Graduate Student Writers

Assessing Needs across the “Linguistic Divide”


  • Peter F. Grav University of Toronto
  • Rachael Cayley University of Toronto



English for academic purposes, genre-based pedagogy, graduate writing, IMRD research article, L1 and L2 English speakers, writing pedagogy


Genre analysis has become an important tool for teaching writing across the disciplines to non-native English-speaking (EL2) and native English-speaking (EL1) graduate students alike. Since the pressing needs of EL2 graduate students have meant that educators often teach them in separate classes, and since genre-based research into teaching higher-level writing has been largely generated in fields such as English for Academic Purposes, we have an insufficient understanding of whether this instructional mode plays out similarly in EL1 and EL2 classrooms. Launching a genre-based course on writing research articles in parallel sections for EL1 and EL2 graduate students provided an opportunity to address this knowledge shortfall. This article qualitatively examines the different classroom behaviors observed in each version of the course when a common curriculum was used and specifically explores three key themes: initial receptivity, nature of student engagement, and overall assessment. Our study shows that although EL2 and EL1 learners have similar needs, the obstacles to their benefitting from genre-based instruction are different; EL2 students must learn to identify themselves as needing writing support that transcends linguistic matters, while EL1 students must learn to identify themselves as needing writing support despite their linguistic competence. Providing the same mode of instruction can benefit both populations as long as educators are sensitive to the specific challenges each population presents in the classroom. The insights gained contribute to the scholarship on genre-based teaching and offer ways of better meeting the needs of EL1 and EL2 students alike.

Author Biographies

Peter F. Grav, University of Toronto

Peter F. Grav is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Graduate Studies, University of Toronto, where he teaches a wide range of courses and workshops on graduate academic writing and speaking. His current research examines how authors of published research articles in the humanities cite their primary and secondary sources, a topic upon which he has spoken at national and international conferences. The author of Shakespeare and the Economic Imperative (Routledge, 2008), as well as several articles on early modern drama, he was awarded his Ph.D. at the University of Toronto in 2005.

Rachael Cayley, University of Toronto

Rachael Cayley is a Senior Lecturer in he School of Graduate Studies, University of Toronto, where she teaches a wide range of courses and workshops on graduate academic writing and speaking. She maintains a blog on academic writing for graduate students, Explorations of Style (, and her current research is on the ways that dissertation supervisors support the development of academic writing. Rachael holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the New School for Social Research.


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How to Cite

Grav, P. F., & Cayley, R. (2015). Graduate Student Writers: Assessing Needs across the “Linguistic Divide”. Writing and Pedagogy, 7(1), 69–93.



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