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Symposium on Teaching & Research on Academic Writing, Reading & Thinking

  • Date of event: Fri, 29th Sep. 2017, 9am to 5pm

    Venue of Symposium

  • Venue: Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
    Lecture Theatre at the Hive (LHS-LT)
    The Hive, Rm LHS-01-04
    52 Nanyang Avenue Singapore 639816
  • Organisers: Dr Chris Khoo & Dr Sujata Kathpalia, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
  • Target audience: Teachers & researchers of academic writing at tertiary institutions in Singapore. International participants are welcome
  • Deadline for presentation proposals: Fri 18 Aug (email title and 300-word abstract to chriskhoo@pmail.ntu.edu.sg)
  • Registration: Free, but places are limited and prior registration is required. Online registration will open on 21st Aug and close on 15th Sep. Click here to register: Online Registration Form

Description

Academic writing encompasses all the types of discursive writing that undergraduate and graduate students engage in to satisfy academic requirements at tertiary education institutions. It includes writing essays, literature surveys, research reports and theses. Academic writing also covers writing of research and scholarly papers for journal and conference publications by faculty and PhD students. Academic writing is difficult for students to learn and do well, and difficult for teachers to teach.

Thinking is inseparably intertwined with writing. Not only do different subtypes of academic writing require different kinds of thinking, the different sections of a research report require different kinds of thinking and writing as well. In addition, reading skills are important to good writing.

This symposium seeks to explore the relation between academic writing, reading and thinking from a multidisciplinary perspective, and how this understanding can inform the development of teaching methods and online resources to support teaching and learning.

Topics of particular interest:
• Thinking, argumentation and writing
• Reading and information use in writing
• Academic writing genres and disciplinary cultures
• Text mining, writing analytics and automated analysis to support teaching and writing
• Online resources and IT applications to support teaching and writing
• More generally, writing and pedagogy

The keynote speaker is Dr Vijay Bhatia.

The symposium is funded by the Singapore Ministry of Education, Tertiary Education Research Fund grant no. MOE2015-1-TR05.

PROGRAMME

9:00am-10:15am:  Session 1 – Introduction and Keynote
Venue: Lecture Theatre at the Hive (LHS-01-04)

Introduction to the Symposium
Chris Khoo, Nanyang Technological University

Keynote: Interdiscursive performance in academic research genres
Vijay K Bhatia, Chinese University of Hong Kong

10:15am-10:30am:  Tea break
10:30am-12:30pm:  Session 2 – Argumentation & Writing
Venue: LHS-TR+49 (Rm LHS-02-03)
  1. Understanding scientific writing conventions through an interplay between genre analysis and argumentation
    Kenneth Ong and Sujata Kathpalia, Nanyang Technological University
  2. Exploring the effect of teaching embedded rebuttals on the argument quality of science undergraduates
    Jonathan Tang, National University of Singapore
  3. Argument structure of sociology research abstracts: Exploratory study
    Wei-Ning Cheng, Nanyang Technological University
  4. Thematic progression in scientific texts: An anchored development
    Alvin Leong, Nanyang Technological University
12:30pm-1:30pm:  Lunch
1:30pm-3:00pm:  2 parallel sessions

Session 3a – Analysis of Academic Writing and Implications for Pedagogy
Venue: LHS-TR+49 (Rm LHS-02-03)

  1. Information selection and transformation in literature review writing
    Kokil Jaidka, University of Pennsylvania
  2. Developing a catalogue of discourse markers and associated rhetorical and metadiscourse functions, to support automated analysis
    Chris Khoo, Nanyang Technological University
  3. A two-pronged approach to teaching article introductions to bioscience graduate students
    Sujata Kathpalia, Nanyang Technological University

Session 3b – Legitimation Code Theory (LCT) for Teaching Writing, Reading and Thinking
Venue: LHS-TR+56 (Rm LHS-03-02)

  1. Curriculum design: Legitimation Code Theory to enable Transfer
    Laetitia Monbec, National University of Singapore
  2. Pedagogical applications of LCT in the academic literacy classroom: Clusters and their function as persuasive strategies in social action blogs
    Namala Tilakaratna, National University of Singapore
  3. Research applications of LCT: Semantic gravity waving for demonstrating critical thinking
    Mark Brooke, National University of Singapore
3:00pm-3:30pm: Tea break
3:30pm-4:00pm:  Session 5 – Online Academic Writing Assistant Tool – Demo and Discussion
Venue: Lecture Theatre at the Hive (LHS-01-04)

Presenters: Chris Khoo & J. Srieedar

A design and demonstration prototype of a Web application to provide on-demand academic writing assistance to students will be presented for comments. Symposium participants will be invited to participate in the development and evaluation of the online tool.

4:00pm-5:00pm:  Session 6 – Panel Discussion on Teaching Literature Review Writing
Venue: Lecture Theatre at the Hive (LHS-01-04)

Panelists: Vijay Bhatia (chair), Peter Looker and Kokil Jaidka

It is difficult to teach literature review writing because it encompasses several types of intellectual activities, including assessing and selecting relevant information from previous research papers, comparing and generalizing reported research results, synthesizing arguments to justify the current research, and presenting the arguments in coherent and persuasive text. To write a good literature review requires particular reading, thinking, argumentation and writing skills. The panel will discuss issues and methods of teaching literature review writing to undergraduate and graduate students.


ABSTRACTS

9:00am-10:15am:  Session 1 – Introduction and Keynote
Venue: Lecture Theatre at the Hive (LHS-01-04)

Introduction to the Symposium
Chris Khoo, Nanyang Technological University

Keynote: Interdiscursive performance in academic research genres
Vijay K Bhatia, Chinese University of Hong Kong

Abstract: Interdiscursivity as appropriation of generic resources across genres, professional practices, and disciplinary cultures has been given considerable attention in specific professional contexts (Bhatia, 2004, 2010, 2017); however, the same phenomenon has not been given enough theoretical attention in academic contexts, in spite of the fact that appropriation of academic knowledge has always been consistently practiced in academic research. One of the many instances of this phenomenon is the interdiscursive appropriation of doctoral theses for research articles in international journals, which is being assigned a high priority in today’s contexts. In this talk, I would like to extend the concept of interdiscursivity to account for the widespread appropriation of published knowledge across academic genres and disciplinary practices. (References: Bhatia, V.K. (2017) Critical genre analysis: Interdiscursive performance in professional practice. London: Routledge; Bhatia, V.K. (2004) Worlds of written discourse: A genre-based view. London: Continuum; Bhatia, V.K. (2010). Interdiscursivity in professional communication. Discourse and Communication, 4/1.)

10:15am-10:30am:  Tea break
10:30am-12:30pm:  Session 2 – Argumentation & Writing
Venue: LHS-TR+49 (Rm LHS-02-03)

Understanding scientific writing conventions through an interplay between genre analysis and argumentation
Kenneth Ong and Sujata Kathpalia, Language and Communication Centre, Nanyang Technological University

Abstract: Writing has been a central assessment indicator of university students’ performance. However, students are often not fully informed and initiated into the academic culture and writing conventions of the scholarly community. Genre pedagogy has been used by ESAP (English for Specific Academic Purposes) educators to elucidate the typical content macrostructure of the research article. Separately, Toulmin’s Argument Pattern (TAP) is popularly employed by teacher educators to analyze the microstructure of an argument and question underlying assumptions or warrants. However, there is no principled coalescence of the two frameworks to uncover the cultural underpinnings of academic writing, including scientific writing norms. In our study, we aim to exploit the synergistic combination of the two frameworks to demystify scientific writing conventions by examining a corpus of research articles published in two impactful journals in biological sciences, Cell and Cancer Cell. Our findings reveal unarticulated writing norms that the scientific community propagates. These unwritten conventions help to account for typical argumentation patterns within the content macrostructure of the research article.


Exploring the effect of teaching embedded rebuttals on the argument quality of science undergraduates
Jonathan Tang, Centre for English Language Communication (CELC), National University of Singapore

Abstract: The centrality of rebuttals in successful arguments is well documented in research on argumentation (Nussbaum & Kardash, 2005; Onoda, Miwa & Akita, 2015), but less well understood are the contribution of embedded rebuttals to argumentative cogency, the pedagogical value of teaching embedded rebuttals, and how best to teach them. Embedded rebuttals are rhetorical acts of anticipation and response that writers perform as part of developing a larger argument that justifies their thesis. Anchored in a Bakhtinian view of language and dialogic argumentation, this study begins from the hypothesis that there is pedagogical value in embedded rebuttals: it is expected that embedded rebuttals contribute to argumentative quality and teaching embedded rebuttals leads to more successful argumentative essays. The context is a first year writing course on science communication in which undergraduates are required to write an argumentative essay as a major assignment. Teaching of embedded rebuttals took the form of class instruction featuring guided close observation of texts and students conferencing with the tutor on a draft of their essay. The pedagogical value of embedded rebuttals is explored by inquiring into their correlational effects on the writing (content) achievement of student writers. The findings suggest a more dialogic process and antilogos competence (Glassner & Schwarz, 2007) at work in the argumentative composing and thinking processes typically identified with more experienced writers, and for the majority of student writers who may not be safely assumed to possess these higher-order capacities in their argumentative discourse repertoires, it may be instructive to teach the strategic placement of embedded rebuttals within an extended argument over and above instructing students to embed.


Argument structure of sociology research abstracts: Exploratory study
Wei-Ning Cheng, Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University

Abstract: Most research papers have an abstract which summarizes the research objectives, methods, results, and often the significance or contributions of the study. The information in the abstract is organized and expressed in a coherent argument to help the reader understand the research as well as be convinced of the validity and value of the research. This study seeks to identify the detailed structure of research objectives and research results in sociology abstracts, as well as how these are linked to other kinds of information to present a coherent argument. While several semantic frames (patterns of information) have been identified, this paper focuses on the characteristics of three prevalent semantic frames—the Research-relation frame, Comparison frame and Study frame—and analyses how they are interlinked in the argument. The argumentation in research abstracts can be represented as a network of instantiated semantic frames.


Thematic progression in scientific texts: An anchored development
Alvin Leong, Language and Communication Centre, Nanyang Technological University

Abstract: Although much has been written about the features of academic writing, there is a lack of research attention on macro issues related to the development of ideas. A concept that is useful in investigating such issues is the Hallidayan notion of theme. However, the thematic structure of research articles has received only modest attention over the years. It is also rare for thematic diagrams to be used even though they can be helpful in clarifying the macro structure of the text. In this study, the patterning of topical themes in research articles was investigated using a diagrammatic approach. Twenty biology-related research articles were analyzed for topical themes. The diagrams revealed a progressive thematic pattern in the introduction sections of all the articles. At the whole-text level, an anchored-development pattern was observed. These findings suggest that research articles at the macro level share similarities in their thematic structure. They also shed light on how authors achieve focus in the writing through the systematic use of clausal-initial elements.

12:30pm-1:30pm:  Lunch
1:30pm-3:00pm:  Parallel Session 3a – Analysis of Academic Writing and Implications for Pedagogy
Venue: LHS-TR+49 (Rm LHS-02-03)

Information selection and transformation in literature review writing
Kokil Jaidka, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract: This paper reports a study of information selection and transformation in literature review writing. The study investigated the relation between referencing sentences in literature reviews and the source text in the cited papers, specifically the relationship between the type of information selected, the section of the cited paper the information is taken from, how the source text is transformed when incorporated in the literature review, and how these are different for two styles of literature review writing, descriptive versus integrative literature reviews. It was found that nearly half of the referenced information relate to research results, and nearly half of the transformation on the source text into the referencing text can be characterized as high-level summaries. The Abstract section of the cited paper is referenced about 30% of the time. Descriptive literature reviews reference the Abstract, Method and Result sections of the cited paper more often than integrative literature reviews, and has more copy-paste and paraphrase transformations on the referenced text. In contrast, integrative literature reviews has more critiques, and has more high-level summarization.


Developing a catalogue of discourse markers and associated rhetorical and metadiscourse functions, to support automated analysis
Chris Khoo, Wee Kim Wee School of Communication & Information, Nanyang Technological University

Abstract: The vast amounts of academic texts available online is a gold mine for carrying out text mining to derive linguistic, semantic and argument patterns and examples that can support evidence-based teaching of academic writing and support academic writing itself. However, large scale analyses of these texts requires good automated analysis tools, trained to mimic human coding. This presentation reports an ongoing effort to develop a catalogue of discourse markers with probabilistic associations with different rhetorical and metadiscourse functions. The catalogue can be used to tag discourse markers in texts, and identify probable rhetorical and/or metadiscourse functions, together with a probability value. The catalogue started with a seed set of about 500 metadiscourse markers taken from an appendix in Hyland’s (2005) book, but has grown to about 2,500 markers identified by human coders. Five coders were trained to annotate text with metadiscourse functions, and another five coders annotated sentences with rhetorical functions. To derive the probability values, the introduction and literature review sections of 120 journal articles (40 each from sociology, mechanical engineering and biological sciences) are annotated by human coders. Intercoder reliability analysis was carried with a training set of articles. Metadiscourse function coding was found to have high reliability, whereas rhetorical function coding has low reliability.


A two-pronged approach to teaching article introductions to bioscience graduate students
Sujata S. Kathpalia, Language and Communication Centre, Nanyang Technological University

Abstract: In the competitive world of academia, graduate students have the challenging task of publishing research articles while pursuing their PhD degrees. In many English for Specific Purposes (ESP) graduate writing programs at institutions of higher learning, the focus has been on using the genre approach to familiarize students with the typical conventions of research articles. Although it is important to master the rhetorical structure of articles, it is equally important to train students to support their arguments with appropriate citations from publications in their disciplines. To prepare a pedagogically sound curriculum, the present study will use a two-pronged approach of analyzing both the generic structure as well as citations in introductions of bioscience articles. Specifically, the aim will be to examine the relationship between generic moves and citation functions in individual moves. Kanoksilapatham’s (2005) move analysis of biochemistry research articles will be used as a starting point for analyzing the rhetorical structure of introductions in bioscience research articles, and an inventory of citation types will also be applied to these introductions based on the citations identified by Petrić (2007) and Harwood (2009). The findings on the relationship between moves and citation types will indicate whether there is preference for specific citation types in different parts of the introductions. This study will not only enable ESP instructors to build a sound curriculum for research paper writing but also help bioscience graduate students to write discipline-specific articles in their own field.

1:30pm-3:00pm:  Parallel Session 3b – Legitimation Code Theory (LCT) for Teaching Writing, Reading and Thinking
Venue: LHS-TR+56 (Rm LHS-03-02)

Legitimation Code Theory (LCT) is a rapidly growing social-realist approach that has been widely applied to educational research. The theory focuses on making the underlying principles of knowledge practices visible and on enabling lecturers to teach what counts as valued knowledge and skills in the disciplinary areas in which they work. Three lecturers from NUS Centre for English Language Communication present on a range of perspectives from curriculum design to practice and research, and show how they use LCT in teaching academic reading, writing and thinking skills.


Curriculum design: Legitimation Code Theory to enable Transfer
Laetitia Monbec, Centre for English Language Communication (CELC), National University of Singapore

Abstract: The first presentation is based on the English for General Academic Purposes module offered at NUS to over 1000 students from a range of discipline each academic year. The talk aims to demonstrate how the LCT toolkit enables a rethink of curriculum design principles with a particular attention to the issue of transfer (Maton, 2013; Maton, 2014a). EAP provisions aim to develop students’ academic literacies for their disciplinary programmes and are often provided as either ‘general’ (a common core syllabus of general academic skills), or ‘specific’ (focussed on the specific demands of a particular discipline) (Flowerdew & Peacock, 2001). Doubts have been expressed as to whether general EAP provisions can foster satisfactory transfer from the EAP to the disciplinary modules and whether there are in fact any ‘transferrable’ academic skills (see Hyland, 2002 and Flowerdew, 2014, for example). Much of the discussion has skirted the issue of knowledge in the EAP module: what should be teach to enable transfer of academic writing skills to various disciplinary contexts (Monbec, 2017). The LCT dimensions of specializations (what knowledge is valued in the discipline) and  semantics (in particular semantic gravity and its analysis of  context dependence of knowledge items) enables us to bridge the specific vs general dichotomy and to propose new curriculum design principles for Academic writing  that foreground knowledge (of language and of meaning-making in the disciplines). The talk will provide an overview of the two LCT dimensions, a description of the LCT-informed EAP curriculum and will show samples of students’ ability to transfer academic writing principles to their disciplinary contexts.


Pedagogical applications of LCT in the academic literacy classroom: Clusters and their function as persuasive strategies in social action blogs
Namala Tilakaratna, Centre for English Language Communication (CELC), National University of Singapore

Abstract: The second presentation on using LCT for academic literacy is based on the flipped classroom content of a core Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences undergraduate unit that focuses on ‘public writing and communication’. The main assessment requires students to write a social action blog focussing on a single social issue relevant to Singapore. This presentation will showcase the application of the LCT concepts of ‘clusters’ and ‘constellations’ (Maton, 2014b) in teaching students how to identify evaluative language in social action blogs. The presentation will show how using LCT allows students to move from understanding evaluation as an intuitive phenomena to finding evidence for what constitutes evaluative language and how it clusters around groups of social actors and social organisations (Tilakaratna & Szenes, 2017). This classroom activity of exploring clusters of evaluative language in blogs has been transformed into a video that allows students to use LCT tools to explore how social action blogs align readers to different perspectives. The presentation will conclude with an overview of how drawing students attention to certain resources using an explicit theoretical framework allows us to make visible practices used by successful authors in the academic and public domain. Most importantly, it allows students to not only be able to identify these practices but to apply them in their own public (and academic) writing over the course of the semester and transfer these skills to other writing tasks they will encounter in the Faculty of Arts and beyond.


Research applications of LCT: Semantic gravity waving for demonstrating critical thinking
Mark Brooke, Centre for English Language Communication (CELC), National University of Singapore 

Abstract: The third talk presents research demonstrating how tutors can guide students to construct an IMR&D paper by applying the LCT notion of Semantic Gravity waving (Brooke, 2017). The waving process demonstrates how meaning making shifts between levels of abstraction (Maton, 2013; 2014), and by explicitly focusing on this, students can be guided to notice how abstract theory relates to empirical evidence. Thus, Semantic Gravity waving can be used as an effective tool for guiding students to adopt a stance for their research papers and use it as a lens to analyze empirical data. This, it is argued, is one of the principle characteristics of critical thinking for research purposes and one that students can relate more effectively to than other more subjective abstract descriptions of what critical thinking is in this area (Szenes, Tilakaratna and Maton, 2015). Further, the focus on the Semantic Gravity waving process can be used to inform students about the writing of a cohesively developed theoretical framework section in an IMR&D research paper and can be linked to the knowledge of the general-specific-general paragraph model that undergraduates have often had exposure to prior to their tertiary studies.

3:00pm-3:30pm: Tea break
3:30pm-4:00pm:  Session 5 – Online Academic Writing Assistant Tool – Demo and Discussion
Venue: Lecture Theatre at the Hive (LHS-01-04)

Presenters: Chris Khoo & J. Srieedar

A design and demonstration prototype of a Web application to provide on-demand academic writing assistance to students will be presented for comments. Symposium participants will be invited to participate in the development and evaluation of the online tool.

4:00pm-5:00pm:  Session 6 – Panel Discussion on Teaching Literature Review Writing
Venue: Lecture Theatre at the Hive (LHS-01-04)

Panelists: Vijay Bhatia (chair), Kokil Jaidka, …

It is difficult to teach literature review writing because it encompasses several types of intellectual activities, including assessing and selecting relevant information from previous research papers, comparing and generalizing reported research results, synthesizing arguments to justify the current research, and presenting the arguments in coherent and persuasive text. To write a good literature review requires particular reading, thinking, argumentation and writing skills. The panel will discuss issues and methods of teaching literature review writing to undergraduate and graduate students.