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The 48 pairs of abstracts were created by pairing each one in turn with the next one in the list, with the exception of the ones for the two research reviews that were paired together. Table 1 shows the main results of this enquiry. It can be seen, except for the average number of passives used, that the structured abstracts were significantly different from the traditional ones on all of the measures reported here. To some extent these results speak for themselves and, in terms of this paper, provide strong support for structured abstracts.

But there are some qualifications to consider. The structured abstracts were, as expected, longer than the traditional ones. It is interesting to note, however, that the average length of the traditional abstracts was also longer than the words specified by the APA. Eighteen i. Hartley argued that the extra space required by introducing structured abstracts was a trivial amount for most journals, amounting at the most to three or four lines of text. In many journals new articles begin on right-hand pages, and few articles finish exactly at the bottom of the previous left-hand one.

In other journals, such as Science Communication, new articles begin on the first left- or right-hand page available, but even here articles rarely finish at the bottom of the previous page.

Writing and Identity: The discoursal construction of identity in academic writing | Roz Ivanič

Indeed, inspecting the pages in this issue of this journal will probably show that the few extra lines required by structured abstracts can be easily accommodated. Such concerns, of course, do not arise for electronic journals and databases. More importantly, in this section, we need to consider cost-effectiveness, rather than just cost.

With the extra lines comes extra information. It may be that more informative abstracts might encourage wider readership, greater citation rates and higher journal impact factors - all of which authors and editors might think desirable. Interestingly enough, McIntosh et al. Table 1 shows the Flesch Reading Ease scores for the traditional and the structured abstracts obtained in this enquiry. Readers unfamiliar with Flesch scores might like to note that they range from , and are sub-divided as follows: college graduate level; th grade i.

Of course it is possible that the finding of a significant difference in favour of the Flesch scores for the structured abstracts in this study reflects the fact that fact that the present author wrote all of the structured abstracts. However, since this finding has also occurred in other studies where the abstracts have been written by different authors e.

The Flesch Reading Ease score is of course a crude - as well as dated - measure, and it ignores factors affecting readability such as type-size, type-face, line-length, and the effects of sub-headings and paragraphs, as well as readers' prior knowledge. Nonetheless, it is a useful measure for comparing different versions of the same texts, and Flesch scores have been quite widely used - along with other measures - for assessing the readability of journal abstracts e.

The gain in readability scores found for the structured abstracts in this study came, no doubt, from the fact that the abstracts had significantly shorter sentences and, as the LIWC data showed, made a greater use of shorter words.


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The LIWC data also showed that the structured abstracts contained significantly more common words and made a significantly greater use of the present tense. These findings seem to suggest that it is easier to provide information when writing under sub-headings than it is when writing in a continuous paragraph. Such gains in readability should not be dismissed lightly, for a number of studies have shown that traditional abstracts are difficult to read. Tenopir and Jacso for instance reported a mean Flesch score of 19 for over abstracts published in APA journals.

The abstract to this article has a Flesch score of 26 when the sub-headings are excluded. Interestingly enough, there were no significant differences in the percentage of passives used in the two forms of abstracts studied in this paper. This finding is similar to one that we found when looking at the readability of well-known and less well-known articles in psychology Hartley, Sotto and Pennebaker, The view that scientific writing involves a greater use of passives, the third person and the past tense is perhaps more of a myth than many people suspect see, e. Use the active rather than the passive voice, and select tense or mood carefully".

The scores on the information checklist showed that the structured abstracts contained significantly more information than did the traditional ones. This is hardly surprising, given the nature of structured abstracts, but it is important. Thus it appears that in these abstracts more information was given on the reasons for making the study, where the participants came from, the sex distributions of these participants, and on the final conclusions drawn.

These findings reflect the fact that few authors in American journals seem to realise that not all of their readers will be American, and that all readers need to know the general context in which a study takes place in order to assess its relevance for their needs.

Stating the actual age group of participants is also helpful because different countries use different conventions for describing people of different ages. The word 'student', for instance, usually refers to someone studying in tertiary education in the UK, whereas the same word is used for very young children in the USA. Although the checklist is a simple measure giving equal weight to each item, and is inappropriate for review papers , it is nonetheless clear from the results that the structured abstracts contained significantly more information than the original ones and that this can be regarded as an advantage for such abstracts.

Advances in 'text mining', 'research profiling' and computer-based document retrieval will be assisted by the use of such more informative abstracts Blair and Kimbrough, ; Pinto and Lancaster, ; Porter, Kongthon and Lu, ; Wilczynski, Walker, McKibbon and Haynes, In previous studies of the clarity of abstracts e. In this present study the participants were asked to 'rate each of these of abstracts out of 10 for clarity with a higher score meaning greater clarity '.

This was followed by the explanation: 'If you have difficulty with what I mean by 'clarity', the kinds of words I have in mind are: 'readable', 'well-organized', 'clear', and 'informative'. This phraseology was based on wording used by a respondent in a previous study who had explained what she had meant by 'clarity' in her ratings. Also in this present study - as noted above - the participants were asked to rate different abstracts rather than the same abstract in the different formats.

However, the mean ratings obtained here of 6. Nonetheless, because the current results are based on abstracts in general rather than on different versions of the same abstract, these findings offer more convincing evidence for the superiority of structured abstracts in this respect. Finally, in this section, we should note that several of the respondents took the opportunity to comment on the abstracts that they were asked to judge.

Table 2 contains a selection from these remarks. Abstracts in journal articles are an intriguing genre. They encapsulate, in a brief text, the essence of the article that follows. And, according to the APA Publication Manual , "A well-prepared abstract can be the most important paragraph in your article… The abstract needs to be dense with information but also readable, well organized, brief and self-contained". In point of fact the nature of abstracts in scientific journals has been changing over the years as more and more research articles compete for their readers' attention.

Berkenkotter and Huckin have described how the physical format of journal papers has altered in order to facilitate searching and reading, and how abstracts in scientific journal articles have been getting both longer and more informative p. The current move towards adopting structured abstracts might thus be seen as part of a more general move towards the use of more clearly defined structures in academic writing.

Writing Tips : How to Write an Abstract for a Book

Indeed, whilst preparing this paper, I have come across references to structured content pages as in Contemporary Psychology and the Journal of Social Psychology and Personality , structured literature reviews Ottenbacher, ; Sugarman, McCrory, and Hubal, , structured articles Goldmann, ; Hartley, b ; Kircz, and even structured book reviews in the Medical Education Review.

These wider issues, however, are beyond the scope of this particular paper. Here I have merely reported the findings from comparing traditional abstracts with their equivalent structured versions in one particular context. My aim, however, has been to illustrate in general how structured abstracts might make a positive contribution to scientific communication.

His main interests lie in written communication and in teaching and learning in higher education. He is the author of Designing Instructional Text 3rd ed. Originally published in Science Communication, , Vol 24, 3, , copyright: Sage Publications. I am grateful to Geoff Luck for scoring the abstract checklist, James Pennebaker for the LIWC data, and colleagues from the Journal of Educational Psychology who either gave permission for me to use their abstracts, or took part in this enquiry. Professor James Hartley. Note: this checklist is not suitable for theoretical or review papers but can be adapted to make it so.

It would also be interesting to ask for an overall evaluation score say out of 10 which could be related to the individual items. The structured abstract: an essential tool for researchers. Beck SE, Manuel K. Practical research methods for librarians and information professionals. New York: Neal-Schuman, Health Libraries Review. Addressing the limitations of structured abstracts.

Ann Intern Med. Comparing data accuracy between structured abstracts and full-text journal articles: implications in their use for informing clinical decisions. Evid Based Med. Grant MJ, Booth A. A typology of reviews: an analysis of 14 review types and associated methodologies. Health Info Libr J. Hartley J. Current findings from research on structured abstracts.

J Med Libr Assoc. Obtaining information accurately and quickly: are structured abstracts more efficient? J Info Sci. Hartley J, Sydes M. Are structured abstracts easier to read than traditional ones? J Research Reading. Hernon P, Schwartz C.

The Research Writer's Phrase Book : A Guide to Proposal Writing and Research Phraseology

Leadership: developing a research agenda for academic libraries. Libr Info Sci Res. Huth EJ. Structured abstracts for papers reporting clinical trials. Adoption of structured abstracts by general medical journals and format for a structured abstract. Sharma S, Harrison JE. Structured abstracts: do they improve the quality of information in abstracts?

Oral contributions are traditionally accompanied by handouts, which serve not only as a guideline for the reader in the free speech that is expected in academic speaking today; they may also include figures and tables that do not fit well into a presentation and that the listeners may want to take home for further study. A handout is usually a genre that focusses on research, though it can also be used for teaching purposes at uni- versity level. Compiling corpora to analyse conventions Although students may be well aware of the big reference corpora from the British National Corpus to the Brigham Young corpora Davies , it is also important that students get used to analysing much smaller and more specific corpora or extract subcorpora that are more comparable with their own materials for analysis.

It is extremely important for young researchers to recognize the conventions of their own subdisciplines and compare them to the much broader options that departments and individual researchers are able to choose from. A corpus approach is appropriate not only for non-native speakers of English, who are not sure whether they can rely on their intuitions, but also for novices to base intuitive judgments on real-data evidence.

Schmied Identifying textual, social and linguistic variables When we compile a new corpus, we usually start with the biggest context variables: these include text variables like written vs. The importance of these variables depends on whether we can set up simple logical research hypotheses e. An issue closely related to this is the question of how big a research corpus has to be. This of course depends on the frequency of the linguistic variable analysed and the number of textual and social variables included in the analysis. For a sound statistical analysis not only an absolute number of cases is im- portant, but also their relative distribution in the cells for each variable combina- tion.

Of course, such variables can be taken out and the results collapsed later-on during the analysis, but initially at least it would be most useful to have enough cases to exclude variables empirically as unimportant or insignificant at the end and not impressionistically at the beginning. Comparing corpora in Academic Writing The ChemCorpus can be compared with other available current academic corpora of student or academic writing, less to the ICLE Corpora, which have mostly been compiled in the s of argumentative student essays which are a different genre and not really part of academic writing today, more with the BAWE corpus, in particular if we take the English or the linguistics parts and students that have German as a first language only.

It can be compared quite well with the Brno Corpus, which was developed in a parallel project over the last five years and includes a clear division between linguistics, literature and methodology specialisations. These non-native academic corpora can also be compared to the academic or academic humanities parts of the British National Corpus BNC; from the early s or the Corpus of Contemporary American English COCA; or even the TIME magazine , bearing in mind that those are of course much more heterogeneous as far as the production date and the socio-geographical data of writers are concerned Davies For explorative purposes, the academic corpora mentioned above can of course be used when the frequency of linguistic phenomena analysed is normalized, per 1 million words, for instance.

Compiling stratified and ad-hoc or test corpora Corpus compilation methodology and corpus design are discussed in all standard textbooks e. This means when many texts by female students are compiled already we look specifically for texts by male students until we have half or a representative or a satisfactory number.

What satisfactory means in this context depends on the importance of the variable in our research questions or hypotheses. An old issue in academic writing corpora is the size of the texts: generally, complete texts are preferable, because the argumentative, lexical or cohesion patterns may be quite different in the sections Introduction, Methods, Analysis, Results or Conclusion discussed in 1.

The size of the corpus necessarily depends on the frequency of the variables investigated: pronunciation variables need only small, idiomatic or collocation variation large samples. Sometimes it seems reasonable to compile a quick and dirty ad-hoc or test cor- pus first, just to see whether the limited, insufficient, and skewed data promise results. This is comparable to the tradition of disposable corpora from translation studies Gavioli The earliest pieces of academic writing in the Bologna System are the so-called term papers, which are specific exercises where students can demonstrate their critical thinking in linguistics, literary criticism or cultural studies and get used to the formal conventions, i.

The structure in these papers is usually not very strict, yet all and in many cases relatively narrative, based on the available secondary literature with hopefully some conclusions of their own. Only little afterwards some students have to write their first report, which are partly related to their ERASMUS studies abroad, partly to other projects where this form is appropriate. Essentially, it is the review of the plans they had before the projects were started and compared to the results which may have digressed more or less from the original plan.

The BA thesis and the MA thesis are usually quite similar and differ in length as well as in academic rigor.

The discoursal construction of identity in academic writing

MA theses tend much more towards a conventional structure like IMRAD style , but deviations are acceptable and depend very much on the subject chosen. The length and number of texts per section in Table 3 are just rough estimates to make the corpus coherent and logical in proportion. The average is also variable, although the requirements are standardizing and the figures given are standard in many parts of the world, but the actual original texts submitted and also stored in their original form have more words, since in the corpus-processing stage the number of words is reduced.

This is necessary to prepare the input suitable for analysis using the standard tools like AntConc in the following examples. The figures can, of course, be adapted to local departmental standards, but all this has to be documented in the corpus manual. Total Magister 1. Table 3: ChemCorpus set-up by genre and specialisation trad.

In the following comparisons this volume , for instance, Albrecht compares adverbials in timed and untimed student writing i. In similar ways, research questions can be derived from the setup, either as culture- specific features or as first language induced interference phenomena. Non-native reference corpora? The difference between native and non-native writing has been analysed in many research projects. The corpora discussed in this section have been used to compare concessives and contrastives Wagner , hedges Beyer and sentence adverbials Vogel In many cases, the result is that non-native writers use more of these academic discourse features than native writers.


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The logical conclusion is that non-native writers have been influenced by the explicit teaching at higher levels of university studies. This raises the issue whether native writers always have an advantage compared to non-native writers or whether non-natives texts can still serve as models or have even features that are different from native writing and can still be seen as models for successful academic writers. In more general terms, there is no reason to believe that non-native writers have to reduce their use of academic discourse features that they may have ac- quired through university training to adapt to the level of native writers — if we accept the concept of native academic writers at all cf.

Exploring metalanguage in the ChemCorpus The research-based, empirical approach propagated in this article uses corpus- linguistic methodologies, although these have not been used systematically in the development of the field of academic writing. Many researchers have created ad- hoc corpora for their specific research projects, but a generally acknowledged corpus model has not been widely accessible until recently.

Swales and his associates have used corpora as a basis for their studies, but in their textbooks only the latest editions e. Many researchers have used Google Scholar instead for key-word-in-context analyses of lexical and idiomatic usage. If we look for linguistic elements that can be used analysed, we find a very wide range, which will be exemplified in the following examples from the ChemCorpus see 4. In this section, we only take a qualitative view at our data, partly because the quantitative view can be seen in the following papers that also use sections of the corpus.

Argumentative structure A clear connection of ideas has always been considered important to help readers follow an academic text, not only specialised readers but also general academic readers, not only native speakers but also non-native speakers — but there are no native speakers and certainly no native writers of academic English — everybody has to learn esp.

Demonstrating a good flow of ideas has always been difficult for teachers, and evaluating it has been extremely difficult for young graduate students. As I have argued more generally above p. The choice depends on the preferences of individual writers and their instruc- tions. Theoretical background 2. Definition of the key concept migration 2.

Types of migration 2. Theories explaining migration 2. Case study: Polish migration to the UK 3. Behaviour 3. Motivation etc. Whether the subheadings should be more explicit like 4. The compromise between the global picture and the attractive detail is the challenge. When we look at academic texts written by younger scholars, the organisation structure is not so clear yet, but indications of IMRAD structures can be found in linguistic papers Figure 4 more than in literature papers; sometimes they can be found in higher levels like chapter headings and not in lower levels as in Figure 6.

This is also a good argumentative structure. Albrecht Although linguists do not always agree on the complete list of linking devices, the most central indicators are and with additive, then with sequential, but with adversative, because with causal function. Research hypotheses could not only include the number of linkers, but also the types and even more specific or peripheral choices. I will only illustrate the usage of an unusual, peripheral linking adverb.

Generally, this is a good example, how junior writers can find out whether and how certain expressions are really used in the texts of their aca- demic community, beyond general style guides and other traditional more pre- scriptive sources of information.

Action research

Stance and engagement markers A very wide aspect of writer — reader interaction is the use and choice of stance and engagement markers cf. Figure 1, p. The use of really has been strongly discouraged in academic writing and its meanings questioned , but Figure 8 illustrates that it is still used by student writers also in negative collocations and this usage sounds lively, but not too informal. Modern corpus-linguistic tools allow them to check whether expressions are within the conventions of their discipline. Of course, these tools can not only be used to check whether an expression is used at all, but also by whom and in which con- texts.

Thus a good corpus basis with gender, educational and language back- ground and writing context as variables makes many more socio- and textlinguis- tic analyses possible that could not be elaborated in this contribution but can be seen in many other contributions e. Beyer or Edusei Conclusion This contribution has attempted to demonstrate to graduate students and their teachers that a few key concepts like metalanguage features and genre conventions are enough to make academic writing relatively easily accessible to graduate students. The explorative examples used in our ChemCorpus analyses illustrate how in- teractive resources can be used by writers to manage the information flow to per- suade their readers to adopt their preferred interpretations.

In terms of functional grammar, writers seek to display an interpersonal tenor consistent with the disci- plinary identity they wish to project. Researchers do not simply discuss facts or ideas, they also wrap up their content in metadiscourse, i. Once again, teachers can use corpus evidence to help students move beyond the conservative prescriptions of textbooks and style guides and into the preferred patterns of expression of their disci- plines.

An orientation to instruction based on access to choice through genre teaching and consciousness-raising can help students understand how writing conventions are enabling rather than deterministic. It can reveal the ways that typical patterns provide broad pa- rameters of choice through which they can craft a distinctive self.

References Albrecht, S. Connecting adverbials in student writing: Usage in the ChemCorpus and comparable corpora. This volume, Bhatia, V. Worlds of written discourse: A genre-based view. London: Continuum. Beyer, D. TU Chemnitz, Germany. Biber, D. Variation across Speech and Writing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Reppen Corpus linguistics: investigating language structure and use.

University language: A corpus-based study of spoken and written registers. The major idea is to "research 'with' rather than 'on' people. Cooperative inquiry creates a research cycle among 4 different types of knowledge: propositional as in contemporary science , practical the knowledge that comes with actually doing what you propose , experiential the real-time feedback we get about our interaction with the larger world and presentational the artistic rehearsal process through which we craft new practices. At every cycle, the research process includes these four stages, with deepening experience and knowledge of the initial proposition, or of new propositions.

Participatory action research PAR has emerged in recent years as a significant methodology for intervention, development and change within groups and communities. It is now promoted and implemented by many international development agencies and university programs, as well as countless local community organizations around the world. This was further developed in "adult education" models throughout Latin America. Orlando Fals-Borda — , Colombian sociologist and political activist, was one of the principal promoters of participatory action research IAP in Spanish in Latin America.

He published a "double history of the coast", book that compares the official "history" and the non-official "story" of the north coast of Colombia. William Barry Atkins and Wallace defined an approach to action research which focuses on creating ontological weight. Barry was influenced by Jean McNiff's and Jack Whitehead's phraseology of living theory action research but was diametrically opposed to the validation process advocated by Whitehead which demanded video "evidence" of "energy flowing values" and his atheistic ontological position which influenced his conception of values in action research.

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Barry explained that living educational theory LET is "a critical and transformational approach to action research. It confronts the researcher to challenge the status quo of their educational practice and to answer the question, 'How can I improve that I'm doing? The mission of the LET action researcher is to overcome workplace norms and self-behavior which contradict the researcher's values and beliefs. The vision of the LET researcher is to make an original contribution to knowledge through generating an educational theory proven to improve the learning of people within a social learning space.

The standard of judgment for theory validity is evidence of workplace reform, transformational growth of the researcher, and improved learning by the people researcher claimed to have influenced Wendell L. French and Cecil Bell define organization development OD at one point as "organization improvement through action research".

Concerned with social change and, more particularly, with effective, permanent social change, Lewin believed that the motivation to change was strongly related to action: If people are active in decisions affecting them, they are more likely to adopt new ways. Lewin's description of the process of change involves three steps: [18] Figure 1 summarizes the steps and processes involved in planned change through action research.

Action research is depicted as a cyclical process of change. Major adjustments and reevaluations would return the OD project to the first or planning stage for basic changes in the program. The action-research model shown in Figure 1 closely follows Lewin's repetitive cycle of planning, action, and measuring results. It also illustrates other aspects of Lewin's general model of change. As indicated in the diagram, the planning stage is a period of unfreezing, or problem awareness. There is inevitable overlap between the stages, since the boundaries are not clear-cut and cannot be in a continuous process.

The results stage is a period of refreezing, in which new behaviors are tried out on the job and, if successful and reinforcing, become a part of the system's repertoire of problem-solving behavior. Action research is problem centered, client centered, and action oriented.

It involves the client system in a diagnostic, active-learning, problem-finding and problem-solving process. More information about most of these networks can be found in the International Handbook of Action Research. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.