The Need to Support Novice Cambodian Writers to Write for Publication in English

Kimkong Heng
The University of Queensland
Brisbane, Australia

© Cambodian Education Forum 2021
K. Heng, S. Kaing, D. Kao, M. Muong, B. Doeur, & T. Lor (Eds.), Online learning during COVID-19 and key issues in education.


Writing for publication in English is a challenging task, especially for English as an Additional Language (EAL) writers. Research has shown that EAL or non-native English-speaking writers face numerous challenges when it comes to writing for publication in English (see Canagarajah, 2002; Flowerdew, 1999, 2019; Ma, 2021; Uzuner, 2008). Canagarajah (2002), for example, identified both discursive (i.e., language-related) and non-discursive (i.e., resources-related) challenges that scholars in the periphery or developing countries faced in writing for publication. Hanauer and Englander (2011) found that researchers who write research articles in English as a second language experienced 24% more difficulty, 11% more dissatisfaction, and 21% more anxiety than writing in their first language.

Studies from different contexts, including China (Flowerdew, 1999), Mexico (Hanauer & Englander, 2011), South Korea (Hwang, 2005), and Spain (Ferguson et al., 2011), just to mention a few, have shown that many EAL scholars felt disadvantaged vis-à-vis their native English-speaking counterparts when it came to writing for publication in English. For instance, Flowerdew (1999) found that about two thirds of around 600 Chinese scholars surveyed believed that they were at a disadvantage compared with their peers who are native speakers of English. Ferguson et al. (2011) showed that the majority of the 300 Spanish researchers who participated in their survey felt that English gives advantages to native over non-native English-speaking researchers.

In the context of Cambodia, little is known about the challenges that Cambodian researchers face when writing in English. Much research has focused on the individual and structural challenges preventing Cambodian researchers or academics from conducting and publishing research. Some of the key challenges discussed in previous studies range from low academic salaries to limited institutional support to heavy teaching loads and lack of research incentives and funds (see Cambodian Institution for Cooperation and Peace [CICP], 2016; Heng, 2020; Kwok et al., 2010; Moore, 2011).

Heng, Sol et al. (2020) argued that one of the main barriers confronting novice Cambodian writers and researchers was their limited academic writing skills, particularly skills in writing for publication in English. They noted that major challenges that they faced when working with less experienced Cambodian writers were related to “language use, word choices, referencing and citation skills (both in-text and reference list), coherence and cohesion, and the use of reference sources” (Heng, Sol et al., 2020, p. 127). They also suggested that ample opportunities should be provided to support young or novice Cambodian writers to help them develop their skills and confidence in writing for publication in English.

The Need to Support Novice Cambodian Writers to Write for Publication in English

Considering the challenges that EAL writers face, as discussed above, and the limited research output produced by Cambodian universities and academics (see Eam, 2015; Heng, 2021; Kwok et al., 2010), there is, no doubt, a need to support novice Cambodian writers or researchers to write for publication in English. As Heng and Rautakivi (2020) noted, many Cambodian students are exposed to serious research courses only when they “reach the third year of their bachelor’s degree program, and they generally study it for only one or two semesters” (p. 1). This indicates a need for further research training and support to help Cambodian students and novice writers learn the ropes of academic publishing in general and writing for publication in English in particular. Heng et al. (2021) have also argued that many young Cambodians are keen on becoming writers or researchers, but they “need support and mentorship to develop into more experienced writers or young researchers” (p. 3).

A study by CICP (2016) also pointed to the need to increase research training and capacity building opportunities for Cambodian university students and faculty members. Moreover, it was suggested that research training and capacity building programs should also extend to other stakeholders, including government officials and high school students, to increase awareness and interest in research in order to nurture a healthy research culture in Cambodia.

Recognizing the need to support young or less experienced Cambodian writers, the Cambodian Education Forum (CEF), a newly established online publication platform dedicated to supporting Cambodian students, teachers, academics, and researchers to write and publish in English, has initiated a series of internship programs designed to offer academic writing and publication support to Cambodian youth and young aspiring writers. Thus far, CEF, of which I am a co-founder and lead editor, has published two edited volumes (see Heng, Kaing et al., 2020; Sol et al., 2021) which were mainly contributed by young or less experienced writers, including university students, recent graduates, teachers, and novice or emerging researchers.

This edited volume is the product of CEF’s second internship program involving 20 interns, most of whom were university students. During the internship which lasted about six months from June to November 2021, each intern was mentored and supported by one of CEF’s 12 editors, associate editors, or guest editors. The interns’ book chapter drafts were reviewed, edited, and revised multiple times until they were deemed suitable for publication. There are two different edited volumes produced from the second round of the internship program. In this volume, we put together nine chapters written by six interns and four CEF editors. In the other edited volume, there are nine chapters contributed by nine different interns (see Sol et al., in press).

Organization of This Book

This edited book consists of 10 chapters. Following the introductory chapter, the remaining nine chapters are divided into three parts. Part 1 presents four chapters contributed by two CEF interns and three CEF editors/guest editors. Part 2 has two chapters written by a CEF guest editor and an intern. Part 3 is composed of three chapters contributed by three CEF interns.

Part 1: Online Learning During COVID-19

This part focuses on online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. In Chapter 2, Sethi Cheam examines the advantages of and challenges to online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. He argues that online learning is “a blessing in disguise” and urges all stakeholders in Cambodian higher education to increase the adoption of online learning, particularly in the post-pandemic world.

In Chapter 3, Makara Muong discusses the impacts of COVID-19 on primary school children in Cambodia. He focuses on five aspects of the impacts of COVID-19 and then offers suggestions for parents or caregivers to ensure that they provide sufficient support to their children to help them successfully navigate online learning during the crisis.

In Chapter 4, Kimkong Heng and Koemhong Sol explore the challenges and opportunities that COVID-19 presents to Cambodian higher education. They discuss several challenges and opportunities before making some important suggestions to ensure the digital transformation of higher education in Cambodia continues even after the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the final chapter of Part 1, Seavmey Meng argues why online learning is the future of education. She first explores the definition of online learning and looks at the rise of online learning in the context of the pandemic. She then discusses the benefits and challenges of implementing online learning, particularly in the Cambodian context, before offering some recommendations to relevant stakeholders in Cambodian education.

Part 2: Technology and Teaching Strategies in ELT

The second part of the book focuses on technology and teaching strategies in English language classrooms. In Chapter 6, Bunhorn Doeur looks at the role of digital technology in English major programs in Cambodia. He discusses the benefits as well as the challenges when it comes to technology use in English major programs. He then puts forward some recommendations to enhance the adoption of technology in English classes in the Cambodian context.

In Chapter 7, Sak Yeourng turns the discussion to the use of a teaching technique, called Gallery Walk. He explains what Gallery Walk is and discusses how it is used before examining the effectiveness of the technique. He recommends that the Gallery Walk technique be put into practice more widely in English classes in Cambodia.

Part 3: Key Issues in Education

The final part begins with a chapter by Chhengleang Sok, who argues that critical thinking is an essential yet underdeveloped skill among many Cambodian students. In the chapter, he provides the definitions and characteristics of critical thinking and discusses why this skill is essential. He then discusses how critical thinking skills are utilized in the Cambodian context before making suggestions to promote this important skill among Cambodian students.

In Chapter 9, Kimputhevitheavy Vonn explores the concept of reading for pleasure. She discusses its importance and provides insights into the reading habits of Cambodian students. She then goes to great lengths to offer suggestions to promote reading habits among Cambodian students.

Finally, Thavrith Sara examines the issue of parental involvement in children’s education. He discusses three key benefits of parental involvement in supporting children’s education and looks at some challenges that prevent many parents from involving actively in their children’s studies. He concludes the chapter with some suggestions to promote parental involvement in the context of education in Cambodia.


Canagarajah, A. S. (2002). A geopolitics of academic writing. University of Pittsburgh Press.

CICP. (2016). Doing research in Cambodia: Making models that build capacity. Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace.

Eam, P. (2015). Factors differentiating research involvement among faculty members: A perspective from Cambodia. Excellence in Higher Education, 6(1&2), 1-11.

Ferguson, G., Perez-Llantada, C., & Plo, R. (2011). English as an international language of scientific publication: A study of attitudes. World Englishes, 30(1), 41-59.

Flowerdew, J. (1999). Writing for scholarly publication in English: The case of Hong Kong. Journal of Second Language Writing, 8(2), 123-145.

Flowerdew, J. (2019). The linguistic disadvantage of scholars who write in English as an additional language: Myth or reality. Language Teaching, 52(2), 249-260.

Hanauer, D. I., & Englander, K. (2011). Quantifying the burden of writing research articles in a second language: Data from Mexican scientists. Written Communication, 28(4), 403-416.

Heng, K. (2020). Stakeholder collaboration: The key to promoting academic research in Cambodia. Cambodia Development Center.

Heng, K. (2021). Steps to promote academic research in Cambodia. Cambodia Development Center.

Heng, K., Kaing, S., Ros, V., & Sol, K. (Eds.). (2020). English language teaching, education, and online learning in Cambodia during COVID-19: Perspectives from practitioners and researchers. Cambodian Education Forum.

Heng, K., & Rautakivi, T. (2020). Nurturing a vibrant research culture in Cambodia: Without a home-grown research culture, there is no research development. Cambodia Development Center.

Heng, K., Sol, K., Kaing, S., & Ros, V. (2020). Conclusion: Key challenges in working with novice Cambodian writers and researchers. In K. Heng, S. Kaing, V. Ros, & K. Sol (Eds.), English language teaching, education, and online learning in Cambodia during COVID-19: Perspectives from practitioners and researchers (pp. 125-131). Cambodian Education Forum.

Heng, K., Sol, K., Kaing, S., & Ros, V. (2021). Introduction: Engaging and supporting Cambodian youth to write for publication in English. In K. Sol, K. Heng, S. Kaing, & V. Ros (Eds.), Cambodian youth’s perspectives and reflections on contemporary educational issues and the role of education (pp. 1-8). Cambodian Education Forum.

Hwang, K. (2005). The inferior science and the dominant use of English in knowledge production: A case study of Korean science and technology. Science Communication, 26(4), 390-427.

Kwok, K.-W., Chan, S., Heng, C., Kim, S., Neth, B., & Thon, V. (2010). Scoping study: Research capacities of Cambodia’s universities. The Development Research Forum in Cambodia.

Ma, L. P. F. (2020). Writing in English as an additional language: challenges encountered by doctoral students. Higher Education Research & Development, 40(6), 1176-1190.

Moore, S. (2011a). The struggle to develop a “research culture” in a developing country. TESOL Quarterly, 45(2), 334-343.

Sol, K., Heng, K., Hum, C., Yen, S., & Ren, C. (Eds.). (in press). Critical issues impacting Cambodian education: Insights from Cambodian youth. Cambodian Education Forum.

Sol, K., Heng, K., Kaing, S., & Ros, V. (Eds.). (2021). Cambodian youth’s perspectives and reflections on contemporary educational issues and the role of education. Cambodian Education Forum.

 Uzuner, S. (2008). Multilingual scholars’ participation in core/global academic communities: A literature review. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 7(4), 250-263.

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