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ERROR ANALYSIS OF WRITTEN ENGLISH ESSAY
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ERROR ANALYSIS OF WRITTEN ENGLISH ESSAY

(The case of The English Department Students of Majalengka University)

 

Rama Dwika Herdiawan

 

 

Abstract

Writing academic essay is a must for the students in university level. It rarely happens that the lecturer conduct the study in analyzing the students’ grammatical errors in their own essays. This study is aimed to investigate the commonest errors made by the students of sixth semester of English department Majalengka University. There were 60 essays which analyzed based on the 11 categories. The results showed that there were the four commonest errors made by the students in writing the essays were mechanics, tense, preposition, and subject verb agreement. The error in mechanics was the highest one with the mean value 3.11 among the other writing analyzing points. In writing their essay, they still had some difficulties in determining the correct tense, punctuation, and word spelling. In addition, they had lack of understanding in English structure, and mechanics. They were still influenced by inadequate knowledge in English. This study suggests that the lecturer should create the new strategy to encounter the students’ problems in writing essays.

Keywords: academic essay, error analysis


1. Background of the study

Nowadays, writing seems to the handicap and burden for the students in university level. They think that writing is the hardest part particularly in learning English; moreover it requires not only having a lot of vocabularies but also considering the mechanisms of it. Regarding these mechanisms, the students are urged to apply some of them in writing, for example, grammar, punctuation, coherence, and unity. Moreover, it is not only used by college and university communities as written communication or as one of its programs but also as an intellectual activity, as a method of learning and as an instruction (Weigle, 2002). The common setting that characterizes college writing is educational and academic that is influenced by the specific disciplinary expectations of college, course even grade level (Crème & Lea, 2008). They have important role to measure how advance their writing is. In reality, the students tend to ignore those mechanisms when writing the research report. Therefore, this research will be aimed to know what kind of writing errors that are mostly made by the students in writing their own essay.

In university and college environment, writing is usually done by students, scholars, teachers, and researchers that compose academic communities (Murray & Moore, 2006). Relating to the statement, the college students need to expand their own ideas in writing an essay as well as arguing, problem solving, analyzing, and explaining in written form. According to Richard and Miller (2008), they say that the general purpose of academic writing includes arguing, analyzing, interpreting, reviewing, reporting assignment and so on. The writing activity for academic writing can be essays, textbooks’ review, action research project, dissertation, research paper, syllabi, and paper-works, mini thesis, thesis which have similar method. Nevertheless, most of academic writing assignments are academic essays and research papers (Arnaudet& Ellen Barret, 1984) and (Crème & Lea, 2008). Regarding the statements above, writing essay is considered to be the students’ writing material and also the teachers’ assessment in university level.

In accomplishing the essay, the students are demanded to find out the appropriate ideas.  Not only that the students have to consider the unity as well as the coherence of their own essays. Therefore, they need to be more creative to get some sets of vocabulary, punctuation, sentence structure, and also transitions. The students also have to use the appropriate tenses that support their own essay. As a result, there have been some writing errors because they have lack of knowledge on how to write the essay. To find out the writing errors made by the students, there will be an error analysis regarding the problem that measures how frequent the students made the writing errors.

Due to the problems mentioned above, the researcher will analyze the students’ writing errors by using an error analysis which shows the causes of errors as well as the solution to encounter it. Hence, the students will not make the similar error later. In this case, the researcher also will find out the mechanism of the student’s writing as well as their grammatical errors from the students’ essays.

 

2. Reasons for Choosing the topic

     This research provides the real phenomena that will be proved by the researcher. They refer to the error analysis in students’ essay that will be analyzed by considering the mechanism of writing as well as the grammatical error. This research focuses on a discussion about finding out the writing errors made by the students using an error analysis.

 

3. Statements of the Problem

            In order to clarify the problem that will be investigated, the researcher has formulated the following research questions:

a.   What kind of error do the students make in writing essay?

b.   What is the main factor that influences the students’ errors  in writing essay?

 

4. The Purposes of the Study

            Based on the background discussed above, the research will aim to:

a. Investigate kind of error made by the students in writing essay

b. Investigate the main factor that influences the students in writing essay?

 

5. Significances of the Study

            Theoretically, this study is significance to provide enormous and valuable sources on an error analysis of the students’ essay. The finding will be expected to be a new insight on the student’s improvement in writing a good essay.

            Practically, this study is significance to master how to write the English essay particularly for the students by conducting the error analysis of it, and providing the recommendation related to the problems.

            Pedagogically, this study is significance to assist the students by giving them some procedures in writing their own essay. Later on they will be accustomed to compose and create a good essay.

 

6. Scope of the Study

            This research focuses on analyzing the students’ essay by using an error analysis. It attempts to evaluate how well the students write the essay based on the mechanisms of writing such as grammar, punctuation, coherence, and unity. The analysis will attempt to view the writing errors made by the students in their own eesay.

 

7. Clarification of Key Terms

            In this research, there several key terms that are defined and specified as follows:

Writing is simply an alternative form of expression to speech (Halliday, 1985). In writing process, the writers employ graphic symbols when they write such as letters or combination of letters that connect with the sounds they produce when they communicate (Bryne, 1988).

Error analysis stands for two major purposes, they are (a) provides data from which interference about the nature of language learning process can be made, (b) indicated to teacher and curriculum developers, which part of the target language students have the most difficulty producing correctly and which error type detract most from learners ability to communicate effectively. (Brown, 1983)

 

8. Review of the Related Literature

            Basically we can define that whatever is spoken can also be written-that indicates writing is simply an alternative form of expression to speech (Halliday, 1985). Byrne (1988) states that “in writing process, the writers employ graphic symbols when they write such as letters or combination of letters that connect with the sounds they produce when they communicate”. Nevertheless, writing is more than producing sound productions into written forms of symbols. The symbols should be arranged in accordance with certain rules, to form words, and words must be arranged in certain form to build sentences. Weigle (2002) states that “the ability to write effectively is becoming increasingly important in our global community and instruction in writing is thus assuming an increasing role in both second – and foreign language education”. Regarding the statements above, the researcher defines that writing has a crucial role in learning English which not only requires written forms of symbols but also arranges them to build sentences. Moreover, it should be conceptualized by providing some ideas, structure, mechanics of it, and also vocabulary.

            Weigle (2002) also defines on the role of writing in second and foreign-language setting, as follows:

Writing has also become more important as tenets of communicative language teaching – that is, teaching language as a system of communication rather than as an object of the study – have taken hold in both second- and foreign language settings. The traditional view in language classes that writing functions primarily to support and reinforce patterns of oral language use, grammar, and vocabulary, is being supplanted by the notion that writing in a second language is a worthwhile enterprise in and of itself.

            Based on the statements from Weigle, writing has correlation or connection to assist and apply the patterns of oral language use, grammar, and also vocabulary which are very necessary in writing. On the other words, it functions to measure how well we master the three elements mentioned; the role of writing in a second language education is increasing due to the tendency of test writing ability, both for the classroom use and as a predictor of future professional or academic success.

            Weigle (cited in Hayes, 1996) also defines the social aspect of writing, as follows:

Writing is also social because it is a social artifact and is carried out in a social setting. When we write, how we write, and who we write to is shaped by social convention and by our history of social interaction….. the genres in which we write were invented by other writers and the phrases we write often reflect phrases earlier writers have written.

            Weigle (cited in Spack, 1988) states that “much of the current literature on academic writing in a second language (specifically in English) emphasizes the social aspects of writing, referring to the process of learning to write in academic contexts as one of ‘initiating ESL students into academic discourse community”.

            Writing has its own social aspects as well as social purposes which held in a particular setting. In other words, it generally refers to the process of learning to write not as the product of the individual but as the social act. Based on the statements from Weigle, learning to write involves much more than simply learning the grammar and vocabulary of the language, or even the rhetorical forms common to academic writing.

            Academic essay has become the main assignment as well as material that are necessary to be learnt and accomplished by the college students recently. It is given to measure how well the students write their own ideas into the academic writing, moreover, the students are demanded to generate new ideas on writing it as well as listing some words, phrases, clauses, and also sentences into it. Beveridge (2007) states that academic writing as a document that has a defined structure – an introduction, a body and a conclusion. Regarding the statement above, before writing the academic essay we need to consider the points mentioned above so that our writing will be well organized.

            According to Beveridge (2007), there are three types of academic essay that are commonly taught in the level of university. They are as the major essays which require a lot of thoughts and also references in making it.

A. Descriptive essay has function to describe a subject, e.g. a person, place, or event.

B. Expository essay is aimed to explain a concept or theory.

C. Argumentative essay presents an argument through reasoning and the use of evidence.

            Based on the three types of essay, argumentative essay is suitable for the college because it conveys a series of arguments through reasoning and the use of evidence. The students have to search for the appropriate arguments and also evidences that support theirs. In planning and drafting the essay, there are the related points that need to be considered such as introductory paragraph, body of paragraph, and conclusion. Introductory paragraph mainly contains thesis statement that consists of one sentence as a guidance to develop the body of paragraph. The body of paragraph mostly contains some evidences as well as related examples based on the thesis, the evidences or examples have to connect to the thesis statement. The last stage is conclusion which contains a summary by restating the thesis statement.        

            Writing English essay is not the same as writing Indonesian essay. Consequently, most of the students are prone to make some errors while writing their own essay. On the other hand, the students need to comprehend the new rule of writing the essay such as vocabulary, patterns, and pronunciation which are different from their language. The error always comes to the students’ mind especially in writing the English essay. Corder (1981:51) states that error is both an ancient activity and at the same time a comparatively new one, whereas Jeremy harmer (2001:34) also defines error is part of the learner interlingua that is the version of the language which a learner has at any one stage of development and which is continually reshaped as he/she aims toward full mastery. It is clear that error naturally happens because of the different rule of certain language.

            According to Brown, the fact that learners do make errors and that errors can be observed, analyzed, and classified to reveal something of the system operating within the learner, led to surge of the study of learners’ errors, called error analysis. Brown also states that error analysis stands for two major purposes, they are (a) provides data from which interference about the nature of language learning process can be made, (b) indicated to teacher and curriculum developers, which part of the target language students have the most difficulty producing correctly and which error type detract most from learners ability to communicate effectively.

            Based on the statements above, error analysis is very necessary to show the students’ errors especially in writing the English essays, to find out the students’ error types, and some causes of the error.

 

9. Research Methodology

Research Method

            The researcher uses the descriptive qualitative method and also procedures of error analysis itself. The researcher tries to show the students’ errors when writing the English essay. On the other hand, the researcher will calculate the errors and also make the correction or reconstruction.

Research Site and Participants

            English Department of Majalengka University will be chosen as the research site. The researcher is a lecturer in the department so it is possible to conduct the research. The participants of this research will be the sixth semester students of English department of Majalengka University. They are purposely chosen as the researcher believes that they will be representatives in this research. There will be 30 selected participants who take a part in this research

 

Instrumentation

Regarding collecting the data, the researcher will provide the test which is in the form of essay. The essay will refer to the argumentative one, the students have to write their own essay based on the topic given. The students’ essay will be evaluated and corrected to know the students’ grammatical errors in writing their essays.

 

The Procedures of the Research

            The test of writing essay will be given after the researcher explains more about the procedures of writing the essay. The test will be done at least in 35 minutes by the whole students. The researcher also provides them the working sheet that contains the essay mind map as a guidance to write the essay.

 

Data Analysis

            The data are qualitatively analyzed using the grammar of English. Besides that, they are also analyzed using the percentage formula as follows:

            P= F X 100 %

                          N

Notes: P: percentage

            F: frequency

            N: number of sample

 

Result of analyzing the data

            Table below shows the total number of errors for each category of grammatical errors as well as its percentage and mean value. At least 9000 words were analyzed that consisted of 150 words for each essay.


 

Analyzed points

Total no. of errors

Percentage

Mean/n =60

Tense

Articles

Subject verb agreement

Infinitive

Possessive

Word orders

Negative Construction

Prepositions/conjunctions

Mechanics of writing

Verb choice

Plurality

155

57

103

68

47

79

7

116

187

88

30

 

15.5

5.7

10.3

6.8

4.7

7.9

7.0

11.6

18.7

8.8

3.0

2.58

0.95

1.71

0.75

0.78

1.31

0.11

1.93

3.11

1.46

0.5

Total

915

100

 

           


The error analysis is based on the 11 categories of the grammatical errors. The results of the mean show the four most common errors are mechanics (3.11), tense (2.58), preposition/conjunctions (1.93), and subject verb agreement (1.71).

            It is clear that the students still have carelessness in writing their own essays as well as less attention to place the punctuation in it. The results also indicated that fewer numbers of errors didn’t mean having less difficulty compared to the other ones. Thus, mechanics, tense, preposition/ conjunction, and subject verb agreement were considered to be the hardest parts in writing the essays.

Examples of the most common errors and Explanation

            In this part, the researcher provided some examples of students’ sentences that were considered to be the errors. They were identified based on the ten categories of error analysis. Here are the examples as follows:

 

Errors in Mechanics

When I was in senior high school. (capitalization: Senior High School)

My mind always remembers to a great beautiful women. (woman)

It took four hours to go them. (there)

I walk trought that same corridor. (through)

            This category was the largest one among the other ones. This one included analyzing punctuation, spelling, capitalization, and so on. These seemed to be the handicap for the students who wrote the academic essays. Moreover, they tended to make their own carelessness in putting out the punctuation. The spelling errors were totally happened because of the phonetics perception as well as carelessness.

            Not only that, the students mostly made mistakes in using punctuation due to their own carelessness. They included incorrect use of comma and period as well as omission of comma and period. The students mostly placed comma (denoted by*) in the middle of two clauses. Sometimes they forgot to place (denoted by*)  the comma in the middle of two cluses.

a.   I feel so happy *and don’t forget the moment,* because my boyfriend come to my house.

b.