Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2014

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Teaching and Learning

First Advisor

Plakans, Lia

First Committee Member

Schrier, Leslie

Second Committee Member

Wesely, Pamela

Third Committee Member

Colvin, Carolyn

Fourth Committee Member

Otto, Sue


A critical aspect of the non-native students' academic adjustment in English-speaking countries is their English language ability, including their reading fluency and comprehension. Even when these students are considered proficient readers of English at an advanced level, they display different reading processes when dealing with the complex input of a second language (L2) text, as compared with their native English reading classmates. Despite the importance of comprehending highly sophisticated academic reading in international education, there is a lack of research in the field as to how advanced L2 readers cope with the texts with which the highly educated native speakers engage. This study, therefore, examined meaning construction processes of highly proficient L2 readers during reading the texts that vary in degree of cohesion. To describe readers' approaches to text cohesion and also recognize readers' perceptions of their own process, the study used a close observation of reading processes of nine highly proficient graduate students at a U.S. university with the use of qualitative research methods. The students participated in two interviews - pre-reading interview and post-reading cognitive interview - and two think-aloud verbal protocol sessions. Participants read one high-cohesive and one low-cohesive text during the think-aloud sessions, and then shared the meaning they constructed from the texts and also their thinking about the texts. The data from the instruments were analyzed qualitatively using a grounded theory approach. The results of the study reveal that the readers' meaning representation processes emerging as the result of reader and text interaction display differences at the local and global levels of processing of the high- and low-cohesive text. The processing differences between the readers are most apparent in texts with low text cohesion. The low cohesive text allowed the readers, especially, the creators of meaning, to conduct more elaborative processing compared to their performance with the high-cohesive one, in which all readers attempted to create a catalogue of facts trusting the explicitly provided text cohesion features. These results have implications for theories of text processing as well as the design of materials and instruction used for advanced L2 readers and lower level L2 readers.


cohesion, meaning construction, meaning representation, reading, reading texts, second language readers


xii, 199 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 195-199).


Copyright 2014 Zeynep Bilki