24.67, Review: Applied Linguistics: Bruce (2010)

linguist at linguistlist.org linguist at linguistlist.org
Tue Jan 8 19:02:53 UTC 2013

LINGUIST List: Vol-24-67. Tue Jan 08 2013. ISSN: 1069 - 4875.

Subject: 24.67, Review: Applied Linguistics: Bruce (2010)

Moderators: Anthony Aristar, Eastern Michigan U <aristar at linguistlist.org>
            Helen Aristar-Dry, Eastern Michigan U <hdry at linguistlist.org>

Reviews: Veronika Drake, U of Wisconsin Madison
Monica Macaulay, U of Wisconsin Madison
Rajiv Rao, U of Wisconsin Madison
Joseph Salmons, U of Wisconsin Madison
Anja Wanner, U of Wisconsin Madison
       <reviews at linguistlist.org>

Homepage: http://linguistlist.org

Do you want to donate to LINGUIST without spending an extra penny? Bookmark
the Amazon link for your country below; then use it whenever you buy from

USA: http://www.amazon.com/?_encoding=UTF8&tag=linguistlist-20
Britain: http://www.amazon.co.uk/?_encoding=UTF8&tag=linguistlist-21
Germany: http://www.amazon.de/?_encoding=UTF8&tag=linguistlistd-21
Japan: http://www.amazon.co.jp/?_encoding=UTF8&tag=linguistlist-22
Canada: http://www.amazon.ca/?_encoding=UTF8&tag=linguistlistc-20
France: http://www.amazon.fr/?_encoding=UTF8&tag=linguistlistf-21

For more information on the LINGUIST Amazon store please visit our
FAQ at http://linguistlist.org/amazon-faq.cfm.

Editor for this issue: Anja Wanner <anja at linguistlist.org>

Date: Tue, 08 Jan 2013 14:01:27
From: Ursula McGowan [ursula.mcgowan at adelaide.edu.au]
Subject: Academic Writing and Genre

E-mail this message to a friend:
Discuss this message: 

Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/21/21-3907.html

Author: Ian  Bruce
Title: Academic Writing and Genre
Subtitle: A Systematic Analysis
Publisher: Bloomsbury Linguistics (formerly Continuum Linguistics)
Year: 2010

Reviewer: Ursula McGowan, University of Adelaide

AUTHOR: Ian Bruce
TITLE: Academic Writing and Genre 
SUB-TITLE: A Systematic Analysis
PUBLISHER: Continuum
YEAR: 2010  (Reprint of 2008 edition.)

Ursula McGowan, School of Education, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide,
South Australia


This monograph is a paperback reprint of the original 2008 edition. A review
that appeared in LINGUIST during that year (Santini 2008) provides a detailed
description and critical review of each of the chapters in turn
(http://linguist.org/issues/19/19-3079.html). The content of the reprint
appears to be substantially unchanged and is therefore introduced and
summarised here just briefly while an overall evaluative comment is provided
in the final section of this review, with a personal perspective on the likely
effectiveness of the overall purpose and aims of this book.

In “Academic Writing and Genre,” the author, Ian Bruce, presents a review of
existing approaches to teaching academic writing genres, with a focus on two
main strands of genre pedagogy: Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) and
English for Academic Purposes (EAP). After establishing that there is
“considerable diversity of views of how genre should be defined” (p. 7), and
declaring that this disagreement is more than a matter of terminology, but of
“fundamental disagreement about the very nature of the object of enquiry”, he
constructs his own two-fold categorisation of genres as a means of
clarification and “as benchmarks” for his book. The labels given these
categories are “cognitive” and “social” genre. Under cognitive genres are
grouped those which have a single rhetorical purpose, such as recount,
argument, explanation; while applications of these for specific social
purposes (letters, novels or academic articles, for example) are categorised
as “social genres.” This distinction is explained and justified in the
following terms:

“The term cognitive genre is used here to refer to the overall cognitive
orientation of a piece of writing in terms of its realization of a particular
rhetorical purpose, something that is reflected in the way in which
information is internally organised and related. Different types of rhetorical
purpose (such as: to recount sequenced events, to explain the process, to
argue a point of view) instantiate different cognitive genres” (p. 8). In
contrast, the category of “social genre” is characterised by the fact that
these “may draw upon a range of different cognitive genres in relation to the
different rhetorical purposes that may characterize different sections of the
overall message, for example presenting an argument or providing an
explanation” (pp. 8-9).

The purpose for the author’s focus on genre is clear at the outset: an
increasing need for effective methods of teaching of English as an Additional
Language (EAL) to higher education students studying at English medium
universities, at a time of increasing use of English as an international

The description and sampling of a postgraduate level writing course  taught by
the writer, to illustrate the interrelationship “between social and cognitive
genre constructs in the context of one unit”, is located in chapter 7. This
chapter is preceded by six chapters providing a wide-ranging discussion of
concepts and terminologies of genre pedagogy and related aspects of academic
literacy development. While this is a potentially over-ambitious and possibly
confusing field, the author provides ample projection of the structure of the
entire volume to guide the reader, at the outset and progressively within each

Chapter 1: ''The teaching of academic writing'' establishes the need for
courses, materials and continuing research, to further the effective learning
of English as an Additional Language (EAL) in response to a currently
''increasing phenomenon of English as an international language'' (p. 1). The
author gives a brief overview of the concept of discourse competence as ''a
key element in of an individual's overall academic writing'' and of ''genre
based'' approaches as a means for learners to achieve such competence. In this
chapter two fundamental questions are posed that “need to be addressed by
syllabus and course designers, materials writers and teachers” (p. 9). These
questions are: ''What are the genres that occur in academic discourse that
need to be taught?'' addressed in chapters 2, 3, 4 and 6); and ''How do we
teach them?'' (addressed in chapters 5 and 7). Chapter 1 concludes by raising
the much debated question of whether genre based pedagogy for EAL students
should be ''critical'' or ''accommodationist''. The author takes the view that
''effective writing pedagogy'' should be both: ''accommodationist'', in the
sense of the learner being able to understand and apply the structures and
language choices that are prototypical for various established genres in
academic writing; and ''critical'', but only in the sense of the learner being
able to present a personal perspective, that is, ''exercise an authorial
voice'' (p. 10).
Chapter 2: ''From social genre towards pedagogy'' relates genre to language
learning and presents the author's summary view of Systemic Functional
Linguistics and English for Specific Purposes, as the two major streams
influencing his coinage of ''social genre''. For further evaluative comments
on this chapter see below.

Chapter 3: ''Constraints on a cognitive genre construct'' begins by reviewing
a wide range of concepts and theories, from key concepts of ''prototype'' and
''hierarchy'' as fundamental to cognitive approaches to categorisation; to a
range of other schematic constructs: ''scripts,'' plans,'' ''goals,''
''frames,'' and ''scenarios;'' and a range of theories on ''procedural
knowledge''. The author concludes that ''in the variety of possible approaches
to discourse categorization that have implications for creating discourse, the
organization of language output is not a homogeneous activity to which a
single type of categorization can be applied'' (p. 77). The ''intermeshing
systems of categorization'' involved are summarised as 1. conceptual content;
2. type of language (spoken or written); 3 procedural knowledge; and 4. the
language itself.

Chapter 4: ''Operationalizing cognitive genres in academic writing'' presents
a sample of empirical evidence to support the author's decision of focussing
on cognitive genres in the academic literacy course sampled in chapter 7.  Two
studies on the use of cognitive genres in texts are presented. The first is a
corpus investigation of the use of each of four cognitive genres  (Report,
Explanation, Discussion and Recount) identified in published academic texts;
and the second, an investigation of the the extent to which the features
identified were also used by three  groups of writers: teachers; students who
are native speakers of English; and students who are  non-native speakers of
English.  The author's tentative finding is, unsurprisingly,  that
''experienced writers'' (teachers in this study) produced writings that more
closely resembled the usage identified as ''prototypical'' in his corpus
investigation  than those texts produced by inexperienced writers (students);
and that in a comparison of native and non-native English-speaking background
students, the ''inexperienced native speaker writers produced more
prototypical responses than inexperienced non-native speaker writers'' (p.

Chapter 5: ''Relating cognitive genres to the teaching and learning of
writing'' is in large part a reprint of a 2005 article by the author, as
acknowledged in a footnote (p. 109). In it the author discusses principles of
curriculum design for EAP (English for Academic Purposes) courses. He makes a
case  for ''procedural knowledge''  being taught in a way that can be
re-applied to constructing discourses for a variety of social purposes, and
develops a ''common core'' curriculum design based on the learning of
cognitive genres. The four-part structure of the chapter covers learning
theory,  curriculum design and the place of cognitive genres in syllabus
design, and outlines a ''general EAP syllabus unit based on the report
cognitive genre''. Table 5.1: ''Proposal for a general EAP writing course''
provides for 10 units that deal with the cognitive genres of Recount, Report,
Explanation and Discussion. Table 5.2: ''Sample general EAP syllabus unit''
provides the aims and detailed learning outcomes against five categories:
''Overall'', ''Schematic'', ''Discoursal'', ''Interpropositional Relations''
and ''Lexical''. It needs to be said in passing, that while the author
references this table to his earlier article as ''Bruce 2005'', this item does
not appear in the book's reference list and can only be found in the p.107

Chapter 6: ''The scope of social genre knowledge'' is constructed in two
parts, firstly to examine ''the kinds of knowledge used in the construction of
social genres'', and secondly to consider the relationship between social and
cognitive genres ''particularly in terms of the application in the learning
and teaching of academic writing''. In introducing this chapter the author
draws on his summaries of ''theories and research relating to a number of
aspects of  discoursal knowledge'', as detailed in chapters 2 and 3, and
concludes that the knowledge required for ''a grounded understanding of the
nature and operation of a social genre'' includes the following five
dimensions: ''context'', ''epistemology'', ''stance'', ''content schemata''
and ''cognitive genres''.  In this chapter, as in chapter 2, the author
exhibits a mystifying omission, or misreading, of the approaches in systemic
functional linguistics (SFL) where he states, ''the lexico-grammatical
characteristics tend to be regarded as genre-defining'' (p. 130). By this he
fails to acknowledge the centrality of ''context''or  the concepts of
''field'', ''tenor'' and ''mode''  (Halliday & Hasan 1985, Halliday 1994,
Eggins 1994) that are basic to SFL, and which would map easily across all five
dimensions of knowledge distilled in this chapter. In introducing the second
part of the chapter, the question is posed on the level of consciousness at
which genre knowledge is acquired in relation to each of the two genre
categories. The author makes the point that cognitive genre (procedural)
knowledge is acquired by native speakers through long-time interaction with
examples of the genre, so that they will employ it ''almost in an automatic
way'' in  their own production, but that social genre knowledge tends to be
more consciously developed  as part of a writer's induction into the genres
and conventions of a specific professional, occupational or academic field''
(p.143). This point underscores the need for specific induction for EAL
learners into genre analysis to accelerate their literacy development (see
also McGowan 2005 p.54).  The chapter concludes with the staging of an EAP
syllabus unit, based on the 1992 approach by Hammond, Burns, Joyce Bosnan and
Gerot for a learning cycle that begins with ''a small sample of authentic
texts as a basis for examining the social and cognitive elements of the
genre''; and an analytical marking guide (Table 6.3) that provides for
transparent criteria and feedback for the learner.

Chapter 7: ''Teaching genre knowledge in an advance writing course''
demonstrates the author's application of the development of genre knowledge in
an advanced level tertiary writing course for non-native speakers of English..
This details one unit, the Results section of the course  which follows the
IMRD (Introduction, Method, Results, Discussion) structure, as an example of a
research reporting genre, in order to provide a general prototype or baseline
against which the disciplinary differences and references in research
reporting can be identified and analysed'' (p 151). By choosing the Results
unit the author was able to draw on the Report cognitive genre demonstrated in
chapter 5, to illustrate his construct of the ''integration of cognitive and
social genre knowledge'' (p. 152). His method of  examining examples of both
social genre and cognitive genre  constitute a ''dual focus'' which the author
bases on the principle (referring to Johns 1997) ''that genre knowledge,
rather than being prescriptive by offering formulaic patterns or ready made
knowledge to novice writers, should involve providing tools to investigate the
genres of their particular field.'' This leads to a statement of the central
aim of the approach, that is ''to encourage novice writers to become discourse
analysts as they uncover the attitudes, expectations, conventions and textual
patterns that relate to writing within their particular discipline'' (p. 152).
The chapter, as indeed the book, ends on a high note: that while ''teachers
themselves cannot … deliver the necessary knowledge and skills that comprise a
discursive competence as pre-digested, readily absorbed modules that are
specific to each discipline […] what the teachers can do is to assist their
students to develop their own capacity'' (pp. 168-9),  that is to develop the
ability ''to deconstruct, understand and reconstruct discourses in ways that
are  linguistically correct and socially appropriate, but also in which
writers as individuals are able to achieve their own communicative purposes
through their own authorial voices'' and concludes: ''Thus it is the aim of
the teacher of academic writing to assist novice writers to achieve this
ultimate measure of success, which is the exercise of their own authorial
voice within the disciplinary community to which they are bidding for entry''
(p. 169).


The overall purpose of the book is clearly directed at the teaching of English
as an Additional Language at advanced level. The specific aims are stated and
extended in retrospect in the conclusion: ''the aims of this book have been
twofold: first to present a critical review of genre theory as it is currently
applied to pedagogy, and secondly to present and exemplify a framework for
systematising approaches to genre and their application to the teaching of
writing'' (p.167).

It is difficult to judge whether both these aims have been achieved, and
indeed precisely who the intended audience for this book would be. The
educational practitioner will be interested in applying genre pedagogy in
designing an appropriate induction for EAL students into the culture of
academic writing, and in developing their skills for deconstructing and
reconstructing specific genres, but may not be interested in, or in fact have
the time to engage with, the lengthy critical review of genre theories
presented here. On the other hand the researcher, whether linguist or
educator, may find that the range of academic writing theories in chapter 2,
and the varieties of cognitive approaches to categorisation which are examined
in chapter 3, are indeed somewhat over-ambitious. Nevertheless, readers of
both motivations will find of gems of insights to stimulate their thinking and
application to research and practice. So for example, the following insights
have the power to stimulate creative applications both in the design of
genre-based courses, and in pursuing further research:

“Taken in its widest sense, a genre-based approach to language teaching refers
to pedagogy that involves examining and deconstructing examples of genres…
using a sample text (an example of a particular genre), learners engage with
tasks that focus on the organisation and constituent features of the text in
order to acquire the types of knowledge necessary for creating their own
examples of the same genre” (p. 6); or:

“If epistemology is considered to be a major influence on the creation of
discourse within specific academic disciplines, the task, therefore, for the
novice writer is to gain a clear understanding of the epistemological
viewpoints that underpin and influence the writing of the field… [This] has to
be done over time during the beginner writers engagement with their particular
discipline, since this type of information is not always overtly taught”
(p.135); or in the final chapter (as quoted above): ''[the aim is for] novice
writers to become discourse analysts as they uncover the attitudes,
expectations, conventions and textual patterns that relate to writing within
their particular discipline'' (p. 152).

A critical review of “two main pedagogic approaches” to academic literacy,
informed by the Systemic Functional Linguistics and the English for Academic
Purposes movements respectively, is in itself a vast field. The breadth and
depth of the practices, research and scholarly publications that have emanated
from the SFL movement are not well captured. In dismissing the SFL based
approach for “narrowness of the types of knowledge integrated within existing
pedagogy genre constructs” (p. 167), the author ignores its basis in a
comprehensive theory of meaning making that is explicitly located in the
“context of situation” and the “context of culture”, and that describes
language from a social-semiotic perspective (Halliday & Hasan 1985, Martin
2009). The author's judgment also ignores the large output of implementations
of genre pedagogy, at all levels from primary to tertiary and in the workplace
by educators whose pedagogic approaches are grounded in SFL (Martin & Rothery
1986, Cope & Kalantzis 1993, Halliday & Martin 1993, Christie & Martin 2005
and many more). In contrast, see a recent comparative analysis of SFL and the
Academic Literacies movement by Coffin & Donohue (2012).

In relation to the terminology of “cognitive” and “social” genres, while it is
fair to provide a benchmark terminology for this book, it is ironical that the
introduction of a new pair of terms has meant adding further to the variety of
terminology that has been critiqued by author as confusing. While the terms
“cognitive” and “social” genre have been well-defined at the outset, there may
be a need (for some readers at least) to return to these definitions, as the
use of “social” versus “cognitive” is not intuitively obvious, particularly as
there appears to be a generally inclusive understanding in the recent
literature of all genres as “social processes” (see Hyland 2002, Coffin &
Donohue 2012). In fact, the need to re-name the two categories is not entirely
convincing, since the author equates his new terms with a pair of categories
already in use (Pilegaard & Frandsen's “text type” and “text genre” ). Other
terms already coined are “macro genre” (Martin, 1995) or “genre agnation”
(Martin, 2005), or what Hyland (Hyland 2002:123) refers to as concepts of
“genre sets” or “systems” (citing work by David and Bazerman ). Hyland
suggests that “genre sets may be an important way of conceptualising social
contexts and understanding the ways texts cluster to constitute particular
social and cultural practices” or, citing Swales 2000, that they “may more
loosely cohere as a repertoire of options in a particular context” (Hyland
2002:123f.). Citing Martin, Hyland refers to ''systemicists'' who “talk here
of  'genre agnation' and seek a model of systems of genres through a
topological perspective which locates texts on a cline of fundamental
similarity and difference. These systems can then be used to identify learner
pathways for teaching about texts and provide students with a means of making
sense of non-prototypical cases” (Hyland 2002, p.124).

The book culminates in a description and sampling of a design for a course in
which EAL postgraduate students are intended to learn to understand and master
the complexity of academic writing across a variety of genres. It is expected
that an intensive focus on one part (the Report section) required for thesis
writing, would establish the students'  capacity to engage in the  ''dual
analysis'' of procedural and discipline-specific aspects encapsulated in the
author's  construct of cognitive and social genres, and to be empowered to
transfer the insights and strategies from this approach to the remainder of
their thesis writing requirements. However, this chapter leaves the
implementation of such a course unexplored. Any reader who is interested in
emulating the author's approach will expect some discussion of whether, or to
what extent,  the practical implementation of the framework ''for
systematizing approaches to genre and their application to the teaching of
writing'' (p. 167) achieved desired learning outcomes.

While the course design aims to induct students into “a systematic analysis”
of academic writing genres, I have a reservation about the effectiveness of
the course for  the individual learner. There may be a danger in overloading
students with information about genres and activities that may not appear to
the students relevant at the time. The question arises whether the very
comprehensive nature of the course may work against its effectiveness,
particularly for time-strapped EAL students, if they fail to connect the
relevance of the range of required activities (Table 7.2) to the thesis
writing task before them. Educational literature has indicated the power of
“authentic” tasks, whose usefulness is readily identifiable to the student. An
answer to this reservation might therefore be to tailor this approach to the
individual students by linking assignment tasks specifically to the written
genres required of them in the content courses students are studying
concurrently with such a course. While conceding that this was indeed the case
for part of the course, it is only mentioned incidentally (p. 152), whereas it
could more profitably be reported as a major feature of such a course.

Finally, it would have been interesting to see some follow-up research, such
as a) the percentage of classes undertaking this course that continued through
to the end b) the extent to which students applied the principles of
systematic genre analysis in the subsequent writing of their thesis drafts,
and c) the level of success in improving their own general writing. These
would be useful areas of future research.


Christie, Frances & J.R. Martin. 2005. Genre and institutions: Social
processes in the workplace and school. London: Cassel.

Coffin, Caroline & James P. Donohue. 2012. Academic literacies and systemic
functional linguistics: How do they relate? Journal of English for Academic
Purposes. 11(1). 64-75.

Cope, Bill & Mary Kalantzis. 1993. The powers of literacy: A genre approach to
teaching writing. London: The Falmer Press.

Eggins, Suzanne. 1994. An Introduction to Systemic Functional Linguistics.
London. Pinter Publishers.

Halliday, M.A.K. 1994. An introduction to functional grammar. Second edition.
London, Melbourne, Auckland. Edward Arnold. A member of the Hodder Headline

Halliday, M.A.K. & Ruqaia Hasan. 1985. Language, context and text: Aspects of
language in a social-semiotic perspective. Mebourne: Deakin University Press.

Halliday, M.A.K. & J.R. Martin. 1993. Writing Science. Literacy and discursive
power. London: The Falmer Press.

Hyland, Ken. 2002. Genre: language, context, and literacy. Annual review of
applied linguistics. 22. 113-135.

McGowan, U. (2005c). Academic Integrity: an awareness and development Issue
for students and staff. Journal for University Teaching and Learning Practice
2(3) 48-57.

Martin, J.R. 1995. Text and clause: Fractal resonance. Text. 15(1) 5-42.

Martin, J.R. 2005. Analysing genre: functional parameters. In Christie &
Martin (eds.) Genre and institutions: social processes in the workplace and

Martin, J.R. 2009. “Genre and language learning: A social semiotic
perspective”, Linguistics and Education, vol. 20, no. 1, pp. 10-21.

Martin, J.R. & Rothery, J. 1986. Working papers in linguistics: Writing
project report, Linguistics Department, University of Sydney, Linguistics
Department, University of Sydney.

Pilegaard, M. & Franzen, F. 1996. ''Text type.'' In J. Verschueren, J.-O.
Oestman, J. Blommaert & C. Bulcaen (eds.) Handbook of Pragmatics.
Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 1-13.

Santini, M. 2008. Review: Applied Linguistics: Bruce (2008) Academic Writing
and genre. A systematic analysis. LINGUIST List 19.3079.


Ursula McGowan is a Senior Lecturer, Higher Education, in the School of
Education at the University of Adelaide. Her prior background includes
university appointments as Lecturer in German Language and Literature, and as
Adviser for students with English as an additional language. More recently she
has been active as academic staff developer, inducting new staff and providing
ongoing support, with a particular focus on academic literacy development and
promoting a research-based approach to academic integrity. Her current
research is in the area of embedding genre-based academic literacy development
within academic disciplines.

LINGUIST List: Vol-24-67	

More information about the Linguist mailing list