ThesisPDF Available

Arguments in Academic Writing: Linguistic Analyses of Arguments Constructed in Undergraduate Dissertations Written by Student Writers from Different Academic Contexts

Authors:

Abstract and Figures

This thesis is concerned with the quality of argument in lengthy academic texts. The aim of the research reported in this thesis is to better understand the ways arguments in undergraduate dissertations are constructed through the employment of a range of linguistic resources. It investigates two dissertations written by student writers who, while from very different linguistic background and educational contexts, are both neophyte participants in an increasingly global higher education market. In this research, argument refers to “a mode of thinking and composition or ‘metagenre’” (Andrews, 2005), by which undergraduate student writers create and organise meanings in the dissertations. The research is particularly interested in the textual and the interpersonal zones in academic texts where novice writers must learn in constructing effective arguments that embody the organisation of the texts as unified whole, the staging of meanings to achieve texts’ communicative purposes, and the enactment of the writers’ engagement with others in the literature as they take up their positions in the discourse community. The research is underpinned primarily by comprehensive theoretical frameworks of the model of “language as social semiotic” (SFL) (Halliday, 1994, 2004). Particularly, the research draws on the Periodicity framework (Halliday, 1985b; Martin & Rose, 2007), the genre theories (Swales, 1990; Martin, 1992; Martin & Rose, 2008), and the Appraisal framework (Martin, 2000a; Martin & White, 2005) to conduct in-depth linguistic analyses on the linguistic resources utilised to construct the arguments, focusing on three-key text features: Periodicity, genre and Engagement. A complementary theory of the model of “the layout of argument” by Toulmin (1958, 2003) is utilised to assess the organisation of the elements of arguments laid out across stretches of the dissertations. This research is descriptive in nature; in which, the in-depth linguistic analysis is conducted to investigate the phenomena emerging in both texts with a view to noticing the similarities and differences in the ways the two student writers manage these tasks. It analyses an Honours dissertation from an Australian university and a dissertation written by an Indonesian student writer studying English as a foreign language (EFL) in an English department at an Indonesian university. Three-stage analyses are conducted in the top-down manner suggested by the three-key text features. Firstly, Periodicity analysis explores each dissertation to see how each student writer organises meanings as unified whole hierarchically and construct the macro-argument effectively. Secondly, genre analysis examines three selected chapters from each dissertation to see how writers stage meanings to achieve their communicative purposes in the meso-level of argument. Thirdly, analysis on Engagement in the sentence level (i.e. micro-level of argument) is conducted to samples from each text those that potentially show how the writers engage with readers and other writers in the field. The research uncovers that the two writers employ linguistic resources to organise meanings to construct arguments in both similar and different ways. The Periodicity analysis reveals that both writers structure their texts at the macro-level of arguments according to conventional ways of organising dissertations. This suggests commonality in modelling practices across the students’ institutions. However, genre analysis and Appraisal analysis show important differences that emerged in how students structure their texts at the meso-level (at chapter, section and paragraph levels), and in how the writers accomplish negotiation by their employment of evaluative language at the micro-level of sentence and below. The arguments within these levels are differently organised that might influence their soundness (quality). These practices indicate the dissimilarities the way each discourse community employs linguistic resources in academic setting, and the academic discourse practices within communities where each student writer participated in. The thesis contributes to the understanding of how arguments are constructed across lengthy texts through (i) choices in the ways meanings are hierarchically organised at various levels of texts, and (ii) in the ways meanings are staged to achieve the texts’ communicative purposes, together with (iii) how writers engage with others in respect to other voices in the discourse within the academic context. The research extends existing explanations of text development and its relations to genre staging. This staging is verified by the evaluative linguistic analysis in which the staging is signposted. Pedagogically, the findings of the research contribute to the advancement of the teaching of argument in academic genre in EFL educational context. More specifically, a more nuanced approach to pedagogy is necessary in the Indonesian tertiary context.
Content may be subject to copyright.
A preview of the PDF is not available
... When it comes to the key dimension of critical analysis, including argumentation, the situation is no brighter. Many students have difficulties acquiring this training, and many institutions have difficulties in providing this trainingor, at least offering formats that students find relevant and useful (Hagström 2005;Wingate 2012;Widhiyanto 2017). Training with students, and not merely of students, seems to be an important way forward. ...
Article
Full-text available
Globally connected and commodified digital means of communication offer a wealth of information across age-bands and across formal and informal sites of learning, yet few students obtain systematic training in transforming this information to knowledge that is tailored to their level of understanding and to the settings of learning. This gap between access to unsorted and often unsolicited information across boundaries of space, learning and generation and training in the formation of valid knowledge poses a threat to democratic societies that are based on informed citizens’ joint debate and decision-making. This article addresses the gap between students’ information access and their knowledge formation and discusses the challenges and possible solutions with empirical focus on the transition between upper-secondary and tertiary education. Globally connected social network sites (‘social media’) are key information sources for many students. Owing to their commodified, algorithmic and non-transparent character, these sites offer little guidance in terms of validation and verification of claims. I propose Media and Information Literacy (MIL) as an important means of minimizing the gap between information access and sound knowledge formation. This is because MIL goes beyond training of access to digital technologies and information search and retrieval. It also trains skills in applying communication technologies for validation, critique and knowledge production. I discuss the challenges posed to education to apply (MIL) as a key pathway to minimizing the gap in order to advance public value and societal resilience and suggest that educational systems shift their focus from teaching to learning in tandem with more inclusive approaches to where learning takes place.
Book
Full-text available
The paper focuses on human security dynamics within climate change, with its social impacts on the world's marginalized inequalities. Climate change threatens the future of human rights, to undo development, health, and the fight against poverty and marginalization. As global warming, excessive rainfall, and severe droughts affect agriculture, food supplies will fall, increase food prices, and increase poverty. It leads to unmanageable economic, social, and political conditions, and the opportunities for stable international and domestic policies will be significantly damaged. It impacts armed conflicts and mass migration. Critical security theory should be both a theoretical commitment and a political orientation, as a set of ideas that critically and continuously explore communities and emancipation. Addressing socio-economic and other disparities within minorities, indigenous, non-indigenous populations, global impoverished, and community empowerment are crucial to increasing climate change resilience. To tackle persistent poverty, inequalities, natural disasters, depletion of natural resources, environmental destruction, and climate change requires joint action. The existence of a quality state apparatus, an efficient rule of law, and a welfare state can alleviate inequality. Migrations will require elaborate state tactics and a peaceful solution; otherwise, the catastrophes' scale is questionable. Keywords: critical security studies, climate change, human security, poverty, economic system, inequalities
Article
Full-text available
Do not define argument by its use to persuade. for other uses of arguments exist. An argument is a proposition and a reason for it. and argumentation is an interchange involving two or more parties resulting in the assertion of one or more arguments coupled with anticipated or actual critical responses. A logically good argument has grounds adeq uate for the purposes at hand (true, probable, plausible, acceptable to the audience) and the grounds provide adequate support for the conclusion. The norms for good logic in arguments are different from the norms for the good use of arguments.
Book
Focusing on the introductions to research articles in a variety of disciplines, the author uses appraisal theory to analyze how writers bring together multiple resources to develop their positions in the flow of discourse. It will be most useful for researchers new to appraisal, and to EAP teachers.