Comprehensive Academic Thesis Writing Module for English Major Undergraduates in a Public University in China


  • Gao Jing
  • Lin Siew Eng


academic thesis writing; empirical research; experiential learning; grading criteria; thematic analysis


In response to the challenges in enhancing English major undergraduates’ academic thesis writing and research capabilities, particularly in writing empirical research-based theses, this study addresses the current deficiencies in English academic thesis writing instruction. The current course in Chinese universities cannot offer sufficient information for Chinese graduates to participate in international graduate programs and publication. This study aimed to develop the English Academic Thesis Writing Module (EATWM) for English major undergraduates of a public university in China and to determine the participants’ performance after completing it. The theoretical foundation of this study was based on Dewey’s learning by doing theory and Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle. The study employed a mixed-methods design involving three stages: module development, validity and reliability assessment, and performance analysis. The prototype EATWM was designed and developed using the ADDIE model. Through the pilot study, the content validity and reliability of the EATWM were verified, and 20 participants’ theses were marked by 3 inter-raters to calculate the inter-rater reliability. In the main study, 70 participants’ academic thesis writing performance and interview responses were analyzed. The analysis of the participants’ feedback highlights benefits gained by using the module, challenges faced in academic thesis writing, solutions to address challenges using the module, and suggestions for module improvement. These results indicate that the module succeeds in facilitating students to write an English academic thesis. The EATWM benefits teachers by including sections that are not in the current syllabus and helps students better adapt to the international education system and publication context.


Abdurrahman, A., Saregar, A., & Umam, R. (2018). The effect of feedback as soft scaffolding on ongoing assessment toward the quantum physics concept mastery of the prospective physics teachers. Indonesian Journal of Science Education, 7(1), 34–40.

APA (American Psychological Association). (2020). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.). American Psychological Association.

Andika, A., Tahrun, T., & Firdaus, M. (2023). Developing English grammar instructional materials oriented to constructivism theory. Journal of Languages and Language Teaching, 11(2), 286–296.

Beres, J. L., & Woloshyn, V. E. (2017). Instructional insights gained from teaching a research methods course to Chinese international graduate students studying in Canada. Journal of International Undergraduates, 7(3), 728–743.

Cao, L. M. (2020). Ying yu zhuan ye ben ke bi ye lun wen xian cun wen ti, cheng yin yu dui ce: yi shanghai cai jing da xue zhejiang xue yuan wei li [The existing problems, causes and countermeasures of graduation theses for English majors: A case study of Zhejiang College of Shanghai University of Finance and Economics]. Journal of Guangxi College of Education, (03), 43–45.

Chandrasekhar, R. (2008). How to Write a thesis: A Working Guide. The University of Western Australia.

Creswell, J. W., & Poth, C. N. (2017). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches (4th ed.). Sage.

Creswell, J. W., & Creswell, J. D. (2017). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches (5th ed.). Sage.

Creswell, J. W., & Guetterman, T. C. (2019). Educational research: Planning, conducting and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research (6th ed.). Pearson.

Dewey, J. (1915). Schools of tomorrow. E. P. Dutton and Co.

Fitria, T. N. (2022). Analysis of EFL students’ difficulties in writing and completing English thesis. LLT Journal: A Journal on Language and Language Teaching, 25(1), 295–309.

Gustafson, K. L., & Branch, R. M. (2002). Survey of Instructional Development Models (4th ed.). Syracuse University: Eric Clearinghouse on Information and Technology.

Husin, M. S., & Nurbayani, E. (2017). The ability of Indonesian EFL learners in writing academic papers. Dinamika Ilmu, 17(2), 237–250.

Jiang, Z. Y., & Wu, Q. H. (2021). Ben ke bi ye lun wen cun yu fei yan jiu ping shu [A discussion on the continuation or abolition of the undergraduate thesis]. Modern Business Trade Industry, 42(18), 158–160.

Kebede, Y., Andargie, G., Feleku, A., & Awoke, T. (2015). Module on research methods. The University of Gondar.

Kolb, D. A., Boyatzis, R. E., & Mainemelis, C. (2014). Experiential learning theory: Previous research and new directions. In R. J. Sternberg and L. F. Zhang (Eds.), Perspectives on cognitive, learning, and thinking styles (pp. 227–248). Routledge.

Kothari, C. R. (2019). Research methodology: Methods and techniques (4th ed.). New Age International.

Kumar, R. (2019). Research methodology: A step-by-step guide for beginners (5th ed.). Sage.

Kurt, S. (2017). ADDIE model: Instructional design.

Liu, J. (2021). Ji yu duo yuan shi du li lun de ying yu xue shu lun wen xie zuo jiao xue yan jiu [Research on the teaching of English academic writing based on the multiliteracies pedagogy]. Journal of Tongling Vocational & Technical College, 20(01), 92–95.

Liu, L. (2015). A study of graduate thesis writing course for English undergraduates. Journal of Language Teaching and Research, 6(4), 836.

Marulanda Ángel, N. L., & Martínez García, J. M. (2017). Improving English language learners’ academic writing: A multi-strategy approach to a multi-dimensional challenge. Gist Education and Learning Research Journal, 14, 49–67.

Morgan, D. L. (2014). Pragmatism as a paradigm for social research. Qualitative inquiry, 20(8), 1045-1053.

Morris, T. H. (2020). Experiential learning: A systematic review and revision of Kolb’s model. Interactive Learning Environments, 28(8), 1064–1077.

Mu, S. X. (2012). An introduction to thesis writing for English majors (2nd ed.). Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press.

National Administry Committee on Teaching English Language to Majors in Higher Education under the Ministry of Education. (2000). Syllabus for English Majors. Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press.

Novitri, S. (2021). Developing narrative text-based module for teaching reading comprehension: Focus on practicality. J-SHMIC: Journal of English for Academic, 8(2), 132–139.

Oliver, P. (2014). Writing your thesis (3rd ed). Sage.

Parcon, R. E. (2016). Task-based instruction in oral English: Basis for an instructional module enhancement. International Conference on Language, Literature, Culture and Education (ICLLCE), 45.

Samuels, B., & Garbati, J. (2018). Mastering academic writing. Sage.

Sikandar, A. (2015). John Dewey and his philosophy of education. Journal of Education and Educational Development, 2(2), 191–201.

Sun, X. G., & Jin, P. (2021). Ben ke sheng xue shu lun wen xie zuo pei xun de shi jian yu fan si [Practice and reflection of undergraduate academic writing training]. Education and Teaching Forum, (33), 5–8.

Swales, J. M. & Feak, C, B. (2012). Academic Writing for Graduate Students: Essential Tasks and Skills. (3rd ed). University of Michigan Press.

University of Wollongong. (2001). Research and thesis writing.

Wang, G. F., & Ming, B. S. (2018). Ying yu zhuan ye ben ke bi ye lun wen xie zuo de xue sheng fan kui shi zheng diao cha [A survey of English major students’ feedback on graduation thesis writing]. Journal of Wuhan Business University, (05), 90–93.

Wæraas, A. (2022). Thematic analysis: Making values emerge from texts. In G. Espedal, B. Jelstad Løvaas, S. Sirris, & A. Wæraas (Eds.), Researching values (pp. 153–170). Palgrave Macmillan.

Wu, H. B., Huang, X. J., & Zhao, H. B. (2023). Ren wen she ke lei ben ke bi ye lun wen zhi gong xing wen ti ji po jie ce lue [Undergraduate thesis of humanities and social sciences: Basic requirements, common problems and cracking strategies]. Journal of YuZhang Normal University, (04), 46–50.

Wu, L. Z., Zeng, X. Y., Chen X. L., Li, L. J., & Zhang, W. J. (2022). Bi ye lun wen xie zuo yu da bian [Graduation thesis writing and defense module]. South China Normal University.

Xue, L. (2021). Preparing Chinese international undergraduates for graduate studies in a U.S. university through a pathway program: A case study [Master’s thesis]. California State Polytechnic University.

Xu, F. (2014). Fei ying yu guo jia xue zhe guo ji fa biao wen ti yan jiu shu ping [Review of studies on EAL researchers’ international publishing]. Foreign Language World, 1, 27–33.

Yang, C. (2017). Problems Chinese international undergraduates face during academic adaptation in English-speaking higher institutions [Master’s thesis]. University of Victoria.

Yusof, R., Yin, K. Y., Norwani, N. M., Ismail, Z., Ahmad, A. S., & Salleh, S. (2020). Teaching through experiential learning cycle to enhance student engagement in principles of accounting. International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research, 19(10), 323–337.

Zahrin, S. N. A., Mahmud, M. I., & Azman, N. (2022). Development of the Love for Writing and Publishing Journal (LWPJ) Module for Higher Education. International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research, 21(3), 434–447.

Zhang, H., & Chen S. S. (2018). Zhong shi yan jiu fang fa pei yang ti gao wai yu jiao shi de guo ji fa biao yi shi [Value the training of research methods and increase foreign language teachers’ awareness in international publishing]. Foreign Languages and Their Teaching, 3, 13–21.

Zhang, L. (2020). Gong gong ying yu ESP/EGP ke cheng mo kuai she ji yan jiu: yi donghua da xue EAP xue shu ying yu xie zuo ke cheng wei li [ESP/EGP course modules design: A case study of EAP-integrated writing in Donghua University]. Northeast Asia Foreign Languages Symposium (NAFLS), 9.

Zhang, Z. (2018). Academic writing difficulty of Chinese undergraduates: The cultural issue behind Chinese and British academic writing styles. Studies in Literature and Language, 17(2), 118–124.

Zhao, X. (2019). Gao xiao ying yu zhuan ye xue shu lun wen xie zuo ke cheng jiao xue gai ge tan xi [Teaching reform of academic thesis writing in English majors of higher educational institutions]. Journal of Jiamusi Vocational Institute, (05), 119–120.

Zhu, L. (2019). Zhuan ke he ben ke bi ye lun wen cun fei bian xi [Reservation and termination of graduation thesis of junior college and undergraduate]. Education Modernization, 6(95), 140–142.