Reading English Academic Texts: Evidence from ESL Undergraduates’ Eye Movement Data

Nur Ainil Sulaiman, Khazriyati Salehuddin, Rozainee Khairudin


Reading English academic texts can be a daunting task for many ESL university students. The complex features of academic texts which include academic discourse, text structure, and vocabulary may affect the reading process. An investigation of how ESL university students read English academic reading materials would provide insights on what learners do to attain comprehension of the text. This study aims to investigate the cognitive processes that take place when ESL undergraduates read English academic texts using eye movement data. Quantitative data (total fixation duration, total fixation count, fixation duration) and qualitative data (scan path) of eye movements derived from eye tracker accompanied with retrospective interview were collected from twenty ESL undergraduates from two academic programmes. The findings revealed that participants who failed to recall the texts had longer fixation duration and resulted in more in words regressions compared to participants who recalled and explained the texts accurately. Vocabulary used in academic texts was found to be one of the factors that affect the comprehension of the texts. The findings of the study suggest that specialised instructions that emphasise academic reading skills should be implemented at the early level of tertiary education.


Keywords: English academic texts; academic reading; eye movements while reading; eye tracking; cognitive processes

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