Communicating to heterogeneous audiences: How STEM PhD students manipulate conventions and achieve agency in research writing
Övrigt konferensbidrag, 2021

Communicating to heterogeneous audiences: How STEM PhD students manipulate conventions and achieve agency in research writing
Raffaella Negretti & Lisa McGrath
Symposium 155

Scientific writing and public communication of research require knowledge of many different genres and the rhetorical flexibility to adapt those genres across audiences, both within and beyond academia: across disciplinary boundaries, to industry, governmental bodies, and the wider public. However, the development of scientific writing abilities has been portrayed as a challenging and often neglected area of PhD education. Thus, the development of rhetorical flexibility among STEM students constitutes an interesting area of inquiry, especially from a genre pedagogy perspective. In this paper, we examine how doctoral students manipulate the conventions of the research article (RA), a genre which in science often requires the ability to modulate authorial choices in order to appeal to an increasingly diverse disciplinary readership. The exigencies of these writing contexts call for a pedagogical approach that fosters agency and creativity. Does genre pedagogy deliver on this aim? We examine whether genre pedagogy can promote the ability to intentionally manipulate genres, and even empower students to bend and critique conventions. Data was extracted from interviews collected over two years with 30 PhD students who had participated in a genre-based academic writing course. We identified self-reported instances of manipulation, bending or critique of disciplinary genre conventions, as well as positive changes in perceptions about writing and/or themselves as writers. The findings reveal students’ development of an understanding of the determinants of genre variation across rhetorical contexts. This awareness catalyzes an agentive manipulation of genre conventions, affording them confidence in their writing. Crucially, students do not glumlysurrender to standardization; but rather use their genre knowledge to adapt, bend, and critique conventions. This study contributes to our understanding of the challenges faced by writers in the sciences, and calls for further in-depth investigations of the multifaceted communicative situations these writers navigate.


scientific research writing



genre manipulation

diverse audiences


Raffaella Negretti

Chalmers, Vetenskapens kommunikation och lärande, Fackspråk och kommunikation

Lisa McGrath

Sheffield Hallam University

World Congress of Applied Linguistics
Groningen, Netherlands,

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.




Jämförande språkvetenskap och allmän lingvistik

Tillämpad psykologi

Pedagogiskt arbete

Studier av enskilda språk


Lärande och undervisning

Pedagogiskt arbete

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