Publishing Research

18 Writing for Academic Audiences

Introduction

When an author is writing, they are writing for a specific person or group of people in mind. One has to present their information in a way that is understandable, while also keeping a certain tone to correspond to the audience they are writing to. In academic papers, an author’s tone must relay to the reader that they know what they are writing about and that the information they are sharing has importance. When reading this chapter, keep in mind that there is a difference in the way one writes based on who they are writing for and what discourse community hey belong to. This leads to the academic tones to differ slightly.

CARS

One important part of any paper is the introductory section because an author must explain his or her reasoning in creating this paper. If you do not have a captivating or structured introduction, people will not want to read it. To help create a well-organized introduction paragraph, John Swales made a step-by-step guide for authors to refer to when they find that they are having trouble. He calls it the CARS model, which stands for “Creating A Research Space.” He provides what he classifies as Moves, for an author to go through in order to provide a well thought out beginning to their paper. He calls them Moves because you must move through each section in order to create an effective introduction. In the first Move, John Swales suggests three steps as stated below:

Move 1: Establishing a Territory

  • Step 1- Claiming importance
  • Step 2- Making topic generalizations, and/or
  • Step 3 – Reviewing items of previous research

The audience needs to know what the paper they are going to read, generally, is about. This is where Move 1 comes in. An author must dictate the reason on why a certain topic is important, which is Step 1. They can give background information or a brief one or two sentence history of their topic, so the audience understands generally why the information is important to the author. Step 2 and Step 3 are about the research the author has made before starting their paper. They make statements about ideas and studies of that field or subject matter. They can also then point to other research that has already been discovered to back up their generalization. Imagine you were at a cocktail party and the next day someone who could not come to the party asked what people were talking about. What information and conversations would be most prevalent to share with person, so that he or she will know what they missed? Apply this to your Move 1 and ask yourself what information do people need to know before diving deeper into your paper? The second Move is presented below:

Move 2: Establishing a Niche [the problem]

  • Step 1a – Counter-claiming
  • Step 1b – Indicating a Gap
  • Step 1c – Question-raising
  • Step 1d – Continuing a tradition

The steps involved in this Move is a little different then Move 1. You do not have to complete all four of these Steps, rather you can choose one or two depending on what your paper entails. Move 2 is about establishing a niche or where you see there needs to be more insight and study done in a particular genre and conversation. You can do one or two of four steps, counter-claiming, indicating a gap, question-raising, continuing a tradition. All four steps are what they sound like. With counter-claiming, you should refute a piece of information that you have found through your investigation and research of the topic. You should have already written a summary of what you are refuting during Move 1. You could also indicate a gap, where you comment on missing or less detailed information you found through your research and wish to comment on. The question-raising involves asking why or how certain information was found and what you would like to figure out the answer. The last step you could do is continuing a tradition. This means that you would like to be finding research to add on to the conversation and discussion already being held in your discourse community (link to discourse community). After completing this, you can turn to the last Move, which is as followed:

Move 3: Occupying the Niche [the solution]

  • Step 1a – Outlining purposes
  • Step 1b – Announcing present research
  • Step 2 – Announcing principle findings
  • Step 3 – Indicating article structure

The last Move Swales presents is occupying the niche, which you pointed out in Move 2. This should be the easiest part because you are indicating what you want the rest of your paper to be about. You can outline and/or present what you plan to do for the rest of your academic paper. Step 2 asks that you then present any findings that you have already found to support what you want to study. It does not have to be a lot and one or two sentences. Finally Step 3 is kind of like your thesis statement. It allows you to inform the reader what ways and in what order they are going to find the information you found to be presented to them.

Stance and Engagement

When writing the body of the research paper, Ken Hyland explains in his article “Writing in Knowledge Societies” different ideas and techniques for authors to use for different writing styles. He classifies them in two categories, Stance and Engagement.

Stance has four subheadings, including Hedges, Boosters, Attitude Markers, and Self Mention. Hedges are claims that have been presented in a way that is more opinion based rather than factual. Boosters are almost the opposite, meaning they are statements that are factual and certain in their belief. Attitude Markers use language that expresses some type of emotion. For example, one could say “This idea is great because . . .” The reader then knows how the author feels about this specific idea, even if they, the reader, does not agree with it. The last subcategory of Stance that Hyland writes about is Self-Mention. This basically means that in the paper the author uses pronouns and other words to put their own opinions and objectives. This includes using words like, “I”, “My”, and “We”.

Expect the Negative – Aim for Persuasion

A major purpose for writing within your discourse community is so that you can contribute and share your ideas and opinions to your corresponding audience. Be ready for your writing and thoughts to be challenged by others within your discourse community as they also have a good grasp of the topic. The reader will always have the option to refute your interpretations and ideas. For your writing to be credible and respected by other members, your writing will need to have framed arguments and display familiarity with persuasive practices of their disciplines. Accomplishing persuasion and making the reader accept your interpretation will also require you to study the appropriate attitude. These methods mean that you will need to read up on other writings that members read and write within your discourse community. By acquiring a similar attitude and establishing a persona, your writing will be credible to your academic audience. To achieve this, it will be necessary to connect disciplinary cultures with galvanizing support, express collegiality, resolve difficulties, and negotiate disagreements.

Connecting disciplinary cultures means that you as the writer will need to investigate to find out what type of citation style your discourse community uses. For a more scientific researched paper, using relevant and updated sources will require you to use APA format over MLA that prioritizes the content and meaning before dated relevance. Expressing collegiality will require you to adapt their lexis and sentence format, structure and tone. This adopted writing will allow you to interact and discuss with other colleagues cooperatively giving your writing and name a form of respect.  Resolving difficulties and negotiating disagreements go hand-in-hand where you will need to know your stance and the reader’s stance. While the reader may not agree on everything you claim and argue, by anticipating the reader’s perspective and opinions, you can shape your writing to guide them through your perspective on the issues at hand.

Engagement Markers

With your writing, there will be questioning and disagreements so engagement with the reader will be required to guide them through your thought process, arguments, and claims to bring down those remarks. According to in Ken Hyland’s Disciplines and Discourses: Social Interactions in the Construction of Knowledge “Engagement seeks to build a connection with readers to both stress solidarity and position them by anticipating possible objections and guiding their thinking”. Engagement with the reader is possible by using engagement markers that include “pronouns, personal asides, references with sharedness, directives, and questions” (Hyland, 2011). Using these markers help build a relationship with the writer and reader that can make the reader more opened to accept your interpretations and claims. Let’s look at how each engagement marker contributes to establishing and building this relationship:

Reader Pronouns: Building a stronger relationship with the writer and reader is made possible by using the inclusive “we” instead of “you”. The usage of “we” creates this type of personal connection with the reader that makes the them feel as if they are part of the discourse community

Personal Asides: This engagement marker allows to writer to address the reader directly, initiating brief “dialogue with reader adds more to the writer-reader relationship” (Hyland, 2011).

References with Sharedness: By asking the reader to accept something that is generally familiar or accepted, the writer can give the reader a role in creating the argument. Moving the focus away from the discourse from the writer to the reader shapes their role.

Directives: Using imperatives engages the readers in textual, physical and cognitive acts throughout the text. Textual acts direct readers to more information or to other parts within the text such as referring to Figure 1 or to see another text. Physical texts direct the reader to do actions in the real world such as opening the door or add one cup of sugar. Cognitive acts are the least noticeable as they are not specifically stated, and these acts can instruct the readers to think or interpret an argument using terms such as consider and concede in the text. These three acts enable the reader interact with the text giving the relationship more depth.

Questions: A key strategy in engaging the reader is by encouraging participation and curiosity and leading the reader towards the writer’s point of view with questions. Questions within academic writing have a range of functions, which can serve from naïve puzzlement of limited knowledge to the confident anticipation of reaching an answer” (Hyland, 2011). Regardless of the case, questions address the reader as someone within the discourse community who demonstrates an interest on the issues the question may raise.

Incorporating all the engagement markers within your writing will help your writing be more persuasive and credible. Guiding the academic reader through your interpretations, claims and arguments will allow for a more smooth persuasion towards your conclusions and perspectives.

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Writing @ Saint Leo by Chris Friend is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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