Emotions across the essay: What second-language writers feel across four weeks' writing a research essay


  • Christina A. DeCoursey Innopolis University, Innopolis, Russian Federation https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7930-8352
  • Aliaa N. Hamad American University in Cairo, Cairo, Egypt




academic achievement, academic emotions, second-language writing, essay-writing, Appraisal analysis, subjective attitudes


Pekrun's (2000, 2006) questionnaire-based model of academic emotions is widely used. However, Appraisal analysis of qualitative data offers richer detail. This study used Appraisal analysis to assess the subjective attitudes realised by students across four weeks during which they wrote an essay. Results indicate that judgments and appreciations were nearly as frequently-realised as emotions, and the distribution and attitudinal profile differed in all 4 weeks of the task. Positive and negative realisations of capacity, quality, impact and complexity resembled a typical U-shaped learning curve. Polarity suggested that week 3 was the most difficult for participants, and negative emotional dispositions increased across the task where negative surges peaked in weeks 2 and 3. This study highlights the value of Appraisal analysis in detailing the subjective attitudes evoked by academic emotions. It suggests that emotion-focused questionnaires exclude relevant content, concluding for a small set of emotions before sufficient study has been undertaken.

Author Biographies

Christina A. DeCoursey, Innopolis University, Innopolis, Russian Federation

Dr. Christina A. DeCoursey did her Ph.D. at the University of Toronto, Canada. She was founder and Programme Leader of the MA in Language Arts at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong, from 2007 to 2014. She was Chair of the Department of English and Translation, at the American University of Science and Technology, in Beirut, Lebanon. Her research interests include Appraisal analysis, content analysis, systemic functional linguistics and healthcare communication.

Aliaa N. Hamad, American University in Cairo, Cairo, Egypt

Aliaa N. Hamad, PhD got her MA-TEFL at The American University in Cairo (AUC), where she currently teaches. She received her PhD in Linguistics at Cairo University (2015). Her doctoral dissertation focused on attitudes in language proficiency, as well as the impact of study habits on plagiarism among Egyptian graduate students. She is a Cambridge-certified Oral Examiner, and obtained a Career Certificate in Legal Translation from AUC.


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How to Cite

DeCoursey, C. A., & Hamad, A. N. (2019). Emotions across the essay: What second-language writers feel across four weeks’ writing a research essay. English Studies at NBU, 5(1), 114–134. https://doi.org/10.33919/esnbu.19.1.6