English for Specific Playfulness? How doctoral students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics manipulate genre
Journal article, 2020

Genre analysis is a powerful pedagogy to foster doctoral students’ awareness of academic writing conventions and variation. Nonetheless, concerns remain about the risks of promoting rhetorical ‘painting by numbers’, with writers glumly surrendering agency and authorial voice. Recent reappraisals of genre pedagogy encourage fostering genre manipulation, innovation, and play. We examine whether genre pedagogy can indeed promote conscious manipulation and even playfulness of academic genres, or at least an enhanced sense of control over conventions. Data from interviews with 30 doctoral students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) collected over a two-year period were analyzed to extract comments pertaining to deliberate authorial choices, unconventionalities in writing or writing processes, and positive shifts in writing perceptions. The findings reveal students’ appreciation of genre awareness and a sense of control from knowledge of genre conventions, affording them agency in their writing. Crucially, students do not appear to surrender to standardization but are instead agentive and metacognitive in their approach to writing, using their genre knowledge to compose, manipulate, and critique their genres.

genre knowledge



genre pedagogy

writing for research

genre manipulation

academic writing


Raffaella Negretti

Chalmers, Communication and Learning in Science, Language and Communication (Chalmers)

Lisa McGrath

Sheffield Hallam University

English for Specific Purposes

0889-4906 (ISSN)

Vol. 60 October 26-39

Writing that works: investigating university students’ transfer of writing skills to authentic academic tasks

Åke Wibergs Stiftelse, 2017-02-23 -- 2018-12-31.

Magnus Bergvalls Stiftelse, 2017-02-23 -- 2018-12-31.

Subject Categories


General Language Studies and Linguistics

Pedagogical Work

Specific Languages

Learning and teaching

Pedagogical work



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Latest update

9/3/2020 9