Reflections on Teaching Discourse Functions Using a Science Thesis


  • Philip Hubbard Stanford University



discourse functions, rhetorical functions, graduate writing, thesis, dissertation, ESL


This paper presents a novel approach to the teaching of discourse functions, such as defining, comparing, hedging, and so on, in an advanced graduate writing course for international students. Rather than relying on made-up examples or those drawn from a variety of sources as is typically the case with writing textbooks, all of the examples are drawn from a single exemplary doctoral thesis in cryobiology. It is argued that such an approach can serve as a useful supplement to the course textbook and other resources, as well as providing doctoral students with a peer model for their own writing. Following a brief discussion of discourse functions in writing, explanations and examples of eleven discourse functions garnered from the cryobiology thesis are presented, along with a description of how the material is integrated into the second half of a graduate writing course to help students fill in gaps and review discourse functions encountered in previous study.

Author Biography

Philip Hubbard, Stanford University

Philip Hubbard is Senior Lecturer in Linguistics and Director of the English for Foreign Students Program at the Stanford University Language Center, where he teaches courses in advanced graduate writing, listening comprehension, and ESL methodology. He serves on the editorial boards of five journals, including Writing & Pedagogy. In addition to writing, he specializes in methodology, teacher education, and learner training for computer-assisted language learning.


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How to Cite

Hubbard, P. (2010). Reflections on Teaching Discourse Functions Using a Science Thesis. Writing and Pedagogy, 1(2), 263–277.



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