Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Education


Argumentative writing is necessary for academic success at tertiary level in both Anglophone and EFL contexts. Being able to argue in English in academic ways, however, presents significant challenges for EFL students, particularly those with low English proficiency levels. Many EFL students have little experience with written academic argument genres and rhetorical writing styles in English, and insufficient understanding of the value of ‘objective’ evaluative writing. Despite the challenges faced by EFL students in learning to argue in English, to date little research has focused on tracing EFL university-level students’ argumentative writing development, particularly their changes in discourse-semantic evaluative meaning-making resources, through a theoretically-informed literacy intervention. The research reported in this thesis examines the impact of a Systemic Functional Linguistic (SFL)-informed genre writing intervention (Halliday, 1978; Martin & Rose, 2008) on the improvement of argumentative writing produced by Vietnamese EFL tertiary students under timed, exam-based conditions.

The present study evaluates the potential of the SFL-based genre writing intervention through comprehensive, detailed linguistic analyses of argumentative texts produced by Vietnamese EFL tertiary students, and through a thematic analysis of the students’ perceptions of the intervention’s potential. This study draws on SFL genre, APPRAISAL system and periodicity for exploring changes in argumentative writing. SFL provides conceptual understanding of writing development and analytical systems for the analysis of texts. Data consist of 33 texts constructed at pre-, mid- and post-intervention intervals which are qualitatively analysed. The SFL linguistic analysis provides insights into writing development as a result of the intervention. This study also undertakes a thematic analysis of interview data collected after the students attended the intervention. This analysis sheds light on the perceptions of the students towards the effectiveness of the intervention on writing improvement.

FoR codes (2020)

390108 LOTE, ESL and TESOL curriculum and pedagogy, 390303 Higher education, 470401 Applied linguistics and educational linguistics, 470407 Language documentation and description



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.