Arab World English Journal (AWEJ) Volume 14. Number 1 March 2023                                             Pp. 409 -427

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Academic Writing of Saudi Graduate Students: Issues and Improvements

Fawaz Al Mahmud
Department of English Language and Translation
Faculty of Sciences and Arts, Khulais
Jeddah University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Corresponding Author:

 Mohammad Afzal ur Rahmanu
Department of English Language and Translation
Faculty of Sciences and Arts, Khulais,
Jeddah University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia


Received:12/30/2022         Accepted:03/11/2023                 Published: 03/24/2023


This study investigates research writing difficulties encountered by Saudi graduate students at a Saudi university and seeks to offer interventional guidelines accordingly. A fuller understanding of these difficulties will contribute to the development of instruction aimed at improving students’ research writing skills. The main question this study addresses is this: What are the major academic writing problems facing Saudi graduate students? The investigation used an explanatory sequential mixed methods approach involving 87 participants at the University of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The data were collected through a 20-item Likert scale questionnaire completed online by 85 Saudi graduate students (37 males, 48 females; 69 majoring in English, 16 majoring in other subjects) and semi-structured interviews conducted with two faculty members. The quantitative data were analyzed statistically using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS), and the qualitative data were analyzed thematically. Results revealed that most students experienced difficulties related to language, argumentation, and research-article genre when composing research reports in English. Both the participating students and teachers thought the most serious academic writing challenges for Saudi graduate students were presenting complex information in clear sentences and building strong arguments. In contrast, the least problematic task was finding and documenting sources. Regarding evaluating sources, writing Literature reviews, and using technical vocabulary, most students were unsure of their abilities. Besides, English majors and other majors had similar perceptions of difficulties in three out of four significant aspects of research writing. As far as documenting sources is concerned, the perception varied significantly between the English-major and other-major students. The findings of the present study can assist stakeholders in identifying instructional needs in research writing in the Saudi Arabian context, and our guidelines will make research writing less difficult for Saudi students.
Keywords: Academic writing, English as a Foreign Language, Foreign Language, English as a Second Language,
graduate students, research writing difficulties

Cite as:   Al Mahmud, F., &  ur Rahman, M. A.  (2023). Academic Writing of Saudi Graduate Students: Issues and Improvements.
Arab World English Journal, 14 (1) 409 -427.


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Received: 12/30/2022
Accepted: 03/11/2023 
Published: 03/24/2023

Fawaz S. Al Mahmud has worked as an assistant professor in the English Language and Translation Department at the University of Jeddah since 2020. Currently, he has two additional roles. He is the vice dean at the College of Science and Arts for not only Research and Innovation but also Academic Affairs and Development. In 2017, he received his PhD in Education from Memorial University, Canada, where he specialized in Teaching English as a Foreign Language. He has published several articles addressing issues on foreign language teaching and learning. He has published several articles addressing issues in foreign language teaching & learning

Mohammad Afzal ur Rahman is an assistant professor of English at the University of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He received his PhD in English in 2010 from the University of Lucknow, India. Before coming to Saudi Arabia in 2011, he had taught English at an Indian university for about nine years. He has published articles in Orientalism and literary criticism. His areas of interest include postcolonial theory, rhetorical grammar, and academic writing. His ORCiD is