d how foreign language learners comprehend texts, many researchers have emphasized the need to study the differential contribution of text-based characteristics such as genre, text structure parameters, and textual markers (Geva, 1992; Camiciottoli. 2003; Carrel, 1985).
In addition, the readers’ ability to comprehend a text may vary as a function of the text type (Schneuwly, 1997; Alverman, et al., 1995). According to Neubert (1985) text types motivate particular frames and act out certain scenarios. They recast the linguistic material available in the system of a language into socially efficient, effective and appropriate moulds. He believes that texts are various instances clustering around a holistic experience that has been shared over time. This ‘prolonged interactive experience’ takes the shape of prototypical encounters and this empirical prototypicality is then translated into the concept of the prototype text. Other scholars have come up with their own text typologies. More specifically, Werlich (1976) distinguishes between five text types: description, narration, argumentation, instruction, and exposition text types.
In today’s society it is essential to be able to read fluently, particularly, expository and argumentative texts (Chambliss, 1995; Gresten, Fuchs, Williams, & Baker, 2001). Understanding the rhetorical relations of texts is to be at the heart of the comprehension process of the text and of the writers’ intention in the text (Alavi, 2001). It follows that if readers can infer textual relations in less demanding texts, they may not be as successful when they have to read and learn from texts that are more demanding, i.e. when they have to learn from expository text, or pinpoint niches from argumentative texts. This difficulty may further illustrate the challenges facing readers of English as a foreign language as the focus of literacy programs shifts from “learning to read”, a prominent target in the primary grades to “reading to learn” through English at the university (Chall, et al, 1996).
Berman and Katzenberger (2004) suggested that the well-formed expository texts are constructed beginning from high school. Expository texts are written to convey, describe, or explain non-fictional information. It is more difficult for ESL/EFL learners to understand these types of materials than narrative texts because they have specific text structures, contain technical vocabulary, and require readers to have background knowledge. Hatmin and Mason (1990) elaborated the cognitive underpinning of different text types. They argue that expository text type involves analysis and synthesis of concepts; it deals with the mental process of comprehension. Analysis (taking a concept and working out its constituent elements) or synthesis (taking the constituent elements of a complex concept and working out a shorter formulation for it) are the two basic procedures employed in expository texts.
In argumentative texts the need to persuade through evaluation is paramount with a predominance of emotive diction, metaphoric expression and subtle uses of modality (Hatim and Mason, 1990). In other words, various propositions related to the subject of enquiry are put forward and an argument for or against them is constructed (Laser and Slater, 1998). Trikonnen-Condit (1996) views the production of argumentative text as the cognitive process of problem solving. She points out that the process of written argumentation typically has the following structural units: situation, problem, solution, and evaluation. In fact, this text focuses on relations between concepts, where one opinion is upheld and its relation with opposing opinions or solution investigated. They deal with the mental process of judging.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The importance of reading strategies has been recognized by many scholars. According to Block (1986), reading strategies indicate how readers conceive a task, what textual cues they attend to, how they make sense of what they read, and what they do when they do not understand. Nunan (1999) contends that learners are not aware of strategies underlying the learning task in which they are involved. Learners employ a variety of reading strategies to help them when they have to read in that language. They apply some strategies which, it seems, they themselves have discovered, since, they are not taught these strategies explicitly in high schools. Furthermore, Carter and Nunan ( 2001) claimed that many language teachers fall ill-equipped to conduct strategy instruction because they have never had the chance to see or participate in such instructions themselves. So teachers are responsible to instruct students how to use strategies in order to comprehend a text. Oxford (1990) claims that reading strategies are teachable. Various language-learning investigations round the world indicate that strategy instruction leads to greater use, self efficacy, anxiety reduction, increased motivation, higher language proficiency, and positive attitude.
In addition to the problem of not knowing how to use strategies and how to comprehend a text, Swales (1990) emphasizes the merits of genre awareness and learners’ unfamiliarity with different types of genres that can lead to problems in their reading comprehension. Hoyt (1999) affirms that expository text presents the greatest hardship for students. Also Cook (1983) talks about the difficulty of expository text. Cook argues that because expository texts present facts, theories, dates and information which are largely unfamiliar to the readers, they seem harder than narrative texts and moreover this unfamiliarity impedes their comprehension. Obviously the necessity of being familiar with expository texts will be increased when we come to know that most of academic texts are expository.
On the other hand, despite the importance of comprehending argumentative text, the research indicates that extended arguments in persuasive essays are not easily comprehended by students (Chambliss, 1995). The researchers have shown several reasons that explain this difficulty in comprehending argumentative text (Chambliss, 1995; Sanez & Fuchs, 2001). One of the reasons for poor understanding of argumentative text is that students are not often exposed to reading materials that include extensive arguments (Chambliss, 1995). A second reason is that argumentative text is inherently difficult because unlike narrative text, argumentative text is often embedded in other genres (i.e., informational or narrative text), thus, it is difficult for the learners to navigate through the text to figure out the author’s argument. A third reason is that a reader often has to simultaneously juggle many skills to fully comprehend an author’s argument.
Finally, Jean Ciborowski (1992) argues that challenge in reading comprehension stems from a lack of expository and argumentative texts in the classroom. When students are not prepared to read and comprehend nonfiction from an early age, there can be devastating long-term consequences.
However, there are encouraging signs that people in their daily lives encounter a variety of writing texts. When they pick up and read a non-fiction book or newspaper article the author uses expository writing to inform the reader about the topic. Expository texts include biographies, essays, how-to books, encyclopedias, reference books, experimental books, scientific reports, newspaper articles, and so on (Reutzel & Cooter, 2007). In fact, this kind of text surrounds us in our everyday lives. In addition to the importance of expository text, the findings of a study conducted by Nemati (2003) have revealed that argumentative reading is the most demanding mode of reading for Iranian EFL learners. Also accrued research indicates that critical reading of argumentative text is important not only for succeeding on high-school and college assignments but also for making real-life decisions (Knudson, 1992; Larson, Britt, & Larson, 2004). Further, McCann (1989) stated, “Argument is an essential instrument for a free society that deliberates about social, political and ethical issues” (as cited in Knudson, 1992; p. 170). Though challenging in nature, argumentative reading holds a favorable position in educational and job related tasks.
Therefore, Students need to be prepared for learning different text types and consistently be exposed to them in order to gain familiarity and confidence in constructing meaning. The task for modern teachers is to present a balanced literacy program which incorporates carefully-selected argumentative and expository texts that cover a wide range of topics and genres. Also strategy teaching has been emphasized by researchers such as Harvey and Goudvis (2000) believing that teachers must teach learners the strategies they need to understand text better and to become more competent readers.
In accordance with the aforementioned issues, the purpose of the present study was to determine whether there is any relationship between the use of reading strategies and comprehension of expository and argumentative genres.
1.3 Statement of the Research Questions
To fulfill the main purpose of the study, the following research questions were posed:
Q1: Is there any significant relationship between EFL learners’ use of reading strategies and expository text comprehension across different proficiency levels?
Q2: Is there any significant relationship between beginner EFL learners’ use of reading strategies and expository text comprehension?
Q3: Is there any significant relationship between intermediate EFL learners’ use of reading strategies and expository text comprehension?
Q4: Is there any significant relationship between advanced EFL learners’ use of reading strategies and expository text comprehension?
Q5: Is there any significant relationship between EFL