Hodgson, John and Harris, Ann (2013) ‘It is hard to know what you are being asked to do.’Deciphering codes, constructing schemas. English in Education, 47 (1). pp. 6-17. ISSN 0425-0494

This article explores the challenges university students face in academic writing and proposes that these can be better understood by analysis of essays by joint honours students. Such analysis can demonstrate these students' strategies for dealing with differing disciplinary and tutorial requirements. Combining this analysis with spoken data derived from interviews with the same students can enrich this understanding. Of especial relevance is what such data reveal of students' mental representations of the epistemology of each of their joint subjects and of the requirements of specific assignments. By close analysis of the essays and spoken commentary of three students, the article argues that success in writing academic essays depends on students' having developed adequate epistemological schemas.

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