On the Rocky Road to Academia: Stumbling Blocks for Finnish Engineering Students with English as a Second Language

Hanna Niemelä, Johanna Naukkarinen


Communication skills, especially academic writing skills in English, are vital for a successful career in the global scientific community. Finnish engineering students, however, seem to encounter problems when preparing their scientific publications in English as a second language (ESL) for international forums. Thus, these skills should be enhanced at all levels of academic education to promote students’ development as experts in their field. The paper describes challenges faced by engineering students in academic writing and seeks solutions to promote students’ learning process. In addition to communication issues, the paper enlightens the environment and conditions in which the engineering students operate. By an interpretive study, the paper examines texts written by Finnish engineering students. The qualitative textual analysis is based on Systemic Functional Linguistics. Further, the paper discusses learning of academic writing from the perspective of situated learning. Based on the textual analysis, the paper identifies challenges and problems in academic writing, namely unfamiliarity with publication practices, grammar and terminology problems, unawareness of academic discourse strategies, such as hedging and the use of cohesive devices, and challenges with handling feedback. To enhance students’ competences in academic communication within their discipline, guidance and training of communication skills should be integrated into relevant technical and academic contexts throughout the engineering studies. Thus, in addition to thesis writing, argumentation and writing skills and the use of databases can be enhanced for instance by writing course reports in the form of academic papers. Individual consultation also plays a key role in the situated learning process.


electrical engineering; communication; academic literacy; situated learning; Finland

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International Journal of Engineering Pedagogy (iJEP) – eISSN: 2192-4880
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