Experts and students writing about science for a more general audience
journal contributionposted on 2023-09-07, 22:36 authored by Jean ParkinsonJean Parkinson, Z Yin
Informing and engaging the public in new scientific findings is becoming increasingly important. Graduate students are thus encouraged to develop skill in writing for an audience beyond their discipline. This article concerns writing by master’s biology students of an assignment-type modelled on News and Views articles. Published News and Views articles, which are written by experts, summarise and critique a newly published study for the wider scientific community. To be convincing, academic writers must project an authoritative stance towards their topic and developing this ability is important for postgraduate students. They also need to be skilled at engaging readers, taking account of their readers’ prior knowledge and their readers’ need for recognition as disciplinary members. Using Hyland’s (2018) model of interactional metadiscourse, this article compares a corpus of 30 News and Views assignments by master’s biology students with 55 biology News and Views articles written by experts. We found that experts were skilled at using stance resources to project an authoritative identity, while students hesitated to explicitly include themselves in their writing; students’ use of stance resources also reflected the limited nature of their topic knowledge. Students were relatively skilled at using engagement resources to include readers in the text, but some misjudged the audience and wrote for a broader, less knowledgeable audience. Suggestions are made for how these findings can be used to guide students in expressing an authoritative stance and engaging their audience.