Defining Contexts Within The Discourse Community English Language Essay


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With respect to what have been discussed in Chapter 2, genre-based studies in ESP have particular characteristics that distinguish them from other research areas. The written texts in the fields of academic writing have also distinguished themselves from other types of written discourse. In this chapter, the analysis of research articles will be conducted in accordance to the generalised summaries of linguistic features and generic structures that arise from using a corpus of differing texts.

This dissertation will incorporate a variety of theoretical frameworks developed by Swales (1990), Bhatia (1993), Holmes (1997), and Yang and Allison (2003), which aims to analyse a range of textual genres that is presented in the context where the targeted corpus is situated, then to interpret the recognised communicative purposes that are realised by members of the professional community, and eventually to establish a modified version of model of moves in the RAs' conclusion sections, thus arguing for the variations and similarities within a discipline-specific area of applied linguistics.

Sample Texts

As genre analysis is often viewed as the study of situated linguistic behaviour, this research takes its stand on the selection of academic articles from English Language Teaching Journal in the last three years within a specific discipline of applied linguistics. ELT Journal is a quarterly publication for all those involved in the field of teaching English as a second or foreign language, linking the everyday concerns of practitioners with insights gained from related academic disciplines such as applied linguistics and educational fields. The journal is therefore classified into five different categories of focus in each issue, namely Articles, Key Concepts in ELT, Readers Response, Reviews and Correspondence respectively. The sample texts analysed are collected from the specified category of Articles in this journal, in order to maintain the integrity and credibility of the corpus.

The data consists of twelve journal articles randomly selected from the year of 2009 to the year of 2011, covering a wide range of three volumes, twelve issues and 94 articles altogether, as shown in Table 1. The corpus in this study is the conclusion sections of the twelve journal articles that will be analysed in order to find out the generic structures of academic written articles which have already published and recognized. The selecting sequence of this corpus is mainly based on the principle of collecting the second, the fourth, the sixth and the eighth articles from Issue 1 to Issue 4 correspondingly in each year's volume. It is worth emphasizing, though, the first article is not chosen in the corpus study for the reason that the first article in a publication is often considered to be the most representative one and it may vary a great deal from the others in the same issue. Therefore, the selecting process of the corpus starts from the second article rather than the first one, taken the possibility of picking the more resembled samples into consideration. Extracts of the conclusion sections are given in the Appendix so as to give a comprehensive review of the written texts analysed in this study.

Table 1 Twelve Sample Texts Selected for the Corpus Study of Genre Analysis

Serial No.



Date of Publish


Title of the Article


Volume 63

Issue 1

January 2009

Icy Lee

The 2nd article:

Ten mismatches between teachers' beliefs and written feedback practice


Volume 63

Issue 2

April 2009

Gregory Friedman

The 4th article:

Learner-created lexical databases using web-based source material


Volume 63

Issue 3

July 2009

Dale Brown

The 6th article:

Why and how textbooks should encourage extensive reading


Volume 63

Issue 4

October 2009

Jesús Ángel González

The 8th article:

Promoting student autonomy through the use of the European Language Portfolio


Volume 64

Issue 1

January 2010

Xiaoyan Xie

The 2nd article:

Why are students quiet? Looking at the Chinese context and beyond


Volume 64

Issue 2

April 2010

Li-Shih Huang

The 4th article:

The potential influence of L1 (Chinese) on L2 (English) communication


Volume 64

Issue 3

July 2010

Winnie Lee and Sarah Ng

The 6th article:

Reducing student reticence through teacher interaction strategy


Volume 64

Issue 4

October 2010

Sarah Mercer and Stephen Ryan

The 8th article:

A mindset for EFL: learners' beliefs about the role of natural talent


Volume 65

Issue 1

January 2011

Paweł Scheffler and

Marcin Cinciała

The 2nd article:

Explicit grammar rules and L2 acquisition


Volume 65

Issue 2

April 2011

Rosemary Wette

The 4th article:

Product-process distinctions in ELT curriculum theory and practice


Volume 65

Issue 3

July 2011

Fiona Copland and Georgios Neokleous

The 6th article:

L1 to teach L2: complexities and contradictions


Volume 65

Issue 4

October 2011

Claudia Trajtemberg and

Androula Yiakoumetti

The 8th article:

Weblogs: a tool for EFL interaction, expression, and self-evaluation

Defining Contexts within the Discourse Community

Following a "from context to text" perspective, the analysis of the conclusions in research articles is based on a modified version of the 7-step model outlined by Bhatia (1993: 22), thus applying various levels of genre-analytic analysis from lexico-grammatical features to language patterns to larger structural interpretations. Meanwhile, Swalesian classical work on the genre analysis of RAs is also influential to exemplify these levels of linguistic, textual and structural investigations.

As communicative purpose often serves a starting point for ESP genre analysis, the genre-analytic study first begins with placing the sample texts in its situational context. There are no specific restrictions of choosing ELT Journal rather than other international academic journals with approximately the same impact factors such as TESOL Quarterly, Applied Linguistics or even English for Specific Purposes mentioned in Chapter 1. Considering that ELT Journal is targeted at a more narrow focus on the practical fields of teaching pedagogies, the samples collected have shown the characteristics of a professional community as the practitioners in teaching and researching about the acquisition of English as a second language. The contents of the sample texts deal with different aspects of problems and solutions that emerge from the practice within the language teaching classroom. In this perspective, multiple aspects of written discourse have been taken into consideration that the discussion of its situational context not just on academic genres but on genres from professional and institutional contexts as well.

As for the target texts analysed in this dissertation, the shared interest of the particular discourse community lies in a quarterly publication of journal in the practical fields of applied linguistics and language teachers. Most of the professional members within the research community are among those who are writing for the journal or currently subscribing and reading the journal regularly, such as scholars, academics, language teachers, and Master or PhD students majoring in these fields. The variety of target audience and the writers have highlighted a related difference in the understanding and contextualising of the situated contexts. In terms of an ethnographic dimension, most of the sample articles are written by academic authors in universities throughout the world, such as Hong Kong, Japan, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, and European countries like Spain and Poland as well. Thus, it seems rather difficult to discuss the professional members of the discourse community as in the categories of native or non-native speakers of English. It should also be noted that ELT Journal indicates a strong influence of international academic conventions on the professional discourse community.

Whereas there has hardly been any further investigation on the ways in which real audiences might understand the genre of written texts, it is rather difficult to conduct any empirical research on the readers' understanding of the specific articles that are presented in this journal. As Livingstone (1994: 253) argues, different genres specify different "contracts" to be negotiated between the text and the reader which set up expectations on each side for the form of the communication and the realisation of its communicative purpose as well. She adds that if different genres result in different modes of text-reader interaction, these latter may result in different types of involvement, whether the involvement within the discourse community is critical or accepting, resisting or validating, casual or concentrated, even apathetic or motivated. Therefore, the ethnographic information of the institutional contexts helps us to gain a naturalistic insight into the conditions in which the genre takes place and in which members of the particular discourse community use the genre.

With the genre and its contexts identified, the next stage involves further refining the discourse community where the specified genre is situated in. As is mentioned earlier, it is difficult to reach the target audience and make a sense of how the readers might respond to different generic features that the RAs represent in the form of written discourse. However, as in the literature of Chapter 2, Berkenkotter and Huckin (1995: 4) assert that genre knowledge embraces both form and content, including a sense of what content is appropriate to a particular purpose in a particular situation at a particular point of time. Therefore, the study of genre is determined by the relationship between the writers and the readers, with regards to their own understanding of the genre's discourse community, which will be further discussed in the discussion of Chapter 5 in this dissertation.

Procedures of Data Analysis

One interest in the study is to see if the written discourse analysed shows any similarities or differences within a discipline-specific area of applied linguistics. Thus, the first task is to identify the concluding chapters of the representative journal articles, but this is not so straightforward as one might expect, because in most cases the Discussion and Conclusion often links with each other in a research article.

The investigation of representative genres begins with an overall review of the general features that the RA conclusions demonstrate, such as status, titles, length, the use of references, and section headings. Then, this dissertation proceeds with a more detailed textual analysis of lexico-grammatical features, such as, statistical study of tense and aspect, modal auxiliaries, lexical negation, and the use of reporting verbs and logical connectives, in order to discover the relatively high usage of certain distinctive characteristics occurred in the samples. Moving from the view of textual analysis, this study explores the syntactic patterns of organizing a text, for example, the patterns in which language is used in the conclusion sections including hedged statement and direct/indirect questions as such. Finally, this dissertation will explore a modified version of models of moves regarding the structural interpretation conducted in Chapter 4, for example, the structural moves that a particular genre utilizes to achieve its communicative goals within the discourse community, on the theoretical basis of the three-move CARS model of RA introductions as described by Swales (1990). Last but not least, an on-line interview is conducted with the Chief Editor of ELT Journal, Graham Hall, to seek for specialist information and to verify the findings of this dissertation.

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