LINGUIST List 28.3357

Tue Aug 08 2017

Review: Discourse Analysis; General Linguistics; Text/Corpus Linguistics: D'Angelo (2016)

Editor for this issue: Clare Harshey <clarelinguistlist.org>


Date: 18-Apr-2017
From: Ines Busch-Lauer <Ines.Busch.Lauerfh-zwickau.de>
Subject: Academic posters
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/27/27-1196.html

AUTHOR: Larissa D’Angelo
TITLE: Academic posters
SUBTITLE: A textual and visual metadiscourse analysis
SERIES TITLE: Linguistic Insights - Band 214
PUBLISHER: Peter Lang AG
YEAR: 2016

REVIEWER: Ines Busch-Lauer, Westsächsische Hochschule Zwickau

REVIEWS EDITOR: Helen Aristar-Dry

SUMMARY

Larissa D’Angelo’s book is a welcome research overview that addresses young professionals and teachers of Languages for Specific Purposes on a still linguistically underrepresented but highly important academic genre – the academic poster. In six chapters, the author investigates, in a well-written and highly structured manner, which textual and visual reader-focused strategies are applied in poster presentations in three academic domains: High Energy Particle Physics, Law and Clinical Psychology. A corpus of 120 posters was assembled following strict selection criteria, among others, a survey with experts and interviews. The texts were then the subjects of a linguistic and visual analysis. In this context, major guidelines and rules available to junior researchers and students were also considered in order to compare the actual with the expected poster quality.

The content of the volume is well-laid out. Chapter 1 provides a sound evaluation of the need to consider academic posters from a linguistic angle. Posters belong to the academic presentation genres which play a crucial role in the dissemination of scientific work-in-progress. Posters serve an interlocutor function between the researcher and the academic community. Therefore, this multimodal genre is key to young researchers to make their work visible to the academic community. This is why a multitude of instructions on proper preparation of posters can be found on the Internet. In this genre context, Larissa D’Angelo addresses three questions for her research: “How effective are the poster guidelines for the individual domains? Are posters in the hard sciences similar to the posters in the so-called soft sciences? Are there any unspoken rules and conventions that recur within single disciplines and should, therefore be openly known to novice academics?” (p. 15) Following a description of her research, giving the rationale,the author provides a short overview of the volume so that the reader can draw on specific questions to be explored in individual chapters.

Chapter 2 starts with a literature review of research into academic genres. Following relevant definitions, for example, “academic discourse community”, recent “research in the domains” and a definition of “genre”, a short introduction into the genre “academic poster presentations” is provided. Here the author considers textual, visual and spoken components,as well as relevant research that is available on this genre.

Chapter 3 is entitled “Data Collected” and provides good reasoning (purpose, representativeness, size, balance) for the compilation of the corpus. Forty posters for each domain were studied and a survey conveyed in order to reveal the relevance of the genre in the individual subdomains. For that purpose, 120 staff members ( researchers both with and without extensive experience in their field) of 25 universities (five per continent) were included to answer six questions: (i) Where is the poster genre used most in the domain?; (ii) Who presents the posters?; (iii) How often do academics present posters?; (iv) How often do presenters rely on templates?; (v) How often do they rely on generic templates? and (vi) How often do presenters rely on guidelines/ experience of peers? From the results of this survey Larissa D’Angelo draws some important first conclusions on the role of posters in the domains and on the selection of her poster corpus for analysis. For example, physicists use posters – without national bias – at large conferences at least once a year, no matter whether they belong to the group of experienced academics or postdoc students, and they use templates as well as guidelines. In contrast, lawyers present posters every two or more years, use generic templates and only occasionally guidelines or suggestions by peers. The corpus selection and study is additionally accompanied by twelve interviews (with two professionals from each field having either expert or novice academic status).

Chapter 4 is devoted to the analytical framework of academic posters. Due to the multimodal character of this genre, a new type of combined textual, visual and spoken discourse analysis is required. The author describes this complex approach in detail, applying the metadiscourse model developed by Hyland (2005) which focuses both on interactive and interactional categories. Among the first are transition markers, frame markers, endophoric markers, code glosses and evidentials. Hedges, boosters, attitude markers, self-mentions and engagement markers belong to the interactional category. In order to analyse metadiscourse in visuals, Larissa D’Angelo uses the metadiscourse model of Kress & van Leeuween 2006 and Kress 2010). Both metadiscourse approaches are illustrated by samples.

Chapter 5 describes in detail the results obtained from the corpus analysis. Larissa D’Angelo could determine domain-specific distributions of textual interactive and interactional resources as well as various trends in the use of visual interactive resources. Examples drawn from each subcorpus illustrate these differences clearly. Textual interactive resources were common in Law posters (47%), compared to only 30% in Clinical Psychology posters and 23% in High Energy Particle Physics posters(). Transitions and frame makers are more recurrent in Law posters, whereas endomorphic markers are common in Law and Clinical Psychology posters. Authors of Law posters also make more frequent use of interactional resources (70% in Law posters compared to 24% in High Energy Particle Physics and 6% in Clinical Psychology posters). Posters in all three domains apply visual interactive resources, however, with a varying focus. For example, Clinical Psychology posters prefer font to indicate important textual elements whereas the Physics posters apply more graphical elements. Framing and connective elements seem to be typical for Law posters. Nonetheless the visual interactive resources play a crucial role in guiding the reader to manage the flow of information and to understand the contents.

Finally, Chapter 6 discusses the obtained results referring to the above mentioned research questions. Cross-disciplinary differences occurred regarding the number of words used (clinical psychologists are wordiest), portrait/landscape orientation (physicists opt for more portrait-oriented posters whereas clinical psychologists use landscape-oriented posters and lawyers do not present preferences) and post layout (IMRD structure not consistently used in Physics but consistently used in Law). Law posters contained the most textual interactive and interactional resources followed by Clinical Psychology and Physics. Visual interactive resources are fundamental in poster design, particle physicists prefer graphical elements, lawyers use framing and clinical psychologists favour interactive fonts. The author then evaluates the achieved results for further research and draws a number of conclusions for the practical use of the material in teaching the genre to students in the various domains. Moreover, the appendix to the book not only provides a comprehensive insight into the research methodology and corpus analysis but also offers a relevant overview of metadiscursive elements in the individual domains. The reference section contains a topical research bibliography on the genre and is of particular value for the novice linguistic researcher.

EVALUATION

Larissa D’Angelo’s monograph is an excellent example of profound linguistic analysis into an as yet rarely studied but highly relevant genre – the academic poster. It is very valuable both for further genre research and for teaching special languages in particular in English. First, it offers applied linguists a valid concept for approaching a genre in general, various domains in particular and the complex multimodal character of texts. In this context, the book is innovative in that Larissa D’Angelo avoids the bias between linguists’ and experts’ perspectives on text and genre through a thorough analysis of the peculiarities of the three domains under investigation. The performed expert/novice survey and the follow-up interviews are highly representative and reveal interesting parameters and guidelines for the compilation of reliable subcorpora. Such an approach has not yet been practiced often in genre studies and thus contributes enormously to the validity and sustainability of the obtained results. Thus, the novice linguistic researcher has got a book at hand that follows a strict and concise methodology and spurs further in-depth analysis of genres in the academic domain. The often postulated interdisciplinary differences could be evaluated more closely in a reliably chosen text corpus.

Second, the monograph is a hands-on reference book for novice academics who need information about the poster genre in their field, from a linguistic and comprehensibility point of view and who do not simply want to rely on peers or formal guidelines when checking the quality of their own posters prior to conference submission. Larissa D’Angelo’s book will definitely raise their awareness regarding metadiscursive elements, textual and visual effectiveness and comprehensibility. Thus, the book may contribute to the development of better academic style and readability in the three domains chosen, in particular when the posters are written by non-native speakers of English.

Third, the monograph is a very welcome book for teachers of English for special purposes in order to overcome gaps in their genre knowledge or awareness. Often these teachers are not familiar with research methods into texts and therefore require guidelines on which particular textual elements they need to focus on during their classes. The sample-driven analysis provides a solid basis for teaching the teachers on how to deal with the academic poster genre, its textual, visual and metadiscursive elements. It develops the awareness of domain-specific features which need to be incorporated into genre teaching curricula and English for specific purposes classes.

To sum up, Larissa D’Angelo’s research is a masterpiece of concise linguistic analysis, clear linguistic presentation and solid evaluation of obtained results. It is a monograph to be recommended for further research and teaching purposes.

REFERENCES

Hyland, K. (2005). Metadiscourse: exploring interaction in writing. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Kress, G. (2010). Multimodality. A social semiotic approach to contemporary communication. London: Routledge.

Kress, G. and Van Leeuween, T. (2006). Reading images: The grammar of visual design. London: Routledge.


ABOUT THE REVIEWER

ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Ines-A. Busch-Lauer is Professor of English (Applied Linguistics) and Communication at the University of Applied Sciences in Zwickau/ Germany. Her main fields of research comprise English and German specialized communication in various domains (especially in technical subjects, business, medicine, linguistics), the study of texts and genres, contrastive rhetorics and intercultural communication, academic writing in English, LSP didactics and style. She is a member of the editorial board of Fachsprache. International Journal of Specialized Communication published by facultas, Vienna. In this role, she is responsible for review management and compiles the biannual bibliography of recent publications on languages for specific purposes’ research.

Page Updated: 08-Aug-2017