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Available online at English for Specific Purposes 27 (2008) 387–411 E NGLISH FOR S

Available online at

Available online at English for Specific Purposes 27 (2008) 387–411 E NGLISH FOR S PECIFIC

English for Specific Purposes 27 (2008) 387–411




Individualized engagement with genre in academic literacy tasks

An Cheng *

Department of English, Oklahoma State University, 205 Morrill, Stillwater, OK 74078, USA


The interaction between learner characteristics, including learners’ histories and goals of learning, and learners’ analysis and production of target genres remains a topic of continuing interest in the genre-based literacy framework. This case study documented an L2 graduate student’s individual- ized engagement with genre in both her reading and writing tasks in a genre-based academic writing course. The analysis of the student’s genre-analysis tasks, writing samples, text-based interviews, and literacy narrative reveals that the student’s familiarity with the overall research article move structure in her field may have accounted for her intensive focus on the incongruities between the generic fea- tures discussed in class and the generic features that she perceived to be unique to her field. Many features she pointed out in her genre-analysis tasks as dialogic responses to class discussions had also been incorporated into her own writing, thus showing that her individualized engagement with genre had not only scaffolded her reading of research articles in her field, but also her writing. The stu- dent’s meaningful re-mediation of her existing genre knowledge to generate a new understanding of texts extends our conceptualizations of genre-based teaching as a needs-based approach and what learning may entail in such an approach. 2008 The American University. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction

Genre is often defined in the ESP tradition as structured communicative events engaged in by specific discourse communities whose members share broad communicative purposes ( Bhatia, 1993, 2004; Swales, 1990 ; see Hyon, 1996 , for a discussion of genre in the ESP and

* Tel.: +1 405 7449474; fax: +1 405 7446326. E-mail address:

0889-4906/$34.00 2008 The American University. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


388 A. Cheng / English for Specific Purposes 27 (2008) 387–411

other traditions). Over the past two decades, genre has become an increasingly important concept in ESP and EAP research and practices ( Hyland, 2004; Tardy, 2006 ). Many researchers have analyzed the recurring generic features and the rhetorical contexts of var- ious discipline-specific genres (see, for example, many articles in this journal). These anal- yses have, in turn, generated many insightful genre-based pedagogical proposals and teaching materials (e.g., Bhatia, 1993; Flowerdew, 1993; Hyland, 2004; Johns, 2002; Pal- tridge, 2001; Swales & Feak, 2000, 2004; Weissberg & Buker, 1990 ). In recent years, the efficacy of these proposals and materials has been explored in vary- ing geographical and pedagogical contexts. In the University of Brunei Darussalam, for example, Henry and Roseberry (1998) studied how ‘‘genre-based instruction and materials improved learners’ ability to produce effective tokens of the genre of the tourism bro- chure (p. 148). In Jordan, Mustafa (1995) examined how formal instruction in the genre of the term paper raised university students’ awareness of term paper conventions. In Hong Kong, Pang (2002) explored the impact of genre-based teaching on some undergrad- uate students’ writing of film reviews. In Ukraine, Yakhontova (2001) documented her students’ intellectual and emotional reactions to an influential ESP genre-based writing textbook (Swales & Feak, 1994 ) and the course in which the book was adopted. In the United States, Hyon (2002) found that the L2 graduate students interviewed immediately after an EAP genre-based reading course reported increased attention to rhetorical fea- tures in texts and improved reading confidence and speed. A related study of the same population led Hyon (2001) to conclude that ‘‘genre-knowledge gained through explicit instruction can be remembered by EAP students over an extended period of time and facil- itate aspects of L2 reading and writing (p. 434). Also in the US, Swales and Lindemann (2002) explored how L2 graduate students in their academic writing class learned the lit- erature review section of research articles (RAs). They were impressed with the students’ abilities to produce ‘‘a greater number of intelligent structures than are typically proposed in the literature and to ‘‘elucidate much about the reasoning behind the various approaches to literature reviews (p. 117). These studies have invaluably enhanced our understanding of the ESP genre-based lit- eracy framework. An issue that remains to be addressed in these studies, however, is the interaction between learner characteristics, including learners’ histories and goals of learn- ing, and their analysis and production of target genres in genre-based writing classes (see a detailed discussion of this literature gap in Cheng, 2006a ). Since understanding such an interaction can help us appreciate the full intricacies of learning in the genre-based literacy framework, this study aimed to fill the above-mentioned literature gap by exploring the following three research questions:

What features did an L2 graduate student attend to when she analyzed discipline-spe- cific genre samples? What generic features did the student incorporate into her own writing? Why did the student focus on these features in her genre-analysis and writing tasks?

2. Research design

2.1. The context of the study

This paper reports on a case in a series of case studies on learners and learning in the ESP genre-based framework of writing instruction. The data were collected in an academic

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writing course in a large American university. Most students enrolled in this elective course because of self- or other-perceived problems with English academic writing. 1 In the semester during which this study took place, two sections of this course were offered, with a total of 22 students enrolled in them. Both sections were taught by the author. Among the students, 11 were engineering majors of various kinds (electrical, mechanical, and industrial, among others), and the others were from accounting, finance, physics, agri- culture, information systems, and other disciplines across the campus. 12 were from China, seven from Korea, and the other three were from other countries. 17 of the 22 stu- dents were doctoral students. Each section met for two 75-minute sessions weekly for 16 weeks. Since I played both the roles of instructor and researcher in this study, special mea- sures were mandated by the University’s Research Compliance Office to ensure that I was not aware of which student had agreed to participate in the study during the semester. Consequently, the various documents collected from the students as regular learning requirements of the course were analyzed for research purposes after the semester had ended (see the data sources discussed below). The course adopted the principles of ESP genre-based teaching expounded in Bhatia (1993, 2004), Flowerdew (1993), Swales (1990), and Swales and Feak (2000, 2004) to meet the needs of the students, many of whom were expected by their programs to write up and publish their current or future research projects. It consisted of four interrelated sections. In Section 1 , non-academic genre samples, such as good/bad news letters ( Bhatia, 1993; Swales & Feak, 2004 ) and wedding announcements ( Johns, 1997 ), were used to guide the students to practice delineating the rhetorical structures and language features in texts. These samples were also used to raise the students’ awareness of the role rhetorical con- texts (reader, writer, and purpose) play in genre formation. Section 2 tackled the ‘‘rhetor- ically highly demanding RA introduction ( Swales & Lindemann, 2002, p. 117 ). Section 3 explored the generic features of the method, discussion, and conclusion sections in RAs. Section 4 examined such academic support genres as job application letters and manu- script submission letters (Swales & Feak, 2000 ). In order to encourage the students to ‘‘become more observant readers of the discoursal conventions of their fields ( Swales & Lindemann, 2002, p. 118 ), I asked the students to each collect at least five published RAs from recent volumes of reputable refereed journals in their fields for their out-of-class genre-analysis tasks (see Appendix A for the five articles collected by the focal student in this study). Copies of all these RAs, along with short para- graphs explaining why each RA was chosen, were provided to me. In Sections 2 and 3 , I used these samples to create activities modeled on those in Swales and Feak (2000, 2004) and to lead class discussions aimed at heightening the students’ awareness of the generic features and the rhetorical contexts in various sections of RAs. Similar to Flowerdew (1993) and Henry and Roseberry (1998) , these discussions were designed as open-ended and inductive activities of ‘‘metacommunicating – the explicit analysis of the genre sam- ples ( Flowerdew, 1993, p. 309 ), – through addressing questions such as

1 This course was the only credit-bearing writing course for L2 graduate students in the University’s L2 EAP curriculum when the study took place. The credit-bearing status of this course may partially explain why most students were motivated to complete the learning tasks in this course (see Norris & Tardy, 2006, for a discussion of this issue). Unsurprisingly, however, many students reported that the three credits they earned in this course usually did not fulfill their degree requirements.

390 A. Cheng / English for Specific Purposes 27 (2008) 387–411

How many moves (and steps) can you see in this section? What is the author trying to do (vs. say) with these two sentences in the first paragraph? What are the words, phrases, clauses, and sentences that the author uses to achieve that purpose? Do you see anything similar to, or different from, these examples in your reference RAs?

At the end of every discussion, I reminded the students to use the insights they gained from the discussions as a set of heuristics to enhance their own observation of the generic features in RAs in their fields, rather than as rules that could be mechanically applied to their subsequent writing tasks. To maintain this discovery-oriented approach to genre, I assigned eight out-of-class genre-analysis tasks in which the students independently analyzed different parts in the five RAs they had each collected (see Appendix B for the purposes of these genre-analysis tasks). The students cut and pasted different parts of the RAs and used the editing func- tions (coloring, italicizing, underlining, and boldfacing, among others) in Microsoft Word to highlight the rhetorical organizations and the lexico-grammatical features in the RA samples that they found interesting or useful. I responded to their analyses by offering additional examples based on my reading of published genre-analysis studies or by asking for clarifications of certain points in their tasks. The students were given credits for doing these genre-analysis tasks on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. There were three major writing assignments in this course, apart from some small, in- class writing assignments. The first assignment was a literacy narrative – an account of how the students learned to read and write in both their L1 and L2. In the second assign- ment, the students practiced writing an RA introduction based on a current or a previous research project. In the third writing assignment, the students practiced writing another RA section other than the introduction.

2.2. The focal student

Ling (a pseudonym), the focal student in this study, was in her third semester as a doc- toral student in finance and business studies at the start of this study. After earning her B.S. degree in international finance from one of the premier research universities in China in 2000, she worked for six months at the China office of an American company as a finan- cial analyst. From 2001 to 2003, Ling studied for her M.A. degree in accounting and finance in a major English-medium research university in the Hong Kong/Macau region. During her study there, she assisted her professors in various research projects related to financial risk management, mutual fund flow, and market return volatility. She also pre- sented a paper at an international conference in North America in 2002. However, she had never published any single-authored or coauthored paper in English when the study started. Ling’s academic and professional background may explain why she was awarded the coveted University Fellowship to support her study in the first year. Despite her academic training and her professional experience, Ling could remember her struggles with English academic literacy learning. In her literacy narrative, for example, she traced such struggles to her days in China, where she viewed English primarily as a school subject – almost a necessary evil – with little real-life relevance:

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[Excerpt 1] To be honest, I didn’t read or write a lot in English before my graduation

Yes, dur-

from college although I had studied English for about ten years by

ing those ten years, I learned how to read and write in English, just in order to pass various exams, such as the University Entrance Exam, since English is a required sub- ject in all the exams in China. At that time, I never read a piece of article in English except for those articles related to courses or exams. Also, I never wrote a piece of paper in English if I don’t have to. I can say that I could live well without English if I didn’t need to take English exams then. (Ling’s literacy narrative, p. 1) 2

However, her admittance into the M.A. program in Hong Kong/Macau drastically changed her perception of the role of English. Learning and using English suddenly became a daunting daily reality, a necessary tool for academic success, and even a life-long commitment. She started to feel the urgent need to improve her academic literacy skills:

[Excerpt 2] But things have changed dramatically since I came to [a major research university in the Hong Kong/Macau region] to pursue my Master degree. It suddenly came to me that English was something that I had to deal with throughout my whole

life . I had to take courses in English, I had to read a lot of papers in English, I had to do a lot of projects in English, I had to communicate through emails in English, I had to write dissertation in English as well. What should I do? Is there a way that

I could improve my English skills, especially in reading and writing, as soon as possible?

I realized that I had to do something about it. But how? (Ling’s literacy narrative, p. 2)

Having realized the role of English in enabling her to engage in a multitude of academic tasks crucial to her academic survival, she worked hard at improving her English academic literacy skills. She first concentrated on her reading skills:

[Excerpt 3] Maybe part of the answer lies in reading and writing themselves: to read more and to write more. As you see, I do not really enjoy reading and writing even in Chinese, much less in English. But I have to, otherwise I could not survive in my aca- demic life. At that time, I had to read at least one journal article thoroughly every week. I remember I was really a slow reader at first: it usually took me almost the whole week to read through a paper. Again I experienced difficulties focusing on the articles all the time, since they seemed very boring and difficult to me. I couldn’t understand these articles, but I couldn’t stop reading. You see, it is really a painful experience for me. But gradually I found my efforts paid off: it only took me about three or four days to finish a paper half a year later. Here, I am not saying that I am good at reading in English. But at least, I became more comfortable with English papers. (Ling’s literacy narrative, p. 2)

While becoming a relatively more proficient reader of English RAs, she realized the importance of improving her academic writing, so she participated in some writing work- shops in her university:

[Excerpt 4] Yet I have been struggling with writing in English all the time, even until now . No matter how painful I was at writing, writing is very essential in my life and in my future career development as well. Therefore, I took a series of writing workshop and a

2 In Excerpts 1–5, all emphases were added by the researcher.

392 A. Cheng / English for Specific Purposes 27 (2008) 387–411

thesis writing course, where I learned how to structure an academic paper. Especially after I read the papers in my field, it became clearer to me what an introduction, method, or conclusion part should be looked like . (Ling’s literacy narrative, p. 2)

In my interview with her based on her literacy narrative, she explained that these work- shops mainly focus on the overall macro rhetorical organization of academic writing. They were often delivered in a deductive manner where the instructors described, often quite prescriptively, the structure of RAs. Despite having taken these workshops, Ling was acutely aware of her on-going struggles as an academic reader and writer:

[Excerpt 5] I doubt I was really a bad writer then since I could tell that my supervisor was very dissatisfied with the first draft of my paper. But he didn’t criticize too much of my writing. Instead, he recommended several papers to me to read and asked me to pay spe-

After coming to U.S., I

cial attention to how the ideas are presented in those

just realized how immature I am as a reader and writer of English. I am still not used to

reading: I am not able to read freely and understand it to the maximum. Also, I am still

not used to writing either: I am not able to write freely and express it in the most appro- priate way. I recalled my painful experience of reading and writing in my Philosophy

.the fact is still there: I am not able to read and write

effectively in English. Maybe I have to do something to improve my written English, don’t I? This is also part of the reasons why I took this course. (Ling’s literacy narrative, p. 3)

Possibly due to the motivation to improve her writing, Ling was very attentive in class. She was quiet most of the time but was extremely detail oriented. Her extensive analyses of the RAs in her collection greatly attracted my attention when the semester was over.

of Science course last

2.3. Data generation and analysis

Given her knowledge of ‘‘what an introduction, method, or conclusion part should be looked like and her awareness of the need to improve her English academic literacy skills, what did Ling’s learning profile look like? To address this question, I examined the follow- ing main data sources: (1) Ling’s eight genre-analysis tasks, (2) her second writing assign- ment – an RA introduction, (3) her written comments on this writing assignment, (4) the transcripts of several audio-recorded text-based interviews (Odell, Goswami, & Herring- ton, 1983 ) based on Ling’s genre-analysis and writing tasks, and (5) her literacy narrative. I adopted the constant-comparative method ( Glaser, 1978; Strauss & Corbin, 1998 ) to develop categories and thematic patterns from the data. For example, the first data source – Ling’s eight genre-analysis tasks – were compiled into a document of 41 single-spaced pages. I then read the entire document numerous times until I could almost memorize all the details in it. This step helped me to reflect on the overall meaning of the information in the document. After this step, key words, phrases, and notes were written down on the margin of any unit or ‘‘chunk (Rossman & Rallis, 1998, p. 171 ) of data with heuristic significance. 3 These tentatively coded units of data were then compared with subsequent

3 A unit of data with heuristic significance often reveals information relevant to the study and stimulates the analyst to think beyond this particular bit of information ( Lincoln & Guba, 1985). In this study, these units of data could be as small as a few words Ling used to analyze an RA sample or as large as several pages that showed a significant turn in Ling’s analysis.

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unit(s) to identify recurring regularities in the data. Fig. 1 provides an example of this open-coding process. In the open-coding process, any unit of the data was compared not only within one data source, but also across different data sources. For example, the units of data in Ling’s genre-analysis tasks were compared with those in her literacy narrative and her writing tasks. After open coding, axial coding was applied until ‘‘categories are related to their subcategories to form more precise and complete explanations about phenomena ( Strauss & Corbin, 1998, p. 124 ). For instance, while the category of ‘‘familiarity with rhe- torical organization of RAs was being established (see part of this process in Fig. 1 ), another category called ‘‘highlighting rhetorical features unique to her field was also established through open coding. These two categories were identified as mutually contrib- uting to the overarching theme of ‘‘individualized engagement with genre based on prior knowledge of genre. Any emerging theme, with its categories, was then applied to the data again for an iterative, spiraling analysis until further details could be identified and an overall theoretical understanding of the data could be achieved ( Strauss & Corbin, 1998 ). Because the data were uniquely grounded in the pedagogical contexts of this course, the data were mainly coded by the instructor/author. The coded data then went through a peer-debriefing process ( Creswell, 2003 ) in which I explained the coded data to a fellow


Ling’s analyses of RAs “The author first affirmed the contributions of previous literature, and then he criticized the literature by pointing out a research gap. It is natural to introduce this paper’s contribution after this paragraph” (Unit 1). “The literature review part is a well-structured one where the authors began with a topic sentence (“Indeed, …”), and then evaluated the specific literatures in views of data mining (paragraph 2), behavior patterns (paragraph 3), and risk (paragraph 4 and 5), respectively” (Unit 2). “--Announcing the general objectives --elaborating the objective --justifying the use of method” (Unit 3)

Keywords and notes Clear deciphering of rhetorical structure? The word “natural” suggests her familiarity with and even acceptance of this structure as part of her implicit knowledge of the rhetorical organization of RA? [compared with Unit1] Again, clear analysis of rhetorical structure? Clear outlining of main topic and subtopics in RA suggests again familiarity with rhetorical structure?

Categories (after comparing all units across the 4 tasks)

Task 2

Task 3

familiarity with the move structure of the RAs; ability to decipher the move structure clearly and to analyze it quite smoothly;

Task 4

[compared with Units 1 & 2] Clear analysis of overall rhetorical structure in the form of heading. She knew the structure well enough to not even bother analyzing it? [Alternative interpretation]— clear structure in RA and not much to analyze? [compared with Units 1, 2, and 3] Again, she used heading instead of analysis; did the cursory analysis of rhetorical structure mean she knew it well? Again, alternative interpretation (see Unit 3) may still stand.

[Alternatively], move structure in her RAs may not be complicated.

Task 5

“The move pattern is very clear; see headings below” (Unit 4)

Fig. 1. An example of the open coding of four tentatively identified units of data.

394 A. Cheng / English for Specific Purposes 27 (2008) 387–411

researcher with an impressive record of publications that use the constant-comparative method. All the coded categories were cross-checked by this research peer to make sure that the coded data made sense to both of us. Any inconsistencies between us were dis- cussed until agreement was reached. In the next section, I follow the preferred mode of data presentation in grounded-anal- ysis research and present the data inductively ( Creswell, 2003 ). In other words, extensive examples from the data will be presented before the main themes and categories are summarized.

3. Findings

3.1. Discovering generic features

From her genre-analysis (GA) Task 2, Ling’s analysis of the move structure in RAs started to show a clear and consistent pattern, as illustrated in Except 6. 4

Excerpt 6

A segment of an RA in Ling’s collection

Ling’s analysis

Over the past 30 years the fraction of

market capitalization held by institutional investors has nearly doubled (footnote 1 ). The growing institutional presence has led

to a common perception that institutional

herding (i.e., institutional investors following each other into and out of the same securities) impacts security prices and leads to excess volatility and market

fragility. In a recent episode of Wall Street Week, for example, Louis Rukeyser claimed, ‘‘Who really did do the panicking

at the bottom? We found what we had long

suspected. The real patsies were the large institutional traders who’s [ sic ] congenitally shaky nerves get so much sensationalized media attention (Footnote 2 ).

Move 1: Claiming the centrality The author first stated that institutional presence is growing. He then argued it is a common conception that institutional herding impacts the market. He then gave a specific example from a practitioner’s view. In general, the purpose is to per- suade the readers that this area is very important. The present prefect tense is used in the first two sentences. The past tense is used when the author quoted Wall Street Journal. The author used two footnotes here 5 In the first footnote, the author cited the data to support his statement. (The past tense is used here.) In the second footnote, the author provided the reference. In addition, he gave more examples. The purpose is to make his statement more persuasive yet keep the article concise. (Ling’s GA Task 2, p. 1)

4 From Excerpt 6 on, all emphases were Ling’s unless specified otherwise.

5 The two footnotes in the original text are omitted in this article for space concerns. Ling’s description of them here is accurate.

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As seen in Excerpt 6, Ling described the function (‘‘claiming the centrality ) and the

content (‘‘the author stated

the text. She then reconstructed the purpose of the move for the authors (‘‘to persuade the readers that this area is very important ) before discussing the language features (bul- let point 2) and the discipline-specific textual practices (bullet point 3) that she saw in this segment. Notably, naming a move ? outlining its content ? defining its purpose(s) ? analyzing language features and/or discipline-specific practices in the move became a consistent pat- tern of analysis in almost all of Ling’s subsequent genre-analysis tasks. This pattern reveals her ability to accurately decipher the rhetorical move structure in the RAs she analyzed, an ability possibly gained through her previous reading experience, the ‘‘series of writing workshop, and the ‘‘thesis-writing course (see Excerpts 3 and 4 above). In the interview based on her literacy narrative, she clarified that she learned about the basic structure of RAs through ‘‘pay[ing] special attention to the idea structures in those articles in the work- shops (Interview 1 transcript, p. 5). Additionally, she mentioned in another place in the interview that she was a data-driven researcher who mainly read empirical, data-based RAs, and ‘‘the structure [of these empirical RAs] in my field is not that complicated because ‘‘they usually have a fixed structure (Interview 1 transcript, p. 3). In sum, her pre- sumed knowledge of what she perceived to be the simple basic RA structure in her field may explain her ability to recognize and analyze the RA move structure. If Ling could analyze the overall RA rhetorical structure smoothly, what did she learn through the genre-analysis tasks? My analysis of the data reveals her unique and individ- ualized engagement with the generic features in the RAs she analyzed. For instance, she started to attend to the perceived discrepancies between the generic features discussed in class and those she discovered on her own, as seen in Excerpt 7. Two points in Excerpt 7 indicate Ling’s effort to balance what she learned in class with what she discovered in her reference RAs. First, she commented on the use of a rhetorical question in this RA sample. Early on in the semester, the class had discussed the use of (rhetorical) questions in formal academic writing (based on Swales & Feak, 2004, p. 23 ). Most of the class agreed that (rhetorical) questions should be used with caution, if at all, in RAs to avoid sounding patronizing to the readers, many of whom may be the experts in the field. Here, without openly challenging this majority opinion, Ling high- lighted the function and, by extension, the legitimate use of the rhetorical question as a ‘‘topic sentence in this genre sample. Ling’s analysis of the literature review section in this excerpt also suggests her effort to connect class discussions with her own discovery of generic features. I had previously dis- cussed with the class how an RA writer can impose some order on the various studies he or she reviews ‘‘in order to demonstrate that there is an organizing mind at work ( Swales & Feak, 2000, p. 119 ). Referring to Swales and Feak (2000, pp. 114–128) and the RA sam- ples collected by the students, the class and I looked at how an RA writer can create a stronger coherence – a clear, though sometimes implicit , logic that can link previous stud- ies into a collective ‘‘first story. This first story can then anticipate the writer’s own study, which is the ‘‘second story that is thematically related to, but goes beyond the ‘‘first story (Swales & Feak, 2000, p. 118 ). We also examined cohesive devices – words and

phrases that explicitly build up the ‘‘first story (e.g., ‘‘ unlike the Johnson study (2000) that

) in this segment of

, argued

, gave a specific example

only addressed

may seem fairly straightforward on paper. However, how to recognize, in a concrete

). This information

, the Smith study (2001) focused on both


396 A. Cheng / English for Specific Purposes 27 (2008) 387–411

Excerpt 7

A segment of an RA in Ling’s collection

Ling’s analysis

[1] What kind(s) of risk might be driving momentum? [2] Jegadeesh and Titman (1993) show that momentum is not driven

by market risk. [3] Fama and French (1996)

demonstrate that their unconditional three- factor model cannot explain momentum either. [4] Measuring conditional exposure

to three-factor risk, as in Grundy and

Martin (2001), only serves to deepen the momentum puzzle. [5] Conrad and Kaul (1998) conjecture that cross-sectional

dispersion in expected returns can explain momentum, but the effect of such dispersion

is not strong enough to fully explain

observed momentum. [6] Jegadeesh and Titman (2001) present evidence that US momentum returns quickly dissipate after the investment period, a finding difficult to reconcile with standard notions of priced financial risk. [7] However, Chordia and Shivakumar (2002) investigate the one-step- ahead forecasts obtained by projecting momentum profits onto lagged macroeconomic variables and conclude that US momentum profits are completely explainable using these forecasts.

In paragraph 4, the authors present the empirical evidences related to the risk factor. The authors used a rhetorical question as a topic sentence. The purpose is to lead to specific review of literatures naturally. However, it might be problematic that the authors didn’t make connections among the studies they reviewed. They just moved from one study to another without obvious reasons. Although it is clear to me that these studies are grouped together because they all present the evidences that risk fails to explain the momentum (in particular, the first three papers are logically presented since they moved from ‘‘one- factor model to ‘‘unconditional three- factor model , and then to ‘‘conditional three-factor model ), it might again incur confusion to outsider. But on the other hand, this kind of review might be acceptable since the readers of these articles are supposed to be professionals. (Ling’s GA Task 3, p. 2)

manner, ‘‘the organizing mind and the ‘‘second storying at work in RAs in one’s own field may not be easy for many learners. It is thus notable that, in Excerpt 7, Ling took up this issue. She noticed that the authors ‘‘just moved from one study to another without obvious reasons or any ‘‘connections among the studies they reviewed. However, she

quickly invoked her disciplinary knowledge and her rhetorical reaction as a reader to claim that what may be perceived to be a lack of connections in this case may not be as prob- lematic as one may assume, since ‘‘professionals may be able to decipher how the studies reviewed here are actually ‘‘logically presented.Note that Ling’s observation here could


disputed by a more seasoned discourse analyst. For example, one could argue that there


a cohesive device (‘‘however ) between Sentences 6 and 7 that helps establish a relation

between the studies reviewed in these two sentences. Similarly, the word ‘‘either in Sen- tence 3 and the phrase ‘‘measuring conditional exposure to three-factor risksin Sentence 4 may have established an overt cohesion between the studies reviewed in Sentences 2, 3, and 4. Be that as it may, it remains significant that Ling tried, though imperfectly, to make sense of this issue concretely in her own analysis tasks.

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Elsewhere in her genre-analysis tasks, Ling also commented on the (lack of) connec- tions among various studies reviewed in the literature, possibly as a response to the class discussions on this issue. For instance, in Excerpt 8, she noticed that the ‘‘internal logic among the studies reviewed in an RA sample ‘‘is not very strong, possibly due to the lack of some explicit ‘‘connections markers.

[Excerpt 8] The internal logic among those studies is not very strong. It is not easy to figure out the logical relationship at the first glance. Maybe the authors should have built up stronger relation using some connections. But as I have observed, it is com- mon (of course not necessary) to review literature in this way, say without using con- nections, in my field. The authors suppose that the research community could figure out the internal logic. (Ling’s GA Task 5, p. 3)

In a statement at the end of Task 5, Ling summarized some conflicting practices in her field.

[Excerpt 9] In some papers, the internal logical relationship among the specific stud- ies is not obvious. I guess in this case, the authors assume that the research commu- nity can figure out the internal logic although sometimes it may not be an easy job for some starters like me. Yet in other papers, the authors use transitional phrases to build up the strong logical relation among those studies. The bottom line is that we should never under-do it nor should we overdo it. (Ling’s GA Task 5, p. 6)

Here, although she acknowledged the lack of connections as a potential problem, she was quick to defer to the implicit knowledge of the readers in the research community that would enable a reader to ‘‘figure out the internal logic.Meanwhile, she noticed that some researchers do use ‘‘transitional phrases to build up the strong logical relation among various studies they review. The observation she generated from this potentially confusing array of practices was that one should ‘‘never under-do it nor ‘‘overdo it. Her analysis here suggests an individualized and rhetorically engaged analysis of this highly complex issue that had been discussed in class. Apart from addressing the (lack of) connections among various studies reviewed in the literature review section of RAs, Ling also attended to other differences between what had been discussed in class and what she saw in her genre samples. In Excerpt 10, for example, she focused on the gap-filling move in an RA. The need to include some gap-indicating statements in the CARS framework ( Swales, 1990 ) had been discussed in class, based mostly on Swales and Feak (2004) . Here, Ling noticed the lack of this move, which made this segment of the text ‘‘sound[ed] a bit odd to her. To check the accuracy of Ling’s analysis here, I read closely the paragraph prior to the one that Ling analyzed in Excerpt 10. A direct, overt gap-indicating statement indeed seems to be missing in that paragraph, and it is thus not easy to see why the authors tran- sition to their discussion of the paper’s main purposes in the paragraph in Excerpt 10, as Ling argued here. However, I wonder whether words such as ‘‘exhaustively and ‘‘care- fully built upon in Excerpt 10 have subtly helped identify a research gap in a way that Ling may not have noticed, and I wonder whether there is some implicit discipline-specific logic here that hints at the gap, logic that had not been detected by Ling. In other words, it seems that Ling’s observation of the absence of the gap-indicating statement is accurate. However, whether the absence is ‘‘odd, as Ling claimed in Excerpt 10, may be debatable. Regardless, it is important to note that Ling subsequently assessed the rhetorical contexts,

398 A. Cheng / English for Specific Purposes 27 (2008) 387–411

Excerpt 10

A segment of an RA in Ling’s collection

Ling’s analysis

The principal goal of this study is to investigate exhaustively on a global basis the relation between momentum returns and macroeconomic risk. In addition , we analyze whether international evidence on the dissipation of these profits is consistent with risk-based or behavioral models of momentum. We carefully build upon the literature studying the relation between stock returns and macroeconomic risk through the use of the widely cited unconditional approach of Chen, Roll, and

Ross (1986). We also examine whether the have briefly reviewed what have been done conditional macroeconomic risk argument in views of this idea and pointed out the

of Chordia and Shivakumar (2002) is

What sounds a little bit odd to me, however, is that they didn’t open a research gap at all.

The main contribution of this paper, as I understood, is to evaluate the risk factor explanations relatively to behavioral expla- nations based on the international evidence of momentum. Maybe the authors should

Move 3: Laying out research objectives In paragraph 6, the authors seemed to fill a research gap by laying out the principal goal of the study using a standard sentence like

‘‘ the principal goal of this study is to

research gap DIRECTLY. In doing so, they could make the contributions of their paper stand out. But unfortunately, the authors failed to do that for some reasons. (Ling’s GA Task 3, p. 4)

robust internationally. Further , we document whether international momentum profits extinguish slowly , as

predicted by many risk-based explanations,

or reverse sign completely , consistent with several behavioral explanations.

including the ‘‘main contribution and the content of this paper, and the assessment led her to conclude that omitting the gap-indicating move may be problematic in this partic- ular rhetorical context. Significantly, although the explicit discussion of the gap-indicating move in class may have prompted her to notice the absence of a gap-indicating statement

here, it is her own evaluation of the rhetorical contexts that led her to identify the omission

of the gap-indicating move as problematic. Her analysis here again points to her individ-

ualized reading of the genre samples.

In another excerpt, Ling noticed the presence of the results section in the RAs in her collection, a section that had been discussed in class (see Excerpt 11). Ling’s comments

in Excerpt 11 highlight the influence of class discussions on her own analysis of the RA

samples. In her words, it had been ‘‘taught in class that the result section should not appear in the introduction. Here, she may be referring to the lively discussion regarding the inclusion of research findings in RA introductions in different fields. After reflecting on the practices in their fields and looking at the RA samples from their collections, many students concluded that the result section was usually not present in RA introductions. Note that such a conclusion might not be in complete accordance with previous research findings. For example, some researchers have noted that, in some fields, the principal find- ings are not withheld until the result and discussion sections but are announced, though often briefly, in the introduction section ( Swales, 1990; Swales & Najjar, 1987 ). It remains significant here, however, that the classroom discussion on this issue had obviously left an

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Excerpt 11


A segment of an RA in Ling’s collection

Ling’s analysis

[7] Our results, in brief, are as follows.

Momentum portfolio profits are large and It is taught in class that the result section

should not appear in the introduction. But to my knowledge, it is a common practice

regions or across continents. These findings in the field of finance to briefly discuss the

support the notion that if macroeconomic risk is driving momentum, then it should be largely country specific. In the 17 markets where we have such data, momentum profits bear basically no statistically or economically significant relation to the Chen et al. (1986) macroeconomic factors. Additionally , the forecasting model proposed by Chordia and Shivakumar (2002) generates global momentum forecasts that are unrelated to observed momentum profits. We also tabulate international momentum profits in both good and bad business cycle states;

our finding of positive profits in both sorts

of economies is incompatible with

momentum being a reward for priced business cycle risk. Finally , we show strong

main results in the introduction, especially in empirical studies. (Ling’s GA Task 3, p. 5)

positive abroad, and only weakly co-move among 40 countries, whether within

Move 4: Presenting results

international evidence of rapid reversals of momentum profits, a finding incompatible with existing risk-based explanations of momentum.

impression on Ling, as she invoked the discussion to analyze the presence of the result sec-

tion in the introduction section of RAs in her field. Specifically, the class discussion of the usual absence of the result section in RA introductions seems to have alerted her to the actual presence of this section in RA introductions in her field. In Ling’s Task 4, she continued to notice how some features in the genre samples she analyzed turned out to be different from what had been discussed in class (see Excerpt 12). Here, Ling was reanalyzing the same paragraph in Excerpt 10. She noticed that the ‘‘secondary goal rather than the primary goal is elaborated in this paragraph, contrary

to the examples in class where the primary goal was often emphasized (see also Swales

& Feak, 2004, p. 264 ). She went on to explain why this was the case by referring to her knowledge of the research topic and her reaction as a reader of this RA. Her continued discovery of these ‘‘odd instances of ‘‘breaking the rules introduced in class suggests that the explicit discussions of move structure in class have scaffolded her individualized engagement with the genre samples out of class.

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Excerpt 12

A segment of an RA in Ling’s collection

Ling’s analysis

(Sub-move 1) The principal goal of this study is to investigate exhaustively on a global basis the relation between momentum returns and macroeconomic risk. (Sub-move 2) In addition , we analyze whether international evidence on the dissipation of these profits is consistent with risk-based or behavioral models of momentum. (Sub-move 3) We carefully build upon the literature studying the relation between stock returns and macroeconomic risk through the use of the widely cited unconditional approach of Chen, Roll, and Ross (1986). We also examine whether the conditional macroeconomic risk argument of Chordia and Shivakumar (2002) is robust internationally . Further , we document whether international momentum profits extinguish slowly , as predicted by many risk-based explanations, or reverse sign completely , consistent with several behavioral explanations.

Move: laying out the goal of the research The odd thing about this move is that it appears directly after the literature review without a research gap in between. Maybe the authors should have opened a research

gap before this move in order to fill it. But anyway, the authors fill a research gap here by laying out the goals of the study. This move consists of three sub-moves:

1. Announcing the primary goal.

2. Announcing the secondary goal.

3. Elaborating on the secondary goal.

Here it seems to be another case of break- ing the rules introduced in class: the sec- ondary goal rather than the primary goal is elaborated. I guess it is because, in this specific research, the primary goal is very obvious and easy to understand while the secondary goal is abstrue and thus needs more explanation.

(Ling’s GA Task 4, p. 2; underlined emphasis added by the researcher)

Ling’s analysis of the claiming-centrality step in the RAs in her field represents another instance of her individualized analysis of the genre samples. After analyzing several para- graphs containing this step, Ling observed that ‘‘there is definitely no uniform model for this move. However, she noticed that there are some ‘‘useful techniques. One of them was to ‘‘follow a ‘zoom in’ pattern, i.e., to start from a general area and then narrow down to a spe- cific area. Another useful technique, according to her, is to invoke existing literature. In other words, ‘‘the authors claimed the centrality by appealing to previous literature. Since there is a growing literature on this topic, it is of course an important, lively, and well-estab- lished field (Ling’s GA Task 4, p. 6). Note that these two ‘‘techniques had previously been discussed in class quite extensively when the claiming-centrality step was introduced. Apart from noticing these ‘‘techniques that had been discussed in class, Ling also noticed a unique ‘‘technique that researchers in her field often use to claim centrality.

[Excerpt 13] The authors mainly claim the importance of this area by appealing to practitioners’ view. My observation is that it is a common technique to refer to a practitioners’ journal (e.g., Wall Street Journal and New York Times ) when claiming centrality in my field. (Ling’s GA Task 4, p. 4)

Elsewhere in her genre analysis tasks, she pointed out several examples where the authors cited the Wall Street Journal to claim that an area of research was important (e.g., Excerpt 6). Indeed, appealing to practitioners’ (rather than just researchers’) perspectives to claim

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centrality is a feature specific to her field and something that had not been discussed in class. Ling’s analysis of the ‘‘claiming centrality move here again indicates her attention to both what had been discussed in class and what she discovered through her own analyses. Ling also discussed some citation practices that she believed to be unique to her field, as can be seen in the following comments in her genre-analysis Task 5.

Excerpt 14

There are many noticeable features about citation:

1. The papers are usually grouped chronologically.

2. There is no ‘‘ and in front of last item when the citations are put at the end of a sentence.

3. We rarely use ‘‘ et al. even if there are 3 or more than 3 authors.

4. When original words are quoted, quotation marks are used.

5. Sometimes we use the initials of authors’ last names (e.g., ABDL) to represent the papers with more than 3 authors.

6. Some feature about citation is Journal-specific. For example, in some journals, paren- theses are used in conjunct with the ‘‘year when the quotation is put at the end of a sentence. But in other journals, parentheses are not used. (Ling’s GA Task 5, p. 6)

In this excerpt, nearly every point (with the exception of Point 4) is her attempt to high- light some differences between class discussions and actual occurrences in her field regard- ing citation practices, an attempt again suggesting her individualized engagement with the genre samples. In sum, my analyses of Ling’s various genre-analysis tasks point to Ling’s seeming familiarity with the overall RA move structure in her field as well as her ability to decipher the move structure clearly and analyze it accurately. Her analyses of the genre exemplars were, in turn, characterized by her intensive focus on the differences between what had been discussed in class and what she perceived to be unique to her field. This theme in Ling’s learning profile is captured in Fig. 2 .

Category I

Ling’s familiarity with the overall rhetorical organization of RAs in her field

A clear and consistent pattern of analysis.

Overall move structure in empirical RAs considered to be uncomplicated by her.

in empirical RAs considered to be uncomplicated by her. Theme Ling’s individualized engagement with genre in


Ling’s individualized

engagement with genre in her reading through her

dialogical responses to class discussions

Category II

Ling’s focus on the discrepancies between class discussions and her own discovery of generic features

Use of rhetorical questions.

Connections between moves.

The absence of the gap- identifying move.

The presence of the result move.

The emphasis on secondary objective.

Special centrality-claiming techniques.

Unique citation practices.

techniques. • Unique citation practices. Fig. 2. The main categories (the left and right blocks) and

Fig. 2. The main categories (the left and right blocks) and the resulting theme (the central block) developed from the data pertaining to Ling’s analyses of the move structure and other generic features in RAs. The bullet points inside the left and the right blocks are some broad units of data that generate the categories.

402 A. Cheng / English for Specific Purposes 27 (2008) 387–411

Excerpt 15

Ling’s claiming of centrality

Ling’s comments on her writing

(Step 1) Stock market volatility has received a great deal of attention from investors, regulators, academics, and the press. (Step 2) The existing literature provides evidence that volatility is time- varying and calls for a better understanding of the factors that contribute to its variability (endnote 1). (Step 3) The popular press often quotes practitioners to suggest that increased institutional participation may account for large market price fluctuations. One article, for example , stated ‘‘reviewing this week’s events, analysts are concluding that professional investors simply overreacted (endnote 2) The quote highlights the perception that institutional traders contribute to stock market volatility. Endnote 1: For example, based on monthly observations, Schwert (1989) reports that stock volatility varied substantially during the period 1857–1987. Using daily return data, Haugen, Talmor, and Torous (1991) document a large variation in volatility during the period 1897–1988. Wood, McInish, and Ord (1985), among others, examine intraday market returns and show that market volatility is high at the beginning and the end of the trading day. Endnote 2: See Wall Street Journal (WSJ), July 21, 1995, p. A1.

Step 1: establishes market volatility as an important general area of research. The phrase ‘‘has received a great deal of atten- tion from helps to realize this step. Step 2: points out the importance of a spe- cific area of research (the factors contrib- uting to the variability of market volatility). I refer to existing literature to claim the centrality by using the italicized words. The literature part is put in the endnote to keep the text concise. Step 3: continues to claim centrality of a more specific research area (increased institutional trading being reasons of varying volatility) by quoting a recent epi- sode of Wall Street Journal (WSJ). In doing so, I indeed argue that this area is very important to practitioners. The high- lighted words in this step help to claim the centrality. General comments:

I take a specific ‘‘general to specific , or ‘‘zoom in pattern to lay out the signifi- cance of a research area. I claim the centrality mainly by referring to existing literature and appealing to practitioners’ view as well. Language features:

The underlined phrasal verbs are com- monly used. I use various reporting verbs here.

3.2. Applying generic features

Did Ling’s individualized engagement with genre in her reading influence her writing? To address this question, I studied Ling’s second writing assignment, which was the intro- duction section of a paper entitled ‘‘A study of mutual fund flow and market return vol- atility. Ling explained in the interview following this assignment that the paper was based on part of her M.A. thesis, and her advisor gave her ‘‘substantial help in conducting the studyand ‘‘pointed out many writing and grammar problems in earlier drafts of the the- sis. Although she had been considering revising the thesis into journal articles, she had not been able to do so because of her hectic schedule and her lack of confidence in her

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writing skills. She said that this class and the writing assignment gave her the opportunity to attempt the task (Interview 2 transcript, p. 8).

Ling’s RA introduction contains the following moves and steps:

Move 1 Step a: Claiming centrality Move 1 Step b: Reviewing literature Move 2: Opening the research gap Move 3 Step a: Filling the research gap by outlining the purpose of the study Move 3 Step b: Announcing the principal results Move 3 Step c: Indicating the structure of the paper

The move structure in her paper seems to be consistent with what she noticed through her genre-analysis tasks completed prior to this writing assignment. For a closer look at the possible influences of her individualized reading of the genre samples on her writing, I now examine several moves in her writing, starting with ‘‘claiming centrality. As seen in Excerpt 15, Ling pointed out that she had adopted the ‘‘zooming-in or ‘‘general-to-specific structure to perform the ‘‘claiming centrality function here. Through three steps that gradually zoomed in to her special topic, she felt that she had highlighted the centrality of her research topic – the relationship between market volatility and institutional trading. The structure adopted here corresponds quite significantly to her previous analysis of the ‘‘claiming centrality move, as can be seen in her earlier observa- tion that the ‘‘general to specific and ‘‘zooming in pattern, which had been discussed in class, was indeed often utilized to claim centrality in her field. In addition, she commented on the two other methods for claiming centrality in her writing: citing ‘‘existing literature (see her comment in ‘‘Step 2 ) and using ‘‘practitioners’ perspectives (see her comment on ‘‘Step 3) to prove the value of her topic. Of these two, the first was a strategy that had been discussed extensively in class, and the second was a feature unique to her field that she noticed through her genre-analysis tasks (see Excerpt 13). It seems that both features have been incorporated into her writing. In her genre-analysis Task 2, she noticed a practice unique to her field – using footnotes to keep the literature-review section concise (see Excerpt 6). This practice has become part of her centrality-claiming step, as can be seen in Excerpt 15. In her comments, she alerted her readers to the noteworthiness of this feature, thus indicating her purposeful use of it in her writing. Previously in the semester, there had been a discussion of the stylistic differences between phrasal verbs and single verbs in academic writing. Based on Swales and Feak (2004) , I introduced the class to ‘‘the tendency for academic writers to use a single verb wherever possible in formal academic writing (p. 18). In several places in her genre- analysis tasks, Ling highlighted the use of phrasal verbs, possibly as a response to the discussions on this issue in class. For example, in her Genre-analysis Task 3, she noticed that

[Excerpt 16] Several phrasal verbs like ‘‘ focus on , ‘‘ related to , ‘‘ lies in , and ‘‘ asso- ciated with are used in this paragraph. They actually, in some sense, all mean that something has been studied . By using these phrasal verbs, the authors are adding vari- ety to their writing. I found it very common to use these phrasal verbs in my field. (Ling’s GA Task 3, p. 4)

404 A. Cheng / English for Specific Purposes 27 (2008) 387–411

In turn, it seems that the insight she gained from her analysis had been incorporated into her own writing, as can be seen in the underlined phrasal verbs in this paragraph and in her comment that these phrasal verbs were ‘‘commonly used. The literature-review move Ling wrote (see Excerpt 17) also demonstrates the connec- tion between Ling’s individualized engagement with genre in her reading and her writing. As we noted earlier in her genre-analysis tasks, Ling commented quite extensively on the logical connections among the various studies in RA literature reviews by incorporating what had been discussed in class and what she actually observed in RAs in her field. As seen in her writing here, she had paid particular attention to building a stronger connec- tion among the various studies. She pointed out that the two phrases – ‘‘for example and

‘‘further address this issue - helped her to ‘‘build up an internal logic relationship among these studies. Significantly, however, she chose not to provide any cohesive phrases between Sentences 2 and 3, as she believed that ‘‘the research community in my field can easily figure out the internal logic without the connection there. In the interview fol- lowing this assignment, she explained that the logical connection between Sentences 2 and 3 was that Sentence 2 focused on studies ‘‘that explore the effect of money flow into an individual mutual fund,while the studies reviewed in Sentence 3 were ‘‘about the price impact of aggregate mutual fund flow. She believed this distinction would not be easily lost to the readers (Interview 2 transcript, p. 4). Note that previously in one of her genre-analysis tasks, she observed that researchers in her field would sometimes use con- nections while at other times they would not. The ‘‘bottom line, according to her, was not to ‘‘overdo it or to ‘‘underdo it (see Excerpt 9). It is thus interesting that this observa- tion, which was generated through her individualized engagement with the genre samples, has guided her writing. Incidentally, the connection between her individualized engagement with genre and her

writing can also be seen in her comment about the ‘‘two reporting verbs

tively in one sentence in Excerpt 17. When the literature-review section was discussed in class, I alerted the students to the various reporting verbs often used in this section of RAs (e.g., Swales & Feak, 2004, pp. 262–272 ). Ling noticed that, in her field, RA authors uniquely often used a pair of reporting verbs in one sentence. She analyzed this phenom- enon in several places in her genre-analysis tasks. Here, we can see that she was using this previously noticed feature quite consciously in her writing. In a previous genre-analysis task, Ling had criticized some RA authors in her field for failing to include some gap-indicating statements in their RA introductions (see Excerpt 10). It is thus noteworthy that Ling included the following explicit gap-indentifying state- ment in her introduction: ‘‘ while ample empirical evidence suggests that aggregate mutual fund flow is positively related to market returns, the relationship between aggregate mutual fund flow and market volatility is not yet clear (Ling’s Paper 2, p. 3, emphasis in the original). It should be noted that, if it was indeed not customary to include a direct, overt gap-indicating move in RAs in her field, as she herself had noticed, adding such a move here may have put her writing at odds with the sanctioned RA structure in her field and may thus possibly cause her exercise of rhetorical agency here to be rejected by disci- plinarily and textually more experienced gatekeepers in her field (e.g., journal editors and reviewers). Notably, however, Ling’s gap-indicating statement seems to refer to the lack of knowledge in a specific area, which seems to be less face threatening than, for example, identifying a research gap through the criticisms of individual studies. In other words, although she may be violating disciplinary generic conventions here by incorporating an

used consecu-

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Excerpt 17


Ling’s literature review

Ling’s comments

(Step 1) [1] Considerable academic attention has been devoted to the price impact of mutual fund trading recently. (Step 2) [2] Chan and Lakonishok (1993, 1995, 1997), Keim and Madhavan (1997), and Jones and Lipson (1999), for example , have examined the price effect of money inflow into a mutual fund and in general suggest that institutional trading causes both permanent and temporary price impacts. [3] Warther (1995, 1998) investigates the relationship between aggregate cash flow into all mutual funds and market-wide returns and documents a strong positive relationship between unexpected mutual fund flow and contemporaneous stock returns. [4] Edelen and Warner (2001) further address this issue using higher-frequency data and report that aggregate unexpected mutual fund flow is positively correlated with concurrent market returns at a daily frequency.

The highlighted part (Step 1) is another typical topic sentence. Two reporting verbs (e.g., examine and suggest, investigate and document, address and report) are used consecu- tively in one sentence. ‘‘For example and ‘‘further address this issue help to build up a internal logic relationship. However, there is no con- nection between sentence 2 and 3. I believe that the research community in my field can easily figure out the internal logic without the connection here.

Excerpt 18

Ling’s ‘‘results move

Ling’s comments

Our initial evidence suggests that market volatility is significantly negatively related to concurrent aggregate net fund flow across the whole flow range. This result indicates that increased mutual fund flow on average is accompanied by a more volatile market. However , when we consider the direction of aggregate net flow, we document an interesting finding: the impact of net inflow and net outflow on the market is markedly asymmetric. In particular, increased net fund inflow is associated with a lower market volatility, while increased net fund outflow is associated with a higher market volatility.

This section doesn’t begin with a topic sentence (It is very common in my field). The underlined parts build up a strong connection within this paragraph. It is noticeable that although we document two results here, I am indeed emphasizing on the second one since it is more interest- ing and more important. The phrases ‘‘initial and ‘‘however help to serve this purpose. . The phrasal verbs are commonly used, especially in documenting a relationship. I try to use different reporting verbs to express the same ideas.




406 A. Cheng / English for Specific Purposes 27 (2008) 387–411

explicit gap statement, she was doing so with the disciplinary culture still in the back of her mind. Her use of the gap-identifying move here again reveals a very complex influence of her previous individualized engagement with genre on her writing. It is also noteworthy that Move 3, Step b – ‘‘announcing major results- had been incorporated into her introduction because, as she noticed in Task 3 (see Excerpt 11), this move was almost mandatory in RA introduction in her field, although it may not be pre- valent in the examples from other fields that were analyzed in class (see Excerpt 18). Ling’s analysis of this step (‘‘presenting the major findings ) in her writing is especially revealing. First, she mentioned that the omission of a topic sentence at the beginning of this section is ‘‘very common in her field, again indicating her attention to the generic fea- tures unique to her field when she wrote. Second, she pointed out some phrases that helped her to build a strong connection within the paragraph – again signifying her consistent attention to the issue of the logical connections among sentences, an issue that she had focused on quite extensively in her genre-analysis tasks. Her comment about the phrasal verbs is also a response to the in-class discussion about the use of phrasal verbs vs. single verbs (see also Excerpts 16 and 17 above). The third, and the most revealing point in this excerpt, is her emphasis on the fact that she used some expressions – ‘‘initially and ‘‘how- ever– to highlight the second finding as more interesting than the first one. In the inter- view, I asked her why she thought this was a particularly interesting feature worth pointing out in her comments. She mentioned that she had noticed something similar

Category I (In reading) Familiarity with the overall move structure of RAs in her field. See Category I in Fig. 2 for more details.

Category II (In reading) Focus on discrepancies between class discussions and her discovery of generic features. See Category II in Fig. 2 for more details.

Theme Individualized engagement with genre in both reading and writing tasks Individualized engagement with genre in both reading and writing tasks
Theme Individualized engagement with genre in both reading and writing tasks

engagement with genre in both reading and writing tasks Category III (In writing) Overall move structure
engagement with genre in both reading and writing tasks Category III (In writing) Overall move structure

Category III (In writing) Overall move structure in writing consistent with what she observed in her genre-analysis tasks; previously noticed features became materialized in her writing:

-Claiming centrality

Zooming in from general to specific.

Citing existing literature.

Referencing practitioners’ views.

Adding footnotes.

Incorporating phrasal verbs. -Literature review

Attending to cohesion and coherence.

Using pairs of reporting verbs. -Opening the gap

Adding an explicit gap- identifying statement. -Results

Highlighting secondary result.

Transforming a long result section in MA thesis into a short result section in RA.

Fig. 3. The main categories (the surrounding blocks) and the resulting theme (the central block) developed from the data pertaining to both Ling’s analyses of the genre samples and her own writing.

A. Cheng / English for Specific Purposes 27 (2008) 387–411


through her genre-analysis tasks. However, she could not remember exactly where she had encountered this feature. When I pointed to the sample from her genre-analysis Task 4 (see Excerpt 12), she immediately acknowledged that her impression came from that task. Note that she encountered this feature in the step ‘‘laying out the research objective (see Excerpt 12), while the step in which this feature was applied was ‘‘providing the research results. One could argue that her individualized engagement with genre – noticing that the secondary research objective was emphasized in a genre sample in her field – had resulted in a transformed practice in her own writing because she had recontextualized this feature in a different step of a different move. Additionally, in the interview, Ling pointed out that she had a long result section in her M.A. thesis. It was in the context of this class, however, that she felt she had finally gotten the chance to examine closely the differences between the functions of the result section in the M.A. thesis and the functions of the result section in the introduction of an RA. One can thus argue that her inclusion of the result section originated from her conscious effort and again represents a transformed practice on her part. In sum, many features Ling highlighted in her genre-analysis tasks as responses to dis- cussions in class had been incorporated into her own writing, thus suggesting that her indi- vidualized engagement with genre had not only scaffolded her reading of RAs in her field, but also her writing. This process is illustrated in Fig. 3 .

4. Discussion

Some researchers have noticed that ‘‘the impact of [genre-based] instruction may be less pronounced if students already have relevant genre knowledge or effective approaches for reading certain texts (Hyon, 2001, p. 432 ). My analysis of Ling’s data sheds new light on such an observation and thus helps enhance our understanding of learning in the genre- based literacy framework. Ling seemed to possess some ‘‘relevant genre knowledge or effective approaches for reading certain texts, as indicated in her clear analysis of the RA move structure and her reference in her literacy narrative to the knowledge of basic RA move structure she gained through previous writing workshops. Therefore, the effects of learning in Ling’s case may not be that ‘‘pronounced if they are measured mainly by students’ acquisition of new knowledge of previously unfamiliar rhetorical macrostruc- tures ( Hyon, 2001; Mustafa, 1995 ) or by students’ destabilization of previously ‘‘autono- mous, uncontested, or unnegotiated theories of genre in the learning process ( Johns, 2002, p. 239 ). However, if our conceptualization of genre-based learning is expanded to include students’ meaningful re-mediation of their existing genre knowledge and their resulting new understanding of texts that is embedded in their own learning needs, the effects of genre-based learning in Ling’s case are by no means any less ‘‘pronounced. Seen in this light, Ling’s effort to connect in-class discussions of the genre samples with her own discovery of generic features, her heightened awareness of features that she perceived to be unique to her field, her finer appreciation of features that she previously may only have been implicitly aware of, and her attempts to scaffold her writing with her individualized engagement with the genre samples all signal a powerful and authentic form of learning afforded by genre as a learning tool. Ling’s case can also extend our understanding of ESP genre-based teaching as a needs- based approach when we compare it with a related case reported elsewhere ( Cheng, 2006b, 2007, 2008 ). In that case, Fengchen, a doctoral student in engineering, used his genre-anal-

408 A. Cheng / English for Specific Purposes 27 (2008) 387–411

ysis tasks mainly to make explicit the basic overall move structure of RAs in his field as well as the rhetorical contexts that underpin the move structure. By contrast, Ling did not seem to focus on the macro-level overall move structure in RAs or to engage with the rhetorical contexts underlying the basic move structure as intensively as Fengchen did, possibly because her analysis of genre seemed to be anchored on her presumed prior familiarity with the overall RA move structure. In fact, as seen in my analysis of the data, she gradually phased out the explicit discussion of move structures in her genre-analysis tasks, relying, instead, on headings and sometimes one-liners to summarize, often accu- rately, the function as well as the move structures of RAs (see Fig. 1 ). Her genre-analysis tasks were notably characterized by her consistent focus on the discrepancies between class discussions and the genre samples in her collection and on the generic features she per- ceived to be unique to her field, among others, which, by comparison, Fengchen did not seem to be so preoccupied with. These two learning profiles could be traced to the trajectories of learning that these two learners brought to the class. In the literacy narrative that he composed at the beginning of the semester, Fengchen mentioned that, in a cram school in China that prepared college students to take the TOEFL and GRE tests, he was told to ‘‘recite some patterns and use them as a model for all the tasks. Consequently, he asked in his literacy narrative:

‘‘What is the popular pattern in my research field and secondly how should I apply this pattern efficiently without risking plagiarism?(Fengchen’s literacy narrative, p. 5). His quest for a fuller understanding of the ‘‘popular pattern in RAs in his field may have framed his intensive focus on the overall move structure in the RAs in his field. At the end of the semester, Fengchen reflected that

I understood the structure of articles better and had my own opinion about the

felt one thing I benefit most from this class is the

deep thinking about the structure. It told me with good plan you could put your readers on hook and keep them thinking with you throughout the whole paper (Fengchen’s literacy narrative, p. 7; see a fuller analysis of the connection between Fengchen’s trajectories and outcomes of learning in Cheng, 2008).

good or bad of this structure


By contrast, Ling’s self assessment of her learning outcomes at the end of the semester indicates the influence of a different trajectory of learning:

You see, before coming to this class, I did know that an academic paper consists of various parts such as introduction, method, discussion and conclusion. What I was

not aware of, however, are those rich features specific to my field. Interestingly, after I did a lot of rich feature analysis and looked at one of my previous papers again, I surprisingly found that I implicitly used those features even when I were not aware of


(Ling’s literacy narrative, p. 4).

In other words, her presumed familiarity with the basic move structure in RAs may have freed up some analytic energies that led to her magnified attention to other features that she may have only been implicitly aware of or even unconsciously used. Some of these features, once becoming the objects of her attention and analysis, ultimately resulted in her transformed practices, as can be seen in, among other examples, her integration of the result section in her RA introduction.

Now I can say that I am more confident in academic writing in the future

A. Cheng / English for Specific Purposes 27 (2008) 387–411


The genre-based framework of literacy learning and teaching has often been charac- terized as being ‘‘based on writer needs in its approaches to curriculum and materials development (Hyland, 2004, p. 12 ). Researchers have, for example, stressed the impor- tance of conducting ‘‘a survey of target writing contexts to determine the kinds of writing practices that the students will be faced with ( Hyland, 2004, p. 13 ). My juxtaposition of Fengchen and Ling’s learning profiles here suggests that the emphasis on writers’ needs should not only include understanding the ‘‘kinds of writing practices that the students will be faced with, but should also encompass assessing how students’ immediate and long-term learning objectives are driven by their histories and trajectories of learning and how students’ agendas of learning affect their access to the ranges and types of generic features. Doing so will help us gauge how learners filter what transpires in genre-based teaching through their own needs and how they define the outcomes of the instruction on their own terms ( Richards & Rogers, 2001; Roebuck, 1998 ).

5. Conclusion

As noted by Swales and Lindemann (2002) , even advanced L2 writers ‘‘can be helped to become better genre theorists and to acquire a finer appreciation of intertextuality (2002, p. 119). Ling’s case illustrates the power of self-directed learning by an advanced learner who developed a finer appreciation of disciplinary textual practices through her individu- alized analysis of genre. Although there remain various limitations in Ling’s analyses of the genre samples, many of which I pointed out in the ‘‘Findings section in this article, the clear relationship between Ling’s learning trajectories and her individualized engage- ment with genre calls for further exploration of how learning in the genre-based frame- work is facilitated by learners’ real needs. Such a research direction can enable us to link the teaching points in the ESP genre-based framework with the learning opportunities it creates ( Allwright, 2005 ) and can thus enhance our understanding of how genre analysis can lead to learners’ development of their own needs and, ultimately, their self-accessed and self-directed learning of academic literacy.

Appendix A. The five RAs in Ling’s collection

Campbell, J. Y., Lettau, M., Malkiel, B. G., & Xu, Y. (2001). Have individual stocks become more volatile? An empirical exploration of idiosyncratic risk. Journal of Finance, 56 , 1–43.

Edelen, R. M., & Warner, J. B. (2001). Aggregate price effects of institutional trading: A study of mutual fund flow and market returns. Journal of Financial Economics, 59 , 195–


Fleming, J., Kirby, C., & Ostdiek, B. (2003). The economic value of volatility timing using ‘‘realized volatility. Journal of Financial Economics, 67 , 473–509. Griffin, J. M., Ji, X., & Martin, J. S. (2003). Momentum investing and business cycle risk: Evidence from pole to pole. Journal of Finance, 58, 2515–2547. Sias, R.W. (2004). Institutional herding. Review of Financial Studies, 17 , 165–206.

410 A. Cheng / English for Specific Purposes 27 (2008) 387–411

Appendix B. The major out-of-class genre-analysis and writing tasks in this course


Task specifics


Literacy narrative

Assignment 1


Explore (general) language features in different parts of the RAs

Task 1


Learn to decipher moves/steps and the communicative purposes as well as other rhetorical parameters underpinning moves/steps Analyze the move structure as well as the lexico-grammatical features of the whole introduction section Analyze purpose statement and research gap in RA introductions

Task 2


Task 3


Task 4


Analyze the literature review section

Task 5


Analyze the contribution, roadmap, and other moves in the introduction section Introduction section of an RA

Task 6


Assignment 2


Analyze method, results, discussion, or conclusion

Task 7


Analyze method, results, discussion, or conclusion

Task 8


Another part of RA other than the introduction

Assignment 3


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An Cheng is an assistant professor in the Department of English at Oklahoma State University. His research interests include EAP, ESP, genre studies, genre-based writing instruction, writing teacher education, learner autonomy, and language awareness. His articles have appeared in English for Specific Purposes, Journal of Second Language Writing, and Applied Linguistics.