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Author stance in theme position: variation across disciplines and years in a corpus of assessed student writing


Author stance in theme position: variation across disciplines and years in a corpus of assessed student writing Signe Ebeling and Paul Wickens – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Author stance in theme position: variation across disciplines and years in a corpus of assessed student writing

Author stance in theme position variation across
disciplines and years in a corpus of assessed
student writing
  • Signe Ebeling and Paul Wickens

The British Academic Written English Corpus
  • Part of the ongoing ESRC-funded project An
    investigation of genres of assessed writing in
    British Higher Education (RES-000-23-0800 )
  • Collaboration between Oxford Brookes, Warwick and
    Reading Universities
  • Collection of 3,000-3,500 student assignments at
    Undergraduate and Masters level all marked gt60
  • Four disciplinary groupings
  • Arts Humanities
  • Medical Life Sciences
  • Physical Sciences
  • Social Sciences

Data selection
1st year 2nd year 3rd year
4 4 4
4 4 4
4 4 4
4 4 4
English studies
Health and social care
Thematic choice, stanceand disciplinary variation
  • The literacy practices of a disciplinary
    community embody different orientations to
    knowledge constructions The initial
    constituent of the clause appears to have
    particular significance in the way it reflects
    the writer's beliefs and values, and thus
    provides an indicator of disciplinary difference
    in professional academic writing. (North 2005
  • Aims
  • point out disciplinary differences and/or
    similarities in the thematic choices of students
    academic writing.
  • look at possible reasons why disciplines show
    different or similar tendencies in terms of
    point of departure of the message.

Framework and classification of data
  • T-unit "an independent clause together with all
    hypotactically related clauses which are
    dependent on it" (Fries 1994 229)
  • Topical theme typically fills a participant role
    within the clause and is most commonly found to
    be the grammatical subject (or the subject of the
    main proposition)
  • Orienting theme the elements preceding the
    topical theme
  • Textual makes "explicit the way the clause
    relates to the surrounding discourse" (Halliday
    2004 83)
  • Experiential may contain fronted hypotactic
    clauses and experiential elements which do not
    fill participant roles (mainly circumstantial
    adjuncts)" (North 2005 438)
  • Interpersonal typically expresses the speaker's
    "own angle on the matter in hand" (Halliday 2004

Orienting theme Orienting theme Orienting theme Topical theme Rheme
Textual Experiential Interpersonal
Of course passion, an emotion, cannot be said to physically flow

and in order for practice to be changed accordingly it is important that the results are trustworthy.
An overview of orienting themes across disciplines
Orienting theme Orienting theme Orienting theme
Discipline Year of study Textual Experiential Interpersonal
English studies 1190 t-units 22 21 10
Engineering 1405 t-units 19 23 10
Health and social care 1306 t-units 24 20 23
Anthropology 1536 t-units 24 23 18
Figures (approximate) per 100 t-units
Interpersonal themes in the BAWE materialExamples
  • 1) Modal adjunct
  • Clearly force is essential to the complete turn
    around of rebellious individuals in 1984,
  • 2) Interrogative / inversion
  • Does this leave the individual with any hope?
  • 3) Imperative
  • Consider the use of plastic gears for one stage
    of speed reduction. (BAWE0023e)
  • 4) Personal projecting clause
  • In both novels, Orwell suggests that every
    system of power will inevitably abuse the use of
    language as mechanisms of control, (BAWE3007a)
  • 5) Non-personal projecting clause
  • It is possible that this is more than a
    criticism of the Bible itself but of the
    canonizing process, which Ostriker also argues
    has throughout history rested, not accidentally
    but essentially, in the silencing of women.

Distribution of interpersonal themes per 100
Discipline Interpersonal theme English Studies Engineering Health social care Anthropology
personal projecting clause non-personal projecting clause modal adjunct interrogative/ inversion imperative 3.2 3.5 2.9 0.4 0.3 5.3 0.3 0.5 3.4 12.1 9.7 0.5 0.2 8.2 6.5 2.9 0.7 0.1
Total 10 9.8 22.5 18.4
Interpersonal themes Projection
Muir (2004) states that Researchers have shown
I propose that I believe
it is claimed for instance that The graph shows
it is clear that There is a possibility that
Interpersonal themes projection
Personal English Engineering Health Anthropology
Non-self 2.7 0 6.7 7.7
Self 0.5 0.3 5.1 0.3
Other 0.3 0.2
total 3.2 0.3 12.1 8.2
Figures per 100 t-units Figures per 100 t-units Figures per 100 t-units Figures per 100 t-units Figures per 100 t-units
Non Personal English Engineering Health Anthropology
Non-Self 2.3 2.6 4.9 3.2
Self 1.2 2.7 4.7 3.2
Other 0.1 0.1
total 3.5 5.3 9.7 6.5
Disciplinary Differences Personal Projection
English Engineering Health Anthropology
Non Self 2.7 0 6.7 7.7
Non Self Makdisi suggests that John Blades argues that John Blades notes that John Beer states that Blake suggests that Schon (1987) would say that Mildred Blaxter (1990) notes that Beauchamp and Childress (1989) believe Muir (2004) states that Thompson et al (2004) argue that Boyd and Silk suggest that Semaw (1997) points out that Richard Klein emphasizes that Tim Ingold argues that, Ingold conversely concludes that He claims for instance that
Self 0.5 0.3 5.1 0.3
Self I propose that I believe I think ultimately I would suggest that we can see that you find that I decided that I had always believed that I realise with hindsight that As professionals, we may feel Personally I feel that we cannot confidently say that I am satisfied however, that I dont think I concur that We can fairly safely say that
Disciplinary Differences Non-Personal Projection
English Engineering Health Anthropology
Non-Self 2.3 2.6 4.9 3.2
external 0.6 0.5 3.8 2.5
external feminist readings of the Bible, and indeed Atwoods novel itself, demonstrate that the turnover data suggests that Studies have shown that Statistics have shown that It has always been understood that It has been suggested It has been predicted that
internal 1.6 2.0 1.1 0.7
internal These actions suggest This symbolises that This passage also suggests that The graph shows that The results have shown that The results of this may show that These showed that This suggests that This essay argues that This example shows that This quote shows that
Self 1.3 2.7 4.7 3.2
It seems that it is clear it is natural that it appears that it is unlikely that It is expected that it is observed that It is also true that it is possible that it is highly unlikely that it was unclear why there is a high probability that it is unlikely It appears that it is not surprising that
Mediated or second order learning
Teaching in HE is a rhetorical activity,
seeking to persuade students to change the way
they experience the world (and to) enable
students to learn the descriptions of the world
devised by others. () It is mediated learning,
allowing students to acquire knowledge of someone
elses way of experiencing the world.
Laurillard (1993) p28-29
Health Care
  • Draws equally on literature (P NP Non-Self) and
    personal (P NP Self) as point of deparutre to
    orientate reader.
  • Key epistemology is of reflective practitioner
    evident in P/ Self.
  • Clusters of Interpersonal themes. E.g. in
  • Projection gives reflective distance and
    integrates two elements.

Orienting topical Rheme
I was also unaware that post registration, each practitioner is personally responsible for ensuring that practice meets legal requirements and maintaining professional competence, which means keeping up to date with new procedures and policies (NMC 2002).
Conclusion 2nd year Health Care
Orienting topical Rheme
The decision to deceive someone about their treatment is not one that should be taken lightly
and I hope that this case study has illustrated some of the areas that should be considered by the team.
Although the Mental Capacity Bill (2005) has made the guidelines about non-consensual treatment clearer, it is highly unlikely that the practice of covert medicine administration will ever be detailed by the letter of the law since this could lead to its abuse.
Kant would argue that since his categorical imperative cannot be applied, the practice should not be allowed.
Most practitioners though, particularly in the mental health field recognise that there are times when an individual may need an intervention even though they dont want it
  • Key focus Literature as point of departure (P
    NP Non-Self)
  • Lack of explicit self (P/Self). Use of NP Self.
  • Example of pattern or clusters of interpersonal
    theme (projection)
  • Personal Non-Self arguments in the literature

Orienting topical Rheme
Concurrently, Katherine Milton (1999) suggests that, using meat to supply essential amino-acids and many required micronutrients frees-space in the gut for (high energy i.e. USO) plant foods (p11).
In reply, proponents of the USOs hypothesis and especially Richard Wrangham, argue that if cooked, tubers could fulfil all the dietary requirements.
English Studies
  • Few Interpersonal themes (twice as many Textual
    and Experiential)
  • Extensive referencing and quotation exists but
    little projection point of departure
  • Integrated into main clause (use of numerical
    index system)

The way in the Romantic poets revolutionised
such rational and structured ideas is abundantly
evident in William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor
Coleridges Lyrical Ballads, arguably the most
important single volume of the romantic period
which signalled a literary revolution.1 1
Duncan Wu Romanticism An Anthology Second
Edition (Oxford Blackwell Publishing, 1998) p.189
  • In both novels the dystopic totalitarian regimes
    purport ways of living in a disturbingly
    collective manner. In the world of 1984 the
    distortion of reality by the omnipresent Big
    Brother creates a society absent of purpose and
    without the freedom of individual choice. In The
    Handmaids Tale the abundance of biblical
    imagery, and allusion to various narratives of
    the Bible generates a harrowing image of a
    futuristic patriarchal society, which legitimates
    the humiliation and enslavement of women with
    literal interpretations of scripture. However,
    what I would also argue as a key idea in both
    novels, and also feminist hermeneutics, is the
    importance of the preservation of the individual
    self within the larger, collective body. In
    particular, feminist readings of the Bible, and
    indeed Atwoods novel itself, demonstrate that
    the voices of these individuals should not, and
    will not, remain silenced. (conclusion
  • Orienting themes experiential Circumstances
    relating to text object of study
  • Clusters of textual and interpersonal themes for
    key points
  • Literature or personal stance not often the point
    of departure
  • In gerneral, writers perspective on the text
    (object of study) is the main proposition

  • No P/ Non-Self and few NP Non-self. (few
    references and citation)
  • Little explicit Self (P/ Self). There is use of
  • NP/ Non-self / Internal refers to data or
    proposition established in students text.

It is unlikely though that anyone could apply his
or her full body weight to the drill, as this
would unbalance him or her.
This principle suggests that the restraints on
the beam in the experimental and initial FE model
would have no effect on the results due to the
distance from the ends exceeding 306mm. However
the results indicate that this is not the case
where the FE model produced two different sets of
results for differing end restraints, with the
experimental and theoretical giving two different
yield loads.
  • Fries, P. H. 1994. On Theme, Rheme and Discourse
    Goals. In Coulthard, M. (ed.) Advances in Written
    Text Analysis. London/ New york Routledge.
  • Halliday, M.A.K. 2004. An Introduction to
    Functional Grammar. 3rd edition, revised by
    C.M.I.M. Matthiessen. London Arnold.
  • Hyland, K. 2005. Stance and engagement a model
    of interaction in academic discourse. Discourse
    Studies 7 (2). 173-192.
  • Laurillard, D. (1993). Rethinking University
    Teaching - a Framework for the Effective Use of
    Educational Technology. London Routledge.
  • Mauranen, A. 1993. Theme and Prospection in
    Written Discourse. In Baker, M., G. Francis and
    E. Tognini-Bonelli (eds.) Text and Technology. In
    Honour of John Sinclair. Philadelphia /
    Amsterdam John Benjamins Publishing Company.
  • Nesi, H., S. Gardner, R. Forsyth, D. Hindle, P.
    Wickens, S. Ebeling, M. Leedham, P. Thompson, and
    A. Heuboeck. 2005. Towards the compilation of a
    corpus of assessed student writing An account of
    work in progress. In Danielsson, P. and M.
    Wagenmakers (eds.) Proceedings from The Corpus
    Linguistics Conference Series, Vol. 1, no. 1.
  • North, S. P. 2003. Emergent disciplinarity in an
    interdisciplinary course theme use in
    undergraduate essays in the history of science.
    PhD Dissertation. The Open University.
  • North, S. 2005. Disciplinary variation in the use
    of theme in undergraduate essays. Applied
    Linguistics 26/3. 431-452.
  • Wickens, P. 2001. Computer Based Learning and
    Changing Legal Pedagogic Orders of Discourse in
    UK Higher Education A Comparative Critical
    Discourse Analysis of the TLTP materials for Law
    PhD Dissertation, University of Warwick