The expression of obligation in student academic writing

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The importance for writers of negotiating reader relationships is by now well-established; this is a particularly delicate area for students who are of course writing for a higher status audience. One aspect of this is the expression of obligation, which up to now has not received a great deal of attention. This study seeks to address this issue by investigating some key expressions of obligation occurring in proficient student university assignments in the British Academic Written English corpus. A functional framework adapted from Hyland (2002) is used to investigate how the obligation expressions vary in use according to function. This corpus-based investigation reveals an association between lower ‘responsibility’ impersonal expressions and ‘riskier’ obligation contexts. Further qualitative analysis then explores the functions in greater detail to focus on the constraints that proficient student writers see as applying to these expressions of obligation. Pedagogical implications are then considered.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100840
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of English for Academic Purposes
Early online date8 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020

Bibliographical note

NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in 10.1016/j.jeap.2020.100840. 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 10.1016/j.jeap.2020.100840, 44, (2020)
DOI: 10.1016/j.jeap.2020.100840

© 2020, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International


ESRC ( RES- 000-23-0800 )


  • academic writing
  • British Academic Spoken English (BASE)
  • Corpus Linguistics
  • English for Academic Purposes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics


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