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How specific should we be?. Louis Rogers. /. Specificity Vs. Transferability. Current practice General academic v ocabulary Beyond individual words Practicalities The broader picture. Current practices. Current practices.

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Specificity vs transferability
Specificity Vs. Transferability

  • Current practice

  • General academic vocabulary

  • Beyond individual words

  • Practicalities

  • The broader picture

Current practices
Current practices

  • How similar are different genres and disciplines?

  • Academic writing - 15,559 Results

  • How do these style guides present academic writing?

  • Bennett’s survey

Current practices1
Current practices

  • Barrass, R. Scientists must write: A guide to better writing for scientists, engineers and students.

  • Brown, R, B. Doing your dissertation in business and management: The reality of researching and writing.

  • Fabb, N and Durant, A. How to write essays and dissertations: A guide for English literature students.

  • Kneale, P. Study skills for geography students: A practical guide.

  • Northedge et al. The sciences good study guide.

  • Strong, S.I How to write law essays and exams.

Current practices2
Current practices

  • General principles

  • Text structure

  • Grammatical issues

  • Lexical features

  • Other features

Current practice
Current practice

  • Large degree of consistency

  • Evidence, caution and restraint, incorporation of sources

  • Formal, technical, objective

  • Structure – IMRD / IDC

  • Impersonal

General academic vocabulary
General Academic Vocabulary

  • The Academic Word List (Coxhead)

  • 4 discipline areas

  • 3.5 million word corpus

  • 570 word families

  • West’s 1953 General Service List

General academic vocabulary1
General Academic Vocabulary

  • 75% = 2000 most frequent words

  • 10-15% = academic vocabulary

  • 10-15% = specialist vocabulary

General academic vocabulary2
General Academic Vocabulary

Job Examine

Quantitative Qualitative

Omission Persuasion

Classification Determine

General academic vocabulary3
General Academic Vocabulary

  • Multi-meaning words

  • Volume Attribute

  • Is one core list possible?

  • Moving beyond individual words

  • General Service List + AWL

    • Address, control, means

    • Address-issue, control-group, by-means


  • Hyland 2008

    • Electronic Engineering

    • Biology

    • Business Studies

    • Applied linguistics

  • 4 word bundles

  • 50 most frequent

    • On the other hand, as well as the, in the case of, at the same time, the results of the

  • Half on one list only


  • Function of collocations

    • Research-orientated = location, procedure, quantification, description, topic

      At the same time, the purpose of, a wide range of, the size of the, the currency board system

    • Text-orientated = transition, results, structure, framing

      In addition to the, it was found that, in the next section, with the exception of


  • Participant-orientated = stance, engagement

    It is possible that, as can be seen


  • Sciences = research-orientated

  • Social sciences = text-orientated

  • 90% Vs. 80% and 9% Vs. 17%

  • Chunks not transferable

  • Functions are transferable

  • Relative weight of assessment type


  • Hyland and Tse (2007)

    • marketing strategy

    • learning strategy

    • coping strategy

  • Durrant (2009)

    • Life Sciences, Science and Engineering, Social-Psychological, Social-administrative, Arts and Humanities

    • 1000 two-word collocations across all 5 areas


  • Three quarters grammatical

  • Reporting pattern ‘verb + that’

    • Argue, assumer, conclude, confirm, demonstrate, emphasize, hypothesize, imply, indicate, note, predict, reveal, show, speculate, suggest, suppose

  • Frequency and pattern combined

  • Transferability of use not investigated

    • Based on, associate with, note that, defined as, relationship between, effects on, indicate that

In favour of specificity
In favour of specificity

  • Strong evidence for disciplinary differences

  • Broad or subtle?

    • Nation - theory is theory no matter what the discipline

  • Are grammatical collocations and functions more transferable?

  • Implications for institutions and teachers


  • Time for research

  • Contact with academics

  • Time for materials development

  • Financial constraints


  • Broad ESAP

  • Combined degrees

    • Accountancy with; Management, Divinity, Law, IT, Economics, Spanish, Biology, Broadcast media, Geology, Psychology, HR, Finance, Leadership Mandarin, Logistics, and Maths

  • EAP teacher knowledge


  • Variability of specialist areas

    • Management and Business

      Consistent areas - Finance, Accounting, Statistics and Organisational Behaviour

      Differences – Economics, Marketing, Computing, Enterprise, Law, Foreign Languages

  • Challenge in defining genres

The bigger picture
The bigger picture

  • ‘An expert is one who knows more and more about less and less.’ Nicholas Murray Butler

  • Bachelors, Masters, PhD

  • The interdisciplinary nature of the Colleges as a major stimulus to teaching and learning

The bigger picture1
The bigger picture

  • Highly flexible programme

  • Extensive choice of subjects

  • Acquire transferable skills

  • Highly flexible undergraduate learning environment

  • Cater for a variety of different student interests and career aspirations

  • Develops analytical, quantitative, computing, presentation and other transferable skills

The bigger picture2
The bigger picture

  • Progression through years

  • Sandwich degrees

  • Placements

  • Knowledge economy


  • Skills to deal with a wide range of texts

    • Purpose, audience, aims

  • Ability to identify patterns

  • Critically analyse these features

  • Mixed backgrounds, experiences, disciplines allows for better analysis


  • Is there a core academic vocabulary?

  • Are the differences significant enough?

  • How specific can we be?

  • How specific should we be?


  • Anthony, L. (2011). Products, processes and practitioners: A critical look at the importance of specificity in ESP. Taiwan International ESP Journal. Vol 3:2 1-8

  • Bennett, K. (2009). English academic style manuals: A survey. English for specific purposes. 8 p43-54.

  • Biber, D, Conrad, S and Leech, G. (2002). Student Grammar of Spoken and Written English. Longman: Harlow.

  • Coxhead, A. (2000). A new academic word list. TESOL Quarterly, 34: 213-238.

  • Coxhead, A. (2011). The Academic Word List 10 Years On: Research and Teaching Implications. TESOL Quarterly, 45: 355-361


  • Dovey, T. (2006). What purposes specifically? Re-thinking purposes and specificity in the context of the ‘new vocationalism’, English for Specific Purposes, 25(4), 387-402.

  • Durrant, P. (2009). Investigating the viability of a collocation list for students of English for academic purposes. English for specific purposes. 28 p157-169.

  • Eldridge, J. (2008). “No, There Isn’t an ‘Academic Vocabulary’ but…” TESOL Quarterly, 42: 109 – 113

  • Hyland, K., & Tse, P. (2007). Is there an “Academic Vocabulary”?. TESOL Quarterly, 41: 235 – 253.


  • Hyland, K. (2008). As can be seen: Lexical bundles and disciplinary variation. English for specific purposes. 27 p4-21.

  • James, M.A. (2009). “Far” transfer of learning outcomes from an ESL writing course: Can the gap be bridged? English for Specific Purposes. 18 69-84

  • Jordan, R, R. (1998). English for Academic Purposes: A guide and resource book for teachers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Ramoroka, B, T. (2012). Teaching Academic Writing for the Disciplines: How far can we be specific in an EAP writing course? English Linguistics Research. 1:2 available at: