LINGUIST List 28.725

Tue Feb 07 2017

Diss: Commitment-detachment and Authorial Presence in Postgraduate Academic Writing

Editor for this issue: Yue Chen <>

Date: 07-Feb-2017
From: Erdem Akbas <>
Subject: Commitment-detachment and Authorial Presence in Postgraduate Academic Writing
E-mail this message to a friend

Institution: University of York
Program: Department of Education
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2014

Author: Erdem Akbas

Dissertation Title: Commitment-detachment and Authorial Presence in Postgraduate Academic Writing: a Comparative Study of Turkish Native Speakers, Turkish Speakers of English and English Native Speakers

Dissertation URL:

Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
                            Discourse Analysis
                            Text/Corpus Linguistics

Subject Language(s): English (eng)

Dissertation Director:
Jan Hardman

Dissertation Abstract:

This thesis reports an exploratory and contrastive corpus study examining two phenomena in postgraduate academic writing: expressing commitment/detachment and signalling authorial presence in dissertations. More specifically, the overall purpose of the study is to investigate how postgraduate academic writers from particular contexts build their academic stance and voice by employing a range of linguistic items that could be identified as hedges, boosters and authorial references.

The corpus consists of a total of 90 discussions sections of master’s dissertations, 30 from Turkish L1 writers, 30 from Turkish writers of English and 30 from UK English L1 writers. A range of items, discourse functions and roles were determined during the pilot study via Nvivo 9. Then, the whole corpus was searched and analysed via WordSmith 5.0 based on the linguistic item list signalling certainty/doubt or authorial presence. In order to address two crucial phenomena in dissertation writing of postgraduates represented by three groups, both quantitative and qualitative approaches were adapted. Three key findings are as follows:

- The postgraduates polarised: they either frequently qualified their level of commitment or else they seemingly intentionally withheld their commitment from what they asserted. The tone of writing adopted by the Turkish L1 writers differed markedly from that of the English L1 & L2 writers, as evidenced by their use of linguistic signalling expressions; the English L1 and L2 writers preferred to sound more detached from their knowledge claims, compared with the Turkish L1 writers. Therefore, the findings emphasise the importance of the language factor in expressing commitment-detachment across groups.

- The authorial references included two broad categories: (1) Explicit authorial references (I and we-based pronouns); (2) Implicit authorial references (passive and element-prominent constructions speaking for the author). The Turkish L1 writers and the Turkish writers of English (from Turkish culture) appeared to construct less personal academic prose compared with the English L1 writers. This seems to reflect a broader cultural difference.

- In terms of the authorial roles identified in relation to the accompanying verbs, the postgraduate writers tended to appear in their discourse most frequently as (1) Research Conductor, followed by (2) Discourse Creator & Participant; then (3) Opinion Holder. The rhetorical role indicating the membership of the postgraduates to a community (either academic or institutional), (4) Community-self, was the least frequent role adopted by the postgraduates in their discussion sections.

It is recommended that, in order to raise postgraduates’ awareness about the writing conventions and practices in their disciplines, they should be provided with the standards required with respect to style via modelling from previous successful dissertations completed in their field. This is suggested as particularly important for ‘novice’ writers.

Page Updated: 07-Feb-2017