THE ACADEMIC WRITING DIFFICULTIES OF UNDERGRADUATES: THE CASE OF THE UNIVERSITY OF BOTSWANA STUDENTS
The paper has examined writing problems encountered by University of Botswana first year undergraduate students doing a compulsory writing course. Writing was assumed to be one of the most difficult activities for learners, especially that they do it in English which is a second language to them. The study has, therefore, brought to surface the difficulties the learners face as they grapple with the course. To address the problem, data were collected from the students doing a writing course titled ‘Writing in English’ through a combination of methods, such as administering a questionnaire, classroom observation and examination of the students’ assignment scripts. The study found that although the majority of the learners enjoy writing as an academic exercise by helping them to express their ideas, views, opinions; and desire to have more practice in crafting a thesis statement, sentence constructions and paragraph development, they are grossly deficient in areas of vocabulary, grammar, mechanics, sentence constructions and expressions. To analyse data effectively, The Social Constructivist Theory was used. Recommendations were made that students be given more practice in academic writing, especially sentence constructions, crafting a thesis and paragraph development. It was further recommended that writing tasks be activity based and that students be engaged in cooperative learning. This was done with the hope that students’ writing difficulties would be minimized and that more meaningful writing would take place in the classroom.