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Genre analysis of research grant proposals Feng, Haiying

Abstract

Research grant proposals are a very important genre in many academic disciplines, and a window into which we are able to observe academic engagements and interactions. However, there has been little textual analysis of the genre and research on how successful scholars approach the writing task. Drawing on the social constructionist genre scholarship, this study collected and analyzed nine successful SSHRC (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada) research grant proposals from nine professors in the field of education at a Canadian university. The proposals were examined in terms of three important textual features: generic structure, referential behavior, hedges and boosters. Semi-structured discourse-based interviews with the nine professors as insider informants were also conducted. The main findings of the study include the following: (1) A three-move scheme was developed in this study as reflecting the generic structure of research grant proposal summaries. In analyzing the main text of research grant proposals, I first recognized the ICMC pattern (Introduction-Context-Methodology-Communication of Results) as the overall structure; ten moves as the constitutive functional components were then identified under this pattern. (2) Non-integral (where the name of the cited author does not appear in the actual citing sentence), non-reporting (where no reporting verb such as show, establish, suggest is employed to introduce the cited work), and generalization (where the proposition is attributed to two or more sources) forms of citations were found to be predominantly used in the research grant proposals. Self-citation was also used with a high frequency in this genre. 3) The use of boosters was found to exceed the use of hedges, and the distribution of hedges and boosters were found uneven across the rhetorical sections. Interviews with the nine professors further reveal how communicative purposes, institutional practice, and reader-writer relationship co-constructed the format as well as the stylistic features of grant writing. The study provides genre analysts as well as novice grant writers some useful insights into the research grant proposal writing.

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