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Let's Learn Turkish
Let's Learn Turkish - Haydi Türkçe Öğrenelim


Merter –İstanbul
This study analyses the causes and the fundamental problems students in Turkey face when producing
scientific research papers focusing on measurement and assessment methods, curriculum design, English
language and academic writing skills of students. The study is based on a questionnaire consisting of 12
questions prepared in 2012. It was designed to measure the general research skills of 100 undergraduate
students from different programs at one of the universities in Turkey. Results showed that academic essay
writing is as difficult to university students as it is to academics. The researcher believes that this study can
emphasize why academic writing is an issue for scholars and university students in Turkey.
Key Words: Research methods, curriculum design, measurement and assessment methods.
“Most of today’s scientists did not have a chance to take a formal course in scientific writing. As graduate
students, they learned to imitate the style and approach of their professors and previous authors. Some
scientists became good writers anyway. Many, however, learned only to imitate the writing of the authors
before them – with all its defects – thus establishing a system of error in perpetuity.” ( Robert A. Day & Barbara
Gastel, 2011, preface section xvi)
Writing a scientific research paper requires students to conduct a critical and thoughtful investigation on their
specific topic. Students need to get involved in reading, thinking and presenting their own views as well as
research findings (Öz, March 2000, p.1). So, the assessment will concentrate on one significant question: Why
scientific research papers cannot be produced by the Turkish higher education system? Under the light of this
study, the factors we concentrate on can be divided into four sub-topics. These are basically measurement and
assessment methods, curriculum design, English language proficiency of students and how familiar students
are to academic essay writing.
This student based study was conducted at one of the universities in Turkey in fall semester of the 2012–2013
academic year. The questionnaire asked participants to evaluate their knowledge on scientific research
methods. The population included 50 undergraduate students from the Faculty of Social Sciences and the other
50 students from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Participants were first, second and fourth year students. The
researcher administrated the questionnaires during a regular lesson. They were instructed not to write their
names on the surveys.
International Journal on New Trends in Education and Their Implications
April 2013 Volume: 4 Issue: 2 Article: 14 ISSN 1309-6249
Copyright © International Journal on New Trends in Education and Their Implications /
The questionnaire was designed to explore how familiar the students are to research based assignments. The
researcher wanted to analyse what actually causes the high failure rate amongst the students. Findings showed
that there are particularly four significant points which cause the high failure: measurement and assessment
methods, curriculum design, English language and academic essay writing skills of the students. The
participants were asked to respond 12 questions specifically on these points.
Measurement and Assessment Methods in Secondary and Higher Education
Turkish universities - which have shown great improvement have been succeeding to get better recognition
among other institutions. On the other hand, due to a great influence of globalisation on Turkish education,
new strategies should be taken into consideration. According to Küçük & Çepni (December, 2004), teachers are
expected to use assessment to determine which student reaches skills and knowledge level as well as why
students fail. Short answer and multiple choice tests are still the common methods employed by teachers.
However, modern teaching and assessment methods are the most desirable ones among universities and the
National Ministry of Education (p:13). Both authors think that even student centered teaching method is not a
tangible indicator to determine their success rate because students are taking an active role only while writing
an essay or during their oral examinations (p:13). Most significant measure, both authors believe, should
indicate how students join others in research, share ideas and take care in classroom activities (p:13, 14).
Results in table 1 support Küçük & Çepni’s thoughts. It showed that 98 percent of our participants prefer short
answer or multiple choice tests rather than long answer ones. Only 2 percent of these students prefer long
answer tests. Interestingly, nobody prefers project or essay type assignments. It is probably the most common
case at universities in Turkey.
Table 1:
What type of questions would you prefer in your examinations? Total number of Participants:
Multiple choice questions 56
Short answer questions 42
Long answer questions 2
Projects 0
Furthermore, another author Tokay Gedikoğlu (June 2005) points out that memorising lecture notes is
common among students. Gedikoglu believes that this study method is not very beneficial for students because
they may forget what they have memorised in short run. Hence, the author thinks that the educational system
should teach students less but useful knowledge rather than more but unnecessary points. The aim should be
teaching how to find source and use it in regards to their needs (p:75). Whereas, 74 percent of our participants
only use their main texts rather than scientific journals and other publications in their assignments. Internet
sources are not common preference amongst the students so only 20 percent of these respondents use
Internet sources. Interestingly, nobody uses scientific journals. The full list of results can be seen in table 2:
International Journal on New Trends in Education and Their Implications
April 2013 Volume: 4 Issue: 2 Article: 14 ISSN 1309-6249
Copyright © International Journal on New Trends in Education and Their Implications /
Table 2:
What sources do you usually use for your assignments? Total number of participants:
Main text 74
Internet sources 20
Encyclopedia 6
Scientific journals 0
This study also showed that, 42 percent of the students agree that the limited length of time spent on midterm
and final examinations is the main problem and 40 percent think there are many lecture notes to study
before the examinations. 13 percent of these believe there is not enough source to use before their
Table 3:
What is the most significant problem do you usually have during the examination period? Total:
Limited time 42
Overload study notes 40
Not enough sources 13
No problem before examinations 5
Parallel to Gedikoglu’s point of view, the number of students who study their lecture notes or summaries is
high by 40 percent. On the contrary, 22 percent of our respondents study certain points highlighted by
lecturers. Only 6 percent choose their main texts instead of lecture notes or other publications. The interesting
point is that there are some students attempting to memorise their notes and their rate is 32 percent. The
results are in table 4 below:
Table 4:
What technique(s) do you apply while studying for mid-term and final examinations? Total:
Studying lecture notes or summaries 40
Memorising lecture notes 32
Studying only certain points 22
Studying the main text 6
Curriculum Design at Tertiary Level
Since 1998, the Council of Higher Education in Turkey has been designing standardised curriculum for all
faculties of education in the country (Guven, 2008, p.11). The same condition applies for universities in the
Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus as well. Influence of the Council on universities to design their full
curriculum according to their needs is vast. Based on the official website of the European University of Lefke,
there is only one course called ‘Scientific Research Methods’ offered by the English Language Teaching
Department in their second year curriculum as shown in table 5.
International Journal on New Trends in Education and Their Implications
April 2013 Volume: 4 Issue: 2 Article: 14 ISSN 1309-6249
Copyright © International Journal on New Trends in Education and Their Implications /
Table 5: ELT Curriculum (Second year, second semester, 2012)
ELT272 English Literature II (3,0)3
ELT274 Linguistics II (3,0)3
ELT276 Approaches to ELT II (3,0)3
ELT278 Language Acquisition (3,0)3
GCU272 Scientific Research Methods (2,0)2
EDU272 Methodology I (2,2)3
EDU274 Teaching Technology and Materials Design (2,2)3
According to this study, students are also not encouraged to make frequent use of library and to give true
commitment regarding their assignments. The rate for those who donot frequently use the library during their
studies is 68 percent. On the other hand, the participants who frequently use the library are 32 percent of the
total number. The results are in the 6th table below:
Table 6:
Can you frequently use your library? Total number of participants: 100
Yes 32
No 52
Sometimes 16
Furthermore, the rate for those who often use library materials more than five times a week is only 5 percent.
Nearly half of the participants by 48 percent (see table 7) uses various sources in the library less than three
times a week. 43 percent of them even do not use any material in the library.
Table 7:
How often do you use library materials a week? Total number of participants:
None 43
0-3 times 48
3-5 times 4
More than 5 times 5
Additionally, they are incapable of using library catalogue and indexes by 90 percent.
Table 8:
Can you use the library catalogue and indexes in an effective way? Total number of participants: 100
No 90
Yes 10
English Language Skills of University Students
English is one of the global languages many journals are written and published. In their journal article titled
Turkey’s English Deficit, Koru and Akesson (December, 2011) provide a detailed discussion on why, what and
how Turkey’s poor English proficiency level is part of a broader education problem. One of the factors both
International Journal on New Trends in Education and Their Implications
April 2013 Volume: 4 Issue: 2 Article: 14 ISSN 1309-6249
Copyright © International Journal on New Trends in Education and Their Implications /
research associates argue is that English language instructions in top and mid-ranking countries commence in
the first grade. In contrast, students receive language instructions in the fourth grade in Turkey (p:3). Another
point of the discussion in Koru and Akesson’s paper is the language instructions in the fifth and sixth grade.
Those instructions were fully postponed to be held between the eighth and ninth grade in the 1990s. In the
year 2005, those classes were withdrawn. Preparatory year is only offered for those who want to attend
university programs but students, then, turn to the age 18 (p:3). Both associates, therefore, believe that it is
not possible to get English language skills in our education system. The majority of the population cannot
afford to attend private schools or tutorial classes (p:3). As can be seen in table 9, our research findings support
Koru & Akesson’s arguement. 97 percent of the participants are below the proficiency level. 15 percent of them
have even no English. Only 3 percent of these think they are advanced level students. This indication gives us a
clue on why university students are not willing to contribute in scientific projects.
Table 9:
What is your English language proficiency level? Total number of participants: 100
None 15
Beginner 40
Intermediate 42
Advance 3
In addition, majority of this group by 85 percent cannot use print or visual materials published in English.
Students who always use materials in English covers 1 percent of the total amount as indicated in table 10.
Table 10:
Can you use materials published in English for your assignments? Total number of participants: 100
No 85
Sometimes 14
Yes 1
Academic Essay Writing
Academic essay writing requires well organised research as mentioned earlier in this paper. The rationale for
studying on academic essay writing is best given by Vogan & Plotnick. Both authors’ analysis is very crucial
bringing an interesting approach why students especially struggle during their undergraduate study. What
Vogan & Plotnick consider is that students should forget some basic rules they have learnt in high school
because these rules will limit their freedom. As a result of following these rules, both authors emphasize,
students may lead to repeat awkward expressions (p:1). The authors, therefore, underline the differences
between those institutions from philosophical aspect.
One of the differences unveiled by Vogan & Plotnick is the ready-made structure to work with in high school. In
contrast, university education provides freedom to come up with own way of structuring arguments so the
critical thinking (p:2). Their arguments are convincing because according to Varaki (2006), critical thinking is
basically the process of examining, analyzing, questioning and evaluating information from all kinds of survey
results , theories or scientific research reports on a specific topic (p:178). Hence, it is quite an essential issue to
find some of the reasons why students are not very productive in essay writing without knowing basic
principles of scientific research in Turkey. Even though most students know about classical essay types, our
astonishing results demonstrate that all students who responded to our questionnaires do not know how to
apply scientific research methods in their assignments and oral presentations. Within this frame, our findings
showed that all our participants are not capable in the use of research methods and they do not know the
International Journal on New Trends in Education and Their Implications
April 2013 Volume: 4 Issue: 2 Article: 14 ISSN 1309-6249
Copyright © International Journal on New Trends in Education and Their Implications /
significant importance of some terms such as ‘plagiarism’, ‘quotation’ and ‘paraphrasing’. It has become clear
that none of our respondents has produced a research paper through the implementation of basic research
principles before. Results are shown in table 11 and 12:
Table 11:
Have you ever taken a course on scientific research methods? Total number of participants: 100
Yes 0
No 100
Table 12:
Have you ever written a research paper before? Total number of participants: 100
Never 100
Once 0
Few times 0
In their first year, students should be informed about the importance and benefits of research techniques
during their studies.
Practice seems an important factor to develop their skills. Students should be encouraged to write research
based essays rather than using classical examination styles to measure their success rate.
Curriculums should be designed according to current needs at universities.
Special seminars can be organised for students from other faculties to improve or update their skills in research
techniques as well.
Actual research papers might be used as sample writing by academics so students can be more familiar to
journal articles.
This research clearly illustrates that scientific research techniques in further education need to be of greatest
concern for teachers and academics. Despite the traditional form of measurement and assessment methods
used in teaching and learning, a valid formula on a large extent would be a key for those who have similar
responses. Although it takes a considerable period of time to develop new strategies in the Turkish higher
education system and designing process of new curriculum depends on the Council of Higher Education in
Turkey since 1998, this student based research clearly exposes the importance of more research based
assignments use by academics in order for students to practice more at university. It may increase their
productivity and work practices. Gaining research skills will assist them to increase their critical thinking in their
related field as well.
International Journal on New Trends in Education and Their Implications
April 2013 Volume: 4 Issue: 2 Article: 14 ISSN 1309-6249
Copyright © International Journal on New Trends in Education and Their Implications /
Onur ŞARAPLI began hic academic career as lecturer at the European University of Lefke in
the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in 2008. He taught various courses in the field of
English Language Teaching. He holds a BA in Media & Cultural Studies and an MA in Media
Practice. He also holds a Postgraduate Certificate in TESOL. He is commencing his PhD in
European studies. His specific areas of interest are based on media, culture and TESOL.
Kınalıtepe Sokak,
Barbaros Apartmanı 60/5
Merter, İstanbul- TURKEY
Day, Robert A.& Gastel, B (2011), How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper, seventh edition, Greenwood
Press, preface section xvi.
Elt Curriculum, from the official website of the European University of Lefke:,
accessed on 02.06.2012.
Gedikoğlu, T. (June, 2005), Avrupa Birliği Sürecinde Türk Eğitim Sistemi: Sorunlar ve Çözüm Önerileri, Mersin
University, Journal of the Faculty of Education, Volume 1, Issue 1, p:75. Available on the website:
0080_gedikoglu.pdf, accessed on 18.11.2012.
Guven, I. (2008), Teacher Education Reform and International Globalization Hegemony: Issues and Challenges
in Turkish Teacher Education, International Journal of Social Sciences, 3(1), p:11. Available on the website:, accessed on 01.06.2010.
Koru, S. & Akesson, J. (December, 2011), Turkey’s English Deficit, Economic Policy Research Foundation of
Turkey (TEPAV), p:3. Available on:,
accessed on 13.11.2012
Küçük, M. & Çepni, S. (December, 2004), Measurement and Assessment for Science Education in the Turkish
Educational context: Problems and Reflections, Asia-Pacific Forum on Science Learning and Teaching, Vol. 5
(3)1, p:13, 14. Available on the website:,
accessed on 18.11.2012.
Öz, H. (March, 2000), Research Techniques in ELT, writing a research paper, step by step, Hacettepe University,
Ankara, p:1
International Journal on New Trends in Education and Their Implications
April 2013 Volume: 4 Issue: 2 Article: 14 ISSN 1309-6249
Copyright © International Journal on New Trends in Education and Their Implications /
Varaki, B. S. (2006), A Reflection on Three Web-Based Teaching Critical Thinking: Toward a Compromise
Approach, Ankara University, Journal of Faculty of Educational Sciences, Vol. 39(2), p:178. Available on the
website:, accessed on 24.12.2012 .
Vogan, R & Plotnick, J., The Transition from High School to University Writing, University College Writing
Center, University of Toronto., p:1, 2. Retrieved from:, accessed on 20.11.2012.


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