An important component of fluent linguistic production is control of the multi-word expressions referred to as clusters, chunks or bundles. These are extended collocations which appear more frequently than expected by chance, helping to shape meanings in specific contexts and contributing to our sense of coherence in a text. Bundles have begun to attract considerable attention in corpus studies in EAP, although the extent to which they differ by discipline remains an open question. This paper explores the forms, structures and functions of 4-word bundles in a 3.5 million word corpus of research articles, doctoral dissertations and Master’s theses in four disciplines to learn something of disciplinary variations in their frequencies and preferred uses. The analysis shows that bundles are not only central to the creation of academic discourse, but that they offer an important means of differentiating written texts by discipline.
► We examine idiomaticity in undergraduate student academic writing through four-word lexical bundles. ► We compare English-language essays in linguistics by L1 speakers of Swedish and native speakers. ► The native speakers have a larger number of types of lexical bundles, which are also more varied. ► The findings are largely similar to those of the phraseological research tradition in SLA. In order for discourse to be considered idiomatic, it needs to exhibit features like fluency and pragmatically appropriate language use. Advances in corpus linguistics make it possible to examine idiomaticity from the perspective of recurrent word combinations. One approach to capture such word combinations is by the automatic retrieval of lexical bundles. We investigated the use of English-language lexical bundles in advanced learner writing by L1 speakers of Swedish and in comparable native-speaker writing, all produced by undergraduate university students in the discipline of linguistics. The material was culled from a new corpus of university student writing, the Stockholm University Student English Corpus (SUSEC), amounting to over one million words. The investigation involved a quantitative analysis of the use of four-word lexical bundles and a qualitative analysis of the functions they serve. The results show that the native speakers have a larger number of types of lexical bundles, which are also more varied, such as unattended ‘this’ bundles, existential ‘there’ bundles, and hedging bundles. Other lexical bundles which were found to be more common and more varied in the native-speaker data involved negations. The findings are shown to be largely similar to those of the phraseological research tradition in SLA.
As higher education institutions (HEIs) across the world strive to become increasingly international, English-medium instruction (EMI) is swiftly becoming mainstream in contexts where English has traditionally held a foreign language status. This change in the language of instruction has given rise to a number of concerns, which are still largely under-explored. Amongst these, research into the effects of EMI on students' disciplinary knowledge is of great importance and should be regarded as crucial so that HEIs offer the same possibilities for student construction of knowledge, irrespective of the language used. Our paper duly examines the impact that EMI may have on student academic performance when compared to their counterparts' in their L1 (Spanish). As sample data, a comparable set of first year student grades was collected for the subject of Financial Accounting I in a Spanish university during four academic years (2010–14). A total of 383 student grades were gathered and compared using mean difference tests. Overall, findings show no statistical differences across groups and that the use of EMI does not lower student final academic outcomes. These results may be relevant for other EMI contexts, the business education community and ESP course developers in general.
In a context characterized by the increasing presence of CLIL programs in universities with a tradition of ESP courses, we analyze the case of a university in Catalonia (Spain) with regard to the position of CLIL and ESP. As CLIL programs are promoted to improve students' language proficiency in English, we explore the importance of language learning in these programs and the implications derived for ESP. Data were obtained from institutional documentation, class observation, and lecturer and student views on CLIL expressed in focus groups and a questionnaire. Findings show imprecise guidelines for CLIL implementation. Although we can observe an institutional shift from ESP to CLIL, the latter courses do not generally include language support. Lecturer and student perspectives provide useful insights for action that can be taken by ESP course designers to adapt courses to make them more relevant to students' discipline-related needs. Faced with these findings, we propose engaging in collaboration with content lecturers to develop graduates' proficiency in English. This collaboration can take place both through the integration of language in content courses and through the integration of content in ESP courses to make them more relevant to disciplines' communicative needs.
Move analysis is a text analytical approach first developed by John Swales (1981) to investigate the underlying generic structure of research articles (RAs) in terms of moves-and-steps for pedagogical purposes. A widely shared aspiration of move analysts has been to identify the linguistic features characterizing the various RA moves not only in English, but also across languages. One shortcoming blocking this advancement is the lack of multilingual corpora fully annotated for their specific communicative functions in a coordinated and reliable manner. In this paper, we describe and discuss a methodology for analysing the various RA sections for their generic structure up from the step level in two languages and across a wide range of disciplines, using the discussion section as a test case for illustrating that methodology. Among the topics treated are establishing criteria for choosing a suitable sample of comparable RA discussions across the two languages, designing a model for annotating the section's moves and steps, creating an accessible computer-assisted coding scheme, achieving good levels of inter-rater reliability, and obtaining validation from expert informants and writers. In essence, this is a methodology paper offered as a working model for other EAP researchers undertaking similar analyses in future.
Research article abstracts have become an important genre in all knowledge fields, playing a crucial role in persuading readers, and reviewers, to take the time to go further into the paper itself. This promotional aspect of abstracts is well known, but less discussed is the ways writers are able to skilfully foreground their claim, package the information in a cohesive and coherent manner, and craft a disciplinary stance. One such rhetorical strategy is what we are calling . Nouns such as , , and are common in abstracts and do a great deal of rhetorical work for writers. In this paper we explore the interactive and interactional functions they perform in the rhetorical moves of 240 research abstracts from six disciplines. The results show how these nouns are frequently used to frame and coherently manage arguments while, at the same time, helping writers to claim disciplinary legitimacy and promote the value and relevance of their research to their discipline.
It has been shown that language learners can benefit from a discovery-based learning process whereby they construct as well as consult their own specialist corpora and vocabulary portfolios, for the purposes of translator training (Castagnoli 2006), for general English (Smith 2011) and for academic English learning (Charles 2012; Smith 2015). In the present study, a cohort of 94 international students on an EAP module, majoring in Accounting and Finance, was divided into hands-on (treatment) and hands-off (control) groups. Both groups were subjected to a pre-test consisting of specialist terms that would be encountered on their course (not only in the EAP class, but also on the Accounting and Finance modules). The hands-on group spent about 20 min per weekly class constructing domain-specific DIY corpora and generating subject vocabulary portfolios. The results of a post-test indicated that the hands-on group had achieved a slightly greater improvement in domain vocabulary knowledge than the hands-off group (which used corpora and vocabulary lists provided by the teacher). A participant questionnaire showed that the students found the approaches useful for vocabulary learning.
► We examine overall structures of empirical research articles across 39 disciplines. ► The IMRD pattern is not the default option for organizing such articles. ► Six major patterns and the traditionally overlooked sections are identified. ► Disciplinary variations exist in macrostructures of empirical research articles. This paper presents an analysis of the major generic structures of empirical research articles (RAs), with a particular focus on disciplinary variation and the relationship between the adjacent sections in the introductory and concluding parts. The findings were derived from a close “manual” analysis of 433 recent empirical RAs from high-impact English-language journals in 39 disciplines in the fields of engineering, applied sciences, social sciences and the humanities. This analysis reveals that while many empirical RAs follow the “standard” Introduction–Method–Results–Discussion (IMRD) pattern, this structure is not the default option for organizing such studies. The findings indicate that the most frequently used structural pattern is Introduction–Literature Review–Method–Results and Discussion–Conclusion (ILM[RD]C). The other prominent patterns found in the corpus are IM[RD]C, IMRDC, ILMRDC and ILMRD. The paper identifies and highlights the importance of the sections that are not fully accounted for in the conventional IMRD framework, namely the Literature Review (L), the merged (as opposed to separated) Results and Discussion [RD], and the Conclusion (C). The paper concludes by discussing the implications of the study for academic writing research as well as the design of RA writing courses and materials for research students and early-career academics.
The ever-intensifying globalization and marketization of higher education are placing increased pressure on doctoral students to publish during candidature. This paper reports a study of Chinese nursing doctoral students' endeavors to publish in English. Drawing on Activity Theory, the study employed a multiple-case study design and collected multiple types of data from six doctoral students and one supervisor from a major research-intensive university in mainland China. Thematic and activity systems analyses of the data revealed a tension concerning the students' dual role as student and expert scholarly writer. The tension was manifested in the students' developing, but still limited grasp and use of some conceptual tools needed to publish their work. The analyses also showed that the students dealt with this tension by relying on mediating resources, such as cultural artifacts and social others that facilitated not only their publishing efforts, but also their socialization into the academic culture and community. These findings point to a deep-seated structural tension in doctoral education that, while constraining doctoral students' scholarly publishing endeavors, could also enable them to acquire the skills of the trade to publish and to be socialized into their disciplinary communities.
This paper describes a corpus-based investigation of the 8 million word Specialized Corpus of Civil Engineering Research Articles (SCCERA), developed at the University of Tokyo. A keyword analysis was first performed in order to identify words associated with civil engineering research articles and of potential pedagogic value. These were then compared with established external wordlists (the New General Service List and the New Academic Word List) to categorize keywords into those: (i) commonly occurring in general English; (ii) commonly occurring in academic English, and (iii) not occurring in either the NGSL or NAWL. Keywords in the 11 sub-disciplines of civil engineering displayed marked heterogeneity, raising questions about exactly how specialized a corpus needs to be in order to be of pedagogic value. In a separate ‘cluster analysis’, 3-, 4-, 5- and 6-word combinations were extracted in order to identify fixed expressions common to the field. These were found to typically belong to one of five categories: (i) cause and effect language; (ii) comparison and contrast language; (iii) language of quantification; (iv) deictic language; (v) language showing the writer's stance. The pedagogic implications of these findings are discussed.
This study reports on provision to assist students in the health sciences develop knowledge and skill in locating, evaluating, and synthesising sources to use as supporting evidence for the argument essays they are required to produce for first year courses at a university in New Zealand. Students were provided with support in the form of documents, tutorials, online discussion and structured assignment tasks, as well as through embedded instruction offered collaboratively by subject lecturers, an academic literacy developer, and a library professional. The provision was traced over students' first semester, and perspectives of staff and students elicited. Findings revealed that although it was generally evaluated as relevant and helpful, a number of problematic issues were identified related to information-sharing and the need for explicit instruction in linguistic and communicative components aspects of academic writing. The latter was evident in omission from the provision of topics such as disciplinary conventions, rhetorical purposes of citations, options for how to cite, and integration of sources into personal academic arguments. Findings suggest that the inclusion of opportunities to develop awareness of aspects of source-based writing in Year 1 and throughout students' undergraduate years would help them master this complex, multifaceted skill set.
Interpreting research findings in doctoral thesis discussions is a demanding rhetorical task for writers, as it requires them to both make propositions of their own findings and engage with previous scholarship by evaluating others' findings in a way that their academic discourse community finds acceptable. Although many studies have examined thesis writers' use of evaluative language, they have often focused on a quantitative analysis of its frequency and type within clause boundaries. Our study, in contrast, is based on a qualitative analysis of the co-articulation of different evaluative items across clause boundaries. We find three main patterns of discussing the author's own results combined with critical engagement with previous literature and we present typical examples to illustrate the construction of interpersonal positioning as the text unfolds. We then discuss some workshops in which we used these findings to help Master's student writers become aware of different strategies for effectively interpreting research findings in writing discussion sections.
This research is motivated by John Swales' genre analysis of academic texts and rhetorical studies of visuals in scientific texts. Swales' approach still generates insights into the rhetorical structure of research genres across disciplines, yet few studies explore their nonverbal aspects. Rhetorical studies of visuals examine images and ignore links with surrounding texts and may overlook ways that the nonverbal contributes to the discipline's intellectual project. ESP genre research has begun multimodal analysis of academic genres but its focus on conference presentations has left a gap in the study of verbal-visual links in other academic genres. This paper addresses this gap in multimodal genre scholarship. After analyzing a corpus of 30 RAs from discrete mathematics to identify the functions of visuals and possible visual–move associations, we found that visuals in two-thirds of the corpus perform three functions: ontological, argumentative, and epistemological. Our data also indicates three multimodal rhetorical moves initiated primarily by visuals. Implications of our findings are that visual moves go beyond textual considerations, they can disrupt the RA's chronological structure, and novice writers in the field would benefit from understanding the crucial associations between the visual representations, disciplinary knowledge, and the rhetorical structure of RAs in this field.
This research is motivated by John Swales' genre analysis of academic texts and rhetorical studies of visuals in scientific texts. Swales' approach still generates insights into the rhetorical structure of research genres across disciplines, yet few studies explore their nonverbal aspects. Rhetorical studies of visuals examine images and ignore links with surrounding texts and may overlook ways that the nonverbal contributes to the discipline's intellectual project. ESP genre research has begun multimodal analysis of academic genres but its focus on conference presentations has left a gap in the study of verbal-visual links in other academic genres. This paper addresses this gap in multimodal genre scholarship. After analyzing a corpus of 30 RAs from discrete mathematics to identify the functions of visuals and possible visual-move associations, we found that visuals in two-thirds of the corpus perform three functions: ontological, argumentative, and epistemological. Our data also indicates three multimodal rhetorical moves initiated primarily by visuals. Implications of our findings are that visual moves go beyond textual considerations, they can disrupt the RA's chronological structure, and novice writers in the field would benefit from understanding the crucial associations between the visual representations, disciplinary knowledge, and the rhetorical structure of RAs in this field. (C) 2019 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Although past research has shown some differences between junior and senior employees' use of English for workplace communication, no studies have yet provided a long-term and holistic view of how professionals' use of English changes as they gain seniority, what language difficulties they encounter at different stages of their careers and how they overcome these difficulties. The present paper addresses this gap by exploring the changing language and communication needs of three senior Hong Kong business professionals as they rose from junior positions to their present rank. It seeks not only to understand the workplace English needs of senior executives but also to shed light on university graduates' long-term workplace communication needs. The informants' stories about their careers, spanning over 20 years, illuminate their changing roles vis-à-vis technical financial genres since graduation. The stories also illustrate the difficulties met by the informants when tackling non-technical genres, which call not only for advanced English proficiency but also for tact and diplomacy. Overall, the present paper shows that a long-term view of the workplace communication needs of business professionals can provide insights for ESP research and practice, as well as for higher education institutions that aim to nurture tomorrow's leaders.
This study offers timely empirical evidence of the magnitude of the language effect on the performance of different language user groups, namely English as a Foreign Language (EFL), English as a Second Language (ESL), and English as a Native Language (ENL) in an accounting program instructed in English, an area that has been under researched. Informed by Cognitive Load Theory (CLT), this study develops an innovative research methodology (crossover repeated measures design), drawing on a large data analysis (n = 2912) of students' academic results in six accounting specialisation subjects between 2007 and 2014 in an Australian university's undergraduate accounting program. Results show that while all language user groups perform worse in more conceptually (MC) oriented subjects compared to less conceptually (LC) oriented subjects, the relative performance between MC and LC is strongly related to English language user groups. For the first time the magnitude of the impact is derived. The study has implications for the instructional design of accounting programs in English-speaking universities and their offshore programs in non-English speaking countries. (C) 2019 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
This paper investigates the use of (D. Gardner & Davies, 2014) items in successful university study writing. Overall, levels of use of AVL items are high, and increase as students progress through the years of undergraduate and taught postgraduate study, suggesting that it may be a useful resource. However, significant variation is found across text types and disciplines. While the former is relatively minor, the latter is extensive, suggesting the list is more relevant to some student writers than others. An analysis by items indicates that around half of the words on the list are used very little. Moreover, the items which are frequent differ across disciplines. However, a small core of 427 items was found to be frequent across 90% of disciplines. This suggests that a generic productive academic vocabulary does exist, but that it is smaller in scope than the full Academic Vocabulary List.
► This article examines students’ transition to English-medium university studies. ► This is one of the few EAP-related longitudinal studies ever conducted. ► Students’ main first-year challenge lies in understanding specialist vocabulary. ► School teaching medium is the key variable influencing ease of adjustment. ► Freshmen from Chinese schools struggle to adjust to English-medium studies. This article examines the language-related challenges that first-year students face when adjusting to the demands of English-medium higher education in Hong Kong. The article is based on the findings of a longitudinal study which tracked the university careers of 28 students from a range of backgrounds via in-depth, semi-structured interviews conducted at regular intervals over their three years of study. These findings are complemented by the results of a questionnaire survey completed by around 3 000 students at the same university. The interview and survey findings indicate that students experience four particular problems during the crucial first year at university: understanding technical vocabulary, comprehending lectures, achieving an appropriate academic style and meeting institutional and disciplinary requirements. The evidence suggests that students are able to overcome these and other problems through a combination of strong motivation, hard work, effective learning strategies and supportive peer networks. To illustrate and personalise the first-year experience, the article paints ‘portraits’ of three students from different societal, educational and disciplinary backgrounds. These portraits follow a series of ‘landscapes’ which depict recurring patterns in the qualitative and quantitative data. The article concludes by discussing the implications of the study for EAP provision in ESL and EFL contexts.