Building Research Skills for ESL Students

Building Research Skills for ESL Students

by Steven Rashba, Director of Modern Languages and the English Language Institute, University of Bridgeport

At University of Bridgeport’s (UB) English Language Institute, we have made Research Writing the cornerstone of the program. Students learn not only how to find and read articles at a challenging academic level from University databases, but also how to summarize, paraphrase, and quote the information so they can incorporate it into their work. After all, one of the highest levels of the learning pyramid is synthesizing information.

ELI instructors educate students about American-style academic writing by first introducing them to the UB library and its databases and demonstrating the various levels of reading complexity. Students are also introduced to the importance and mechanics of citing sources with a focus on APA format. Initially, students are directed to databases with easier readability so they can build their confidence before using more rigorous databases. Often, we have to break their Google searching habits. However, students quickly discover the advantages of using the library databases, especially the correct APA or MLA citations displayed at the bottom of the article.

Research skills are important to teach for students’ college careers, helping to prepare them for their academic programs, many of which are research focused. However, they also transfer to graduates’ future careers, with skills that include:

  • Building vocabulary
  • Grammar structures
  • Critical thinking

Furthermore, the skills learned in academic research apply to many different kinds of writing in the business world, including:

  • Request for proposals
  • Feasibility studies
  • Analysis
  • Copyright and patent-protection for new ideas and innovations

For these reasons and more, ESL students need to be taught research skills as well as academic writing. Only then will they have continued academic and professional success. Classes at UB’s English Language Institute not only prepare students for the rigors of their academic programs but also help them transform a language background weakness into an acknowledged strength.

Steven Rashba, ARM, is the Director of Modern Languages and the English Language Institute and currently teaches Advanced ELI 140 (Research Writing for ESL Students). Rashba has been affiliated with UB for 23 years and is one of the world’s approximately 3.95 billion bilingual (or more) speakers. A dedicated runner and cyclist, Rashba and his students are active members of Greater Bridgeport Toastmasters and Toastmasters International.