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Title: A genre-based investigation of the discussion & conclusion sections of L2 Chinese social science doctoral theses
Other Titles: Zhongguo er yu she ke bo shi lun wen tao lun yu jie yu zhang jie zhi yu ti yan jiu
Authors: Deng, Liming (鄧鸝鳴)
Department: Department of English
Degree: Doctor of Philosophy
Issue Date: 2009
Publisher: City University of Hong Kong
Subjects: Dissertations, Academic -- Authorship.
Social sciences -- Authorship.
Academic writing.
Notes: CityU Call Number: P301.5.A27 D45 2009
xiii, 238 leaves 30 cm.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--City University of Hong Kong, 2009.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 209-231)
Type: thesis
Abstract: Writing the Discussion & Conclusion section is assumed to one of the most difficult parts in doctoral students’ thesis writing not just for non-native English speakers (NNES) but for native English speakers (NES) as well. There has been an increasing interest in studying this specific part-genre in the research writing in the past two decades ( e.g., Belanger, 1982; Dudley-Evans ,1986, 1994; Hopkins and Dudley-Evans 1988; Peng, 1987; Weissberg and Buker, 1990; Holmes, 1997; Nwogu, 1997; Posteguillo, 1999; Letwin et al, 2001; Peacock, 2002; Yang and Allison, 2003; Swales and Feak, 2004; Bunton, 2005; Kanoskilapatham, 2005; Bitchener and Basturkmen, 2006). Nevertheless, an overwhelming majority of the research focuses on the overall rhetorical structure and patterns of this particular part-genre in RAs and predominantly deals with the texts produced in natural sciences. Studies on the nature of the difficulties in writing the Discussion & Conclusion section of thesis writing genre are severely limited and even scarce in the case of social sciences. So far none of the previous research has ever investigated this particular part-genre from the social constructivist perspective. This study attempts to fill this research void through exploring the nature of the difficulties of the particular Discussion & Conclusion section writing by L2 Chinese social science doctoral students on the one hand, and on the other, examining the ways in which this particular group of doctoral students construct the specific thesis part-genre as well as the ways these students construct their writer identities in writing this part-genre. To address the research objectives, two main research methods were adopted in the study: textual analysis and case study. Data were collected through texts produced by the students and interviews. Texts of the Discussion & Conclusion section including original drafts, revised versions, and the final products were solicited from six mainland Chinese doctoral students of social sciences who were pursuing their PhD studies in Hong Kong. They were collected at different stages of this specific part-genre writing. Two-rounds of in-depth interviews were conducted with the six doctoral students to explore the major events and stories occurring in the process of their Discussion & Conclusion section writing. One-round of in-depth interviews was carried out with their students’ supervisors to obtain more information regarding their students’ thesis writing in general and the Discussion & Conclusion section writing, in particular. Textual analysis was done basically by drawing on part of Swalesian CARS model ( Swales, 1990 ) and the move-scheme for the Discussion & Conclusion section proposed by Swales & Feak (2004). Interview data was analyzed in line with the research objectives to seek the common themes surfacing in various events and stories. It was explained and interpreted by drawing on such theories as cognitive writing process theory, sociocultural theory, and theories on the construction of social identity and writer identity. It was found through the detailed textual analysis that such a significant problem as rhetorical mismatch between what is ‘promised’ in Introduction and what is ‘delivered’ in the Discussion and Conclusion section exists not merely in the student informants’ earlier drafts, but also in their revised versions and even in some of the final versions. This suggests that this particular group of doctoral students in general had much difficulty in employing the generic convention of forging a proper link between the closing and opening sections when they wrote the specific Discussion & Conclusion part-genre. The in-depth analysis of interview data indicated that the students were faced with such major problems in dealing with this specific section: they lacked a full understanding of the communicative functions of the particular part-genre, they were unaware of the rhetorical consistency between the opening and closing sections, they were short of systematic training for thesis writing, their thesis writing process was long, and their cognitive load involved in the specific section writing was heavy. The causes related to these problems were discussed as well. It was also revealed in this study that this particular group of doctoral students negotiated the specific generic conventions mainly through negotiating with their supervisors, mediating with other academics, dialoguing with multiple audiences, and interacting with published works and theses. Various ways of negotiation as such not only helped the students conform to the specific academic conventions, increased their conventional knowledge, but also made them better able to manipulate the particular part-genre writing. Moreover, the in-depth analysis unfolded that it is simply through the whole process of such discursive practices as drafting, revising, and shaping this particular section and various social interactions in the form of negotiating with their supervisors, mediating with other academics, dialoguing with multiple audiences, and interacting with published works and theses that these students constructed and reconstructed their writer identities incrementally from an initial novice student writer to a more skilled academic writer to becoming a member of their particular discourse community, moving towards a full member of the community. The findings generated from this study offer significant implications for EAP/ ESP pedagogy and instructions both in China and elsewhere.
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