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Guo, Libo
Zhang, Lawrence Jun
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In academic writing, authority construction could be realized by writers’ ability to demonstrate their familiarity with academic conventions valued by the discourse community and their ability to incorporate their own stance in writings (Tang, 2009). However, related literature (e.g., Bloch, 2010; Pecorari, 2008) reveals that novice writers, especially non-native writers, do not do well in authority construction in their writings.

Recent studies (e.g., Hyland, 1999a; John, 2012; Tang & John, 1999; G. Thompson & Ye, 1991) on authority construction in academic writing have been conducted from the perspectives of the use of reporting verbs, reporting structure of integral or non-integral forms, and first person pronouns. However, only a few studies have been conducted on reporting clauses, treating them as integrated units in constructing authority, as in Charles (2006), which categorized reporting clauses into self-sourced and other-sourced ones to examine their effects in authority construction. Self-sourced clauses are used to report writers’ own work and other-sourced ones are mainly used to cite other researchers’ work.

To continue this line of research on authority construction through reporting clauses, a mixed-method approach of quantitative and qualitative textual analysis and discourse-based interview was employed in this study. Specifically, quantitative and qualitative textual analysis were carried out on 20 discussion sections in masters of arts (MA) dissertations in order to examine and compare the features of authority construction by one group of Chinese students who received MA education in Singapore (hereafter SC group) and another group of Chinese students who received their MA education in China (hereafter CC group). Interviews were also carried out with five informants out of the writers of the MA dissertations analyzed to explore the motivation of students’ authority construction through reporting clauses and their perceptions on factors that may have influenced their authority construction in dissertation writing.

The findings from textual analysis and interviews indicated that there were both similarities and differences in the use of reporting clauses between the SC and CC groups. Low writer visibility is the only similarity between the two groups, as indicated by the small number in the use of emphasized averral in self sourced reporting clauses. There are also differences in the specific use of self-sourced and other-sourced reporting clauses. Specifically, SC group employed significantly more other-sourced reporting clauses, which suggests that students in SC group more frequently positioned their own studies in the academic dialogue and thus showed their greater familiarity with this academic convention. A detailed examination of the reporting clauses indicates that students in SC group use reporting verbs more appropriately, as evidenced by the fact that the evaluative potential portrayed by reporting clauses conforms to the stance inferred from the context. As for self-sourced reporting clauses, the difference lies in SC group’s significantly more frequent use of clauses with rhetorical functions of guiding readers through the text and comparing writers’ finding with previous literature. This difference also indicates that SC group was more familiar with academic conventions. The textual analysis has shown that SC group appeared to perform better in authority construction through reporting clauses.

Students’ perceptions towards those reporting behavior, obtained from interviews also showed that MA students in SC group performed better in authority construction, since students in SC group knew explicitly or implicitly about the necessity and importance of authority construction in academic writing whereas students in CC group were less conscious about such knowledge. Through the interview analysis, this study also explored the factors that could have influenced students’ performance in authority construction in academic writing, which mainly included explicit and implicit knowledge from university/department, teachers, supervisors, and students’ reading habit.

The result of this study contributes to a more detailed understanding of Chinese students’ (SC and CC groups) authority construction through reporting clauses, both the linguistic features and the self-reported factors that may have influenced their choices. It is hoped that this work will serve to improve the pedagogy of academic writing for Chinese foreign language learner.
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P302 Zen
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Appears in Collections:Master of Arts

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