Upper secondary students’ discursive writing in two languages


  • Britt-Marie Apelgren Gothenburg University
  • Per Holmberg Gothenburg University




discursive writing, SFL, LOGICAL TEXT STRUCTURE, L1 AND L2, upper secondary students, longitudinal study


This longitudinal study examines one central dimension of discursive essay writing, viz. text structure. It presents results from 40 upper secondary school students’ argumentative and expository texts, four essays in Swedish and four in English (N=320) written during the students’ three years upper-secondary schooling. In addition, three students’ writing progression in eight tasks is presented as cases. The study contributes to the knowledge about upper-secondary school students’ written discursive development in two languages, Swedish (L1) and English (L2). The research is informed by Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) and the texts were analyzed for logical structure, defined as the cultural norms for clear organization of texts in more academic or formal contexts. The analysis comprised three levels: (1) the global level (text structure in steps and general organization), (2) the paragraph level (paragraphing supporting the global structure), and (3) the linguistic level (language related discursive markers). Based on the analyses of different levels, an overall assessment of logical structure was made. The results show that the progression in terms of text structure largely failed to occur and neither the choice of language or different text types (argumentative and expository texts) shaped students’ ability to structure their text.

Author Biographies

Britt-Marie Apelgren, Gothenburg University

Britt-Marie Apelgren is Professor in Language Education at the Faculty of Education, University of Gothenburg in Sweden. Apelgren earned her PhD from Reading University, UK. She has participated in several large scale empirical research projects involving studies of teaching and assessment, content and language integrated learning as well as the Swedish national assessment of English. Her main research fields concern teacher cognition and language teaching and learning, in particular students’ language proficiency in English.

Per Holmberg, Gothenburg University

Per Holmberg is Professor in Swedish language at the Faculty of Humanities, University of Gothenburg in Sweden. He is leading the research platform Text and context directed towards the linguistic investigation of discourse and interaction. He specializes in research on writing and written texts in school contexts, and has been particularly interested in developing sociosemiotic models for this research, as well as in introducing such models in teaching practice for the scaffolding of student learning.


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How to Cite

Apelgren, B.-M., & Holmberg, P. . (2021). Upper secondary students’ discursive writing in two languages. Writing and Pedagogy, 12(1), 47–71. https://doi.org/10.1558/wap.36367



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