Test-takers’ Cognitive Processes While Synthesizing Multiple Texts and Graphs

  • Mikako Nishikawa

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Integrated writing is becoming more common than traditional topic-based writing in the field of second language assessment. This is partly because essay scores from integrated writing tests are believed to give a better prediction of how students perform in real-life academic writing tasks. There has been a rise in the number of publications on integrated writing concerning its construct validity, discourse types, the effects of borrowing from source texts, and test-taking strategies. These researchers have suggested the need for a careful consideration of the factors affecting the integrated writing process, especially when graphs are used. Incorporating information from graphs into integrated writing demands an additional cognitive skill set. Few researchers have addressed the effects of information from graphs in integrated writing, and even fewer studies have looked at the effects of the combination of text and graphs. The current study aimed to gain insights into the cognitive processes of L2 writers when both multiple source texts and graphs were used as prompts. It attempted to explain (1) the effects of source texts, (2) graph features, (3) the roles of reading in integrated writing, and (4) test-taking strategies during the integrated writing tasks. This study adopted an eye-tracking method to investigate the eye movements of the test-takers (N=38) that reflected their behaviours and decision-making processes. It used multiple approaches that combined eye-tracking, questionnaires and focus group discussions. The findings of the quantitative analysis suggest that language proficiency played a major role in fulfilling the task requirements. The first ten minutes of eye-movement recordings showed some crucial differences between upper intermediate and lower intermediate level participants. Qualitative analyses using the gaze-plots in timed segments, students’ written outputs, and the questionnaires, helped understand test-takers’ behaviours while they were making decisions during each stage of the integrated writing task. Finally, the implications for the test-developers, teachers and students were discussed.
Date of Award25 Sept 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorGuoxing Yu (Supervisor) & E V Washbrook (Supervisor)

Cite this