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0033688212439323 [Google Scholar]
  8. Crossley, S. A. , Weston, J. L. , Sullivan, S. T. M. , & McNamara, D. S.
    (2011) The development of writing proficiency as a function of grade level: A linguistic analysis. Written Communication, 28, 282–311. doi: 10.1177/0741088311410188
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0741088311410188 [Google Scholar]
  9. Dillard, J. P. , & Pfau, M.
    (2002) The persuasion handbook: Developments in theory and practice. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
    [Google Scholar]
  10. Dong, Y. R.
    (1998) Non-native graduate students’ thesis/dissertation writing in science: Self- reports by students and their advisors from two U.S. institutions. English for Specific Purposes, 17, 369–390. doi: 10.1016/S0889‑4906(97)00054‑9
    https://doi.org/10.1016/S0889-4906(97)00054-9 [Google Scholar]
  11. Espinosa, S. M.
    (2005) Can P-Lex accurately measure lexical richness in the written production of young learners of EFL?Porta Linguarum, 4, 7–21.
    [Google Scholar]
  12. Gardner, D. , & Davies, M. (2014) A new academic vocabulary list. Applied Linguistics, 35, 305–327. doi: 10.1093/applin/amt015
    https://doi.org/10.1093/applin/amt015 [Google Scholar]
  13. Hanauer, D. I. , & Englander, K.
    (2011) Quantifying the burden of writing research articles in a second language: Data from Mexican scientists. Written Communication, 28, 403–416. doi: 10.1177/0741088311420056
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0741088311420056 [Google Scholar]
  14. Hasselgren, A.
    (1994) Lexical teddy bears and advanced learners: A study into the ways Norwegian students cope with English vocabulary. International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 4, 237–258. doi: 10.1111/j.1473‑4192.1994.tb00065.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1473-4192.1994.tb00065.x [Google Scholar]
  15. Henriksen, B. , & Danelund, L.
    (2015). Studies of Danish L2 learners’ vocabulary knowledge and the lexical richness of their written production in English. In P. Pietilä , K. Doró , & R. Pipalová Eds. Lexical issues in L2 writing (pp.1–27). Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
    [Google Scholar]
  16. Hirsh, D. , & Coxhead, A.
    (2009) Ten ways of focussing on science-specific vocabulary in EAP. English Australia Journal, 25, 5–16.
    [Google Scholar]
  17. Horst, M.
    (2005) Learning L2 vocabulary through extensive reading: a measurement study. Canadian Modern Language Review, 61, 355–382. doi: 10.3138/cmlr.61.3.355
    https://doi.org/10.3138/cmlr.61.3.355 [Google Scholar]
  18. Hyland, K. , & Tse, P.
    (2007) Is there an “academic vocabulary“?TESOL Quarterly, 41, 235–253. doi: 10.1002/j.1545‑7249.2007.tb00058.x
    https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1545-7249.2007.tb00058.x [Google Scholar]
  19. Ivanič, R.
    (1998) Writing and identity: The discoursal construction of identity in academic writing. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. doi: 10.1075/swll.5
    https://doi.org/10.1075/swll.5 [Google Scholar]
  20. Jarvis, S.
    (2002) Short texts, best-fitting curves and new measures of lexical diversity. Language Testing, 19, 57–84. doi: 10.1191/0265532202lt220oa
    https://doi.org/10.1191/0265532202lt220oa [Google Scholar]
  21. (2013) Capturing the diversity in lexical diversity. Language Learning, 63, 87–106. doi: 10.1111/j.1467‑9922.2012.00739.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9922.2012.00739.x [Google Scholar]
  22. Laufer, B.
    (1998) The development of passive and active vocabulary in a second language: Same or different?Applied Linguistics, 19, 255–271. doi: 10.1093/applin/19.2.255
    https://doi.org/10.1093/applin/19.2.255 [Google Scholar]
  23. (2003) Vocabulary acquisition in a second language: Do learners really acquire most vocabulary by reading? Some empirical evidence. Canadian Modern Language Review, 59, 567–587. doi: 10.3138/cmlr.59.4.567
    https://doi.org/10.3138/cmlr.59.4.567 [Google Scholar]
  24. Laufer, B. , & Nation, I. S. P.
    (1995) Vocabulary size and use: lexical richness in L2 written production. Applied Linguistics, 16, 307–322. doi: 10.1093/applin/16.3.307
    https://doi.org/10.1093/applin/16.3.307 [Google Scholar]
  25. LexTutor
    LexTutor. (n.d.). Retrieved fromwww.lextutor.ca
  26. Lillis, T. M. , & Curry, M. J.
    (2010) Academic writing in global context. London: Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  27. McCarthy, P. M.
    (2005) An assessment of the range and usefulness of lexical diversity measures and the potential of the measure of textual, lexical diversity (MTLD) (Doctoral dissertation), University of Memphis, United States of America.
    [Google Scholar]
  28. McCarthy, P. M. , & Jarvis, S.
    (2007) vocd: A theoretical and empirical evaluation. Language Testing, 24(4), 459–488. doi: 10.1177/0265532207080767
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0265532207080767 [Google Scholar]
  29. (2010) MTLD, vocd-D, and HD-D: A validation study of sophisticated approaches to lexical diversity assessment. Behavior Research Methods, 42, 381–392. doi: 10.3758/BRM.42.2.381
    https://doi.org/10.3758/BRM.42.2.381 [Google Scholar]
  30. McNamara, D. S. , Crossley, S. A. , & McCarthy, P. M.
    (2010) Linguistic features of writing quality. Written Communication, 27, 57–86. doi: 10.1177/0741088309351547
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0741088309351547 [Google Scholar]
  31. McNamara, D. S. , Crossley, S. A. , & Roscoe, R.
    (2013) Natural language processing in an intelligent writing strategy tutoring system. Behav Res, 45, 499–515. doi: 10.3758/s13428‑012‑0258‑1
    https://doi.org/10.3758/s13428-012-0258-1 [Google Scholar]
  32. Nation, I. S. P. (2001) Learning vocabulary in another language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/CBO9781139524759
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139524759 [Google Scholar]
  33. (2006) How large a vocabulary is needed for reading and listening?Canadian Modern Language Review, 63, 59–82. doi: 10.3138/cmlr.63.1.59
    https://doi.org/10.3138/cmlr.63.1.59 [Google Scholar]
  34. (2012) The BNC/COCA word family lists. Retrieved fromwww.victoria.ac.nz/lals/about/staff/paul-nation
    [Google Scholar]
  35. (2015) Principles guiding vocabulary learning through extensive reading. Reading in a Foreign Language, 27, 136–145.
    [Google Scholar]
  36. Nation, I. S. P. , & Anthony, L.
    (2013) Mid-frequency readers. Journal of Extensive Reading, 1, 5–16.
    [Google Scholar]
  37. Olinghouse, N. G. , & Wilson, J.
    (2013) The relationship between vocabulary and writing quality in three genres. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 26, 45–65. doi: 10.1007/s11145‑012‑9392‑5
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s11145-012-9392-5 [Google Scholar]
  38. O’Loughlin, K.
    (1995) Lexical density in candidate output on direct and semi-direct versions of an oral proficiency test. Language Testing, 12, 217–37. doi: 10.1177/026553229501200205
    https://doi.org/10.1177/026553229501200205 [Google Scholar]
  39. Paquot, M.
    (2010) Academic vocabulary in learner writing: From extraction to analysis. London, England: Continuum.
    [Google Scholar]
  40. Pigada, M. , & Schmitt, N.
    (2006) Vocabulary acquisition from extensive reading: A case study. Reading in a Foreign Language, 18, 1–28.
    [Google Scholar]
  41. Ransdell, S. , & Wengelin, Å.
    (2003) Socioeconomic and sociolinguistic predictors of children’s L2 and L1 writing quality. Arobase, 1, 22–29.
    [Google Scholar]
  42. Schmitt, N.
    (2008) Review article: Instructed second language vocabulary learning. Language Teaching Research12, 329–363. doi: 10.1177/1362168808089921
    https://doi.org/10.1177/1362168808089921 [Google Scholar]
  43. Schmitt, N. , & Schmitt, D.
    (2014) A reassessment of frequency and vocabulary size in L2 vocabulary teaching. Language Teaching, 47, 484–503. doi: 10.1017/S0261444812000018
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0261444812000018 [Google Scholar]
  44. Swain, M.
    (1995) Three functions of output in second language learning. In. G. Cook and B. Seidhofer (Eds.): Principles and practices in applied linguistics: Studies in honor of HG Widdowson (pp.125–144). Oxford: Oxford University
    [Google Scholar]
  45. Swales, J. M.
    (2004) Research genres: Explorations and applications. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/CBO9781139524827
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139524827 [Google Scholar]
  46. TextInspector
    TextInspector. (n.d.). Retrieved fromwww.textinspector.com
  47. Uccelli, P. , Dobbs, C. L. , & Scott, J.
    (2013) Mastering academic language organization and stance in the persuasive writing of high school students. Written Communication, 30, 36–62. doi: 10.1177/0741088312469013
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0741088312469013 [Google Scholar]
  48. Yeh, C. -C.
    (2010) New graduate students’ perspectives on research writing in English: A case study in Taiwan. Journal of Academic Language & Learning, 4, A1–A12.
    [Google Scholar]
  49. Yu, G.
    (2009) Lexical Diversity in Writing and Speaking Task Performances. Applied Linguistics, 31, 236–259. doi: 10.1093/applin/amp024
    https://doi.org/10.1093/applin/amp024 [Google Scholar]

Data & Media loading...

This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error