Differences in engagement: A comparison of the strategies used by British and Chinese research article writers

Xiaoyu Xu, Hilary Nesi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)
297 Downloads (Pure)


This paper explores the way academics from two different cultural backgrounds engage with their discourse community in published international research articles. The Introduction and Conclusion sections of 30 research articles in the field of applied linguistics were analysed in terms of the Engagement system within Appraisal Theory (Martin & White, 2005), using the UAM Corpus Tool (O’Donnell, 2011). Half of these articles were written by authors who had been educated and were working in the UK, while the other half were by Chinese authors who had been educated and were working in Mainland China or Taiwan. Engagement items in the articles were examined individually (e.g., may) and in combination (e.g., although + may + not). Although the authors shared comparable disciplinary expertise, and all the articles were taken as expert performances, the analyses revealed that the Chinese and British academics used somewhat different engagement strategies, to differing extents, and that the different combinations of engagement items that they used resulted in different interactive effects. The findings are of potential interest to novice research writers and those who support them, and to journal editors and reviewers considering article submissions from around the world.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-134
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of English for Academic Purposes
Early online date11 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019

Bibliographical note

NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Journal of English for Academic Purposes. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Journal of English for Academic Purposes, [38], (2019)] DOI: 10.1016/j.jeap.2019.02.003

© 2019, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/


  • Academic discourse
  • Argument
  • Chinese writers
  • Cultural differences
  • Engagement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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