"In this book, Richard Kern explores how technology matters to language and the ways in which we use it. Kern reveals how material, social and individual resources interact in the design of textual meaning, and how that interaction plays out across contexts of communication, different situations of technological mediation, and different moments in time."
“Insights into Academic Genres” brings together selected papers originally presented at the conference on “Genre Variation in English Academic Communication: Emerging Trends and Disciplinary Insights” in Bergamo on 23-25 June 2011. The volume consists of twenty-one chapters that are grouped into four thematic sections: “Theoretical Insights,” “Presenting Research Insights,” “Reviewing and Popularizing Research Insights,” and “Insights into Pedagogic Genres.” There is a “notes on contributors” part at the end of the volume.
In the introduction chapter, Gotti, Berkenkotter, and Bhatia present an overview of the concept of genre including the significance and status of genre and genre analysis, recent perspectives in genre theory and genre studies, and diversity of methodological tools for specialized genre analysis. The final part of the chapter outlines a summary of the contents of this volume. The two chapters in Section One, “Theoretical Insights,” address the most relevant and recent issues and innovations in various areas of research into academic genres. In the first chapter of this section, “Genre change in the digital age: Questions about dynamism, affordances, evolution,” Carol Berkenkotter investigates genre variation in an emerging digital genre in academic communication, namely the blog. She argues that different perspectives on generic variation depend on the theorist’s conceptual framework and disciplinary training. Affordances, uptake, dynamism, and stance are proposed as the criteria for evaluating the generic status of online blog-posts. The next part of the chapter reports an analysis of stance markers in blog posts. The second chapter in this section, “Interdiscursivity in academic genre,” deals with interdiscursivity in two academic genres, the doctoral thesis and the research article. Vijiay Bhatia highlights how research articles are discursively constructed based on doctoral theses and how an understanding of interdiscursivity sheds light on underlying communicative processes of these genres. He suggests a critical approach to genre analysis, in which not only text-internal, but also text-external factors as well as interdiscursivity are taken into account. He argues that such an approach clarifies the challenges that emerging writers encounter for submitting their research articles to international journals.
The chapters in Section Two, “Presenting Research Insights,” address genres that report research results such as the research article, the conference presentation, and the Ph.D. dissertation. The paper “Value marking in an academic genre: When authors signal goodness,” by David Giannoni, addresses value marking in the research article. Giannoni focuses on the embededness of values in the research article and their linguistic representations in this academic genre. In this corpus-based study, a combination of qualitative and quantitative procedures, concordance data, and manual investigation are employed to analyze explicit goodness-marking lexis in a corpus of 100 research articles. The findings of this study indicate that “goodness” is more common in social sciences due to the value-laden nature of these disciplines
The next chapter, “Such a reaction would spread all over the cell like a forest fire: A corpus study of argument by analogy in scientific discourse,” reports a study of argument by analogy conducted in a corpus linguistics framework. In this chapter, Davide Mazzi analyzes the use of discursive resources, indicating argument by analogy in a corpus of scientific discourse. He adopts van Eemeren and Grootendorst’s (1992, p. 97) view of analogy as the point of reference and uses a corpus of 140 authentic medico-scientific research articles published in 14 specialized journals. The findings indicate a high frequency of this technique the “Results” and “Discussion” sections and highlight its significant status and argumentative and reinforcing functions in discursive practices of medico-scientific writers. The next chapter, “Exploring generic integrity and variation: Research articles in two English-medium interactional applied economics journals,” deals with generic integrity and variation in the research article. In this genre-based research, Pilar Mur-Duenas focuses on intrageneric and intradisciplinary variation in research articles published in English in two international applied economics journals. The research aims to shed light on discursive practices of scholars as they calibrate their writing conventions according to different publication sites. The results highlight the significance of the site of publication and its influence on writing for scholarly publication practices of scholars. In chapter six, “Generic integrity in jurisprudence and philosophy of law: Metadiscursive strategies for expressing dissent within constraints of collegiality,” William Bromwich examines generic integrity conventions in the domain of jurisprudence and philosophy of law. Taking Bhatia’s genre-oriented perspective (1993, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2007), he investigates how authors working in competing frameworks draw on metadiscursive devices such as evaluative lexis and markers to indicate their stance on different issues, and challenge research findings of other members of their discourse communities on the one hand, and avoid dialogic frictions, and observe collegiality codes with their colleagues, on the other hand. The corpus includes the complete series of papers published in the “International Journal of Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law” in 2009-2011. Chapter seven, “The title of my paper is...: Introducing the topic in conference presentations,” addresses topic introduction in conference presentations. Francisco Javier Fernandez Polo argues that although topic introduction is redundant at the beginning of a conference presentation, this move still plays a significant part in conference presentations . Moreover, the study aims to investigate the intertextual relationship between topic announcement and the title slide and to shed light on the structure and constituent linguistic features of this move. The corpus of the study includes the introductory sections of 31 conference presentations in English. Chapter eight, “Why do we have to write? : Practice-based theses in the visual and performing arts and the place of writing,” deals with practice-based theses in the fields of visual and performing arts. Drawing on data from interviews, surveys, and institutional documentation and guidelines, Starfield, Paltridge, and Ravielli adopt a textographical approach (Swales, 1998a, 1998b) to investigate the place of writing, and explore written constituent components of practice-based doctorates in those fields. Chapter nine, “A genre analysis of Japanese and English introductory chapters of literature Ph.D. theses,” is part of a larger on-going genre study of the doctoral dissertation. In this chapter, Masumi Ono investigates generic structures in the thesis introductory chapters of Ph.D. dissertations in the field of literature, comparing English and Japanese. Ninety-nine introductory chapters of literature Ph.D. theses are analyzed. The results indicate cross-cultural differences in number, frequency, and obligatory status of constituent steps of this genre.
The chapters in Section Three, “Reviewing and Popularizing Research Insights,” deal with genres that are not used for reporting innovative findings, but are reviewed in academic discussions and disseminated among colleagues in the academic community. In chapter ten, “The move structure of academic theatre reviews,” Anna Stermieri investigates the academic theater review. Drawing on Swales’ (1990) and Bhatia’s (1993; 2004) theoretical models, she analyzes the schematic move structure of this under-researched genre and examines various aspects of diachronic variation over a period of a decade (1991-2001). The underlying hypothesis of this study is that the conditions in which the critic operates and any probable fluctuations in these conditions will influence the critics’ performance and consequently their writing practices. The corpus of this study includes 67 academic theater reviews that appeared in six academic journals. Chapter eleven, “The dissemination of scientific knowledge in academia,” examines two related genres. Comparing research abstracts (as a formal academic genre) and their derived science reports (as a popular mixed genre), Susan Kermas looks at the differences between these genres and investigate the role of redrafting strategies in the popularization of scientific and academic knowledge. This study indicates how the interconnection between topic and readership determines lexical and linguistic features in each of these genres. In chapter twelve, “Blurred genres: Hybrid functions in the medical field,” Isabel Herrando-Rodrigo contrasts medical research articles and their more popularized counterparts -- “Medical electronic popularizations” (or “Med-E-Pops”) -- in order to highlight the hybridization process between these genres. Exploring the genre of Med-E-Pops, she emphasizes that Med-E-Pops reflect their corresponding research articles. She argues that Med-E-Pops writers knowingly adapt research articles into more popularized and comprehensible texts in order to raise the reliability of their texts, promote their research, and expand readership in cyberspace. Chapter thirteen, “Comments in academic blogs as a new form of scholarly interaction,” aims at studying how the interpersonal strategies in blog comments compare to those in other academic and computer-mediated communication genres. In this study, Maria Jose Luzon analyzes a corpus of eleven academic blogs from different disciplines, focusing on markers of social and antisocial behavior. The findings highlight the hybrid nature of comments in academic blogs and underline their role in constructing both social and antisocial relations. In chapter fourteen, “Cross-cultural differences in the construal of authorial voice in the genre of diploma theses,” Olga Dontcheva-Navratilova examines cross-cultural variation in the construal of authorial voice in relation to the generic structure of theses written by Czech and German students of English. The main objective of the study is an analysis of novice non-native speakers’ use of pronominal self-reference items and impersonal “it-“constructions to project an authorial voice into their master’s theses written in English. In chapter fifteen, “Cross-cultural differences in the use of discourse Markers by Czech and German students of English in the genre of master’s theses,” Renata Povolna investigates variation between the ways in which novice non-native writers from two different discourse communities have adopted the appropriate use of causal and contrastive discourse markers when building coherent relations in academic texts. The study uses a small sample of about 352000 words taken from a large corpus of Master’s theses written by students of English in their final year of study. The findings indicate cross-cultural variation in use of causal and contrastive discourse markers (especially hypotactic and paratactic ones) as well as idiosyncrasies in use of certain markers.
The chapters in Section Four, “Insights into Pedagogic Genres,” investigate those genres that are used for educational purposes at a university level. In chapter sixteen, “Variation in students’ accounts of graphic data: Context and cotext factors in a polytechnic setting,” Carmen Sancho-Guinda examines commentaries written by engineering students, focusing on a number of constructive, contextual, and cotextual factors of those discourses, and the role of such factors in discoursal variation. A combination of Goffman’s (1971) interaction orders, the definitions of voice by Blommaert (2005) and Ede (1989), and Hyland’s (2005) model of writer stance and engagement constitute the theoretical framework for the interpretation of the results of this study. The findings highlight variation in visual data reports in terms of the expression of positioning and indicate that engagement features outnumber stance features considerably. In chapter seventeen,” K (Contract) Case Briefs in American law schools: A genre-based analysis,” Michela Giordano conducts a qualitative and quantitative genre analysis of a corpus of contract case briefs, a common genre for students in American law schools, submitted by law students to an online contract case brief bank. This study adopts Bhatia’s (1993) four-move analytical model. An interesting feature of this study is an examination of abbreviations and symbols in order to gain insights into how these represent rhetorical strategies the student adopts as a way of analyzing a particular case opinion in a formulaic way, recording and summarizing the outcomes for further research and classroom discussion. Chapter eighteen, “Digital video projects in English for academic purposes: Students’ and lecturers’ perceptions and issues raised,” reports a study conducted by Christoph A. Hafner, Lindsay Miller, and Connie Ng Kwai-Fun in the context of an EAP course in an English-medium university in Hong Kong. This qualitative study aims to configure a pedagogical approach to academic literacy, which incorporates new advancements in information and communication technologies. Students create a digital video scientific documentary, a hybrid genre in digital media that brings together digital literacy practices with traditional approaches to disciplinary English for academic purposes. Chapter nineteen, “Interactive whiteboards as enhancers of genre hybridization in academic settings,” reports a study on the incorporation of information and communication technology tools into academic contexts. Patrizia Anesa and Daniela Iovino investigate how integration of these tools, such as interactive whiteboards, into academic courses facilitates the combination of features that are typically associated with different genres such as lectures, seminars, and presentations, and consequently, contributes to academic genre hybridization, as a key feature of academic discourse. In chapter twenty, “Representation of events and event participants in academic course descriptions,” Sara Gesuato investigates characteristics of academic course descriptions English through a textual approach. This study focuses on lexico-grammatical representations of courses, teachers and students, and events as the main components of academic course descriptions. The study’s objectives are to determine the visibility of those components in the texts and to determine the functional status of the texts (informational, regulatory, or both) based on the assertions made about those components. The corpus of this study consists of 100 course descriptions from ten disciplines.
The attraction of “Insights into Academic Genres” begins with the book’s high-caliber editors, Carol Berkenkotter, Vijay K. Brattier, and Maurizio Gotti. The selection of cutting-edge studies, thematic organization of the chapters, and the way they dovetail with each other in each section are all indicative of the comprehensive knowledge of the editors (see also Berkenkotter, Huckin, & Ackerman, 1988). Their informed decisions and quality editing make this volume more than a mere conference proceedings volume.
The volume presupposes knowledge of the concept of genre, and is addressed to novice and established members of the discourse community that intend to know what the state of the art of genre analysis is, and where future research needs to focus on. It introduces new perspectives on the concept of genre and genre analysis, focusing on new, (semi)-occluded, and emerging genres in academia. The focus on a wide range of hot topics such as (sub)disciplinary, cross-cultural variation, genre sets, generic integrity, hybridization and popularization in combination with assorted methodological approaches make this volume a must-read for those interested in genre.
Carol Berkenkotter’s chapter is one of the cornerstones of this volume. This chapter puts forward interesting questions about conceptualization of genre and generic variation in today’s digital context and draws attention to importance and status of digital genres and internet-based discursive practices. Stepping beyond traditional concepts of genre and genre analysis, it also highlights the significance of further research into evolution of “protean genres” such as wikis and blogs as a budding research area in today’s research arena. Highlighting the theorist’s stance in conceptualization of generic variation, this innovative chapter focuses on the blog as a rising academic genre and operationalizes the concept of genre as a “recognition category”.
Vijay Bhatia’s chapter presents a new and different perspective on research article as one of the most-researched academic genres. In contrast to the bulk of research on research articles, which is dedicated to the lexical and rhetorical analysis of different sections of this genre and its evolution overtime, this chapter focuses on the significance of “ management of interdiscursive space” in genre analysis in general and between this genre and doctoral theses in particular and challenges and complexities of novice scholars for writing for scholarly publication. It highlights social-cultural aspects and functions of genre rather than merely textual ones, draws attention to underlying differences existent even in similar genres, and as Bhatia argues, underlines the significance of a critical approach to genre analysis. Considering the undeniable significance of scholarly publications in global scholarship and “publish or perish” as one of the biggest challenges for both established and novice academics, this chapter provides invaluable insights for those interested in the research and pedagogy of writing for scholarly publication.
Davide S. Giannoni’s chapter is noteworthy in two aspects. First, focusing on an under-researched area in genre studies, this chapter deals with axiology of academic discourse and linguistic manifestations and features of values embedded in academic discourse. Second, from a methodological perspective, this research uses a novel mixed-methods design combining quantitative automatic and manual tools and techniques for identification of value-making features in a written corpus of 100 research articles.
Francisco Javier Fernandez Polo’s chapter is the only chapter in this volume that focuses on an oral genre namely, conference presentations. The significance of oral genres in general and and conference presentations in particular and their role in academic lives of scholars on the one hand and the fact that genre studies have mainly focused written genres on the other hand make this chapter a must-read.
Starfield, Paltridge, and Ravioli’s chapter is also one of the stronger contributions in this volume. The research reported in their chapter is noteworthy in terms of its methodological approach. In spite of the traditional approach to genre analysis in which written discourse was the sole source of data, this study adopts an investigative approach combining text analysis and ethnographic methods to investigate a student-generated genre, i.e., practice-based theses, in relatively new fields of visual and performing arts. Attention to data triangulation through drawing on mixed data collection methods such as survey, interview, and document analysis and longitudinal nature of this study make the findings and implications of this research particularly relevant.
Anna Stermieri’s pioneering research into the academic theater review is one of the most interesting chapters of the third section of this volume. The findings of this study are noteworthy as they highlight two interesting features in this genre. At the macro-level, the results indicate a four-move pattern in the rhetorical organization of this genre. At the micro-level, the results reveal the double deixis of time and space as an interesting feature in one of the constituent moves (the “Narrative move”).
Maria Jose Luzon’s research into academic blogs, as a genre of growing popularity with academics, is also one of the must –reads in this volume. Unlike most traditional genre studies, it focuses on an Internet-mediated genre and on the hybrid nature of communication in a web-based social space.
Carmen Sancho-Guinda’s study is noteworthy in two respects. First, the study examines graphic commentaries of visuals as a hybrid, unresearched genre in applied linguistics. Second, the study adopts a mixed-methods approach (combining discourse-based and corpus-informed methodology). The combination of quantitative and qualitative methods and tools into innovative methods and designs is an interesting feature of Giannoni’s, Mazzi’s, and Sancho-Guinda’s studies as well.
Overall, this book is a very welcome addition to research on academic genres. Any comments on what more could have been included or addressed seems difficult, as the nature and focus of the papers presented at the conference, and the editors’ subjective criteria for selection are not known. However, based on the current content, the book could have done more justice to oral academic genres and corpora as well as cross-cultural generic variation. Moreover, an index at the end of the book would have added to the merits of this volume.
Globalization and internationalization of academia require more in-depth inquiry into student-produced genres, and cross-cultural, and contextual factors that influence generic integrity and variation. Research also needs to focus on (semi)occluded, and emerging disciplinary genres that students, especially international ones, need to acquire for socialization purposes in academia.
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ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Pejman Habibie is the lead teacher assistant in the Faculty of Education at The University of Western Ontario, Canada. His research interests are EAP, academic writing and publishing, genre analysis, and doctoral education.