The strength with which genre conventions may be seen to be operating in the three articles under consideration depends on the RA sub-genre and the expected readership. Thus, Lin and Evans's paper conforms to most academic conventions, Bullock's article is also highly standardized yet includes more deviations, while Westerman's RA is the least formal and exhibits elements of translation of an RA into a popular account.
The first paper, "Learner self-assessment: an investigation into teachers' beliefs" by D. Bullock (2011), is a bright example of the empiricist repertoire. The degree of standardisation is high. The structure of the article is IM[RD]C, which, according to Lin & Evans, is a frequent choice with applied disciplines (Lin & Evans, 2012, p. 159), while the traditional IMRD framework is not deemed effective in the case of a considerable number of the applied linguistics RAs (Lin & Evans, 2012, p. 154). The article adheres to the traditional hourglass structure: it starts with a general discussion of the issues surrounding self-assessment, then proceeds to the more specific topic - a detailed description of the experiment, and finally returns to the broader context by specifying how the given results resonate with the findings of other studies. The introduction follows the traditional three moves of the CARS model: the author establishes a territory in the subsection "The role of self-assessment in fostering learner autonomy" (Bullock, 2011, p. 114), then she establishes a niche - study of learner self-assessment informed by Ajzen's theory of planned behavior (Bullock, 2011, p. 116) and occupies it in the subsection "Why research into teacher beliefs is important" (Bullock, 2011, p. 116). As for the results and conclusion, the latter does not re-describe the results, rather summarises them offering perspectives for further research and application.
An impersonal style prevails, but the language is not over-formalised. For instance, first-person narrative is used throughout the paper: "I led the implementation" (Bullock, 2011, p. 117), "I devised an Attitude Questionnaire" (Bullock, 2011, p. 118), "I will focus" (Bullock, 2011, p. 118), "undertaking this study helped me" (Bullock, 2011, p. 122), etc. As for the hedging, it is being used by the author in moderation and can be observed in such phrases as "However, it has been suggested that ..." (Bullock, 2011, p. 115), "There is also some evidence to suggest that ..." (Bullock, 2011, p. 115), "It is important to note that..." (Bullock, 2011, p. 116), etc. Tenses correspond to the hourglass structure of the paper: in the I and C sections present tenses prevail, while the [RD] and M sections mostly employ past tenses. The article is carefully crafted to be informative and yet easy-to-use as its target audience includes teachers.
The second paper, "Structural patterns in empirical research articles: A cross-disciplinary study" by L. Lin & S. Evans (2012), is a more standardised example of an empiricist repertoire than the other two. It follows many of the trends observed by Swales (Swales, 2011, p. 123), such as a larger number of references (39 as compared to 15 in Bullock and 10 in Westerman) and increasingly uphill struggle to incorporate more information (the article is 10 pages long and includes an appendix). Apart from that, adoption of hard sciences paradigm can be seen, including such features as co-authorship and extensive use of statistics (represented in two graphs (Lin & Evans, 2012, p. 154-155) and also a chart (Lin & Evans, 2012, p. 159)).
The hourglass structure is used. However, the paper does not follow the classical IMRD pattern employing another popular RA structure - IM[RD]C, also adopted by Bullock (2011). The introduction is not as detailed as in Bullock's paper and not divided into subsections. At the same time, it follows the traditional CARS scenario: from the field ("the structural and linguistic features of research articles," (Lin & Evans, 2012, p. 150)) to the niche ("the generic structures of RAs," (Lin & Evans, 2012, p. 151)) which is occupied in the last paragraph of the introduction ("This article seeks to address some of the limitations of scope, scale and timeframe ...," (Lin & Evans, 2012, p. 152)). The M and the [RD] sections are divided into subsections which offer a detailed overview of the research procedure and findings. As research serves a highly practical aim ("to inform classroom teaching and learning" (Lin, Evans, 2012, p. 152)), the Conclusion focuses on recommendations.
The language of the paper is more formal than in the other two articles: the first-person narration is not resorted to, instead passive voice predominates, hedges are extensively used (e.g. "one possible reason" (Lin, Evans, 2012, p. 150), "...it is possible that..." (Lin, Evans, 2012, p. 151), "...perhaps the most illuminating" (Lin, Evans, 2012, p. 151), "This could be justified by..." (Lin, Evans, 2012, p. 150) etc.)). The usage of the tenses differs slightly from the one adopted in Bullock's paper: present tenses are used in the I, [RD] and C sections, while the M section mostly employs past tenses. The narrative is concise, well-structured and provides generalizations.
The third paper, "Is the butler home? Narrative and the split subject in The Remains of the Day" by M. Westerman (2004), is the least formalised. It represents a partial translation of an RA article into a popular account. No particular structural pattern can be singled out. Yet, CARS logic can be observed in the introductory part where the author moves from establishing a field (narrative peculiarities of the short story (Westerman, 2004, p. 157)) to establishing a niche (the protagonist's ever-conflicted subject position (Westerman, 2004, p. 158)). The approach towards material representation is more discursive and less goal-directed. Other effects include partial removal of jargon, diminution of qualification, the influence of journalistic genres. The first-person narrative is used: for instance, in "I explore" (Westerman, 2004, p. 157) "as I argue" (Westerman, 2004, p. 159). Hedging is rarely resorted to. Present tenses are used throughout the paper. From the very beginning "greater concern to capture human interest" (Swales, 2011, p. 126) is perceived as when, for example, the author begins the article with a plot overview. Obviously, the format of this RA has been determined by the inclusion of the general reader into the target audience and the influence of literary criticism.
The genre analysis of the three papers has shown that there are two important factors that define adherence to the RA conventions. The first one is the intended readership. In the analysed articles it varies from a scholarly audience in Lin & Evans's article to a teaching practitioner in Bullock's paper to a general reader in Westerman's publication. The second factor is the primary focus of the paper. While Lin & Evans are trying to single out general trends on a highly extended research basis, Bullock is focusing on a particular empirical study, and Westerman's publication explores one literary text. Consequently, Lin & Evans's article exhibits the highest degree of formalisation, while Westerman's paper is written in the most flexible format.
Bullock, D. (2011). Learner self-assessment: an investigation into teachers' beliefs. ELT Journal, 65(2), pp. 114-125.
Lin, L. and Evans, S. (2012). Structural patterns in empirical research articles: A cross-disciplinary study. English for Specific Purposes, 31, pp. 150-160.
Swales, J. (2011). Genre analysis: English in academic and research settings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Westerman, M. (2004). Is the butler home? Narrative and the split subject in The Remains of the Day. Mosaic, 37(3), pp. 157-170.
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