Abstracts and introductions: genre analysis for editors and translators of research articles

Workshop review

As editors and translators, we want to give our authors the best chance of getting their research articles published. Genre analysis can help us do this. How? By enabling us to ensure an article has the structure typical of its field.

Facilitator Alan Lounds gave us plenty of opportunity to put theory into practice in this workshop, breaking us up into small groups on three occasions so we could have a crack at analysing genre.

In the first of these breakout sessions, the main task was to identify the subgenres of research articles, for example, experimental, theoretical or review.

In the second session, we looked for John Swales's five "moves" in abstracts (i.e. background, purpose, methods, results and conclusions). Alan described himself as a practitioner of Swales's work on genre analysis, and we stayed close to this author's framework throughout the workshop.

In the third interactive session, we used Swales's CARS model to analyse introductions. This entailed identifying the three moves of establishing a territory, establishing a niche and occupying that niche. In the process, we saw how common "cycling" between moves was and the typical signposts used to flag moves.

Alan also introduced us to Swales's abstract and introduction scorecards – excellent tools for getting up to speed with the typical elements of an unfamiliar field or journal.

The perennial questions of voice, person and tense also came up. Alan's tips were to use the passive and active as convenient, and to use "we" but steer clear of "I". Tense, he said, depends on the point of view of the author (e.g. "Walters showed" versus "shows" versus "has shown").

A big thank you to Alan for this practical and engaging workshop.

Abstracts and introductions workshop