Writing at work: Transfer of genre knowledge to research writing in the medical field
Poster (konferens), 2018

Transfer is often defined in terms of “transfer of knowledge” and “knowledge transformation” (Donahue, 2016). Transfer is a complex concept, operationalized as “near” vs. “far” transfer—referring to the proximity between context and tasks, and “high-road” vs. “low-road” transfer—referring to the amount of deliberate abstraction and search for connection that the transfer situation requires (Perkins & Salomon, 1992).
In connection to writing, transfer entails a definition of what writing knowledge is (Donahue, 2016). We conceptualize this knowledge as “genre knowledge” (Tardy, 2009); in genre theory transfer often designates autonomy and the ability to make deliberate authorial choices across writing genres and tasks. Specifically, we investigate metacognition and its role in students’ ability to transfer and adapt genre knowledge to research writing tasks. The metacognitive facet of transfer has surfaced repeatedly in genre pedagogy (Artemeva & Fox, 2010; Reiff and Bawarshi, 2011), and as Anson & Moore emphatically stress in their recent work, “transfer happens through awareness and metacognition” (2016, p.333, emphasis in the original).

This poster presents part of the data collected over 2 years in a longitudinal project on writing transfer in a Scandinavian university of technology, involving doctoral students in various scientific and technical disciplines. Our question is: How do students transfer the genre knowledge developed through a genre-based writing course? We present the preliminary results obtained from doctoral students in the medical field, who therefore “write at work” as they engage in research writing. Our data comes from interviews conducted with these professionals 6 months to a year after the conclusion of the course.

The emerging picture is that genre analysis, especially if aimed at highlighting conventions but also variation, often becomes a tool in the writing process, i.e. a cognitive strategy used particularly in the planning phases of the writing endeavour. These tools—ranging from textual skills such as paragraphing to voice and stance markers, to conventional rhetorical patterns and moves—suggest metacognition and high-road transfer: (genre) knowledge is applied flexibly. Depending on their goals and readers’ expectations, writers make deliberate and autonomous choices. Several students reported an increased sense of control and efficiency, and—not trivially—an increased sense of enjoyment in writing.
Anson, C. & Moore, J. (Eds.) (2016). Critical Transitions: Writing and the Question of Transfer. The WAC Clearinghouse. http://wac.colostate.edu/books/ansonmoore/

Artemeva, N. & Fox, J. (2010). Awareness vs. production: Probing students’ antecedent genre knowledge. Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 24,476-515. doi:10.1177/1050651910371302

Donahue, C. (2016). Writing and Global Transfer Narratives: Situating the Knowledge Transformation Conversation. In Anson, C., & Moore, J. (Eds.), Critical Transitions: Writing and the Question of Transfer (pp. 107-136).

Perkins, D. N., & Salomon, G. (1992). Transfer of Learning. International Encyclopedia of Education, 2, 6452-6457.

Reiff, M. J., & Bawarshi, A. (2011). Tracing discursive resources: How students use prior genre knowledge to negotiate new writing contexts in first-year composition. Written Communication, 28(3), 312-337.

Tardy, C. M. (2009). Building Genre Knowledge. West Lafayette, IN: Parlor Press.


writing pedagogy

language for specific purposes




Raffaella Negretti

Chalmers, Vetenskapens kommunikation och lärande, Fackspråk och kommunikation

Magnus Gustafsson

Chalmers, Vetenskapens kommunikation och lärande, Fackspråk och kommunikation

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

Magnus Bergvalls Stiftelse (2016-01494), 2017-02-23 -- 2018-12-31.

Åke Wibergs Stiftelse (H16-01100), 2017-02-23 -- 2018-12-31.



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