Research Article Abstracts as a Genre
In our daily life, we hear the term ‘genre’ used in different contexts. We come across film genres, music genres, and literary genres, etc. There are general definitions of genre which account for its uses in any kind of registers. One of these definitions is found in the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English. Genre is defined here as “a particular type of art, writing, music etc, which has certain features that all examples of this type share”. More specialised definitions also exist in different types of discourse. In this blog post, I will discuss the term ‘genre’ in academic discourse, focusing on research article abstracts in particular.
Genre analysts have identified many types of academic discourse as genre such as book reviews, reports, notes to the editor, proposals, case studies, theses, etc. Research articles are also recognised as genre as they constitute a complete unit with their own conventions. However, abstracts which are seen as a part of research articles have been a problematic case in genre analysis. Smaller parts within a genre have been generally seen as sub-genre or part-genre. However, there are still arguments if abstracts can be accepted as genre in their own right or whether they are sub-genre of the research article. In the following part, I will discuss the terms part genre and genre from the perspective of research article abstracts.
Part genre is a term used by Swales and Feak (2009). Swales and Feak (2009) make a distinction between genre and part-genre and they define genre as the “name for a type of text or discourse designed to achieve a set of communicative purposes” (p. 2). Based on this definition, they see the research article as a genre and the various sections of it as part-genres. Therefore, they use the term part-genre for research article abstracts. However, referring to sections of a research article as part genre is problematic because each section of the research article carries a different communicative purpose and its own unique discourse structure and therefore each can be accepted as genre. This view of genre is also adopted by Biber and Conrad (2009). They also describe sections of research articles as genre, only embedded in the larger genre of research article (p.33). In the case of research article abstracts, it seems reasonable to treat abstracts differently from the other sections of research articles. Unlike other sections, abstracts can stand separate from the research articles themselves. It is even questionable whether it is a part of the research article at all because research articles do not have an abstract in some disciplines such as music, literature, or philosophy. Therefore, research article abstracts can be safely accepted as ‘genre’ because of holding an independent status and carrying their own communicative purposes.
PhD student in Applied Linguistics
Biber, D. & Conrad, S. (2009). Register, genre, and style. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Swales, J. M. & Feak, C. B. (2009). Abstracts and the writing of abstracts. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.