Author: Lin, Ling
Title: Perspectives on the introductory phase of empirical research articles : a study of rhetorical structure and citation use
Advisors: Evans, Stephen (ENGL)
Yap, Foong Ha (ENGL)
Degree: Ph.D.
Year: 2015
Subject: Academic writing.
English language -- Discourse analysis.
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Department: Department of English
Pages: xix, 519 pages ; 30 cm
Language: English
Abstract: In the EAP field, the rhetorical structure of the Introduction section has been the subject of considerable scholarly attention since Swales's (1990) conception of his ground-breaking "Create-a-Research-Space" (CARS) model. Swales's (1990, 2004) move-based approach has also provided the theoretical foundation for research into the three other sections in the "conventional" Introduction-Method-Results-Discussion (IMRD) macro-structure of empirical research articles (ERAs), namely, Method, Results and Discussion. In contrast, the sections that are not represented in the IMRD framework, e.g., the Literature Review (LR) section, have been rarely studied. This is perhaps a consequence of the long-term preoccupation with the “canonical IMRD framework and the apparent dearth of empirical research into the macro-structure of the ERA. In the introductory phase of the ERA, i.e., the section(s) before the Method, the frequent appearance of the LR has been noted by a number of genre scholars (e.g., Kwan, Chan & Lam, 2012; Yang & Allison, 2004). Nevertheless, it remains an underexplored part-genre. The relationship between this section and the preceding Introduction in terms of their communicative functions, rhetorical structure and language use has not been systematically investigated either. As both sections provide possible contexts for reviewing the literature, the comparison of citation use across them is another interesting research lacuna.To address these research gaps, the present study extends the research scope from a single "Introduction" section of the ERA, which has traditionally been the sole focus of much previous research, to the entire introductory phase following the format of "I+LR" (i.e., containing both sections). The project comprises three inter-related studies: (1) a large-scale cross-sectional study of the macro-structure of 780 RAs in 39 disciplines in the fields of engineering, applied sciences, social sciences and the humanities to identify the major structural patterns and the major sections of ERAs; (2) a diachronic study of the macro-structural development of ERAs with a particular focus on the evolution of the structural forms of their introductory phases by examining 1269 RAs published in the past three decades (1980-2010) in civil engineering (CE) and applied linguistics (AL); and (3) a focused study of the rhetorical structure of and citation use (i.e., the use of reporting verbs (RVs), citation forms and citation functions) in 60 introductory phases structured in the "I+LR" pattern with a multi-perspective approach (viz., the cross-disciplinary, cross-generic, emic, and published advice vs. actual expert practices perspectives). In particular, the emic perspective is derived from insider views from 12 expert writers from CE and AL, which illuminate findings from textual analyses.The first two lead-in studies have verified respectively from the cross-sectional and diachronic perspectives the importance of the LR as a major section in ERAs. The first lead-in study identifies predominant structural patterns other than the IMRD, e.g., Introduction-Literature Review-the merged Results and Discussion-Conclusion (ILM[RD]C). Major sections not represented in the classic IMRD framework such as the C and LR sections have also been found. The study identifies CE and AL as two disciplines where research writers prefer to use an independent LR, justifying them as the two focused disciplines for the second and third studies. The second study demonstrates the increasing importance of the LR in CE and AL ERAs and reveals both the evolving and the inherent "stabilized-for-now or stabilized-enough" nature of the genre of ERAs (Schryer, 1994: 108). The third study reveals cross-disciplinary and cross-generic variations in the rhetorical structure of and citation use in the Introduction and LR sections. Possible structures have been proposed for the two sections with structural variability revealed in the Introduction used before the LR section. However, the two major types of Introduction [viz., the "Two-move Orientation" type and the "Research-oriented Traditional Creating a Research Space" ("RT CARS") type] could be identified in the data collected from both disciplines. Other types of introductions discovered include the Practical-problem Solving" introductions (only in CE) and the "Building on the Writers' Own Previous Research' introduction (only in AL). For the two dominant categories of introductions (i.e., the Orientation introductions and the RT CARS introductions), a Two-move Orientation approach and an integrated CARS model have been proposed respectively.Different from the traditional CARS-like introductions, the Orientation introductions do not function to create a research space for the study but mainly to identify the issue to be addressed and inform the readers of the research to be undertaken. Although the two major types of introductions differ greatly in their length, functions, and rhetorical organization, they are fairly flexibly yet simply structured with no dense use of sub-moves. Another noticeable feature of such introductions followed by a usually lengthy and substantial LR section is that, the element for reviewing specific research is either absent or slightly used in them. This indicates the possible functional shift and the inter-relatedness between the two adjoining sections.
In terms of the LR section, it was found to contain four possible distinct functional components, namely, Advanced Organizer/Overview, Theoretical Review, Contextual Background, and Conclusion. Theoretical Review is the only obligatory component, for which a possible four-move structure has been formulated. Its major communicative functions are to provide substantial background for further contextualizing the study (after this has been partly accomplished in the introductions) and to position the study against the background through establishing various links between the two. One of the important links established is by locating a gap in the background literature to be filled by the present study. Other links established such as "relevance-claiming', "asserting the irrelevance of the surveyed claims to one's own research for specifying its research scope", and "theoretical framework-synthesizing" are not (directly) related to niche establishment, but aim to draw insights from the previous theoretical and empirical literature to position the study in a broader sense.While the Introduction and the LR section (or rather Theoretical Reviews) share some communicative purposes and thus a number of elements identified (e.g., the move "Outline the Present Study" and the sub-move "Claiming the Centrality"), they play distinctive yet complementary roles. As one of our interviewees commented, within the introductory phase of the ERA structured in the "I+LR" format, the Introduction acts as a kind of "set-up" mainly for scene-setting and identifying the problem/issue, whilst its subsequent LR section further develops the arguments or rationales briefly mentioned in the Introduction, functioning as a "build-up".In the 60 Theoretical Reviews, the four prototypical moves have a strong presence. However, they display structural complexity with a high degree of cyclicity at move level and a wide variety of move configurations noted. The numbers of move units integrating the configurations for Theoretical Reviews are often much larger than those for the introductions, corresponding to their remarkably extended length.Although there is much in common in the frequency use of some sub-moves and sub-move configurations in Theoretical Reviews between the two disciplines, the relevant marked cross-disciplinary differences also exist. For example, the single sub-move patterns (Sub-move 3.5 "Theoretical Framework-synthesizing" and Sub-move 3.4 "Irrelevance-claiming") are frequently used in AL Theoretical Reviews but not in CE ones. While Theoretical Reviews in both disciplines display a strong cyclical tendency in their move use, at the sub-move level, most frequently-used configurations only contain a single element.Regarding citation practices, there is a denser use of citations in the entire introductory phase in AL than in CE. While citation density in the LR section in both disciplines is quite similar, the number of citations used in AL Introductions is much larger than that in CE introductions. However, in both disciplines, more citations are used in the LR than in the Introduction. The types of citation used do differ in these two sections across the two disciplines. In the Introduction in both disciplines, non-integral citations are overwhelmingly employed. In contrast, in the LR section in CE, integral citations are much more favoured. While a slightly higher percentage of non-integral citations (as opposed to integral ones) are used in AL LRs, there is a marked increase in the use of integral citations when AL writers proceed from the opening Introduction to the subsequent LR. Among the subcategories preferred within integral citations, verb controlling is the most common citation in the LR of both disciplines and in CE Introductions, even though the same percentages of the verb-controlling sub-type and the naming sub-type are employed in AL Introductions. Regarding the naming sub-type, regular patterns are identified in both sections across the two disciplines. A comparison of the use of these patterns reveals the contrasting nature of the two disciplines and the featured content and functional elements involved in the particular part-genre. In terms of variations in the functional use of citations across the two sections, expert writers employ more frequently citations with rhetorically complex functions (most typically exemplification, support, and comparison and contrast between/among sources) in the LR section. In contrast, in the preceding Introduction section, they favour using citations with rhetorically simpler functions (e.g., example and generalization from multiple sources). As for RV use, similarities and differences in the employment of the specific denotative and evaluative categories of RVs in the two sections across the two disciplines generally match with our expert informants’ perceptions of their own and disciplinary practices. The study’s findings have significant implications for EAP theory and pedagogy and possible avenues are suggested for future research.
Rights: All rights reserved
Access: open access

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