“It’s Not Scientific Enough”: Analyzing the Development of Academic Criticism in a Graduate Student Writer

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Kelly Katherine Frantz


Academic criticism is a fundamental feature of scholarly discourse. It plays a key role in scientific theory building, whereby ideas are iteratively challenged and redrafted (Kuhn, 1962, 1970). It is also how individual scholars create a research space (see the CARS model, Swales, 1990) and establish themselves as members of the research community. Thus, for graduate student writers, the ability to engage in this practice is important for academic success and socialization into the discourse community. However, by definition, students are novices, so they may struggle to assume the role of disciplinary authority required to evaluate others’ works (Dobson & Feak, 2001; Hyland, 2002). Several scholars have explored the linguistic and rhetorical features of academic criticism (Hyland, 2000, 2002; Thompson & Yiyun, 1991) and how it varies across disciplines (Hyland, 2000; Salager-Meyer & Ariza, 2003), often with educational goals in mind (Belcher, 1995; Swales & Feak, 2004). And while some researchers have analyzed criticism in student texts (Cheng, 2006), we know little about how this practice develops over time. Additionally, given that existing studies focus on written criticism, we have yet to explore the nature of spoken criticism and how it is shaped in and through interaction. Thus, this paper adopts a conversation analytic framework to examine how a graduate student writer formulates spoken academic critique during writing consultations and how these formulations change over time.

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