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Interpersonal themes and author stance in student writing

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Chapter Summary

This paper focuses on interpersonal themes and how these can shed light on how students of different disciplines “intrude to stamp their personal authority onto their arguments or step back and disguise their involvement” (Hyland 2005), mirroring their emergent attempts to engage with the values and beliefs of their respective disciplines. We report on a study focusing on thematic choices in UK undergraduate writing from four disciplines, viz. English Studies, Engineering, Health and Social Care, and Anthropology. In this material, taken from theBritish Academic Written English Corpus, disciplinary differences emerge, particularly in terms of interpersonal projection, reflecting the different ways in which students from different disciplines engage with the literature and the object of study. In the paper, we also expand the empirical base by looking at one additional discipline from Arts & Humanities (History) and one from Social Sciences (Business). The findings suggest that the difference in use of interpersonal themes in the expression of stance represents variation between individual disciplines rather than variation between broader disciplinary groupings.



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