Diagnosing EFL undergraduates’ discourse competence in academic writing

Yumin WANG, Qin XIE

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Discourse competence is a critical component of academic writing, as it influences the coherence, cohesion, and overall structure of a text. This article reports on the development of a set of fine-grained diagnostic rubrics to assess the construct of discourse competence, which is operationalized as consisting of 10 features under five components, namely, topic building, global coherence, local coherence, logical connectives, and reader–writer interactions. The rubrics were applied to a sample of 108 essays written by EFL undergraduates majoring in business studies in a Sino-Australia joint degree programme in China. The study found that the rubrics could be used to generate detailed profiles of undergraduates’ relative strengths and weaknesses regarding the features of their discourse competence. The participants were stronger in using logical connectives but much weaker in topic building, global coherence, and reader–writer interactions. This study represents perhaps one of the first attempts to systematically specify the construct of discourse competence and to assess the construct at an appropriate grain size. As such, its findings can enrich our understanding of discourse competence. The study also contributes a useful and innovative instrument to the research into L2 writing assessment. Copyright © 2022 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100641
JournalAssessing Writing
Early online dateMay 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022


Wang, Y., & Xie, Q. (2022). Diagnosing EFL undergraduates’ discourse competence in academic writing. Assessing Writing, 53. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.asw.2022.100641


  • Discourse competence
  • EFL writers
  • Academic writing
  • Diagnostic assessment


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