Sunday, June 24, 2012

Genre Analysis, Genre samples and developing genre awareness- by Tony Cimasko

     One of the approaches that ; personally; I think, is worth the fight ,is stimulating the learners' brains via genre analysis. The fact that they engage in analyzing texts according to their genres enables them in whatsoever writing activity to use those tools to better reflect, write and create.Engaging learners in these meta-cognitive practices has , undoubtedly, overarching implications.
While being at the TESOL convention this year, the title of this session echoed many stimulating ideas. That's why, I decided to attend the session. Though it was mainly for graduate students, but some of the ideas could be implemented at an intermediate level with some adaptation. What I have to mention is that I owe the presenter his prompt reply and his readiness to send me the handouts of the sessions I attended, even those I did not attend. Below are the handouts sent by the presenter: Mr.Tony Cimasko. Many thanks to him for his help and generosity.

Genre Analysis, Genre Samples, and Developing
                  Genre Awareness

Tony Cimasko
Miami University

                                INTRODUCTION• Genre studies in ESP has devoted much attention to analyzing the rhetorical moves and linguistic features of genres.
• Analyses develop better understanding of genres, and enable writers to generate more innovative and rhetorically contextualized writing.
• Little scholarship addresses the difficulties that L2 student writers encounter as they analyze samples of new genres and attempt to move away from reliance on samples, toward more active and rhetorically informed engagement with genre norms.

                        RESEARCH QUESTIONS
How do students in a graduate-level ESL writing course use samples of written genres?
How do they engage in genre analyses of the available samples?
How do they use their analyses and/or the samples to inform their own writing in these genres?

FRAMEWORK: Divergent Views

• Explicitness of genre instruction is beneficial to L2 writers (Bhatia, 1993; Swales,1990, 1998, 2004)

• Experience with genres only in contextualized use, without a predetermined framework, will bring about effective genre learning (Bazerman, 1988; Devitt, 1991; Fahnestock & Secor, 2002; Freedman & Medway, 1994; Miller, 1984, 1994; Schryer, 1993)

• Bakhtinian dialogism (Bakhtin, 1981, 1986)

CONTEXT—Research Site

• Large, research-oriented university in the Midwestern United States
• Recent upsurge in recruitment of international students has resulted in a diverse but primarily Chinese (PRC) population

WRIT 619 

Professional homepage
Cover letter and CV
Annotated bibliography
Research report
Research proposal

• Placement is based on an in-house writing assessment that evaluates student abilities in writing appropriate academic texts

CONTEXT—Research Site

• Samples protected from printing, copying, and downloading
• Students collaborated on analyses: content, organization, language, and context

• Students drew on current and future grad coursework content and research agendas, and wrote three drafts of most projects


• 75 percent of students were master’s level; half had been in the US for at least one semester at the start of WRIT 619 (China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, France)
• In the semester studied, 12 WRIT 619 students represented educational psychology (6), religion (1), chemical sciences (2), physics (1), French literature (1), and educational leadership (1)


1) Genre samples

2) Early and final drafts
3) Genre analysis: Questions and answers from instructor, then students answered questions, then students developed their own questions for last project
4) Text-based interviews: Writing process, response to genre analysis approach, time and difficulty of analyses; perceived English ability;
several interviews throughout the semester.


• Data collected

• Duration of study:
1 semester

• Analytical framework

– Student uses of genre analysis tools and sample texts
– Similarities to and differences from samples texts
– References to genre analysis tools

• Domain analysis

Genre samples
Genre analysis findings
Early and final drafts of student projects
Recorded and transcribed interviews

FINDINGS—Students using genre samples

• At the start of the semester, most delayed reading samples
• Many who read early attempted to “focus [on the] best in my field and ignore the rest”

• Some attempted to copy from samples, despite digital protections: “patchwork”

• By the end of the semester, 3 still preferred to have samples


FINDINGS—Conducting genre analyses

• Early answers were very short, abstract, and focused on
general writing concepts

– “Always use formal language.”
– “Three sections: introduction, body, and conclusion.”
– “Letters describe some of the best experience in the CV.”

• “What the professor wants”

• Answers grew in detail and in connections with audience
considerations; organization was mostly “context-free”

• A small number of genre-specific questions

• New student-generated questions focused on describing
rather than justifying research plans

FINDINGS—Using analyses and samples in writing

• Use of genre analyses only: 1 student 7 students

– Framed writing processes primarily in terms of rhetorical
context, and creating space for their ideas (“Where do my
ideas connected with everybody else’s ideas?”)
– Metalanguage became much more common when
discussing writing by semester’s end

– Word choices tended to be simpler and sentences shorter
than language in the samples

FINDINGS—Using analyses and samples in writing

• Use of genre analyses with samples: 3 students 2 students

– “I don’t always trust other students’ analyses answers, yes, I need
to confirm.” “I always find more, every time I read.”
– Discussions of genres and students’ own genre texts often focused
on writers’ own ideas and on “following rules (“In the proposal, do
I have to list costs? [The Department of Chemistry] has enough

– Some writing metalanguage was used in speaking about writing,
but only occasionally

– Writing diverged from samples in ways that resembled the non-
sample writers

FINDINGS—Using analyses and samples in writing

• Use of genre samples only: 8 students 3 students

– Students continued to rely on what the professor desired and
precedent (“If I do it different from the samples, I will lose
– Students struggled to discuss/write about writing with metalanguage (“Why do I always forget ‘genre’ meaning?”)

– “Patchwork” writing from samples (and elsewhere) became more difficult to identify, but was still present

– Grades, unaddressed comments, few attempts to contact instructor with questions


• Relatively simple genres taught early in the semester, were still seen by many of the participants as too highly standardized.
• The organization section of genre analyses was seen by many as the most useful aspect of analyses. However, organization was not an affordance but an absolute for some.

• English as a temporary arrangement or burden to be endured.



• Model or collectively work through all steps and terminology for
the first genre of a class, better scaffolding their work from first
analysis to use of analyses in checking writing
• Make rhetorical connections between text features and audience
more explicit

• Using genre analysis as basis for peer review

• Explicitly discuss locating and evaluating quality of samples


• Longitudinal studies of writing practices beyond writing course
• Discipline-specific studies, in order to better understand fields that
have different relationships with writing and rhetoric