A study of cohesion in international postgraduate Business students’ multimodal written texts: an SF-MDA of a key topic in finance

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Hesham Suleiman Alyousef
Suliman Mohammed Alnasser


Empirical research studies of finance students’ language use have investigated students’ performance in finance courses and the effect of class attendance on students’ performance.Similarly, research on accounting students’ texts has been directed at readability of accounting narratives and lexical choices. Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) based research in multimodal communication and representation has been confined to school and workplace contexts. Whereas multimodal communication investigations in tertiary contexts has been conducted across the fields of mathematics, science and computing, and nursing, business courses have not been explored. The purpose of this paper is to report on a case study designed to investigate the key multimodal academic literacy and numeracy practices of ten international Master of Commerce Accounting students enrolled at an Australian university. Specifically, it aims to provide an account of the salient textual and the logical patterns through the analysis of cohesive devices in a key topic in the Principles of Finance course, namely capital budgeting techniques and management reports. This study is pertinent as most international ESL/EFL students’ enrolments in Australia and elsewhere is in business programs. This study is underpinned by Halliday’s (1985) Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) approach to language and Halliday and Hasan’s (1976) cohesion analysis scheme. The study employs a Systemic Functional Multimodal Discourse Analysis (SF-MDA) for the analysis of cohesive devices in the participants’ multimodal texts. Lexical cohesion formed the largest percentage of use, and in particular repetition of the same lexical items, followed by reference.The findings contribute to the description of the meaning-making processes in these multimodal artefacts. They provide a potential research tool for similar investigations across a broad range of educational settings. Implications of the findings for finance students and educators are finally presented.

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Author Biographies

Hesham Suleiman Alyousef, King Saud University

Hesham Suleiman Alyousef is an assistant professor in the Department of English Language and Literature at King Saud University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He published a number of papers in refereed journals and journals listed in ISI. His research focuses on systemic functional linguistics (SFL), academic literacies, metadiscourse, reading comprehension, syllabus design, multimodal discourse analysis (MDA) and the use of Web 2.0 technology in higher education. Dr Hesham has over 25 years of experience in teaching ESL/EFL.

Suliman Mohammed Alnasser, King Saud University

Suliman Mohammed Alnasser is an assistant professor in the Department of English Language and Literature, Faculty of Arts, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. His research interests include L2 writing, corrective feedback, washback effect, learning strategies and Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL).