Assignment: Genre and Style


Learning Goals

The purpose of this assignment is for you to analyze the genre and style of the scientific journal article and consider the role of funding in science.

The assignment's learning goals:

• Research and analyze the genre of the scientific journal article;
• Examine the role of writing style in conveying scientific knowledge and information;
• Consider the effects of funding and outreach on science writing.

Please note: This assignment has five options. Please choose one option.

Landmark Articles: Option 1

Please Note: The inspiration for this assignment comes from Chapter 2, "What Written Knowledge Does: Three Examples of Academic Discourse" in Charles Bazerman's Shaping Written Knowledge.

Choose a single landmark (or so-called "classic" or "seminal") paper either in one area of the natural sciences or the social sciences, or choose landmark papers in areas in both the natural and social sciences.

In 2009, The Royal Society of London announced the launch of an interactive timeline — Trailblazing — that provides access to 60 seminal articles in the sciences. Oxford Journals has made available "... a collection of 100 seminal papers from ... 180 journals." You will also find mention of famous papers and academic influence, for example in this article on Kahneman and Tversky's "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision Under Risk" in the Chronicle of Higher Eduction, on Google. And, as always, please consult resource librarians in your search.

Once you have selected the papers compare and contrast the surface features of the articles — the structure of the article (IMRAD format, possibly, or variations), single or multiple authorship, length, use of visuals, number of footnotes and the like. Papers published earlier than the 20th century will likely have a wider array of these features.

Through close reading and analysis of sections of the paper(s) (e.g., the abstract, introduction, conclusion or results section), compare and contrast the styles the writers employ. Consider style, sentence length, use of jargon, level of abstraction (nouns and nominalizations), use of person and the like.

Given what you can discern from the content of the papers, try to determine:

    • How precise is the language being used in the way it refers to the world (Is new terminology, for example, being introduced and defined?
    • Is metaphor extensively employed?
    • Does the language used seem standard?
    • Can you determine the relationship of this article to previous literature in the field (How extensive are references to other works? Generous use of footnotes?)?
    • Does the article pay attention to the anticipated audience (What is the tone of the article? How does the author attempt to persuade the reader?)?
    • How is (are) the author(s) is represented to the text (Do the authors refer to themselves? Do the authors seem necessary or incidental to the claims being made?)?

Finally, given your analysis, what thesis do you have regarding what makes for a classic paper, in terms of genre and style, in the areas of the natural sciences and social sciences? How are classics in each area similar or different? Additionally, and you can speculate broadly, how is knowledge produced and communicated in the given fields represented by the articles? Is there anything beyond (or behind) the written discourse that supports the knowledge claims of the authors? That is, how easy or difficult is it for the authors to establish, and provide evidence for, what can be counted as knowledge in the field? How do you account for this ease or difficulty?

Requirements
Due: 23 October
Length: 750-1250 words.
Format: Text posted to the appropriate forum on the wiki. Please work in your work processing program then cut, past and format in the wiki. Feel free to embed digital resources that you create and/or cite.
Citation: Use MLA (Modern Language Association) format.


Open Access: Option 2

Open accessing publishing is " ... the publication of material in such a way that it is available to all potential users without financial or other barriers." Over the last several years, since the Budapest Open Access Initiative in 2002, (see also The Budapest Open Access Initiative at 10), the open access movement has gained momentum in all academic areas but especially in the natural sciences. In this assignment, you will research the open access movement and consider its implications for the future of academic science writing.

Aside from Wikipedia, please analyze and cite at least three other sources in your research. Again, librarians at Virginia Tech would prove an invalubale resources in this project.

Your essay will have five sections — Introduction, Background, Impact, Possibilities, and Conclusion.

The questions below are thought questions pegged to many of the sections of your memo. However, these questions are intended to spark thought: You need not answer them directly.

Background

    • What is the open access movement (OAM)?
    • What is self-archiving?
    • How is OAM similar to, or different from, "open source" movements?
    • How does an author make their work publicly available?
    • Who originated the OAM? Why?
    • Who supports the OAM? Why? Who opposes it? Why?
    • What are the basic issues raised regarding (among other things) the economic (funding) effects of open source publishing?
    • Who is the audience for publicly available academic research?

Impact

    • What impact does traditionally published scientific research have? That is, how often are most academic papers read or cited by other researchers?
    • What do empirical studies tell us the impact of open access publishing?
    • How and why is OAM a significant departure from current academic publishing practices?
    • What is peer review? How does peer review figure into the OAM? How does OAM affect the process of peer review?
    • How does (or might) OAM impact traditional universities? Libraries? Funding agencies?
    • How does (or might) OAM impact publishers of academic research?

Possibilities

    • How do you think OAM might affect the practice of empirical academic research?
    • How do you think OAM might affect academic writing concepts of individual authorship, collective authorship, priority (being first in making a discovery), ownership, style, audience — and reading for researchers in the sciences (consider the findings of your ethnography)?
    • How (if at all) might OAM affect the writing process as you currently understand and practice it?

Conclusion

    • Given your research and analysis what is your judgment on the significance and potential impact of the OAM?

Requirements
Due: 23 October
Length: 750-1250 words.
Format: Text posted to the appropriate forum on the wiki. Please work in your work processing program then cut, past and format in the wiki. Feel free to embed digital resources that you create and/or cite.
Citation: Use MLA (Modern Language Association) format.


Print Journals: Option 3

Pick a leading academic journal or professional publication representing a natural or social scientific discipline in which your are interested. The journal needs to have existed for at least 15 years. (Look for journals sponsored by the professional society governing the discipline.)

Once you have selected the journal, find a current copy of it, no more than a year old (found on the shelves in the periodicals section) and a copy from 20 to 25 years ago (found in the library stacks) .

Compare and contrast the journals, and journal articles, as follows:

First, analyze the features of the journal itself considering (feel free to include other aspects you notice):

    • Do the journals from the two eras look the same? — cover design, length, font type, print size, how the table of contents is formatted, ratio of words to figures, use of graphics? Is an electronic version of the journal available on-line? What are the differences and similarities between the journals of the two eras?
    • Does the journal contain advertisements? If so, has the quantity and quality of these advertisements changed over the years? What companies are advertising in the journals? Do you see any evidence of the influence of corporate advertisement on the journal? Be specific. What do the advertisements indicate about the journal's audience?
    • Are there any common members of the editorial board from the two eras? Is the journal still published by the same company, or located at the same university?
    • If you can find a statement of the purpose of the journal (perhaps on the back cover) draw a comparison the stated purpose of the journal and the editorial policies from the two eras. Are there any differences?

Second, analyze the features of two articles selected from the journals (feel free to include other aspects you notice):

    • Are the articles from the two eras presented in the IMRAD format? Are there differences in the structure of the journal articles? Consider the elements in the articles such abstracts, methodology sections, results sections and the like.
    • Are there differences in the length of the journal articles?
    • Are there differences in the use of graphics or images between the two eras?
    • How do you account for the difference, or lack of difference, in the journal articles from the two eras?

Third, select a passage, or passages, from each of the two journal articles. Analyze the text considering (feel free to include other elements):

    • Can you get a sense of the subject and development of ideas in the passage? By what stylistic means (e.g., the use of metaphor, the use of jargon, active voice, passive voice, specific or ambiguous reference) does the writer achieve making the text more or less accessible? What purpose is served by making the text more or less difficult to understand for non-experts?
    • Point out the use of jargon in the passages. How does the use of jargon appear to have changed, if at all, between the two eras?
    • Point out the sentence-level features of the passages -- sentence length, the use of person, the use of tense, nominalizations, the use of modifiers. How would you characterize the prose style of the discipline? What purpose does this style serve?

After comparing these characteristics — and others you notice — draw some general conclusions about the health and direction of the discipline and its standards for communication. Feel free to quote material - with proper attribution. Here are some thought questions (you are not required to answer them directly) to help focus your analysis:

    • Does the discipline appear to be growing and changing, staying the same, or declining? Can you determine a difference in the research agendas of the two eras?
    • What are the characteristics you found in comparing the journals which leads to your conclusions?
    • Generally, what is the rhetorical purpose of this disciplinary style? What audiences are served by this style?

Requirements
Due: 23 October
Length: 750-1250 words.
Format: Text posted to the appropriate forum on the wiki. Please work in your work processing program then cut, past and format in the wiki. Feel free to embed digital resources that you create and/or cite.
Citation: Use MLA (Modern Language Association) format.


Science Funding: Option 4

Please argue for one of the following statements (please make the statement explicit in your essay):

    Scientific research in the United States should be publicly funded.

    Scientific research in the United States should be privately funded.

In developing your argument please cite (by direct quotation), not just consult, 5 to 7 different (from different authors or interviewees) sources.

Requirements
Due: 23 October
Length: 750-1250 words.
Format: Text posted to the appropriate forum on the wiki. Please work in your work processing program then cut, past and format in the wiki. Feel free to embed digital resources that you create and/or cite.
Citation: Use MLA (Modern Language Association) format.


Research Article: Option 5

Many of you are working currently on articles, or papers, in courses which require original research. The following hypothetical speaks to your work.

Virginia Tech has launched an interdisciplinary journal, Next Wave Research, which seeks submissions of original undergraduate, and graduate (to a lesser extent), research from students in all academic disciplines. The goal of the journal is not only to present an outlet for undergraduate and graduate research, but to develop a synthesis of form and style which allows cutting edge research to answer both to the expectations of expert audiences and to the desire of lay audiences (Virginia Tech alumni/ae for example) for accessible, but sophisticated, articles on subjects of interest. At this stage, the editors have decided on what the journal will look like (a web-based version is under consideration) but nothing more. The form and style of the articles will be worked out as the journal develops.

The editors ask you to submit two papers online. The first paper is a good (which earned a high grade) research paper written for any class, design project, or related activity, in its original form. The editor wants you to revise the paper for any lingering stylistic or cosmetic problems, but you need not make substantive changes. You are, then, to keep the content and language (e.g., use of disciplinary jargon) in the paper.

For the second paper, the editor wants you to "translate" your research paper for a general, Virginia Tech educated, audience. In so doing, you are asked to follow these criteria:

    • The revised paper should be half the length (or less) than the original research paper.
    • The revised paper should modify its form to reach a lay audience. If, for example, you employed the IMRAD form in writing the original paper, consider how changing the form might meet the readers' needs.
    • The revised paper should strive stylistically to explain the research performed, and its significance. to a lay audience. To that end, the paper will be revised to translate or eliminate jargon, to use active voice, to use short sentences. to decrease the level of abstraction, and to use necessary literary devices (e.g., metaphor, analogy, dialogue, simile) to make the meaning clear to a lay audience.

Requirements
Due: 23 October
Length: The revised paper should be half the length (or less) than the original research paper.
Format: Texts posted to the appropriate forum on the wiki. Please work in your work processing program then cut, past and format in the wiki. Feel free to embed digital resources that you create and/or cite.
Citation: Use the citation style of the original paper.

Science Writing