Adolescents’ use of academic language in informational writing

  • Zhihui FangEmail author
  • Jungyoung Park


Academic language is a kind of social language for the purpose of schooling. It is central to disciplinary learning, thinking, and communication. This study examined adolescents’ use of academic language in informational writing, a genre highly valued in school, workplace, and society. Ninety-three seventh and ninth grade students from a U.S. public school were asked to write a science report based on a “wordless” picture book about a familiar class of animals called crocodylia. The student writing corpus was coded for presence of a constellation of academic language features. Statistical analyses of these data showed that (a) the adolescents made limited use of academic language features in their writing, (b) there were no significant differences between the two grade levels in academic language use, (c) there was a significant relationship between reading ability and academic language use, and (d) academic language use was a significant predictor of writing quality. These findings highlight both the importance of and the need for more explicit attention to academic language in secondary literacy instruction.


Academic language Informational writing Literacy instruction Disciplinary learning Adolescent literacy Language and literacy development 



The preparation of this paper was supported in part by the National Research Center for Foreign Language Education (MOE Key Research Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences at Universities), Beijing Foreign Studies University. We thank Valerie Gresser and Erin Mistry for their assistance with data analysis.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Teaching and LearningUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  2. 2.Beijing Foreign Studies UniversityBeijingChina

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