The Rhetorical Structure of M.a Abstracts Written by Students of English Language Teaching in Iran

By Tabatabaei, Seyyed Parsa; Najafi, Zahra et al. | Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods, May 1, 2016 | Go to article overview

The Rhetorical Structure of M.a Abstracts Written by Students of English Language Teaching in Iran


Tabatabaei, Seyyed Parsa, Najafi, Zahra, Gobadirad, Hamidreza, Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods


Introduction

Writing is generally regarded as a difficult skill and a complex task (Graham, Harris & Mason, 2005). This is often due to its complex characteristics which according to Wall (1981, P. 53) "range from mechanical control to creativity, with good grammar, knowledge of subject matter, awareness of stylistic conventions and various mysterious factors in between." Writing is a process through which writers explore thoughts and ideas, and make them visible and concrete. It is a difficult skill both for native and nonnative speakers, for writers should balance multiple issues such as content, organization, purpose, audience, vocabulary, punctuation, spelling, and mechanics; this is true of writing a thesis in specific. Rhetorical Structure Theory (RST, hereafter), developed by Mann and Thompson (1989), is a framework which explores the text structure above the clause level, by focusing on the relations between parts of text. Mann and Thompson (1989) believe that this theory takes clauses as its atoms, and relates them hierarchically, using some rhetorical relations. In their model, these relations are defined functionally, in terms of what their effect on the reader is. Examples of such relations are justify, elaboration, purpose, antithesis, and condition. Nicholas (1994) believed that rhetorical relations may be subdivided into two types. Subject Matter or Informational (Semantic) relations try to make the reader recognize that there is an ideational (real-world-describing) meaning relation between the two text spans. Presentational (Pragmatic) relations are intended "to increase some inclination in the reader" (Mann and Thompson 1989, P.18).

The abstract that accompanies research articles and theses is a notable practice in academic research as it constitutes a gateway to the reading or publication of a research article or a thesis (Lores 2004, P. 281). Salager-Mayer (1992) states that this genre is a distinctive category of discourse intended to communicate factual new knowledge for members of different academic communities. Abstract writing is a skill that all students from different fields have to master when they write a thesis while doing their postgraduate course or research. The abstract, as a genre, has some communicative functions for the post graduate students and professors. Irrespective of the subject they serve, abstracts function as being "advance indicators of the content and structure of the following text."(Swales 1990, P. 179). ( Pierson, 2004) declared that The Abstract typically aims to provide an overview of the study which answers the following questions:

What was the general purpose of the study?

What was the particular aim of the study?

Why was the study carried out?

How was the study carried out?

What did the study reveal?

The typical structure of an Abstract, then, is: overview of the study, aim of the study, reason for the study methodology used in the study, and findings of the study. The first step in writing an abstract is to read the instructions.

Among various skills, writing is truly proved to be one of the toughest tasks especially for non-native students (Swales, 2004). Writing thesis or dissertation in addition to writing and publishing articles in all fields including TEFL is a necessity for post graduate students.

.As stated by Van Dijk (1980), the abstract can be viewed as an integral piece of discourse; it can appear in abstracting journals and in on-line retrieval systems which publish paper abstracts. Its appearance in abstracting journals is designed to lead the readers back to the original text (Swales 1990).

students who works on the rhetoric of the abstracts is a technique which can be of great positive effect for Iranian post-graduate learners. In general, there are few studies worked on the rhetoric structure of abstract written by post graduate in Iran. Thus, this study probed to fill the gap and investigated the rhetoric structure of the abstracts of the theses written by Iranian post graduate students of TEFL student in Shahreza azad university. …

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