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Title: The discourses and tales of Hong Kong scholars seeking research grant : a study in professional expertise
Other Titles: Xianggang xue zhe shen qing ke yan ji jin zhi wen ben yu xu shi : guan yu gou jian zhuan ye zhi neng zhi yan jiu
香港學者申請科研基金之文本與敍事 : 关于構建專業知能之研究
Authors: Feng, Haiying (馮海穎)
Department: Department of English
Degree: Doctor of Philosophy
Issue Date: 2009
Publisher: City University of Hong Kong
Subjects: Research grants -- China -- Hong Kong.
Proposal writing in research -- China -- Hong Kong.
Notes: CityU Call Number: LB2337.C5 F46 2009
xiv, 362 leaves 30 cm.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--City University of Hong Kong, 2009.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 325-356)
Type: thesis
Abstract: For academics, grant seeking, this first step in the knowledge production, has been an indispensable part of their academic life. However, in contrast to the large amount of research on post-research activities in general and on the genre of research articles in particular, the research on this pre-research activity seems still far from enough (Hyland, 2000; Johns, 1997), despite a growing interest in the past two decades (Connor, 2000; Connor et al., 1995; Connor and Mauranen, 1999; Connor and Upton, 2004; Connor and Wagner, 1999; Feng, 2002; Feng, 2008; Myers, 1990; Tardy, 2003; Van Nostrand, 1994). With two strands of genre theories, the ESP and the New Rhetoric, forming the main backdrop for the thinking in this study, I investigated the textual features of two pivotal genres (i.e., research grant proposals and grant reviews) in the genre system of grant-seeking, and explored how genres in this genre system, as mediating tools, enable scholars to negotiate agency, strategically position themselves, construct their voice and identity, and build up an important part of their professional expertise. Data for this research were collected over one-year’s period in 2005-2006. Data include 54 stand-alone successfully-funded Hong Kong Competitive Earmarked Research Grant (CERG) proposals (18 from natural sciences disciplines and 36 from humanities and social sciences disciplines); 16 sets of consecutive proposals (from drafts to submitted version, from unfunded to funded version, or funded proposals in consecutive years); 44 grant reviews; open-ended and discourse-based interviews with 8 scholars in natural sciences disciplines and 36 scholars in humanities and social sciences disciplines; emails correspondences with two technical writers who provide editing support for grant writers at two universities in Hong Kong; and the website of Research Grants Council (RGC). In two particular cases, data also include the participants’ responses written in the margin of reviewers’ comments and in resubmitted proposals, the participants’ written communication with their co-investigators (e.g., emails and faxes) and with institutions (e.g., rebuttal letters, RGC’s official response to rebuttals, a support letter by the university’s research committee), and in-depth interviews and email exchanges with the two participating scholars. This study synthesizes two epistemic understandings of genre and context. While the first four resulting chapters, i.e. Chapter 3, 4, 5, and 6, focus primarily on examining grant-seeking textual artifacts, Chapter 7 turns to explore the discursive interactions between the grant applicants and other parties in the activity system. In Chapter 3, the part genre of RGP abstracts—“short but crucial part of the proposal” (Myers, 1990, p. 52)—was examined in terms of the rhetorical moves (Swales, 1990; Bhatia, 1993), the use of hedges and boosters, and the most frequently used words. Drawing on citation analysis and evaluation theory, Chapter 4 proposes a model of citation and provides an interesting look into how grant writers position themselves and their research differently in their literature reviews by presenting citations of different functions—namely, informative, evaluative, and argumentative. Chapter 5 takes an in-depth look into the face-threatening yet indispensable move of establishing a niche by drawing upon Hunston’s (2000) network of sources of statement and the model of citation developed in Chapter four. Chapter 6 examines the gate-keeping genre in this genre system—grant reviews, which is also an occluded genre, and has thus rarely been examined before in the literature. Drawing on the evaluation theory and the theory of politeness strategies (Brown and Levinson, 1978), the chapter tends to demystify the “voices behind the curtain”. While these four chapters have explored respectively one part genre, one textual feature, one rhetorical move, and the gate-keeping genre in this genre system, Chapter 7, using the case study method, has described a fleeting panorama of two Hong Kong scholars pushing at the gatekeeper’s fence after having experienced frustrations in their previous grant applications. In the first four chapters, context is seen as the ground in the figure-ground relationship with text and the resource for textual analysis. In Chapter 4 for instance, the grant writers’ life histories and multi-membership, their engagement with the academic community and their imagination of their own positioning in it, were tapped into as resources for analyzing and explaining the grant writers’ referential behavior. In Chapter 7 by contrast, context is the activity system; grant applicants, being one of the elements making it up, through strategic use of genres as tools, negotiated their positioning and reshaped the grant-seeking activity system in so doing. Accordingly, the study has adopted both textual analytical methods and the method of ethnographic case study (Yin, 1984). Chapter 3 for instance, is a response to the call for compiling localized and specialized corpora for understanding academic language (e.g., Flowerdew, 1998, 2004), and conducted multi-level analyses by taking functional, rhetorical, and textlinguistic aspects simultaneously into consideration. Socio-politically oriented case studies (Casanave, 2003) were conducted in sub-studies of Chapter 4, 6, and 7, investigating the writing in the grant seeking activity in terms of artifact, process, and identify construction. This study has researched into the grant-seeking activity not only in terms of genre and genre system, but also in terms of person-in-the-world (Lave and Wenger, 1991). The study revealed, in Chapter 4, 6, and 7, that positioning taking (Davies and Harré, 1990) and voice construction, in referencing, in reviewing proposals, and in rebutting, reflect and constitute an important part of scholars’ professional expertise. A scholar’s identity and professional expertise is built up not only via identification, but also via negotiation (see Chapter 7). The issue has thus been raised and looked into concerning the pragma-linguistic challenges off-network EIL (English as an international language) scholars (Belcher, 2007) face in these positioning-taking, voice-construction, and negotiation processes. In sum, the study has offered a thick description (Geertz, 1973) of the pre-research activity of grant seeking in Hong Kong by drawing upon two genre theories, making use of two methodological approaches, and bringing together two analytical foci. It is expected that this study will provide useful insights for genre analysts, novice grant writers, and the Research Grant Council (RGC) of Hong Kong.
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