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Communicative text types in university writing

Goulart Da Silva, Larissa (2022) Communicative text types in university writing. Doctoral thesis, Northern Arizona University.

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Written assignments are, perhaps, one of the most common types of coursework that students will encounter in their undergraduate studies. This study describes the communicative purpose and textual and linguistic characteristics of university assignments written for content classes, taking into account variation across communicative text types and disciplines. The research presented in this dissertation is based on a corpus of 960 texts written for four disciplinary groups (arts and humanities, social sciences, life sciences, and physical sciences) and divided into eight communicative text types: to give a procedural recount, to argue, to explain, to compare, to propose, to describe a tangible object, to give personal advice and to narrate a personal experience. Communicative text types are not culturally-recognizable register categories, rather, these are texts that share the same communicative purpose. Therefore, the first component of this study was to determine the communicative purposes that occur in university writing and describe these purposes in a framework that was used to describe all texts in the corpus. The non-linguistic and linguistic analyses, then, adopt these text categories to describe the extent to which the characteristics of university writing vary across communicative text types and discipline. For the non-linguistic analysis, I first describe the overall situational characteristics of university writing. Then, I describe the development and application of a framework for the analysis of the textual characteristics of university writing, which includes features such as length, visual elements, and explicitness of purpose. This framework was applied to each text in the corpus, thus describing the textual characteristics of university writing based on the number of texts within each communicative text type that made use of these features. For the linguistic analysis, I conduct a new multidimensional analysis, which revealed three dimensions of variation: elaborated discourse vs condensed style; production of possibility vs content-focused description; informational density vs involved, academic narrative. The second part of this study describes the text layout and linguistic characteristics of the register of essays. Drawing on the results of the analyses for communicative text types, I explore the extent to which one of the most common registers of university writing, essays, is well-defined in terms of textual and linguistic characteristics. The results of the textual and linguistic analysis show that discipline has a greater impact on the characteristics of university writing than communicative text types. The textual analysis shows considerable variation within communicative text types written for different disciplines. To argue, for example, contains more headings, images and tables when written for life sciences than other disciplines. Similarly, in the linguistic analysis, we find that two out of three dimensions identified have larger effect sizes for discipline than for communicative text type. Finally, the analysis of essays shows that there is considerable variation within the register of essays. The results of this study have two major implications for future studies of university writing. First, they show the need to account for discipline when describing language variation across registers or communicative text types. Second, the results of the register analysis demonstrate the need to account for variation within registers, as well as across registers.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Publisher’s Statement: © Copyright is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the Cline Library, Northern Arizona University. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
Keywords: University writing; linguistic analyses; non-linguistic analyses; textual characteristics; communicative text type
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
NAU Depositing Author Academic Status: Student
Department/Unit: Graduate College > Theses and Dissertations
College of Arts and Letters > English
Date Deposited: 06 Jun 2023 16:27
Last Modified: 06 Jun 2023 16:27
URI: https://openknowledge.nau.edu/id/eprint/5961

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