Participatory genre analysis of statements of purpose

An identity-focused study

  • Simon Ho Wang City University of Hong Kong
  • John Flowerdew City University of Hong Kong
Keywords: personal statement, PhD application, identity

Abstract

Writing Statements of Purpose (SoP) is a challenging task for students applying for English-speaking graduate schools, as they need to demonstrate their competence as junior members of the research community and satisfy the requirements of admission officers. Previous studies have focused primarily on the SoPs written by US applicants or the perspectives of admission officers. This study investigates how Chinese students wrote and revised their SoPs for US Ph.D. programs through an action research project which offered feedback on their earlier drafts. Through participatory genre analysis of a small corpus of both earlier and final versions of SoPs by 20 Chinese applicants admitted to US graduate schools, it is found that, after revising their SoPs, the applicants tended to enact their researcher identities by removing certain moves and steps that were less relevant to the rhetorical purposes and adopting the moves and steps usually found in research articles. A framework for writing SoPs based on the results of a genre analysis of a small corpus of the successful SoPs is developed to help future applicants and their language teachers.

Author Biographies

Simon Ho Wang, City University of Hong Kong

Simon Ho Wang is a doctoral candidate at department of English, City University of Hong Kong. Prior to joining City University, he taught at Huazhong University of Science and Technology, China, for nine years. His doctoral studies focus on second language writing of chinese students interested in studying abroad.

John Flowerdew, City University of Hong Kong

John Flowerdew is Professor of English at Department of English, City University of Hong Kong. His research interests include English for Specific/Academic Purposes, critical discourse analysis and corpus linguistics. He has published widely in international journals and authored or edited numerous monographs.

Published
2016-05-23
How to Cite
Wang, S. H., & Flowerdew, J. (2016). Participatory genre analysis of statements of purpose. Writing & Pedagogy, 8(1), 65-89. https://doi.org/10.1558/wap.v8i1.29699
Section
Research Matters