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1.1 Background to the Study

It is generally agreed that the English articles (a, an, and the) are the words that are used the most frequently in the English language. In the opinion of Master (2002) using the Corpus database, the word “the” is the most common in the English language, while the letter “a” ranks as the fifth most common. In the opinion of Berry (2003), the and an appear in close to eight and a half percent of all English writing. In light of these facts, it should come as no surprise that articles written in English constitute a sizable portion of the English language. In addition, the articles of English have a wide variety of purposes, both semantic and syntactic. Because of this, they are vital examples of key functional words. When processing language primarily for its meaning, learners will typically neglect content terms. This is not the case with function words, which are not subject to this oversight. In addition, the function of a word is not typically emphasised when it is spoken. In the opinion of Master (2002), the fact that articles are typically unstressed, which makes them sometimes scarcely noticeable in spoken conversation, provides an explanation for this particular occurrence. As a consequence of this, the articles system in English is one of the most challenging aspects of English grammar for people learning English as a second language. Therefore, they have not completely acquired it. In the opinion of Kim and Lakshmanan (2007), second-language learners require more time than they do for the acquisition of any other grammatical form to become proficient in the article system. In addition, Avery and Radisic (2007) argue that second-language learners will never be able to fully understand the functional use of the English articles at any point in time. As a consequence of this, second-language learners of English are likely to commit errors in the utilisation of the English articles.

Listening, speaking, reading, and writing are the four components of language that need be mastered to be considered proficient. The act of listening is a vital component of effective communication; the reactions of the receiver have a direct bearing on the path that the conversation takes. Speaking is the expression of ideas, thoughts, or feelings to another person through the use of words or other sounds of articulation in order to enlighten, to persuade, and to entertain that can be learnt through the process of teaching and learning. The act of deriving meaning from printed words is referred to as reading. Writing is the aspect of one’s linguistic ability that should be practised and refined on a regular basis. It indicates that you need to think clearly about what you are about to write in order to have this skill. Students need to learn how to articulate their thoughts through written forms of language as part of their education. Students who are learning English as their target language may experience boredom and anger when they are required to write because either they do not enjoy writing or they do not have any ideas to explore in their writing. Writing’s primary use is as a medium for less direct forms of communication; this is its primary function. The pupils will be able to articulate their ideas and goals through the use of writing assignments.

The ability to write well is essential to academic achievement, success in the workplace, and competitiveness in the global economy. It is impossible to place enough emphasis on the significance of ensuring that pupils be proficient in writing in today’s increasingly demanding global literacy environment. In the opinion of Gallagher (2006), the ability to write well has gone from being a luxury to an absolute requirement. The development of kids’ reading comprehension and writing abilities go hand in hand. In light of this, teaching students how to write effectively ought to be the top focus of any education system that is worth its salt. In the opinion of the findings of Gallagher (2006), a school that “teaches its children the curriculum without concurrently teaching them how to write well is a school that has failed” (p. 170).

In the opinion of Yiljep (2018), the ability to write is the fourth and last component of the set of language skills. In most circles, it is considered to be one of the most challenging and intricate abilities to perfect. The first two abilities typically develop without conscious effort, particularly in L1 settings. It is a skill that involves expression. It is a valid means of communication to readers, whatever the writer wants to transmit to them, and readers can understand it. He goes on to explain that writing is the process of putting together a series of phrases in such a way that it results in a meaningful account of an item or an event. Writing, on the other hand, is a skill that must be intentionally and formally mastered, in contrast to speaking, which may be picked up informally, spontaneously, and subconsciously right from the start. Because of the technical nature of writing, it is important to keep in mind that even the smallest mistake in spelling, grammatical structure, diction, or punctuation has the potential to completely change the meaning of the message.

In the light of the above discussion, this study will investigate into the errors in the use of articles ‘the’, ‘an’ and ‘a’ in students’ writing in selected senior secondary schools in Pankshin Local Government Area of Plateau State.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

The realm of education is grounded in effective communication and expression of ideas. One fundamental aspect of written communication is the proper usage of articles, which play a pivotal role in constructing coherent and grammatically sound sentences. In recent times, concerns have arisen regarding the misuse of articles in students’ essay writing, particularly within the context of selected secondary schools in Pankshin Local Government Area. This study aims to explore and address this issue by investigating the factors contributing to the misuse of articles and proposing interventions to enhance students’ writing proficiency. Drawing inspiration from the steps outlined in the previous discussion, we will craft a problem statement that encapsulates the essence of this research endeavor.

1.3 Purpose of the Study

The main purpose of this study is to determine the errors in the use of articles in students writing in Pankshin Local Government Area of Plateau State.

Other specific objectives of the study include:

  1. To find out the extent articles are misused by students.
  2. To determine the articles that are mostly misused.
  3. To determine the articles correctly used by learners.
  4. To evaluate the articles mostly used by students.

1.4. Research Questions

The following research questions will guide this study with the aim of providing answers for them at the end of the research:

  1. To what extent are article misused by students?
  2. What are the articles that are mostly misused by students in essay writing?
  3. Which articles are correctly used students in essay writing?
  4. Which articles are mostly used students in essay writing?

1.5. Significance of the Study

            This study will be of benefit to several education stakeholders which include parents, teachers, students, curriculum planners and future researchers:

The primary beneficiaries are the students themselves. By addressing the issue of misuse of articles in their essay writing, they can improve their language skills, enhance their written communication, and develop a better understanding of grammar rules. This improvement can contribute to their overall academic performance and future writing endeavors.

Teachers who teach English or language arts in senior secondary schools can benefit from this topic. It can help them identify common mistakes made by students and develop appropriate teaching strategies to address these issues effectively. By guiding students to improve their article usage, teachers can enhance their students’ language proficiency and writing abilities.

Schools have a vested interest in maintaining high academic standards. By addressing the misuse of articles in student essay writing, schools can enhance the quality of written work produced by their students. This can positively impact the reputation of the institution and contribute to its overall academic excellence.

Parents of students in senior secondary schools can benefit from this topic as they can gain awareness of common errors in their children’s writing and support them in improving their language skills. It can also help parents monitor their child’s progress and provide additional guidance or resources to enhance their writing abilities.

Students who can effectively use articles in their writing are likely to possess better communication skills. Such skills are highly valued by potential employers and future academic institutions. By improving their article usage, students can enhance their chances of securing employment opportunities and gaining admission to reputable colleges or universities.

Researchers and professionals in the field of linguistics or language studies can benefit from the topic by exploring the specific challenges students face with article usage in essay writing. This can lead to a better understanding of language acquisition and provide insights into effective instructional methods for addressing these challenges.


1.6 Scope and Delimitation of the study

            This study covers the errors in use of articles in the writing of senior secondary schools. The study is limited to some selected secondary schools in Pankshin Local Government Area of Plateau State. However, the findings of the study will be generalised to other parts of the state and country at large.

1.7n Operational Definition of Terms

            The following operational terms are defined within the context of their usage in this research.

Articles: These include the definite article ‘the’ and the indefinite articles ‘a’ and ‘an’ used as determines in different sentences in order to limit the meaning of nouns they precede.

Errors: Is a mistake committed in writing or in speech. To produce correct utterances; certain rules must surely be obeyed.

Essay(s): This is a form of composition writing that tells the writer’s thoughts or opinions about the subject he/she is writing about.

Constituent: It is a technical word meaning ‘part’. In this study it is used as a sequence or sequences in the sentence.

Writing: It is the act or art of forming visible letters or characters by means of words to express ideas or opinions.

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