Questioning the importance of individualized voice in undergraduate L2 argumentative writing: An empirical study with pedagogical implications
This paper contends that the L2 literature yields little empirical evidence of a relationship between the features associated with L1 voice and the quality of L2 academic writing. In fact, some of these features may be of little consequence in certain L2 writing contexts. Writing samples requiring learners to argue in favor of or against an aspect of Canada's immigration policy were elicited from 63 students in a writing-intensive first-year course. These samples were scored by (1) three raters for "voice," using a special Voice Intensity Rating Scale with four components (assertiveness; self-identification; reiteration of central point; and authorial presence and autonomy of thought), created especially for this study, as well as (2) three raters for overall writing quality, using Jacobs et al.'s (1981) ESL Composition Profile. Interrater reliability, based on the Spearman-Brown Prophesy Formula, was found to be 0.84 for the ratings of voice intensity and 0.73 for the ratings of overall quality. Most importantly, no significant correlation was found either between overall quality and overall voice intensity or between overall quality and any of the four components of voice. The results suggest that there may not be a connection between the linguistic and rhetorical devices commonly associated with individualized voice (e.g., first person singular or intensifiers) and the quality of writing, at least within some genres and at some levels of writing proficiency.