Writing a report

A study of preadolescents’ use of informational language


  • Fang Zhihui University of Florida




genre, informational text, literacy education, systemic functional linguistics, writing


Reading and writing informational genres is a literacy skill highly valued in school, workplace and society. One key to the development of this skill is mastering the lexicogrammatical resources that are functional for realizing these genres. Drawing on a genre-based theory of learning and using analytical tools provided by systemic functional linguistics, this cross-sectional longitudinal study examined patterns of language use in Grades 3–5 students’ writing of report, an informational genre whose main function is to present factual information on a topic. Quantitative and descriptive analyses of their written reports on a common, familiar science topic reveal that the preadolescents demonstrated considerable expertise in instantiating certain features of report (e.g. timelessness, non-particularization), but were much less successful in using language to construe its other features (e.g. technicality, density, thing-focus, abstraction, objectivity). Instead, the students tended to draw on the grammatical resources of everyday spontaneous speech, presenting information in an interactive, non-authoritative and unconventionally structured manner. Furthermore, while considerable variation existing between and within the three grade levels in the students’ working knowledge of report, no clear, consistent developmental pattern emerged from the analyses. In fact, the development seems best characterized as non-linear and feature-specific. These findings raise a number of important developmental and pedagogical issues that have practical implications for language and literacy educators.

Author Biography

Fang Zhihui, University of Florida

Dr. FANG Zhihui is Professor of Education in the School of Teaching and Learning at UF, where he also coordinates the Language Arts, Reading and Children’s Literature (LARC) program. He is author of more than 90 publications that include books, book chapters, and refereed journal articles, as well as over 200 refereed, invited, keynote, and featured presentations. He has served as column editor, editorial board member, or guest reviewer for over 20 national and international journals, including Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, Journal of Educational Research, Elementary School Journal, Research in the Teaching of English, Journal of Literacy Research, Language Arts, Reading Research Quarterly, Science, and Science Education. His areas of expertise include language and literacy education, functional linguistics, and teacher education. His recent research focuses on the language demands of disciplinary reading and writing. He is particularly interested in exploring the use of evidence based language and literacy practices to support disciplinary learning and socialization.


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How to Cite

Zhihui, F. (2015). Writing a report: A study of preadolescents’ use of informational language. Linguistics and the Human Sciences, 10(2), 103–132. https://doi.org/10.1558/lhs.v10i2.28556




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