Using a Corpus-Based Approach to Explore Writing Variation in Engineering Subdisciplines: Pedagogical Implications


In the contemporary academic culture where publications are highly valued, engineering graduate research students are generally expected to publish their research outcomes during their doctoral candidature. Writing for publication can be challenging if one is not aware of the writing conventions in a subdiscipline. Furthermore, technical textbooks have been found to give contrasting and fragmentary advice regarding the use of passive voice to novice writers who intend to write in engineering subdisciplines. In response, some scholars have suggested engaging students with authentic language data relevant to the field, thus helping them better understand language conventions in their discipline. This study used AntConc, a corpus analysis tool, to explore writing variation on the use of the first-person pronoun with an active verb and the use of passive voice, as well as their rhetorical functions in journal abstracts, across eight engineering subdisciplines. A main corpus of 480 most-cited paper abstracts from 8 engineering sub-disciplines was compiled and divided into 8 sub-corpora. Each sub-corpus consists of 60 abstracts from the top 5 journals in the field. AntConc was used to explore and analyse all the sub-corpora. The findings reveal significant variations across these engineering subdisciplines in terms of usage frequency and rhetorical functions. To train engineering graduate research students in research writing, awareness in sub-disciplinary writing variation should be enhanced, and language analysis tools can be introduced for the students to further train themselves to be well-informed writers in their respective sub-disciplines.

Author Information
Li Lian Khaw, Monash University, Australia

Paper Information
Conference: ACE2023
Stream: Higher education

This paper is part of the ACE2023 Conference Proceedings (View)
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To cite this article:
Khaw L. (2024) Using a Corpus-Based Approach to Explore Writing Variation in Engineering Subdisciplines: Pedagogical Implications ISSN: 2186-5892 The Asian Conference on Education 2023: Official Conference Proceedings
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon