In this essay, I will …: Examining variation of communicative purpose in student written genres

Larissa Goulart, Douglas Biber, Randi Reppen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Several previous researchers have developed taxonomies of the written genres produced by students in university content classes. These studies have often described the communicative purposes of university writing genres, with the implication that these categories are well-defined in terms of purpose. However, even a casual inspection of university student texts reveals that many texts perform multiple communicative purposes, and that there is considerable variation among texts within the same genre. Motivated by such observations, the present study seeks to empirically analyze the communicative characteristics of texts in five university writing genres: essays, critiques, case studies, methodology recounts, and explanations. The study is based on analysis of 308 student texts, extracted from 3rd year students in the BAWE corpus. Each text is coded for its communicative purposes, including the possibility that a given text can realize multiple purposes to differing extents. The results reveal that there is considerable variation in major purpose among texts within a genre, and that most texts contain more than one communicative purpose. However, these patterns differ across genres. For example, 55.7% of essays combine two communicative purposes, while 56.1% of critiques combine three communicative purposes. The specific combination of purposes also varies for each genre.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101159
JournalJournal of English for Academic Purposes
StatePublished - Sep 2022


  • Assignment types
  • Communicative purpose
  • Genres
  • University writing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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