Discipline, level, genre: Integrating situational perspectives in a new MD analysis of university student writing

Sheena Gardner, Hilary Nesi, Douglas Biber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Citations (Scopus)
264 Downloads (Pure)


While there have been many investigations of academic genres, and of the linguistic features of academic discourse, few studies have explored how these interact across a range of university student writing situations. To counter misconceptions that have arisen regarding student writing, this paper aims to provide comprehensive linguistic descriptions of a wide range of university assignment genres in relation to multiple situational variables. Our new multidimensional (MD) analysis of the British Academic Written English (BAWE) corpus identifies clusters of linguistic features along four dimensions, onto which academic disciplines, disciplinary groups, levels of study and genre families are mapped. The dimensions are interpreted through text extracts as: (1) Compressed Procedural Information vs Stance towards the Work of Others; (2) Personal Stance; (3) Possible Events vs Completed Events; and (4) Informational Density. Clusters of linguistic features from the comprehensive set of situational perspectives found across this framework can be selected to inform the teaching of a ‘common academic core’, and to inform the design of programmes tailored to the needs of specific disciplines.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)646–674
Number of pages29
JournalApplied Linguistics
Issue number4
Early online date14 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


  • student writing
  • Academic Writing
  • multidimensional analysis
  • BAWE corpus
  • disciplinary differences


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