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Evaluative language in student reflections: A corpus-based study of online forum contributions
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of English.
2016 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

With the widespread use of English in higher education, there are many genres and registers that students need to master (e.g. Hood, 2010; Hyland, 2004; Hüttner, 2008; Kuteeva, 2012). Previous research on evaluation in academic writing has largely focused on expert genres such as research articles or graduate student writing. This paper aims to address the gap in research on student genres by providing a corpus-based analysis of a collection of student writing. The methodology consists of a textual analysis of evaluative language in student writing on data collected from students’ forum comments and reflections posted on Stockholm University’s online learning platform. The theoretical framework for the analysis of evaluative language draws primarily on the theoretical frameworks for the study of evaluative language inspired by Systemic Functional Linguistics. The dataset is labelled for instances of evaluation that express a positive, negative or neutral attitude of the writer. The types of evaluation are categorized into judgments of acceptability, difficulty, expectedness, goodness, importance, interestingness, and usefulness. Overall, the results indicate that students tend to evaluate positively in order to express a positive attitude within all categories of entities found in the data. However, differences exist between evaluations within different categories in terms of the expressed writer’s attitude. In their evaluations limited to discussions within specific research approaches, students tend to limit their evaluation to expressions of a positive or negative attitude. On the other hand, evaluations of theoretical concepts contain a more balanced distribution of attitude types and tend to be contextualized or paired with support in the discourse. Furthermore, a qualitative analysis of individual instances of evaluation shows that it can serve different communicative purposes depending on its form and position in the discourse. Finally, a connection can be drawn between the types of evaluation and the selection of writer’s voice, showing that students assume a range of voices in order to cope with the demand to perform evaluation at different levels of experience.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016. , 33 p.
Keyword [en]
student writing, evaluative language, appraisal theory, academic literacy
National Category
General Language Studies and Linguistics
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-132470OAI: diva2:952469
Available from: 2016-09-02 Created: 2016-08-14 Last updated: 2016-09-02Bibliographically approved

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Oletic, Aleksandra
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Department of English
General Language Studies and Linguistics

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