Sheffield Postgraduate Linguistics Conference – 3rd Annual

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference

Description of Activity

Title: 'He said, she said': the citation skills of Chinese l1 undergraduate students at novice level in U.K. universities Abstract: Within the field of academic writing, the ability to cite others' works is a cornerstone of entry into the community, yet paradoxically remains a cryptic puzzle for many entrants. A fuller understanding of both linguistic and epistemological challenges around citation practices faced by overseas students can, therefore, benefit research and pedagogy alike. In respect of linguistic issues, the most significant device for documenting others’ research is the lexical selection of reporting verbs. Whilst this has been extensively investigated across academic journal writing (Hyland, 2002; Bloch, 2010) and in high-scoring, ergo, ‘proficient’ postgraduate and undergraduate writing (Nesi, 2014), the novice level has not been subjected to such examination. This corpus-based enquiry contributes to filling that gap. Students of Chinese origin, in 2014 representing 25% (almost 59,000) of the U.K.’s international undergraduate population (HESA, 2015), serve as the data source and focus. Report verb tokens are extracted from a 207,000 word corpus of their English essay writing, as completed on University of Portsmouth Pre-Sessional English courses. Frequencies are compared to those for the British Academic Written English (BAWE) corpus (Nesi, 2014) with statistically significant differences found and examined. In particular, the novice learners’ tendency towards the verbs say and show as ‘naïve’ replacements for a range of verbs, notably argue, suggest, claim and believe, is demonstrated; not only as existing, but also as producing sometimes unintended discourse effects around the writer’s stance towards research claims. This is shown as distorting the meaning from that conventionally expected for many reporting verbs and, as such, as being unhelpful to text coherence. In an era where both English for Academic Purposes and Academic Literacies are buzzwords for teachers, this study concludes with suggestions on how pedagogy can begin to bridge gaps through the active use of the corpus data with students.
Period28 Jan 2016
Event typeConference
LocationSheffield, United KingdomShow on map


  • EAP
  • corpus linguistics
  • Citation / Referencing
  • Academic writing
  • Pedagogy
  • Academic Literacies