Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 11 : 2 February 2011
ISSN 1930-2940

Managing Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.
         A. R. Fatihi, Ph.D.
         Lakhan Gusain, Ph.D.
         Jennifer Marie Bayer, Ph.D.
         S. M. Ravichandran, Ph.D.
         G. Baskaran, Ph.D.
         L. Ramamoorthy, Ph.D.



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A Study on Evaluating the Discourse Skills of
Engineering Students in Coimbatore, Tamilnadu, India

P. Mangayarkarasi, M.A., M.Phil., M.Ed.


The focus of this paper is the application of written discourse with special reference to technical English writing skill of the engineering students in Coimbatore. The discourse theories of writing are focused upon in this research. Writing is an important part of the engineering course and is an area where students often need plenty of training. The analysis of written discourse is based on Unity, Coherence and Paragraph development. A test was conducted to see how far the students were able to write paragraphs coherently by using discourse markers.

Key words: Discourse markers, Unity, Coherence, Transitional devices, contrastive markers, Inferential markers.


Engineering students learn the use of technical English through using their engineering and technical texts. They are exposed to a variety of formats in technical English in their textbooks. The study and analysis of technical discourse is part of both linguistics and applied linguistics. Linguistic scholars concentrate on the description of the discourse and the teachers on learning and teaching the discourse. The teaching of technical English in the engineering colleges is utility-based as the technical discourse by nature is application-oriented. The 'how' and 'why' of the comprehension and application of technical discourse is not unconsciously learnt unlike the way in which the mother tongue is mastered. Even the students with adequate proficiency in English language fail to fare well in technical English writing skill as it involves several models, concepts and technical themes. All these have a systematic structure and pattern and students and teachers need to master these.

Generally, the technical discourse is more formal and demands precise contextual reference. The experimental technical facts are normally written in analytical tone which is actually revealed by the occurrence of discourse markers. The wide and extensive usage of cause and effect, purpose and function besides compare and contrast, process description and sequencing markers make the standard of technical English more complex. Perhaps, the descriptive, narrative and introspective and argumentative styles of the technical writing are induced by the usage of discourse markers. Briefly speaking, the occurrence of specific jargon, discourse markers, impersonal tone and objective styles are considered to be the indispensable trademarks of technical discourse.

Discourse Markers

Writing is an art and has to be acquired by constant practice. In formal contexts, we are required to express our thoughts and ideas both in spoken and written forms in a logical sequence, avoiding ambiguity. For that purpose, we make use of certain linguistic devices called discourse markers or transitional devices.

The main function of discourse markers is to bring out the logical connection between ideas, between sentences and between paragraphs. These discourse markers indicate specific relationships such as compare, contrast, cause, effect, etc.

This is only the beginning part of the article. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE IN PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION.

Call for Papers for a Language in India Special Volume on
Autobiography and Biography in Indian Writing in English
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P. Mangayarkarasi, M.A., M.Phil., M.Ed.
Department of English
Sri Ramakrishna Engineering College
Coimbatore 641022
Tamilnadu, India

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