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50th Conference: Authorship and audience construction in three genres of knowledge dissemination

PhD Student Chieri Noda was written a blog about the Authorship and audience construction in three genres of knowledge dissemination.

Dr Bojana Petric

Written by PhD student Chieri Noda

Adding to the varied and exciting line-up of talks at the 50th Anniversary Conference, Dr Petric presented the preliminary findings of an ongoing research being undertaken with Dr Nigel Harwood of the University of Sheffield. The study examines authorship and audience construction in three genres of knowledge dissemination—research articles, articles in professional magazines and personal academic blog posts.

Dr Petric touched upon studies on authorship which examined writer's identity (Ivanic, 1998), voice (Hyland & Sancho Guinda, 2012) and stance (Hyland, 2008). She pointed out that the notion of author's awareness of audience was grounded in the works by Goffman (1959) and Bakhtin (1986). She also noted that proximity, or 'writer's control of those rhetorical features which display both authority as an expert and a personal position towards issues in an unfolding text' (Hyland, 2010, p.117), was a key analytical concept used in the study.

In the presentation, Dr Petric portrayed how a junior political scientist (pseudonym: Jack) engaged with the three genres. She emphasised that the fact that Jack was an L2 user of English was not the focus of this study; the analysis centred on his textual choices which indicated his perception of the target audience and the role of author in each of the three genres. The corpus analysis included textual features such as organisation, argument, and stance, and was backed up by the results of a discourse-based interview.

"clear disciplinary difference—many in the hard sciences tended to believe research articles had to be dry"

Jack's opinion that scientific writing should be 'dry' drew a round of laughter from the attentive audience. Just as Dr Petric had said at the beginning of the presentation, the topic of how a researcher approached the different modes of writing resonated with the audience. At the end of the presentation, a member of the audience, noting that many in the audience including himself were editors of journals, questioned whether Jack's view that research articles should remain dry was not too pessimistic and suggested it might be possible to bring in a nice quote or anecdote at the start of a very serious paper and yet maintain academic credibility. 'Absolutely' responded Dr Petric. She went on to point out, however, that there was a clear disciplinary difference—many in the hard sciences tended to believe research articles had to be dry. She also noted that the divide between writing research papers and doing research seemed to be greater in the hard sciences than in applied linguistics.

Before I started studying at Birkbeck, my engagement with research articles was primarily as a translator of biomedical research articles, so had catered to the needs and wants of authors who shared Jack's view of research articles. Dr Petric's analysis and the reaction of the live audience was a good reminder that as a PhD student in applied linguistics I will have to work on constructing a slightly different authorship and audience design for certain pieces of writing.


Bakhtin, M.M. (1986). The problem of speech genres. In C. Emerson, & M. Holquist (Eds.), Speech genres and other late essays. M.M. Bakhtin. (pp. 60-102). (V. McGee, Trans.). Austin: University of Texas Press. (Original work published 1979)

Goffman, E. (1959). The presentation of self in everyday life. New York, NY: Anchor Books.

Hyland, K. (2008). Disciplinary voices: Interactions in research writing. English Text Construction, 1(1), 5-22.

Hyland, K. (2010). Constructing proximity: Relating to readers in popular and professional science. Journal of English for Academic Purposes 9(2), 116-127.

Hyland, K., & Sancho Guinda, C. (Eds.). (2012). Stance and voice in written academic genres. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Ivanič, R. (1998). Writing and identity: The discoursal construction of identity in academic writing. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

See the full recording of the talk here.

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