Discipline-specific writing, English as a Second Language, Writing expectations and challenges


Little is known about how best to prepare non-native students matriculated at universities in the United States to succeed in discipline-specific writing. Whilesome studies have suggested differences in the types and volumes of writing across disciplines, such studies have compared very few disciplines simultaneously and have not always examined the disciplines most commonly studied by international students. Thus, this study seeks to fill an important gap in the literature by examining the perspectives of university professors regarding their expectations and purposes for student writing as well as their observations about the greatest writing challenges their students face within five of the most popular disciplines for international students at the undergraduate level. These include business, biology, com-puter science, engineering, and psychology. Results suggest meaningful differencesacross disciplines in terms of writing volumes, purposes, and expectations though no differences were observed across fields for the most prevalent writing challenges. This paper also discusses the possible need for non-native writers to have additional opportunities to continue to develop their discipline-specific writing skills along with more feedback. While additional discipline-specific writing instruction may not always be feasible, we encourage program administrators and practitioners to consider tailoring writing instruction to meet the needs of learners preparing for various fields of study.

Original Publication Citation

Hartshorn, K. J. Evans, N. W. (2019). Expectations and challenges of non-native university writers at the outset of discipline-specific study. TESL Reporter, 52, 1-29

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Brigham Young University - Hawaii







University Standing at Time of Publication

Assistant Professor

Included in

Linguistics Commons