The relationship between writing strategies and personality types of graduate Iranian EFL learners


1 Shahid Beheshti University & University of Tehran

2 Kharazmi University, Iran


In recent years, language learning research has been paying more attention to the factors that
may  affect  the  choice  by  language  learners  of  language  learning  strategies  in  general  and
writing strategies in particular to enhance their own learning. Given the socio-cognitive nature
of  the  act  of  writing,  as  Roca  de  Larios  et  al.  (2002)  note,  both  writer-internal  and  -external
factors have been reported to influence the deployment of writing strategies. Personality type,
as one of the influential internal factors among others, is the focus of the present study, which
intended to investigate English language learners’ writing strategies with reference to their
personality types at different universities in Iran. To this end, a writing strategy questionnaire
was  employed  to  tap  into  the  memory,  cognitive,  compensation,  metacognitive,  social,  and
affective  strategies  of  210  participants.  The  Myers-Briggs  Type  Indicator  questionnaire  was
utilized to identify the self-reported personality types of Iranian EFL learners. The analysis of
the participants’ perceptions demonstrated a significant relationship between writing strategies
and  personality  types.  Furthermore,  it  was  found  that  metacognitive  and  cognitive  strategies
were the most frequently used strategies and memory strategies the least frequently used ones
as reported by the participants.


Main Subjects

Over  the  last  few  decades,  an  extensive
body  of  research  has  been  accumulated  in
the  field  of  second  language  writing,
revealing  that  research  in  this  field  is  a
rapidly  growing  area  in  second  language
acquisition  (e.g.  Kroll,  1990;  Leki,  1995;
Petric  &  Czarl,  2003;  Wong,  2005).
According  to  Silva  and  Brice  (2004),  the
reason  that  research  on  second  language
writing  has  become  an  important  if  not
overriding  focus  of  work  in  second
language  studies  partly  comes  from
globalization and the need to use computer
literacy in order to communicate in writing
with  others.  Further,  the  shift  in  emphasis
from  the  product  of  writing  to  the
recursive  and  non-linear  process  and  the
social  context  of  writing  has  had  a
profound  effect  on  the  perception  of  how
writing  develops.  All  these  factors  have
contributed to “the legitimacy of this area
of  inquiry”  as  an  independent  one  in
second  language  acquisition  research
(Silva & Brice, 2004, p.70).
Researchers  have  come  to  accept  the
inevitability  of  writing  strategies  as  being
prominent  in  second  language  acquisition
research (e.g., Dehghan & Razmjoo, 2012;
Abdollahzadeh,  2010;  Mu  &  Carrington,
2007;  Petric  &  Czarl,  2003).  The  research
suggests that learners must be made aware
of  and  equipped  with  appropriate  second
language  writing  strategies.  Awareness
raising  might  in  fact  focus  on  specific
strategies  such  as  macro-strategies  of
planning,  drafting  and  revising,  micro-strategies  of  consulting  with  teachers  and
classmates,  re-reading  and  writing  out  the
writing  prompts,  and  self-regulation
strategies  of  goal  setting,  self-monitoring
and  self-evaluation  (see  Leki,  1995;
Wong,  2005).  Therefore,  examining  the
kinds of strategies second language writers
deploy can offer insights into what writers
think  they  are  doing  or  should  be  doing
and  thus  increase  their  understanding  of
the specifics of the writing process  (Silva,
1990). By the same token, as Grabe (2001)
suggests, such inquiries can help develop a
“predictive  model”  of  the  construct  of
writing  which  can  be  useful  for
instructional,  research,  and  educational
practices,  and  for  curricular  planning  and
assessment.  Equipped  with  the  right
writing  strategies,  second  language
learners  can  better  understand,  assess,  and
consequently  improve  their  learning  and
writing,  and  thus  become  more
autonomous  second  language  learners
(Bloom, 2008).     
One  variable  that  may  play  a  role  in
learners’  preference  for  one  writing
strategy  over  another  is  personality  type.
The rationale for the present inquiry is that
strategy  instruction  should  be  geared  to
learners’  individual  and  situational  or
group  needs  (Takeuchi,  Griffiths,  &  Coyl,
2007).  Moreover,  as  Chastain  (1988)
noted, writing lends itself most naturally to
individual  practice.  That  is,  no  two
learners  are  the  same  and  their  different
learning  backgrounds  and  personalities
will  influence  how  they  approach  writing
tasks  in  a  second  language.  The  great
difficulties  that  second  language  writers
experience  in  expressing  themselves  in
English  (see  Hyland,  2003)  might
originate  from  individual  differences  as
the  point  of  convergence  of  different
linguistic,  social,  and  psychological
factors.  Therefore,  it  can  be  assumed  that
the  individual  learner’s  approach  to
writing  is  to  some  extent  shaped  by
individual  differences.  As  Ehrman  and
Oxford  (1995,  p.324)  suggest,  research
aiming  at  probing  psychological  factors  is
promising  in  that  it  offers “an  accessible
conceptual  framework”  for  language
trainers  to  enhance  learners’  self-regulation.
With  the  above-mentioned  concerns,  a
number of researchers (e.g. Callahan 2000;
Dörnyei,  2005;  Cohen  &  Macaro,  2007;
Marefat,  2006)  propose  that  learners’
goals,  attitudes,  personality  types,  and
abilities,  which  are  likely  to  be  crucial
factors  in  their  successful  acquisition  of
writing  skills,  should  be  considered  in
second  language  research.  The  present
study  was  an  attempt  in  this  direction  to
examine  the  relationship  between  writing
strategies  and  personality  types  of  Iranian
EFL  learners.  A  brief  review  of  the
relevant studies done in these two areas is
presented below.  
Second language strategy research
Oxford  (1990)  classified  learning
strategies  to  direct  and  indirect  ones.
Direct  strategies,  including  memory,
cognitive, and compensation strategies, are
“those  behaviors  which  directly  involve
the  target  language  and  directly  enhance
language  learning”  (p.10).  Memory
strategies  are  concerned  with  storing  new
information  in  memory  for  later  retrieval
and  use.  Cognitive  strategies  deal  with
“the  actual  mental  processes  involved  in
developing  a  text  while  writing”
(Abdollahzadeh,  2010,  p.66).  These  may
include  relating  old  information  to  new
information,  making  connections  and
inferences,  and  applying  background
knowledge.  Compensation  strategies
compensate for deficiencies in the writer’s
limited  knowledge  base.  Indirect
strategies,  including  metacognitive,
affective, and social strategies, are “those
behaviors  which  do  not  directly  involve
the  target  language  but  are  nevertheless
essential  for  effective  language  learning”
(Oxford,  1990,  p.450).  Metacognitive
strategies  are  the  executive  strategies
which  learners  utilize  to  monitor,  plan,
hypothesize,  and  evaluate  their
performance  on  learning  tasks,  as  in
planning  before  writing.  Social  strategies
involve  seeking  help  from  teachers,  peers,
and  others.  Affective  strategies  are
techniques  helping  learners  to  better
handle  their  emotions,  attitude,  and
motivation  in  their  writing  tasks.  Ellis
(1994) asserts that Oxford’s taxonomy of
language  learning  strategies  is  a  thorough
and  efficient  categorization  and  can  be
adopted and used in particular task setting.
The  implication  is  that  the  taxonomy  of
learning  strategies  can  be  applied  to
writing tasks.
There  is  an  ample  body  of  research  on
both general and specific writing strategies
that second language learners utilize when
producing  a  text  in  the  target  language.
These  studies  on  writing  strategies  have
referred to:  
  general  macro  writing  processes  L2
writers deploy in writing tasks  such as
planning, writing, and revising (Hatasa
& Soeda, 2000; Sasaki, 2000, 2002);
  the  different  writing  behaviors  of  first
and  second  language  writers  (Lally,
2000a; Raimes, 1991);  
   the use of very specific strategies like
patch  writing,  avoidance,
backtracking,  evaluation,  rehearsing,
reformulation,  rhetorical  refining
(Manchón,  Roca  de  Larios  &  Murphy
2007, p.231);
  the  use  of  the  first  language  in  second
language  writing  (Cohn  &  Brooks-Carson, 2001; Wang & Wen, 2002);
  the  impact  of  specific  strategies  or
categories  of  strategies  on  either
second  language  writing  achievement
(Olivares-Cuhat,  2002)  or  proficiency
(Aziz,1995); and
  how  writers  perceive  and  think  about
writing  tasks  (Cumming,1989;  Petric
& Czarl, 2003).
In  her  study  of  writing  strategy  use  and
achievement, Oliveras-Cuhat (2002) found
that  her  students  most  frequently  utilized
cognitive  strategies.  Aziz  (1995)
emphasized  the  importance  of  cognitive
strategies  in  her  study  of  writing
proficiency.  The  results  of  the  study,
however,  indicated  that  those  second
language students who used both cognitive
and  metacognitive  strategies  in  their
English  writing  were  able  to  outperform
those  who  used  cognitive  strategies  alone.
Baker and Boonkit (2004) investigated the
reading  and  writing  strategies  of
successful and unsuccessful students in an
English  for  Academic  Purposes  (EAP)
context  in  Thailand  using  Oxford’s
classification  of  strategies.  The  results  of
the  study  showed  that  metacognitive,
cognitive,  and  compensation  strategies
were  the  most  frequently  used  ones.
Likewise,  Mu  and  Carrington  (2007)
reported  that,  overall,  post-graduate
Chinese students used rhetorical strategies,
metacognitive  strategies,  cognitive
strategies, and social/affective strategies in
their  writing  practice.  Overall,  these
studies  show  the  tendency  of  second
language  learners  toward  the  use  of
cognitive  and  metacognitive  strategies  in
their English writing.
Research  into  the  use  of  strategies  by
Iranian  learners  in  their  English  language
writing  is  limited.  There  appear  to  be  few
studies  on  writing  strategies  featuring
Iranian  participants.  In  one  study,
Yaghoubi  (2003)  examined  the  writing
strategy  use  among  “high  anxiety”  and
“low anxiety” Iranian undergraduate EFL
writers and found that the former group of
writers  made  less  use  of  cognitive,
metacognitive,  social,  affective,
compensation,  and  memory  strategies
compared  with  the  latter  group.  Both
groups  used  metacognitive  strategies  most
often and affective strategies least often. In
another  study,  Abdollahzadeh  (2010)
examined  English  language  learners’
writing  strategies  with  reference  to  their
gender  and  years  of  study.  In  this  study,
Abdollahzadeh  found  that  metacognitive
and  cognitive  strategies  were  the  most
frequently used strategies by all writers. It
was  further  found  out  that  both  the  low-level  and  high-level  (defined  by  year  of
study)  male  and  female  learner–writers
used writing strategies with approximately
the  same  frequency.  These  two  studies
show that the most frequently used writing
strategy  is  the  metacognitive  one  among
undergraduate  Iranian  learners  of  English.
Fahandezh  Sadi  and  Othman  (2012)
investigated  Iranian  undergraduate
learners’ writing strategies with reference
to  their  different  writing  abilities.  The
findings  revealed  that  the  two  groups  of
writers  were  different  in  their  planning,
drafting,  and  reviewing  behaviors.
Specifically,  good  and  poor  writers
differed  in  employing  certain  strategies
like  rereading,  repetition,  use  of  the
mother  tongue,  and  rehearsing.  Such
findings  are  important  because  they
suggest  that  there  might  be  some
consistent  patterns  of  strategy  differences
in  the  ways  good  writers  compose  their
texts,  compared  with  poor  writers.  It  is
noteworthy,  however,  that  one  might  not
generalize  the  Fahandezh  Sadi  and
Othman  findings  because  of  the  small
number of the participants.
The  other  strand  of  research  on  Iranian
EFL  learners’  writing  from  the  socio-cognitive  perspective  looked  into  post  –
graduate  students’  composing  strategies.
In  his  longitudinal  study,  Riazi  (1997)
reported  three  sets  of  composing
strategies,  namely  cognitive,
metacognitive  and  social  strategies,
employed  by  postgraduate  students.
Likewise,  Dehghan  and  Razmjoo  (2012)
concluded  that  rhetorical,  socio-affective
and  cognitive  strategies  are  used  more
widely  and  metacognitive  and  social
strategies  less  often  by  postgraduate
students in a foreign language context.
Personality  type  in  research  on  writing
At  early  stages,  the  field  of  composition
looked  first  at  the  what  of  writing,  the
product.  It  then  added  the  how  of  writing,
the processes. It then shifted its outlook to
the “why” of writing with  a  focus  on  the
affective  and  cognitive  styles  of  the
learners (Brand, 1987; Silva, 1990; Sasaki,
2000).  This  line  of  inquiry  can  be  of  help
to  teachers  and  researchers  in
understanding  why  second  language
writers  are  successful  in  some  language
activities  but  not  in  others,  why  they
demonstrate  certain  writing  behaviors  but
not  others,  and  why  they  are  fluent  in
producing  certain  written  content  but  not
in  producing  others  (Jensen  &  Ditiberio,
One  variable  that  may  play  a  role  in  and
affect  the  writing  process  is  personality
type  (Callahan,  2000;  Jensen  &
DiTeiberio,  1987;  Marefat,  2007).  This
psychological notion was first put forward
by  Carl  Jung  (Jung,  1971),  whose  ideas
were  later  developed  by  Katherine  Briggs
and her daughter, Isabel Myers, into a self-
report  instrument  called  the  Myers-Briggs
Type  Indicator  (MBTI)  (Myers,  1987).
The  MBTI  measures  personality  along
four  bipolar  dimensions:  Introvert  (I)  –
Extravert  (E),  Sensing  (S)  –  Intuition  (I),
Thinking  (T)  –  Feeling  (F),  and  Judging
(J) –Perceiving (P).
Kroeger  and  Thueson  (1988),  discussing
the  characteristics  of  the  four  type
dimensions,  mention  that  the  Introvert–
Extravert dimension involves the source of
people’s energy. If individuals derive their
energy  from  their  inner  world  of  thoughts
and  ideas,  they  are  considered  as
Introverts;  Extraverts,  on  the  other  hand,
derive their energy from the outer world of
people  and  actions.  The  Sensing–Intuition
dimension  deals  with  the  ways  of
perceiving  or  taking  in  information.  The
Sensing  type  of  individual  makes  direct
use of seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, or
touching to record carefully the particulars
of  one’s  environment  while  the  Intuitive
type  of  individual  gathers  information
heuristically  which  means  they  gather
information  in  a  more  random  manner
rather  than  a  sequential  fact-oriented
fashion.  The  Thinking–Feeling  dimension
is  responsible  for  the  decision-making
function.  The  Thinking  type  makes
decisions based on objective, analytic, and
detached  criteria  while  the  Feeling  type
bases  decisions  on  interpersonal  factors.
Finally, the Judging–Perceiving dimension
refers  to  the  desire  for  structure  and
closure.  The  Judging  type  of  individual
prefers to have things planned and decided
while  the  Perceiving  type  of  individual
likes  to  keep  things  flexible  and  open-ended.
Very  few  researchers  have  examined
learners’  composing  strategies  and  their
MBTI index. In a seminal article, Callahan
(2000)  depicts  the  relationship  between
reflective  writing  and  personality  types
derived  from  the  MBTI.  Extraverts,  who
respond  to  reflecting  about  the  outer
world,  are  better  talkers  than  writers.
Therefore,  they  do  not  go  for  keeping
journals  and  preparing  portfolios  in  which
metacognitive  processes  are  involved.
Also,  the  extraverted  students  are  field
dependent  and  wish  the  instructor  to  set
goals for them. Introverts, on the contrary,
tend  to  set  goals  and  standards  in  a  given
task.  They  are  reluctant  to  ask  for  advice
and  prefer  to  complete  their  tasks  alone.
Callahan  further  adds  that  Sensing
individuals  find  reflective  writing  an
opportunity  to  go  back  and  control
whether  they  have  missed  anything.  Their
written  product  is  verifiable,  lengthy,  and
detailed.  Intuitive  types,  however,  often
start  their  writing  with  the  meaning  of
complex  events  and  may  overlook  details
essential to the readers’ understanding of
the text.
Callahan  depicts  Thinking  individuals  as
writers who are interested in describing the
pros  and  cons  of  issues  in  writing.  They
are  more  likely  to  organize  their  writing
into  clear  categories  and  focus  on  clarity,
to  the  point  that  they  forget  to  interest  the
audience.  Feeling  types  are  less  likely  to
follow  an  outline  as  closely  as  Thinking
types  do.  Furthermore,  Judging  types  may
focus  too  soon  or  too  much  on  revision.
Perceiving  types,  on  the  other  hand,  tend
to gather information indefinitely and have
trouble  limiting  themselves  to  meeting
As  regards  the  Judging/Perceiving
dichotomy,  the  judging  individuals  are
depicted  as  writers  who  tend  to  set  goals
for  future  improvement  easily;  they  may
focus  too  much  on  revision.  In  contrast,
the  perceiving  ones  tend  to  resist
explorations  on  their  future  planning  and
find  it  difficult  to  draw  conclusions.  In
fact, their work is always in progress.
Likewise,  Carroll  (1995)  addressed  the
mutual  impact  of  the  personality  types  of
writers  and  raters  on  the  rating  of  the
written texts. The results indicated that the
personality  types  of  writers  affected  the
ratings  that  their  essays  received,  and  the
personality  types  of  raters  affected  the
ratings  they  gave  to  essays.  In  the  same
vein,  Walter  (1996)  studied  the
distribution  of  personality  types  as
measured  by  the  MBTI  in  upper-level
English,  journalism,  and  business
communication  courses.  The  results
showed  that  those  students  who  were
similar  in  personality  types  to  both  their
instructors  and  the  most  prevalent
personality  types  represented  in  their
discipline  tended  to  receive  the  highest
grades. The studies mentioned above have
provided  good  insights  into  the  way
personality  types  might  interact  with
learners’  performance.  However,  the
researchers have a long way to go to probe
the  nature  of  this  interaction.  One
promising  line  of  research  appears  to  be
the  possible  contribution  of  personality
types to the use of writing strategies.
Although  different  taxonomies  have  been
suggested  to  tap  into  the  types  of  writing
strategies  (see  Manchón,  Roca  de  Larios
&  Murphy,  2007),  the  present  study
adopted  Oxford’s  (1990)  inventory  to
measure  L2  writers’  deployment  of
strategies.  As  language  learning  strategies
are  assumed  to  be  directly  related  to
personality-related  factors  (Ellis,  1994),  it
is  reasonable  to  extend  this  assumption  to
second  language  skill-based  strategies.
Hence,  there  is  justification  for  studying
the  relationship  between  individual
variables  such  as  personality  type  and
writing strategy use. A study based on the
former  assumption  is  Ehrman  and  Oxford
(1989),  who  conducted  an  investigation
probing  the  relationship  between
personality types and strategy use adopting
SILL  (Strategy  Inventory  for  Language
Learning).  Their  results  revealed  that
Extraverts  utilized  affective  and
visualization  strategies  more  frequently
than  Introverts.  However,  Introverts  made
a  greater  use  of  strategies  for
communicating  meaning  than  did
Extraverts.  Also,  Intuitives  employed
affective strategies, and authentic language
use,  more  frequently  than  Sensing  people.
The  Feeling  type  of  individuals  showed  a
greater  level  of  use  of  general  study
strategies  than  did  their  Thinking
counterparts.  One  year  later,  Ehrman  and
Oxford  (1990)  conducted  a  study  with  20
adults  learning  Turkish  in  the  United
States. The findings of the study indicated
that  Extraverts  preferred  social  strategies
and  functional  practice  strategies,  while
Introverts  preferred  the  strategy  of
learning on their own.
In  a  study  conducted  on  254  Japanese
college  students,  Wakamoto  (2000)  found
that  Extraversion  on  the  MBTI  was
significantly  related  to  functional  practice
strategies  and  social-affective  strategies,
though  unlike  the  Ehrman  and  Oxford
studies,  introversion  was  not  correlated
with  any  preferred  use  of  SILL  strategies.
Nikoopour and Amini Farsani (2010), in a
study  of  137  graduate  Iranian  EFL
university  students,  reported  that  learners
with  Extravert  and  Introvert  personality
types  did  not  show  any  significant
difference  regarding  the  use  of  language
learning  strategies.  Both  Sensing  and
Intuitive learners preferred to use affective
strategies. The  findings  also indicated that
Thinking  as  well  as  Feeling  learners  used
memory  and  social  strategies.  Perceiving
learners  used  two  categories  of  strategies,
cognitive  and  compensation,  whereas
Judging  learners  employed  only
compensation  strategies.  The  picture
emerged  from  the  above  studies  suggests
that personality types are related to the use
of  language  learning  strategies  in  general.
However, the picture is far from clear due
to  the  limitations  of  the  studies  including
the types of language learners and the lack
of  due  focus  on  skill-based  strategies  and
their relationship with personality factors.
In the context of Iran, although there have
been  some  studies  focusing  on  the
learners’  use  of  skill-based  strategies  in
their  practice  of  writing  in  English  (see
Abdollahzadeh,  2010;  Dehghan  &
Razmjoo,  2012;  Fahandezh  Sadi  &
Othman,  2012;),  no  study  has  addressed
the  relationship  between  learning  styles
and  writing  strategies.  The  gap  becomes
more  evident  when  it  comes  to  studies
dealing  with  EFL  students  especially  the
mainstream graduate students. The present
study  was  an  attempt  to  examine  the
frequency  of  writing  strategies  and
personality  types  of  Iranian  EFL  learners
and  to  probe  the  relationship  between
these  two.  The  following  research
questions guided the research study:
1.  Which  categories  of  writing
strategies  do  Iranian  graduates
use  most  frequently  in  writing
in English?
2.  What  are  the  personality  types
of  Iranian  graduates  based  on
data  collected  through  the
MBTI questionnaire?
3.  What  is  the  relationship
between  the  personality  types
of  Iranian  graduates  and  their
writing strategy preferences?
The  present  study  was  conducted  in  a
number  of  universities  in  Iran,  where
TEFL courses are offered at both PhD and
MA  Levels.  The  post-graduate  students’
formal  writing  experience  before  entering
the  MA  program  was  basically  limited  to
two  obligatory  undergraduate  courses  in
writing, namely, Principles of Writing and
Essay Writing.  In their  MA program, they
had  to  take  the  course entitled ‘Advanced
Writing’, or as labeled by some instructors
‘Writing in English for Specific Academic
Purposes’,  with  the  focus  on  academic
writing.  The  purpose  of  this  course  is  to
review  the  basic  features  of  English
academic  rhetoric  in  order  to  help  MA
students  develop  an  ability  to  write
acceptable (academic) texts in English as a
Second/Foreign Language (ESL/EFL), and
to  help  them  use  their  individual  writing
processes  to  construct  academically  well-argued  texts  in  a  familiar  genre  and
transfer  this  ability  to  produce  texts  in  an
unfamiliar genre. Some topics that may be
covered  in  this  course  include  unity
(coherence  and  cohesion),  expository
paragraphs,  essay  writing,  writing
summaries,  resumes,  critiques,  writing
abstracts,  introduction  to  research  articles,
writing  argumentative  texts,  and  writing  a
proposal  and  a  thesis.  In  Iranian
universities, the product-based approach to
writing  is  still  in  use  (Birjandi  &  Malmir,
The participants were 220 male and female
Iranian  EFL  learners  between  the  ages  of
23-30  studying  English  at  the  graduate
level.  All  of  whom  had  registered  for  the
Advanced  Writing  course  of  the  graduate
program  of  the  universities  in  which  the
study  was  conducted.  The  estimated
proficiency  level  of  the  participants,  as
reported  by  the  instructors,  was  upper
intermediate or advanced. The participants
who  volunteered  to  take  part  in  the  study
came  from  five  universities  of  high
reputation in Tehran. Attempts were made
to  make  the  sample  as  representative  as
possible by selecting the participants from
the  high-ranking  universities.  The  criteria
for  selecting  the  universities  consisted  of:
the  rank-ordering  of  Iranian  universities
based on qualified ELT (English Language
Teaching)  faculty  members  and
educational facilities, as well as the typical
weight  and  importance  ascribed  to  TEFL
programs  at  graduate  level  in  Iran.
Participants  had  all  passed  the  Iranian
national  matriculation  examination  for
entering university and had achieved a BA
degree  either  in  English  language  and
literature  or  English  translation.  The
reason  why  the  participants  were  selected
from among graduates was the importance
given in the graduate program to students’
development  of  writing  skill  due  to  its
crucial  role  in  reporting  MA  research  in
the  form  of  a  thesis  of  extensive  length,
almost 18000 words.
The  instruments  utilized  in  this  study
consisted  of  two  questionnaires,  namely  a
Writing  Strategy  Questionnaire  and  the
Myers-Briggs  Type  Indicator  (MBTI)
questionnaire.  The  Writing  Strategy
Questionnaire  (Abdollahzadeh,  2010),
developed  in  Persian  with  reference  to
Oxford`s (1990) classification of language
learning  strategy  types,  was  used  to  gain
information  on  the  writing  strategies
adopted by language learners. The purpose
of this questionnaire was to identify which
writing  strategies  these  learners  were
using.  The  first  section  of  the
questionnaire  gave  information  about  the
purpose  of  the  questionnaire  and  elicited
background  information  on  the
participants’  age,  gender,  and  university.
The  second  part  of  the  questionnaire
consisted  of  45  items  developed  on  the
basis  of  the  subcategories  of  strategies
highlighted  by  Oxford  (1990)  with  each
strategy type tapping into the  participants’
use  of  memory,  cognitive,  compensation,
metacognitive,  social,  and  affective
strategies  in  writing.  The  calculated
Cronbach Alpha was 0.84, showing a high
degree of internal consistency.  
The  MBTI  questionnaire  is  one  of  the
most  well  researched  personality  scales.
Kirby and Barger (1998) have reported on
a  wealth  of  studies  providing
“significant  evidence  for  the  reliability
and validity of the MBTI in a variety of
groups  with  different  cultural
characteristics”  (p.260).  In  the  same
vein,  Murray  (1990)  examined  the
psychometric  quality  of  the  MBTI  and
reported  that  this  instrument  has
acceptable reliability and validity. As for
the  construct  validity  of  this
questionnaire,  a  number  of  researchers
have  confirmed  the  four  factors
predicted by the theory (e.g. Harrington  
&  Loffredo,  2010;  Tischler,  1994).
Consisting  of  60  self-report  items,  the
MBTI  measures  personality  preferences
along  four  scales:  Extraversion–
Introversion, Sensing–Intuition, Thinking–
Feeling,  and  Judging–Perceiving.  This
instrument  has  acceptable  reliability  and
validity  (Marefat,  2006).  In  the  current
study,  the  Persian  version  of  MBTI
(Nikoopour  &  Amini  Farsani,  2010)  was
used.  Cronbach’s  Alpha  was  used  to
estimate the reliability of this version and,
as reported, it was 0.78.  
Data  were  collected  using  the  Writing
Strategy  Questionnaire  and  the  MBTI
questionnaire.  Access  to  participants  was
gained through the researchers’ contacts at
the  universities.  The  classroom  instructors
were briefed with regard to the purposes of
the  study  and  the  data  collection
procedures.  A  uniform  procedure  was
followed  at  all  five  universities  to  collect
the  questionnaire  data.  The  instructors
briefly described the purpose and design of
the  questionnaires  and  explained  to  their
students how they should respond to them.
The  participants  were  required  to  answer
the  questions  with  respect  to  the  specific
writing  course  they  had  taken  so  that  they
could  answer  the  items  with  more
confidence (Petric & Czarl, 2003).  
Results and discussion
The  first  research  question  dealt  with  the
types  and  frequency  of  the  writing
strategies  utilized  by  the  learners.  Table1
presents  the  mean  and  standard  deviation
of data set.

As  can  be  seen  in  Table  1,  the  graduate
Iranian  EFL  learners  tended  to  use  all
types  of  writing  strategies.  The  first  two
top  mean  scores  go  to  metacognitive  and
cognitive  strategies,  showing  that  Iranian
EFL  learners  mainly  used  these  two
strategy  types  in  their  second  language
writing. The lowest mean goes to memory
strategy use, indicating that this is the least
preferred strategy type for the participants.
The  second  research  question  targeted  the
personality  types  of  Iranian  graduates
based  on  the  collected  data.  Table  2
depicts  the  percentage  of  each  bipolar
personality  type.  Comparing  the
percentages,  one  can  see  which  aspect  of
each  bipolar  strategy  type  is  dominant
among  the  participants.  According  to
Table 2, the participants fall primarily into
the  dominant  categories  of  Introvert
(55%),  Sensing  (62%),  Thinking  (59%),
and Judging (70%).

To  answer  the  third  research  question,  a
multiple  regression  analysis  was  run.
Table 3 reports on the ANOVA which was
run  to  assess  the  overall  significance  of
our model. As Table 3 shows, the one-way
ANOVA results show a significant overall
relationship  between  the  predictor,
personality  types,  and  the  predicted
variable,  writing  strategies  (F  =  60.929,

The  existence  of  a  significant  relationship
between  personality  types  and  writing
strategies as a whole was supported by the
ANOVA  results.  In  order  to  estimate  the
contribution  of  each  of  the  individual
variables,  the  standardized  beta
coefficients were calculated (Table 4). The
beta  value  indicates  the  weight  of  the
predictor value.  For example, a beta value
of  0.26  shows  that  a  change  of  one
standard deviation in the predictor variable
(personality  types)  will  result  in  a  change
of  0.26  standard  deviation  in  the  criterion
variable (writing strategies).

As  can  be  seen  in  Table  4,  only  the  two
personality  types  of  Feeling  and  Judging
have a significant relationship with writing
strategies, since their p values are less than
0.05. This result shows that the personality
types  of  Feeling  and  Judging  were  much
stronger  predictors  of  the  use  of  writing
strategies  such  as  memory,  compensation,
affective,  social,  metacognitive,  and
cognitive  strategies  compared  with  the
other personality types.
With  regard  to  the  first  research  question,
the  results  showed  that  Iranian  EFL
learners  at  the  graduate  level  reported
employing  all  of  the  different  types  of
writing  strategies.  The  two  top  preferred
strategy  types  for  them  were
metacognitive  and  cognitive  strategies.
The  least  preferred  strategy  type  was  the
memory  writing  strategy.  The  rank-order
of  the  self-reported  use  of  strategy  types
by  the  participants  was:  metacognitive>
cognitive>  affective>  social>
compensation>  memory  strategies.  This
finding,  of  course  with  a  slight  change  in
the  rank,  confirms  the  previous  research
literature  (Aziz,  1995;  Dehghan  &
Razmjoo,  2012;  Oliveras–Cuhat,  2002).  It
also  supports  the  finding  that
metacognitive  strategies  are  the  most
frequently  used  writing  strategies  by
Iranian  learners  of  English  as  a  foreign
language  (Abdollahzadeh,  2010;
Yaghoubi,  2003;  Riazi  1997).
Furthermore,  compensation  and  memory
strategies  were  found  to  be  the  least
frequently  used  strategies  by  the  Iranian
graduates.  This  finding  is  again  in  line
with  the  other  studies  done  in  Iran
(Abdollahzadeh,  2010;  Nikoopour  &
Amini  Farsani,  2010;  Yaghoubi,  2003).  A
likely  interpretation  of  the  more  frequent
use  of  metacognitive  writing  strategies  in
these  high-ranked  universities  can  be  the
nature  of  academic  endeavors  in  these
universities.  In  Iranian  universities  in
general  explicit  instruction  is  commonly
adopted  in  the  course  of  Academic
Writing.  Educational  academic  contexts
like  that  of  Iran  in  which  learners  are
expected  to  operate  is  a  pre-determined
way  are  seemingly  incompatible  with  the
creation  of  a  metacognitively-enhanced
atmosphere  which  can  give  way  to
learners’  collaborating  with  each  other,
seeking  practice  opportunities,  setting
goals and objective, schedualing, planning,
self-monitoring, and self-evaluating during
the  writing  process  (Abdollahzadeh,
2010).  This  is  confirmed  by  some
researchers  such  as  Birjandi  and  Malmir
(2009)  who  assert  that,  in  the  context  of
Iranian  universities,  teaching  English
writing  is  based  on  the  traditional
approach  which  seems  less  likely  to
enhance  a  free-writing  culture  among  the
students.  The  most  frequent  use  of
metacognitive  writing  strategies  suggests
that  the  approach  to  teaching  writing  is  in
the  process  of  change  at  least  in  the  top
universities  where  the  present  study  was
conducted.  A  second  reason  for  the  most
frequent  use  of  metacognitive  strategies
might  lie  in  the  fact  that  the  learners  who
took part in the present study were among
the  most  proficient  post-graduate  students
compared  with  their  peers  in  other
universities  and  as  a  result  were  more
metacognitively  equipped  for  the  writing
process.  As  argued  by  Abdollahzadeh
(2010),  the  rather  low  use  of  memory
strategies,  on  the  other  hand,  may  be
attributed  to  the  fact  that  Iranian  graduate
EFL  majors  do  not  employ  mnemonic
devices  to  improve  their  writing  and  to
revise  and  contextualize  novel  vocabulary
items  or  grammatical  structures  in  their
compositions  possibly  because  of  the
adequacy  of  their  linguistic  competence
which  might  keep  them  away  from  using
this type of writing strategies.  
Regarding  the  second  research  question,
Iranian  EFL  learners  at  the  graduate  level
tended  to  be  more  Introverts  than
Extraverts,  more  Sensing  than  Intuitive,
more  Thinking  than  Feeling,  and  finally
more  Judging  than  Perceiving.  This
finding is in line with prior research which
classified  male  and  female  graduate  and
undergraduate  Iranian  EFL  students  and
their  teachers  into  the  Intuitive,  Sensing,
Thinking  and  Judging  types  (Marefat,
With  regard  to  the  contribution  of
personality  types  to  the  selection  and  use
of  writing  strategies,  the  results  showed
that  only  the  contribution  of  Judging  and
Feeling  personality  types  was  significant.
We  know  that  judgers  have  a  natural
preference for control, planning, structure,
and organization. As mentioned by Jenson
and  Ditiberio  (1984:  290)  “Judgers
naturally tend to work best in a structured,
arranged  learning  situation,  and  they  like
to plan their work ahead.”
The Judging and Feeling personality types
as  the  dominant  ones  among  the
participants  reflects  the  status  of  teaching
and  learning  of  English  language,
especially  writing,  in  the  context  of  Iran,
as  reiterated  by  a  number  of  researchers
who  have  worked  in  the  Iranian  context
(e.g.  Abdollahzadeh,  2010;  Akbari,  2008;
Birjandi  &  Malmir,  2009,  Kiany  &
Movahedian,  2012).  As  a  case  in  point,
Kiany  and  Movahedian  (2012:  51)  assert
that  one  of  the  most  significant  problems
with  language  education  in  Iran  is  “the
kind  of  quantitative  orientation  taken
toward  education  in  general  and  language

education in particular. In other words, the
emphasis  has  been  given  to  the  products
rather than processes of education.” In line
with Kiany and Movahedian (2012), Anani
Sarab  (2010)  confirms  that  the  traditional
approach  with  an  emphasis  on  language
forms  and  structures  is  noticeable  in  the
foreign  language  curriculum.  The  views
expressed  suggest  that,  with  the
regimented  approach  to  language  teaching
in  Iran,  the  learners  are  not  provided  with
opportunities  to  improvise  and  explore
learning  in  new  contexts.  Under  such
circumstances,  the  results  of  the  present
study  with  regard  to  the  contributing
personality  types  to  the  selection  and  use
of writing strategies are not surprising.
The  major  limitation  of  this  study  is  our
reliance  on  self-reported  data.  The  results
of  this  study  should  be  complemented  by
other  studies  eliciting  other  sources  of
data,  such  as  introspective  data,  learner
logs,  journal  writing  etc.  Moreover,  the
correlational  approach  to  probing  the
relationship between personality types and
writing strategies limit the interpretation to
the relationship of the variables of interest
ignoring the impact of other variables such
as  anxiety,  motivation,  and  gender  on  the
personality  and  the  writing  of  the  writers.
Therefore, researchers are advised to adopt
a  multimethod  approach  to  identifying
personality  types  of  the  writers.  More
sophisticated statistical techniques (such as
structural  equation  modeling)  that  are
capable  of  showing  cause  and  effect
relationships  are  in  order  (Ellis,  2008).
Because of the limited scope of this study,
researchers  were  not  able  to  study  all
effective  variables  in  the  use  of  writing
strategies  and  their  probable  links  with
personality  types.  Therefore,  to  further
validate  the  results  of  the  current  study,
further  research  is  needed  to  probe  the
other  factors  influencing  the  deployment
of  these  specific  strategies  in  the  Iranian
EFL context.
Conclusion and implications
One  of  the  major  outcomes  of  the  present
study  is  that  writing-based  strategies  were
employed  differently  by  EFL  post-graduate  students.  They  used
metacognitive  writing  strategies  most
frequently and memory strategies the least
frequently.  Another  outcome  is  that  the
only  personality  types  being  related  to
writing  strategies  were  Feeling  and
Judging indices.  
A  number  of  studies  have  examined  the
writing  strategies  which  learners  employ
in  different  contexts.  However,  the
relationship between writing strategies and
personality  types  has  remained  under-researched.  The  literature  is  replete  with
persuasive  arguments  in  favor  of  the
benefits  to  teachers  of  being  aware  of
learners’ needs and individual differences
across  different  contexts  and  tasks  (e.g.
Ellis,  2008).  The  study  reported  here
provides  support  to  the  notion  that  the
relationship between personality types and
strategies  is  moderated  by  the  context  of
teaching  and  learning.  Data  coming  from
diverse  contexts  can  provide  a  better
picture of this relationship since the effects
of  personality  might  be  situation-dependent,  obvious  in  some  learning
contexts  or  tasks  but  not  in  others
(Dörnyei, 2005).
The  findings  of  the  present  study  have
several  implications  for  EFL  instruction,
especially with regard to teaching writing.
Investigating  what  strategies  second
language  writers  employ  can  provide
useful insights into what writers think they
are  doing  or  should  be  doing  and  thus
increase  their  understanding  of  the
specifics  of  this  process  (Silva,  1990).  As
suggested  by  Grabe  (2001),  our  better
understanding  of  the  writing  process  can
enhance the predictive power of pedagogic
models  of  writing.  Since  Iranian  EFL
graduates  showed  that  they  had  utilized
metacognitive  writing  strategies  mostly
and  memory  strategies  in  the  lowest
degree,  it  is  reasonable  to  suggest
awareness  raising  with  regard  to  the
preferred  writing  strategies  among
instructors and students.  
Given  the  product-based  approach  to
language  teaching  in  Iran,  this  line  of
inquiry  should  help  teachers  understand
the  possible  reasons  underlying  the
variable performance of  students and their
lack  of  success  in  writing  activities  which
are  not  compatible  with  their  preferred
strategies.  Moreover,  learners’  awareness
of  their  personality  types  might  lead  to
more  efforts  on  their  part  to  develop  their
natural  strengths  and  propensities.
Regarding  the  instructors,  such  awareness
might  aid  in  methodological  choices,
helping  in  the  recognition  of  individual
differences and improving teacher–student
understanding. Consequently, teachers can
equip  their  learners  with  a  mechanism  to
see  their  own  progress  in  learning  and  the
contribution of strategies in accomplishing
writing  tasks.  The  suggestion  is  that  EFL
learners  are  exposed  to  a  complete
inventory of writing strategies to be able to
use the strategies they prefer depending on
their  personality  type.  In  this  way,
learners’  autonomy  can  be  enhanced  in
writing tasks.

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