Genre analysis has become an important approach to text analysis, especially in the field of English for Specific Purposes (ESP). The work of Swales (1981, 1990), in particular, has generated a more focused approach to the teaching of academic writing to non-native postgraduate students or young academics learning to write in their subject. This approach has been much influenced by the work of writing scholars (e.g. Bazerman 1988; Myers 1990a) who have taken on board the findings of the sociology of science, but remains within the ESP and discourse analysis tradition.
The term genre was first used in an ESP context by Tarone et al. (1981) in an article that investigated the use of the active and passive forms in astrophysics journal articles. That article established the principle that within the conventions of the genre studied it was the writer’s communicative purpose that governs choice at the grammatical and lexical levels. Communicative purpose is, in fact, the defining feature by which a genre such as the academic article is distinguished from other genres and by which the consideration of genre is distinguished from the consideration of register. The use of genre in ESP or applied linguistics is thus distinct from its use in literary criticism, where a particular genre, for example a tragedy, a comedy or a novel, is distinguished by its form. 1
The view of genre adopted in ESP is much influenced by the definitions given by Miller (1984) and Martin (1989). The assumption is that a genre is a means of achieving a communicative goal that has evolved in response to particular rhetorical needs and that a genre will change and evolve in response to changes in those needs. The emphasis is thus on the means by which a text realizes its communicative purpose rather than on establishing a system for the classification of genres.
In ESP we are interested, often for pedagogical reasons, in exploring established but not necessarily codified conventions in certain key genres about style of presentation of content, the order of presentation of that content and all the myriad rhetorical factors that affect the plausibility for readers of the argument presented. We are also interested in the role of the genre within