Publication of rubber research articles: investigating a discourse event from a macro genre perspective

Charlotte, Veronica (2019) Publication of rubber research articles: investigating a discourse event from a macro genre perspective. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham Malaysia.

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Producing published research is an endeavour filled with risks, especially from the perspective of novice writers of scientific research articles (hereafter RA). This research project focuses on the environment of scientific research, where there is often little explicit guidance given to early-career academics in language skills surrounding their work. Although the target audience of an RA are researchers in the area, the risks and success involving its publication depend on the relationship between writers and their initial evaluative readers. Journal editors and reviewers represent crucial readers in view of their contribution to enhancing the RA as it evolves from the point of submission towards an unconditional final acceptance. Communication between RA writers and corresponding editors and reviewers reflects a fundamentally interpersonal issue. Lack of experience, awareness and understanding of the entire publication process among novice writers leads to challenges in negotiation and problematic outcomes at the production level. A significant problem for such researchers is the common assumption that a journal research article (RA) is a single, finished text, instead of recognising it as the culmination of a largely dialogic process which itself comprises a macro genre (as per Martin 1992, understood as an interlocking set of genres which operate with an over-riding social purpose).

This research project sketches out the boundaries within which specific editorial decisions take place via technical communications by researchers in a particular context, and in doing so brings attention to the crucial role of understanding the various kinds of readers of whom writers of such texts should be aware. The theoretical framework for the study is situated in the fields of Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL), Genre Analysis with respect to scientific writing and English for Research Publication Purposes (ERPP) which are constantly evolving. There is however a gap in literature from the perspective of understanding the RA publication process as a discourse event.

The particular context in which I draw my data is the Journal of Rubber Research (JRR), a publication of the Malaysian Rubber Board (MRB). The JRR faces a persistent and underlying issue concerning the insufficient backlog of submissions for publication. Upon studying the pattern of rubber RA submissions and published rubber RAs, it was apparent that scientists within the MRB were contributing very minimally in writing to the JRR, despite the obvious fit of the journal to their research. The number of researchers in proportion to the number of publications reported annually over a 10-year period (2003-2013) reveals a trend of under 16% of scientists within the organisation actively involved in scientific writing and achieving success with publication of rubber RAs in peer reviewed journals. This meant that 84% of scientists in the organisation were dormant in publication; I believe this indicates a need for assessment on scientific writing and the rubber RA publication process with a focus on novice writers. There is therefore a significant issue of research findings by MRB scientists not reaching their desired readers, and this research attempts to reveal how and when the macro genre does or does not fulfil its social purpose of seeing quality publications reach the public.

The research design and methodology comprises a four phase analysis, with discussions and conclusions emerging from triangulation of results. The first phase is outlined by selected case studies on three rubber RAs that specifically represent an unproblematic and a circuitous route to publication as well as one that led to rejection, while the second phase involved a quantitative macro genre analysis of 44 manuscript pathways within the dataset that comprised the rubber RA publication discourse event. Following this, the third phase comprised a semantic coding analysis of 139 reviewer reports and 41 author’s responses to reviewers within the dataset prior to the fourth phase where feedback from 60 participants of a questionnaire on scientific writing and RA publication is juxtaposed with findings from the first three phases of analysis.

The research is formulated to provide a rich and qualitative description on the development of rubber RAs from the perspective of how they move through time, affected by a number of participants: the researcher(s), the journal editor(s), and the reviewers. The evolution of rubber RAs from the point of submission up to acceptance is realised via a progression of required and optional stages throughout the discourse event, respectively, which in turn define points of contention for the success or failure of the social purpose and ultimate goal, being publication. This study thus sketches out the boundaries within which specific editorial decisions take place as a result of the writers’ use of particular linguistic resources which may be related to their success and risk of failure in technical communication in a particular context. The research findings will contribute towards improvements in the cultural practices of scientific writing and rubber RA publication among Malaysian scientists in particular, and fundamentally to linguists as well as the wider scientific discourse community globally, in extending the idea of an overarching rubber RA publication discourse event while proposing a pedagogical framework on the dialogic nature for authors responding to reviewers, consisting preferred and dispreferred options for successful navigation along the publication pathway.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Irwin, Derek
Keywords: macro-genre analysis; discourse event; publication process; editorial decision; registerial variables; dialogic process; Systemic Functional Linguistics
Subjects: P Language and literature > PL Languages and literatures of Eastern Asia, Africa, Oceania
Faculties/Schools: UNMC Malaysia Campus > Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > School of English
Item ID: 56561
Date Deposited: 27 Jul 2019 04:40
Last Modified: 07 May 2020 11:17

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