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The potential of purpose-built corpora in the analysis of student academic writing in English

Author(s): Julia Hüttner

Journal: Journal of Writing Research
ISSN 2030-1006

Volume: 2;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 197;
Date: 2010;
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Keywords: genre analysis | corpus linguistics | student writing | EAP

The trend towards using English as an academic lingua franca has undoubtedly increased the awareness of a need for specific EAP writing instruction and inroads into researching student writing have been made. However, systematic improvements for a theory-informed teaching practice still require more detailed knowledge of the current state of student academic writing, which also takes into account local practices and requirements. Extended genre analysis provides such a means of researching student writing in specific settings. This is an innovative methodology which expands on English for Specific Purposes (ESP) genre analysis (cf. Bhatia, 1993, 2004; Swales, 1990, 2004) to systematically integrate corpus linguistic tools into the analysis and to take into account the special status of student genres. A special advantage of this methodology is that it can be applied easily and successfully to small-scale purpose-built corpora. This paper presents an application of extended genre analysis to a corpus of 55 student paper conclusions produced by non-native speakers in the initial phase of their studies. Findings suggest systematic differences in structure between student and expert genres, as well as a more complex set of differences in lexico-grammar, and especially the use of formulaic language, between research articles and non-native student papers. The implications of these findings as well as of the proposed methodology of corpus-based genre analysis for teaching practice are also discussed.

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