Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Education


This study, by using Halliday's systemic functional grammar (in particular, the textual function), investigates how Chinese EFL writers manipulate the flow of information; to what extent their control of English information stmcture and cohesion are affected by the Chinese language; to what extent cultural differences are involved in the students' use of textual resources (information structure and cohesion); and how these factors affect the degree of discourse coherence in writing on different topic titles (i.e. register).

In order to conduct this research, around 141 samples of Chinese EFL students' (aged 20-21, second-year science-major tertiary-levelled) English expository texts were collected with the assistance of university English teachers working in China. A small number of Australian native students' texts were also collected and used as the base line to judge whether the Chinese students' performance problems are categorised as the first language transfer or only as belonging to linguistic developmental processes. Two native Australian volunteers who have TESOL background helped to judge the degree of acceptability of these texts based on their intuition. Then textual analysis was done on these samples.

It is found that successful EFL writers were more concerned about the choice of thematisation at a global level and were better at employing cohesive devices, whereas unsuccessful writers may only focus on the local sentence stmcture in patterning the information and are more likely to misuse cohesive devices. This suggests that the performance problems would be regarded as the natural features in the process of learning a foreign language rather than that of language transfer. In other words, it seems that what is emphasised foregrounded in English language instruction in China is a major contribution to the performance of the EFL students' writing.