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The use of critical speech acts in Psychology and Chemistry research papers

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Author(s): Anna Fagan | Pedro Martín Martín

Journal: Ibérica
ISSN 1139-7241

Volume: 8;
Start page: 125;
Date: 2004;
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Keywords: research article | academic conflict | critical speech act | rhetorical choices

ABSTRACT
Creating a research space has become increasingly important in today's competitive academic world, where the pressure to publish requires writers to justify publication of their research article (RA) in order present their new claims to the other members of the academic community. This mainly implies the indication of a knowledge gap and/or the criticism of any weak point in the previously published work by other researchers or the academic community itself. This "academic conflict" (AC) is expressed via a critical speech act whose rhetorical expression ranges from blunt criticism to the use of subtle hedging devices, aimed at an individual or the community in general. In this study we discuss the development of a taxonomy to describe the rhetorical choices writers use when making the critical speech act, and the application of this taxonomy to 50 RAs from two distinct disciplines: Psychology, representing the social disciplines, and Chemistry, the natural disciplines. The application of this taxonomy, which categorises AC according to directness, writer mediation, and the target of the criticism, has yielded the following results: AC was manifested far more frequently in Psychology than in Chemistry, not only in total number of AC units, but also in the research articles themselves: it appears to be an essential rhetorical strategy for writers in the field of Psychology, but not so in Chemistry. The two disciplines showed a surprising degree of similarity with respect to writer mediation, directness and personalization overall; however, when these variables are combined, significant differences emerge: researchers in Psychology favour unmediated, direct and personal criticism, whereas those in Chemistry favour impersonal criticism.
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