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Asserting or deflecting expertise? Exploring the rhetorical practices of master’s theses in the philosophy of education

Asserting or deflecting expertise? Exploring the rhetorical practices of master’s theses in the philosophy of education,10.1016/j.esp.2011.02.005,Engl

Asserting or deflecting expertise? Exploring the rhetorical practices of master’s theses in the philosophy of education  
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This paper is a preliminary investigation into how the context of student life influences student writing. Specifically, activity theory is drawn upon to explore how the role of assessment affects students’ attempts to participate in knowledge-producing communities, a relatively under-researched aspect of student writing. To identify rhetorical characteristics characteristic to student writing, the introductory sections of master’s theses in the field of educational philosophy are compared with the introductory sections of journal articles published within the same discipline. The analysis is framed using Samraj’s (2008) modification of Swales’ (1990) “Create-A-Research-Space” model for philosophy texts, and specific attention is paid to how students present themselves as agents through their use of inter-textuality and the use of the first-person pronoun. It is suggested that student writers represent themselves as accomplishing more tasks, thereby asserting themselves as experts in ways published authors need not. Activity theory is used to link the distinctive rhetorical practices of student theses to the functions they serve in acadamic settings. As primarily a theoretical piece, this paper makes an argument in favour of a rhetorical, context-sensitive approach to the study of student writing. The texts analysed serve to exemplify the power and utility of this approach.
Journal: English for Specific Purposes - ENGL SPECIF PURP , vol. 30, no. 3, pp. 176-185, 2011
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