SAME GENRE, DIFFERENT DISCIPLINE: A GENRE-BASED STUDY OF BOOK REVIEWS IN ACADEME * Désirée MOTTA-ROTH (Universidade Federal de Santa Maria) - PDF

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the ESP, São Paulo, vol. 17 nº 2, SAME GENRE, DIFFERENT DISCIPLINE: A GENRE-BASED STUDY OF BOOK REVIEWS IN ACADEME * Désirée MOTTA-ROTH (Universidade Federal de Santa Maria) Abstract Genre analysts

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the ESP, São Paulo, vol. 17 nº 2, SAME GENRE, DIFFERENT DISCIPLINE: A GENRE-BASED STUDY OF BOOK REVIEWS IN ACADEME * Désirée MOTTA-ROTH (Universidade Federal de Santa Maria) Abstract Genre analysts attempting to map down the repertoire of genres used in academe have fostered reading and writing pedagogies in English for Academic Purposes (EAP). Although book reviews can potentially offer novice academic writers opportunity to get started in the academic debate, researchers have neglected the genre due to its unremarkable character as reference literature. With the objective of contributing to the definition of a key short genre which has received little attention from specialists, this paper presents the analysis of the information organisation of sixty academic book reviews in chemistry, economics, and linguistics. The analysis revealed that, although book reviews show regularities in information, content and form, some variation occurs in terms of how reviewers realise evaluation and description moves across disciplinary boundaries. Variation can be associated with these reviewers tendency to respond to specifics in the epistemological organisation of their respective fields, regarding object of study, commonly adopted methodologies, and literary tradition. The results not only suggest existing connections between text and context, but also indicate that discursive practices in the disciplines have to be considered in EAP teaching in order to help * An earlier version of this study with partial results was presented at the 1995 TESOL Conference, Long Beach, CA (Motta-Roth, 1995a). 100 the ESPecialist, vol. 17, nº 2 learners develop more critical and effective reading and writing competencies in accordance with their field of study. 1 Key-words: English for academic purposes; rhetoric; genre analysis; book reviews. Resumo Analistas de gênero, trabalhando no mapeamento do repertório de gêneros usados na academia, têm auxiliado no desenvolvimento de abordagens de ensino da leitura e redação em Inglês para Fins Acadêmicos (EAP). Embora a resenha acadêmica possa se constituir em uma oportunidade para que escritores inexperientes se iniciem no debate acadêmico, pesquisadores têm negligenciado esse gênero discursivo devido a sua pouca representatividade como literatura de referência. Com o objetivo de contribuir para a definição desse gênero tão importante, mas tão pouco estudado, este artigo apresenta a análise da organização da informação de 60 resenhas acadêmicas em economia, lingüística e química. A análise revelou que, embora resenhas acadêmicas demonstrem certas regularidades em termos de forma e conteúdo da informação, variações foram verificadas em termos de como resenhadores avaliam e descrevem em diferentes disciplinas. Essas variações parecem estar associadas à tendência de resenhadores em responder às especificidades da organização epistemológica de suas respectivas áreas de conhecimento em relação a objeto de estudo, metodologias comumente adotadas e tradição literária. Os resultados não apenas sugerem a existência de conecções entre texto e contexto, mas também 1 I would like to thank Hamilton Wielewicki and my anonymous reviewer for comments on an earlier version of this paper. MOTTA-ROTH 101 indicam que as práticas discursivas nas disciplinas devem ser consideradas no ensino de EAP para que aprendizes possam desenvolver habilidades de leitura e redação mais críticas e eficazes de acordo com seus respectivos campos de estudo. 1 Palavras-chave: inglês para fins acadêmicos; retórica; análise de gênero; resenhas. 1. Introduction With the increasing speed of recent advances in all areas of knowledge production and with the use of English as the lingua franca of the international scientific community, publications in academic journals in English have become very important. In such an almost exclusive English-speaking academic environment, nonnative scholars interested in publishing in international spheres are faced with the problem of developing adequate academic competencies in English. In response to this need and in an attempt to inform teaching practices, Genre Analysts working with English for Academic Purposes (EAP) have focused their attention on academic written genres (see, for example, Swales (1990; 1981) and Bazerman (1988) on research articles; Salager-Meyer (1990), Bittencourt (1995) and Motta-Roth & Hendges (in press) on abstracts; Berkenkotter & Huckin (1995) on written communication in the disciplines). Nevertheless, the book review as a highly common short genre has been almost entirely ignored by this research community and this dismissal accounts for an important gap in our knowledge of the academic genre system for a number of reasons. Firstly, the study of evaluative language in book reviews may reveal differences in values and traditions across 102 the ESPecialist, vol. 17, nº 2 fields (see, for example, Becher 1981, 1987), which can be in itself a relevant tool in EAP reading and writing. Researchers have been increasingly aware that knowledge about practices in specific fields can help learners develop a more appropriate and contextualized understanding of how academic genres function (Haas, 1994). Furthermore, book reviews raise an apparent paradox. The genre is generally recognized as unremarkable because it is rarely cited as reference in articles or books (Wiley, 1993). But exactly because of this unremarkable character book reviews can be written by a wider range of academic staff who would not be in a position to write longer, and often more laborious texts, such as the research article for refereed journals. While book reviews can act as an initiation in publishing for junior scholars 2, the genre can also offer opportunities to academics in off-center places who are nonnative (and often inexperienced) writers to take part in and make their contribution to the mainstream of academe. These researchers can at least potentially contribute to book review sections in international journals, criticizing and/or praising other authors' texts, and thus helping to shape their 2 In an attempt to answer my anonymous reviewer s question as for the validity of this statement, I could say perhaps cite an academic journal editor s words (more specifically, J. P. of the Journal of Economic Literature, who I interviewed along with two other editors, one in linguistics and one in chemistry, as part of my Ph. D. dissertation research (Motta-Roth, 1995b)): Usually both senior and junior scholars are asked to review books. It is probably easier to get a junior person than a senior person....usually people refuse to write book reviews because they don t count very much for tenure... Junior scholars see this as an opportunity to get their name in print. A senior person has often been in print a lot and the novelty of that is worn off. Senior persons have often got more administrative duties, too, and therefore less time, but we are able to get senior people, too. Generally the junior person has not done this before or has done infrequently and likes the idea of trying his hand on it. (economics editor in Motta- Roth, 1995b:77) These editors seem to think that, for experienced and very active scholars who are interested in the projection that a longer publication can bring, BRs hold an unremarkable character and thus are not important for enlarging a curriculum vitae or for getting career promotion (for further comments on the unremarkable character of BRs, see Wiley, 1993). MOTTA-ROTH 103 discipline through critical analysis of the knowledge that is being presented in book-form. Finally, research about how book reviews in English operate can contribute to the development of more effective reading skills of EAP learners. Awareness of the generic textual structure can help the advanced reader use book reviews more critically and effectively as resources in their attempts to select material from the overload of readings in university courses. Therefore, in this paper, I will present the results of a genre-analytical study of academic book reviews (BR) in English from three disciplines linguistics, chemistry, and economics. The underlying hypotheses are: 1) texts belonging to the same genre will present specific features that relate to a general rhetorical representation that reviewers have of the genre; and 2) exemplars of the same genre, which originated in different disciplines, will vary, to some extent, from this general rhetorical representation. This variation is expected to throw some light over the body of knowledge of the field. The main issue in question here is: to what extent can text vary in relation to context and still be regarded as exemplars of the same genre? In other words, how do reviewers vary in relation to the kind of information that characterize a BR in opposition, for example, to a research article? In that respect, the choice of three disciplines stems from the need for parameters when discussing how BRs reflect the fields to which they belong. The consideration of three disciplines dismisses the pure opposition between extremes, since, by comparison, results obtained in the analysis of specific textual features in a third discipline may 104 the ESPecialist, vol. 17, nº 2 help clarify the role of the same features in BRs in the other two fields. Linguistics was chosen because of the obvious interest of the author in her area of study. The other two fields, chemistry and economics, were chosen for what could be called epistemological reasons. Chemistry is usually classified as a hard science and economics, as a social science, consequently this classification seems to place them sufficiently apart from linguistics, in the humanities, for their texts to provide evidence of contrastive disciplinary cultures. Two disciplines which are usually placed in the same area of academe as, for example, sociology and anthropology, in the social sciences, can be expected to present greater similarities concerning body of knowledge, object of study, and values, than two disciplines that are placed in two different fields. Therefore, assuming that there is a basic rhetorical organization of the genre that any exemplar of BRs will have, the hypothesis is that variations from this basic description can be credited to the differences in the epistemic organization of academic disciplines. 2. Purpose of the study The main purpose of the present study is to investigate the information organization of BRs in terms of a genre whose exemplars share a basic rhetorical organization. I argue in favor of considering linguistics, economics, and chemistry as three discourse communities, heterogeneous sociorhetorical groups whose elements share occupational goals and interests. In interviews with BR editors of established journals in the three fields (Motta-Roth, 1995b), linguists, economists, and chemists were depicted as members of a community who are MOTTA-ROTH 105 organized around common goals (e.g., research programs, research grants, publications) and share familiarity with the particular genres and lexicon used in attaining these goals (research papers, abstracts, technical terms, accorded concepts, etc.). Like discourse communities, these disciplines use mechanisms for communication between their members, with the objective of providing information and comments within the constant flux of membership amongst specialists and beginners (publications, congress presentations, etc.). In addition, Swales (1990:46) definition of genre seems to apply here firstly because BRs, analogous to a genre, involve a set of relationships between people that are acting in a given social context (a scientific journal) and performing certain social roles. These roles are commonly associated with that occasion and with certain goals, i.e., in the case of BRs, to introduce and evaluate new publications in the field. Secondly, these communicative events are recognized by the expert members of the discourse community. Expert reviewers and readers recognize exemplars of the genre using schemata, i.e., the previous knowledge that guides their expectations about texts (cf. Carrel and Eisterhold, 1983; Rumelhart, 1984). They approach BRs using previous knowledge of academe in general and of disciplinary culture 3 in particular (content schemata), and previous knowledge about generic textual features of BRs (formal schemata). Moreover, appropriate reading and writing skills enable these expert members to bring to the text adequate expectations about the potential content and form. Ultimately, the communicative purposes of introducing and evaluating new 3 I will use the term disciplinary to refer to the common possession of the practitioners of a particular [academic] discipline (Kuhn, 1970[1962]:182). 106 the ESPecialist, vol. 17, nº 2 publications constitute the rationale that constrains the rhetoric of the genre. Thus readers seek description and evaluation of recent publications in the field and reviewers tend to produce texts that respond to these expectations. Consequently, instances of BRs will present similar patterns in structure, style, content and intended audience that define the genre. In analyzing the texts in the corpus, I will try to define a schematic description of the moves and their respective smaller units that are usually found in concrete examples of BRs. This schematic description consists of generalizations made about how information is organized in a group of related categories, cases, or events. These categories may differ in regard to the specific instances in which they are realized (Rumelhart, 1980; Nwogu, 1990) and thus, point towards propensities in the genre, not to absolute accountability of rhetorical moves (Swales, 1994, personal communication). 3. Methods Studies in Text Analysis usually emphasize the tactical aspects of genre construction (Bhatia, 1993:19) through the progression of information in moves that convey the writer s intended meanings with the objective of influencing the reader s decisions (in this case, the reader s evaluation of the book). A move is defined here as a stretch of discourse (extending for one or more sentences) that realizes a specific communicative function and that represents a stage in the development of an overall structure of information that is commonly associated with the genre. In a BR, an introductory move of Describing the book can represent a MOTTA-ROTH 107 stage in the development of an overall structure of information geared to the description and evaluation of the book which is commonly associated with the genre. A move is identified in terms of the function it plays in the genre, the part which uttering [or writing] these words plays in the language-game (...) the function utterances have in the technique of using language (Wittgenstein, [1953]1958:10, 21). Each move can be defined as a unit of discourse structure which presents a uniform orientation, has specific structural characteristics, and has clearly defined functions (Nwogu, 1990:127). Each move, in turn, includes a number of lower-level constituent elements or sub-functions (Motta-Roth, 1995b) that combine to form the information which makes up a move. In this paper, the resulting pattern of moves and subfunctions constitutes the information structure that can define an exemplar of BRs. For example, a move of Describing the book can advance the reviewer's intention to describe the book to the reader. Smaller parts of this move that alone or together can advance the text in the direction established by the move could include Stating the theme of each chapter or Citing visual material (e.g., tables, figures). In each move, certain linguistic expressions are frequently used as unanalyzed chunks of language used in certain predictable contexts that function as discourse devices (Nattinger and DeCarrico, 1992); these linguistic expressions function as metadiscourse markers (Vande Kopple, 1985), that is, they are present in the text to involve author and reader in rhetorical acts of comprehension and persuasion (Crismore, 1989:4). Since metadiscourse can encompass both the Hallidayan textual and interpersonal functions of language (:4), it can be said that metadiscourse markers signal the 108 the ESPecialist, vol. 17, nº 2 textual and rhetorical functions of a given passage in the text: they indicate the cohesion of the texture of information and also make evident (or sometimes disguise) the author s attitude. Thus, in BRs, the reviewer can start the text by, for example, introducing the book, using a cataphoric nominal phrase such as This volume/book/monograph, plus a verb in the present tense (usually the verb to be) and a complement: [C#1]This book is very good. Or the title of the book in italics to call the reader s attention: [L#2]Essays on the English Language and Applied Linguistics (EAAL) is a festschrift celebrating Gerard Nickel s 60th Birthday. By employing this construction, the reviewer realizes the textual function of indicating to the reader the opening of the text. The definition of the rhetorical structure of the genre BR was done based on 60 texts, devided evenly among the three disciplines, extracted from 20 of the most cited journals published in English (Garfield, 1991; 1989a; 1989b; 1989c), and published in These texts were compared in terms of their information content and of these metadiscoursive devices, and then each BR was coded for moves. MOTTA-ROTH Results and discussion Four rhetorical moves with their correspondent subfunctions were commonly found across disciplines in the corpus as seen in Figure 1. These four moves are very often visually signaled by paragraph shifts so that boundaries between them co-occur with paragraph boundaries. The opening paragraph usually encompasses the Introducing the book move. Here the reviewer provides background information on the book, stating its basic characteristics, e.g., if it is a collection of texts by different authors or if it is a text by one author, if it is a book on a variety of topics within a broader area of interest or if it is focused on a single topic. This introductory paragraph basically provides five pieces of information about the book: central topic and format, readership, author, topic generalizations and insertion of the book in the broader field of study to which it relates. Besides defining the topic of the book (Sub-function 1), the first sentence usually informs about the potential readership (Sub-function 2): [L#7] Academic Writing: Techniques and Tasks by Ilona Leki is a writing textbook for the advanced ESL student who is collegebound. Allowing for certain variation in order of the subfunctions in BRs, the first sentence can also inform about the author s previous experience (Sub-function 3): [E#1] First, disclosure. Greg Davidson once worked under my supervision. Both he and Paul Davidson are friends. An endorsement from my father graces the jacket of this book. And there is much between the covers with which I agree. 110 the ESPecialist, vol. 17, nº 2 Move 1 Sub-function 1 Sub-function 2 Sub-function 3 Sub-function 4 Sub-function 5 Move 2 Sub-function 6 Sub-function 7 Sub-function 8 Move 3 Sub-function 9 Move 4 INTRODUCING THE BOOK Defining the general topic of the book and/or Informing about potential readership and/or Informing about the author and/or Making topic generalizations and/or Inserting book in the field OUTLINING THE BOOK Providing general view of the organization of the book and/or Stating the topic of each chapter and/or Citing extra-text material HIGHLIGHTING PARTS OF THE BOOK Providing focused evaluation PROVIDING CLOSING EVALUATION OF THE BOOK Sub-function 10A Definitely recommending/ disqualifying the book or Sub-function 10B Recommending the book despite indicated shortcomings Figure 1: Schematic description of
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