A classification of genre families in university student writing

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    As demand for English-medium higher education continues to grow internationally and participation in higher education increases, the need for a better understanding of academic writing is pressing. Prior university wide taxonomies of student writing have relied on intuition, the opinions of faculty, or data from course documentation and task prompts. In contrast, our classification is grounded in analysis of all 2858 BAWE (British Academic Written English) corpus texts actually produced by undergraduate and taught postgraduate university students in England for assessment purposes. This builds on the American tradition of classifying university student writing tasks (e.g. Horowitz 1986; Hale et al. 1996; Melzer 2009) and the very different Australian tradition of classifying primary and secondary school children’s written texts as genres (e.g. Martin and Rothery 1986; Coffin 2006). Understanding our classification of 13 genre families enables more meaningful interrogation of the BAWE corpus by teachers and researchers. The diversity in student genres across disciplines and levels of study is noteworthy for academic writing materials developers and all interested in the nature of higher education.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)25-52
    JournalApplied Linguistics
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2013

    Bibliographical note

    This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Applied Linguistics following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version Gardner, S. and Nesi, H. (2013) A classification of genre families in university student writing. Applied Linguistics, volume 34 (1): 25-52 is available online at: http://applij.oxfordjournals.org/content/34/1/25.


    • corpora
    • English for academic purposes
    • genre
    • higher education
    • Systemic Functional Linguistics
    • writing


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