Studying disciplinary corpora to teach the craft of Discussion

  • Elena Cotos Iowa State University
  • Stephanie Link Oklahoma State University
  • Sarah Huffman Iowa State University of Science and Technology
Keywords: genre, research article, move analysis, corpora, writing pedagogy


Producing publishable quality research articles is a difficult task for novice scholarly writers. Particularly challenging is writing the Discussion/Conclusion section, which requires taking evaluative and interpretive stances on obtained results and substantiating claims regarding the worth of the scholarly contribution of the article to scientific knowledge. Conforming to the expectations of the target disciplinary community adds another dimension to the challenge. Corpus-based genre analysis can foster postgraduate writing instruction by providing insightful descriptions of rhetorical patterns and variation in disciplinary discourse. This paper introduces a pedagogically-oriented cross-disciplinary model of moves and steps devised through top-down corpus analysis. The model was applied to pedagogical materials and tasks designed to enhance genre and corpus-based teaching of Discussion/ Conclusions with an explicit focus on rhetorical conventions.

Author Biographies

Elena Cotos, Iowa State University

Elena Cotos is Assistant Professor in the English Department and the Director of the Center for Communication Excellence of the Graduate College, Iowa State University.

Stephanie Link, Oklahoma State University

Stephanie Link is Assistant Professor in the English Department, Oklahoma State University.

Sarah Huffman, Iowa State University of Science and Technology

Sarah Huffman is a postdoctoral research associate in the Center for Communication Excellence and the coordinator for the Graduate Peer Mentor Program, Iowa State University.


Anthony, L., & Lashkia, G. (2003). Mover: A machine learning tool to assist in the reading and writing of technical papers. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communica-tion, 46(3), 185-193. DOI: 10.1109/TPC.2003.816789.

Ayers, G. (2008). The evolutionary nature of genre: An investigation of the short texts accompanying research articles in the scientific journal Nature. English for Specific Purposes, 27, 22-41. DOI: 10.1016/j.esp.2007.06.002.

Berkenkotter, C. & Huckin, T. (1995). Genre knowledge in disciplinary communication: Cognition/culture/power. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Bianchi, F., & Pazzaglia, R. (2007). Student writing of research articles in a foreign language: Metacognition and corpora. In R. Fachinetti (Ed.), Corpus linguistics 25 years on (pp. 259–287). Amsterdam: Rodopi.

Biber, D., Connor, U., & Upton, T. (2007). Discourse on the Move: Using Corpus Analysis to Describe Discourse Structure. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Birch-Bécaas, S., & Cooke, R. (2012). Raising collective awareness of rhetorical strategies. In A. Boulton, S. Carter-Thomas, E. Rowley-Jolivet (Eds). Corpus-Informed Re-search and Learning in ESP: Issues and applications (pp. 239–260). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Bloch, J. (2010). A concordance-based study of the use of reporting verbs as rhetorical devices in academic papers. Journal of Writing Research, 2(2), 219-244. DOI: 10.17239/jowr-2010.02.02.7.

Boulton, A. Carter-Thomas, S. & Rowley-Jovilet, E. (2012). Corpus-informed research and learning in ESP: Issues and applications. Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Braun, S. (2005). From pedagogically relevant corpora to authentic language learning con-texts. ReCALL, 17(1), 47-64. DOI: 10.1017/S0958344005000510.

Brett, P. (1994). A genre analysis of the results section of sociology articles. English for Specific Purposes, 13, 47–59. DOI: 10.1016/0889-4906(94)90024-8.

Bruce, I. (2008). Academic writing and genre: A systematic analysis. New York: Continuum.

Chang, C. & Kuo C. (2011). A corpus-based approach to online materials development for writing research articles. English for Specific Purposes, 30, 222-234. DOI: 10.1016/j.esp.2011.04.001.

Charles, M. (2007). Reconciling top-down and bottom-up approaches to graduate writing: Using a corpus to teach rhetorical functions. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 6(4), 289–302. DOI: 10.1016/j.jeap.2007.09.009.

Cheng, A. (2008). Analyzing genre exemplars in preparation for writing: The case of an L2 graduate student in the ESP genre-based instructional framework of academic lit-eracy. Applied Linguistics, 29(1), 50-71. DOI: 10.1093/applin/amm021.

Cheng, W., Warren, M. & Xu, X. (2003). The language learner as language researcher: Corpus linguistics on the timetable. System, 31(2), 173-186. DOI: 10.1016/S0346-251X(03)00019-8.

Cho, K., & Schunn, C. D., (2007). Scaffolded writing and rewriting in the discipline: A web-based reciprocal peer review system. Computers & Education, 48(3), 409-426. DOI: 10.1016/j.compedu.2005.02.004.

Cortes, V. (2007). Genre analysis in the academic writing class: With or without corpora? ORTESOL Journal, 25, 9–16.

Cortes, V. (2011). Genre analysis in the academic writing class: With or without corpora? Quaderns de Filologia. Estudis linguistics, 26, 65-80.

Cotos, E. (2014). Genre-based automated writing evaluation for L2 research writing: From design to evaluation and enhancement. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

Cotos, E. (2015). AWE for writing pedagogy: From healthy tension to tangible prospects. Special issue on Assessment for Writing and Pedagogy. Writing & Pedagogy, 7(2-3), 197-231. DOI: 10.1558/wap.v7i2-3.26381.

Cotos, E., Huffman, S., & Link, S. (2015). Move analysis of the research article genre: Furthering and applying analytic constructs. Journal of English for Academic Purpos-es, 19, 52-72. DOI: 10.1016/j.jeap.2015.05.004

Coxhead, A. (2000). A new academic word list. TESOL Quarterly, 34, 213–238. DOI: 10.2307/3587951.

Crookes, G. (1986). Towards a validated analysis of scientific text structure. Applied Linguistics, 7(1), 57-70. DOI: 10.1093/applin/7.1.57.

DeKeyser, R. M. (2007). Skill acquisition theory. In B. VanPatten & J. Williams (Eds.), Theories in second language acquisition (pp. 97-113). Mahwa, New Jersey: Laurence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.

Dudley-Evans, T. (1994). Genre analysis: An approach to text analysis for ESP. In M. Coultard (Ed.), Advances in written text analysis (pp. 219–228). London: Routledge.

Dudley-Evans, T. (1997). Genre model for the teaching of academic writing to second language speakers: advantages and disadvantages. In T. Miller (ed.) Functional Approaches to Written Texts: Classroom Applications. Washington DC: United States Information Agency.

Farr, F. (2003). Engaged listenership in spoken academic discourse: the case of student–tutor meetings. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 2(1), 67–85. DOI: 10.1016/S1475-1585(02)00035-8.

Flowerdew, J. (2015). John Swales’s approach to pedagogy in Genre Analysis: A perspec-tive from 25 years on. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 19, 102-112. DOI: 10.1016/j.jeap.2015.02.003.

Flowerdew, L. (2008). Corpus linguistics for academic literacies mediated through dis-cussion activities. In D. Belcher & A. Hirvela (Eds.), The Oral-Literate Connection: Perspectives on L2 Speaking, Writing and Other Media Interactions (pp. 268–287). Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.

Flowerdew, L. (2015). Using corpus-based research and online academic corpora to in-form writing of the discussion section of a thesis. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 20, 58-68. DOI: 10.1016/j.jeap.2015.06.001.

Flowerdew, J. & Peacock, M. (2001). Issues in EAP: A preliminary perspective. In J. Flowerdew, & M. Peacock (Eds.), Research perspectives on English for academic purposes (pp. 8–24). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Friginal, E. (2013). Developing research report writing skills using corpora. English for Specific Purposes, 32(4), 208-220. DOI: 10.1016/j.esp.2013.06.001.

Gavioli, L. (2005). Exploring corpora for ESP learning. Amsterdam, Netherlands: John Benjamins.

Gavioli, L. & Aston, G. (2001). Enriching reality: Language corpora in language pedagogy. ELT Journal, 55(3), 238–246. DOI: 10.1093/elt/55.3.238.

Graves, H., Moghaddasi, S., & Hashim, A. (2013). Mathematics is the method: Exploring the macro-organizational structure of research articles in mathematics, Discourse Stu-dies, 15(4), 421-438. DOI: 10.1177/1461445613482430.

Groom, N. (2005). Pattern and meaning across genres and disciplines: An exploratory study. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 4, 257–277.

Henry, A., & Rosenberry, R. L. (2001). A narrow-angled corpus analysis of moves and strategies of the genre: ‘Letter of Application.’ English for Specific Purposes, 20(2), 153–167. DOI: 10.1016/S0889-4906(99)00037-X.

Holmes, R. (1997). Genre analysis and the social sciences: An investigation of the structure of research article discussion sections in three disciplines. English for Specific Purposes, 16(4), 321–337. DOI: 10.1016/S0889-4906(96)00038-5.

Hopkins, A. & Dudley-Evans, T. (1988). A genre-based investigation of the Discussion sections in articles and dissertations. English for Specific Purposes, 7, 113-121. DOI: 10.1016/0889-4906(88)90029-4.

Hyland, K. (2006). English for Academic Purposes: An advanced resource book. London, New York: Routledge.

Hyland, K. (2007). Genre pedagogy: language, literacy and L2 writing instruction. Journal of Second Language Writing, 16, 148e164.

Johns, A. M. (2011). The future of genre in L2 writing: fundamental, but contested, instructional decisions. Journal of Second Language Writing, 20(1), 56-68.

Kanoksilapatham, B. (2005). Rhetorical moves in biochemistry research articles. In D. Biber, U. Connor, & T. Upton (Eds.), Discourse on the move: Using corpus analysis to describe discourse structure (pp. 73e119). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benja-mins.

Kanoksilapatham, B. (2007). Rhetorical moves in biochemistry research articles. In D. Biber, U. Connor & T. Upton (Eds.), Discourse on the Move: Using Corpus Analysis to Describe Discourse Structure (pp. 73–119). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Lax, J. (2002). Academic writing for international graduate students. American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE)/Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Frontiers in Education Conference, November 6-9 Boston, MA.

Lea, M. R., & Street, B. V. (1998). Student writing in higher education: an academic literacies approach. Studies in Higher Education, 23(2), 157-72. DOI: 10.1080/03075079812331380364.

Lee, D. & Swales, J. (2006). A corpus-based EAP course for NNS doctoral students: Moving from available specialized corpora to self-compiled corpora. English for Specific Purposes, 25, 56–75. DOI: 10.1016/j.esp.2005.02.010.

Lim, J. M. H. (2006). Method sections of management research articles: A pedagogically motivated qualitative study. English for Specific Purposes, 25, 282-309. DOI: 10.1016/j.esp.2005.07.001.

Lim, J. M. H. (2010). Commenting on research results in applied linguistics and education: A comparative genre-based study. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 9, 280-294. DOI: 10.1016/j.jeap.2010.10.001.

Lorés, R. (2004). On RA abstracts: from rhetorical structure to thematic organization. English for Specific Purposes, 23, 208-302. DOI: 10.1016/j.esp.2003.06.001.

Martín, P. M. (2003). A genre analysis of English and Spanish research paper abstracts in experimental social studies. English for Specific Purposes, 22, 25-43. DOI: 10.1016/S0889-4906(01)00033-3.

Martinez, I. (2003). Aspects of theme in the method and discussion sections of biology journal articles in English. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 2, 103-123. DOI: 10.1016/S1475-1585(03)00003-1.

Miller, C. (1984). Genre as social action. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 70, 151-167. DOI: 10.1080/00335638409383686.

MITRE. (2002). Callisto website. Accessed January 12, 2011.

Nwogu, K. N. (1997). The medical research paper: Structure and functions. English for Specific Purposes, 16(2), 119–138. DOI: 0.1016/S0889-4906(97)85388-4.

Paltridge, B. & Starfield, S. (2007). Thesis and dissertation writing in a second language. London: Routledge.

Paltridge, B. & Woodrow, L. (2012). Thesis and dissertation writing: Moving beyond the text. In R. Tang (Ed.) Academic writing in a second or foreign language: Issues and challenges facing ESL/EFL academic writers in higher education contexts (pp. 88-104). New York, NY: Continuum International.

Parkinson, J. (2011). The Discussion section as argument: The language used to prove knowledge claims. English for Specific Purposes, 30, 164-175. DOI: 10.1016/j.esp.2011.03.001.

Peacock, M. (2002) Communicative moves in the discussion section of research articles. System, 30(4), 479-97. DOI: 10.1016/S0346-251X(02)00050-7.

Pérez-Paredes, P., & Alcaraz-Calero, J.M. (2009). Developing annotation solutions for online Data Driven Learning. ReCALL, 21(1), 55-75. DOI: 10.1017/S0958344009000093.

Posteguillo, S. (1999). The schematic structure of computer science research articles. Eng-lish for Specific Purposes, 18(2), 139–160. DOI: 0.1016/S0889-4906(98)00001-5.

Samraj, B. (2002). Introductions in research articles: Variations across disciplines. English for Specific Purposes, 21(1), 1–17. DOI: 10.1016/S0889-4906(00)00023-5.

Swales, J. (1981). Aspects of articles introductions. Aston ESP Reports, No. 1. The University of Aston in Birmingham.

Swales, J. (1990). Genre Analysis: English in academic and research settings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Swales, J. (2004). Research genres. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Swales, J. & Feak, C. (1994). Academic Writing for Graduate Students, 2nd Edition. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Swales, J. & Feak, C. (2004). Academic writing for graduate students: Essential tasks and skills. 2nd ed. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Swales, J. & Feak, C. (2012). Academic Writing for Graduate Students. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Tardy, C. (2009). Building genre knowledge. West Lafayette, IN: Parlor Press.

Tribble, C. (2002). Corpora and corpus analysis: New windows on academic writing. In J. Flowerdew (Ed.) Academic Discourse. (pp. 131-149.) London: Pearson Education.

Turner, J. (2004). Language as academic purpose. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 3, 95–109 DOI: 10.1016/S1475-1585(03)00054-7.

Widdowson, H. G. (2004). Text, Context, Pretext. London: Blackwell.

Williams, I. A. (1999). Results sections of medical research articles: analysis of rhetorical categories for pedagogical purposes. English for Specific Purposes, 18, 347–366. DOI: 10.1016/S0889-4906(98)00003-9.

Yang, R. & Allison, D. (2003). Research articles in applied linguistics: Moving from results to conclusions. English for Specific Purposes, 22, 365-385. DOI: 10.1016/S08894906(03)00005-X.

Zhang, L., Kopak, R., Freund, L., & Rasmussen, E. (2011). A taxonomy of functional units for information use of scholarly journal articles. Proceedings of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 47(1), pp. 1-10. DOI: 10.1016/j.ijinfomgt.2010.10.003.
How to Cite
Cotos, E., Link, S., & Huffman, S. (2016). Studying disciplinary corpora to teach the craft of Discussion. Writing & Pedagogy, 8(1), 33-64.
Research Matters