Original Research

Perceptions of writing prowess in honours economic students

Jean du Toit, Anmar Pretorius, Henk Louw, Magdaleen Grundlingh
South African Journal of Economic and Management Sciences | Vol 25, No 1 | a4323 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajems.v25i1.4323 | © 2022 Jean du Toit, Anmar Pretorius, Henk Louw, Magdaleen Grundlingh | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 09 September 2021 | Published: 19 September 2022

About the author(s)

Jean du Toit, Research Focus Area for Chemical Resource Beneficiation, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, North-West University, Potchefstroomca, South Africa
Anmar Pretorius, School of Economic Sciences, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa, South Africa
Henk Louw, School of Languages, Faculty of Humanities, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa, South Africa
Magdaleen Grundlingh, Writing Centre, Faculty of Humanities, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa


Background: Economists are often asked to explain or foresee the economic impact of certain events. Except for theoretical and practical knowledge, clear communication of views is therefore required. However, post-graduate training in Economics mostly focuses on technical modules. Furthermore, students often overestimate their (writing) abilities – as described in the Dunning-Kruger effect.

Aim: This article aims to establish if, and to what extent, perceptions of writing quality differ between students, subject-specific lecturers and writing consultants.

Setting: Honours students at a South African university wrote an argumentative essay on a specific macroeconomic policy intervention.

Methods: In this study qualitative samples (an evaluation rubric) were quantified for an in-depth analysis of the phenomenon, which allowed for a mixed-methods research design. The essays were evaluated by fellow students, the Economics lecturer, Academic Literacy lecturers and Writing Centre consultants and then their evaluations were compared. The evaluation form contained 83 statements relating to various aspects of writing quality.

Results: Student evaluators in the peer review were much more positive than the other evaluators – in a potential confirmation of the Dunning-Kruger effect. However, despite the more generous evaluations, students were still able to distinguish between varying skills levels, that is, good and bad writing. Discrepancies in evaluations between the subject specialists were also observed.

Conclusion: More conscious effort needs to be put into teaching economics students the importance and value of effective writing, with clear identification of the requirements and qualities of what is considered to be effective writing.


perceptions; writing skills; economics students; Dunning-Kruger effect; peer review; writing assessment


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