Authorial Presence in English Academic Texts

A Comparative Study of Student Writing across Cultures and Disciplines

by Iga Lehman (Author)
©2018 Monographs 254 Pages


This book presents a case study of student-writers from multiple cultural and academic backgrounds. It investigates how writing, as an act of identity, can be analyzed along an axis of individual and social influences. This continuum entails a number of related perspectives, including the ways in which individuals reproduce or challenge dominant literary practices and discourses, and how they occupy the subject positions made available in their discourse communities. The analysis of the findings draws on selected socio-semiotic and more broadly, anthropological views of language, which are then synthesized into a multi-aspect model of academic writer identity.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • 1 Language, culture and identity
  • 1.0 Introduction
  • 1.1 Theories of and relations between text, discourse and genre
  • 1.1.1 Theoretical approaches to text, discourse and genre
  • 1.1.2 Relational connectedness between text, genre and discourse
  • 1.2 Language use in specific cultural contexts
  • 1.3 Theories of culture from a perspective of linguistic anthropology
  • 1.3.1 Culture-nature opposition
  • 1.3.2 Culture and socially constructed knowledge
  • 1.3.3 Culture as a semiotic system
  • 1.3.4 Culture as a system of participation and belonging
  • 1.4 Towards an integrative view of second language writer identity: Selected theoretical and empirical approaches to identity studies
  • 1.4.1 Identity and social positioning
  • 1.4.2 Paradigmatic approaches to conceptualizations of identity
  • 1.4.3 Discoursal identity
  • 1.4.4 The rhetorical theory for authorial self-representation
  • 1.4.5 Bilingual identity and discourse practices
  • Identity reconstruction of late bilinguals
  • Participation metaphor: A way to find affiliation and belonging
  • 2 Written communication in a context-sensitive perspective
  • 2.0 Introduction
  • 2.1 Orality, literacy and cognition
  • 2.1.1 The influence of orality and literacy on identity construction, thought processing, organization and expression
  • 2.1.2 Differences in writing patterns constituted by cultural preferences for oral or written modes of expression
  • 2.2 Writing as a semiotic media for the social construction of reality
  • 2.2.1 The problem with meaning
  • 2.2.2 The influence of semiotics on teaching literacy skills
  • 2.3 Metadiscourse: Investigating writer-text-reader interaction
  • 2.3.1 Metadiscourse in rhetoric
  • 2.3.2 Metadiscourse in genres
  • 2.3.3 Metadiscourse and culture
  • 2.3.4 Metadiscourse across academic disciplines
  • 3 The construction of authorial voice in student writing in English as a second language
  • 3.0 Introduction
  • 3.1 The use of lingua franca English in a globalized academic world
  • 3.2 Cultural values that matter in academic communication and the concept of self
  • 3.2.1 High-/low-context communication: Directness vs indirectness and face saving strategies
  • 3.3 From contrastive rhetoric to intercultural rhetoric
  • 3.4 Thirdspace pedagogy: Critical pedagogy of space for L2 writer identity construction
  • 3.4.1 The theories of Thirdness and L2 literacy education
  • 3.5 English academic essay
  • 3.5.1 A brief history of English rhetoric and composition
  • 3.5.2 What is required and expected
  • 3.6 Genre approach to academic writing instruction
  • 3.6.1 Needs/rights analysis and power relations
  • 3.6.2 Genre-based grammatical competence and the teaching-learning cycle
  • 3.6.3 Rhetorical consciousness-raising
  • 3.6.4 Modes of discourse in the composition class: exposition, description and argumentation vs personal narration
  • 4 The enquiry: A study of authorial presence in English academic texts across cultures and disciplines
  • 4.0 Introduction
  • 4.1 Theoretical approach
  • 4.1.1 State-of-the-art
  • 4.1.2 Methodological background
  • 4.2 Research hypothesis and corpora
  • 4.3 Overview of the study
  • 4.3.1 Methodological and theoretical considerations for the design and implementation of the study
  • 4.3.2 Assessing writing competence
  • 4.3.3 Assessing voice
  • 4.4 The methodology and procedure for data collection
  • 4.4.1 Essay writing sessions
  • 4.4.2 Questionnaires
  • 4.4.3 Interviews
  • 4.4.4 Rater training
  • 4.4.5 Pilot study procedure
  • 4.4.6 Rating session
  • 4.4.7 Procedure
  • 4.5 Data analysis
  • 4.5.1 Quantitative analyses
  • Methods
  • Findings
  • 4.5.2 Qualitative analyses
  • Imposed identities
  • Assumed identities
  • Negotiable identities
  • 4.6 Conclusion
  • 4.6.1 Findings
  • Implications for writer identity research and the practices of L2 writing
  • Implications for future research
  • Practical implications
  • Figures
  • Tables
  • Appendices
  • Appendix A: In-class writing prompt
  • Appendix B: Guide for primary and multiple trait scoring
  • Appendix C: Voice rubric
  • Appendix D: Individual evaluation sheet
  • Appendix E: Combined evaluation sheet
  • Appendix F: Questionnaires
  • Appendix G: Interviews
  • Appendix H: Raw data
  • Bibliography
  • Series index

| 11 →


I would like to express my special gratitude to Professor Robin Anderson for his valuable insights which advanced the progress of this book, his unshakable confidence in me and his great sense of humor in the trying times of its completion.

I am extremely grateful to my dear friend, Dr. Iwona Nowakowska, for her critical and thought-provoking comments on the quantitative part of my study. My thanks also to Dr. Laura Gago for her help with collecting the writing sample corpus.

My sincere thanks are extended to Professor Franciszek Grucza who not only inspired my research interests, but also gave me constant encouragement to produce this book.

I am indebted to Professor Hanna Komorowska, Professor Jo Lewkowicz and Professor Maria Dakowska whose advice enriched this work and me as a researcher.

For their enormous help in organizing the rating sessions I would like to thank my colleagues, Dr. Anna Wiechecka and Dr. Kinga Rudnicka-Szozda.

I am particularly grateful to the students from the Department of English Philology at the University of Social Sciences in Warsaw, the students from the Department of English Studies: Language and Literature at the University of Salamanca and the students from the Departments of Management, Economics and Finance and Accounting at Kozminski University and Vistula University in Warsaw who agreed to participate in this research project.

Most of all, special thanks go to my children, Alexandra, Robert and Jakub for their tolerance, support and understanding that allowed me to keep working on this book.

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“The British complained increasingly that the Pakistanis wouldn’t assimilate. This meant they wanted the Pakistanis to be exactly like them. But, of course, even then they would have rejected them. The British were doing the assimilating: they assimilated Pakistanis to their own view […]. I withdrew, from the park, from the lads, to a safer place, within myself. I moved into what I call my ‘temporary period’ […]. In this isolation, in my bedroom where I listened to The Pink Floyd, The Beatles and the John Peel show, I started to write […]. This I call ‘keeping the accounts’” (Kureishi 2011).

I begin this book with an excerpt from Kureishi’s life story because it offers an interesting insight into what type of socialization processes may occur when an individual attempts to live with socio-cultural differences and to develop her/his authorial voice while dealing with certain challenging aspects of the new language and culture. Kureishi’s autobiographical essay explores the experience of being a young Pakistani growing up in the United Kingdom, through themes of race and class, but in particular, through the description of his quest for his own voice as a writer. In the drafting of the story, his authorial self moves from the third person singular to the final version in which ‘Hanif’ is repeatedly crossed out and the first-person narrator emerges. Kureishi reveals that he initially used the third person narrative voice “because of the difficulty of directly addressing myself to what I felt then, of not wanting to think about it again” (Kureishi 2011, p. 31). His attempt to impose order and unity on the dislocated and fragmented aspects of his life was achieved through his struggle and negotiation to construct his authorial self. Kureishi’s desire for a unified identity has certain affinity to Giddens’ notion of ‘ontological security’ which states that humans strive for mental coherence and ‘wholeness’, and that this entails a process of ordering chaotic and anxious elements of our environment (Giddens 1991).

0.1 Socio-cultural and institutional influences on identity formation

How people present themselves as authors and how their possibilities for self-expression are supported and/or limited by the socio-cultural and institutional context in which they write, have been the subject of considerable research in a wide range of academic fields. However, the key literature produced on this topic has failed to give sufficient consideration to such issues as feelings of alienation, ← 13 | 14 → inadequacy and exclusion, as experienced by non-native writers as they strive to align themselves with the dominant narrative styles of their adopted culture.

The opportunity and ability to collect, order and narrate our personal experiences can contribute to the formation of a sense of identity. However, what defines people as credible writers is not only the content of their stories, but the way they draw on the shared, socially available resources they use to tell them. For Gee, these shared experiences are used as follows, “when we speak or write we always take a particular perspective on what is “normal” and not; what is “acceptable” and not, what is “right” and not, what is “real” and not; what is the “way things are” and not; what is the “way things ought to be” and not; what is “possible” and not; what “people like us” or “people like them” do and don’t; and so on and so forth, again through a nearly endless list” (1999, p. 2). A writer voice then is created by the author’s negotiation, acceptance, modification and rejection of the societal norms which surround her or him.

In academic environments individuals are further socialized in their production of written texts, as the writer’s linguistic and stylistic choices are constrained by the requirements of their disciplinary community. The writers’ rhetorical and argumentative choices are not made out of an infinite range of possibilities, but out of the options made available to them within the socio-cultural and institutional context in which they write. What is more, disciplinary communities demonstrate preferences for different kinds of argument and through repeated productions of unique combinations of lexico-grammatical features, and rhetorical and stylistic strategies they develop certain genres which are employed to disseminate the community’s knowledge, values and beliefs. These discourses have the capacity to control “[…] our routine experiences of the world and the way we classify that world. They, therefore, have power to foster particular kinds of identities to suit their own purposes” (Mayr 2008, p. 1). Language therefore is viewed as the principal means by which institutions construct a coherent social reality that frames participants’ sense of who they are within that institutional context.

0.2 Purpose of the book

Since institutions have this potential function of constructing reality and providing participants with a sense of identity, the critical question which should be asked with regards to non-native, tertiary-level writers is: how does the disciplinary discourse form students’ identities as academic writers. In the case of second language (L2) writers, there is also the need to find their authorial identity somewhere in the space between the two languages and the two cultures. On the one hand they have to present themselves as linguistically credible L2 users and ← 14 | 15 → on the other hand they have to align themselves with the rhetorical conventions of their disciplinary community. Often the lexico-grammatical and rhetorical choices these students make are intuitive rather than based on learned communicative competence, and therefore reveal first language (L1) and first culture (C1) influences.

Since identity negotiation is an integral part of a tertiary student’s learning process, my purpose in this book was to examine, in a verifiable and non-speculative way, how overall writing proficiency correlates with authorial voice. In doing so, I was able to develop a comparative framework for the analysis of a multi-cultural and multi-disciplinary text corpora from the area of academic discourse. This framework will enable second language acquisition (SLA) researchers and educationalists to better analyze students’ texts for the presence or absence of their authorial identity.

The investigative focus of this book therefore is based on the hypothesis that an academic writer identity is not a stable entity, but, in varying degrees, is influenced by the students’ writing competence and three aspects of their authorial self, individual, collective and depersonalized, which together constitute a writer voice. The individual self is a product of an individual’s unique cognition, personality and life history, and enables writers to assume an authoritative and independent voice in order to “[…] become agents of change through moments of struggle, glimpses of conflict, and in-between stages” (Reynolds 1994, p. 209). It is socially co-constructed by the collective self, which is formed by the individual’s positioning in different social settings, relationships and tasks. The collective self is a product of the writer’s struggle for affiliation and belonging to a particular discourse community and involves the creation of a ‘reader-considerate’ voice, full of explicit signals that guide the reader through the text, and the use of references which establish commonality with readers. The depersonalized self reflects the writer’s degree of acceptance of the networks of disciplinary texts and the willingness to reproduce the disciplinary community’s textual outputs. This alignment with disciplinary writing conventions is manifested in the choice she/he makes as to what extent to employ these conventions and in doing so, conceal and obfuscate the authorial presence in the text. In order to identify and define the three aforementioned aspects of the self in the students’ writing samples, I drew on approaches from a variety of fields including; linguistic anthropology, discourse studies, intercultural rhetoric and second language acquisition studies.

The corpora is also partly made up of recorded interviews in which the participants re-constructed self-defining life events from their autobiographical past, with specific reference to their experiences with academic writing. In this ← 15 | 16 → way my study was able to trace the examples of ‘interdiscursivity’, which is Fairclough’s term for “intertextual relations to conventions” (Fairclough 1992b, cited in Ivanič 1998, p. 48), as they occurred in the student-writers’ autobiographical accounts. For Ivanič, ‘interdiscursivity’ is a central concept for a theory of language and identity, as it explains how writers align themselves with the rhetorical conventions of their discourse communities (Ivanič 1998).


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2018 (June)
Identity theory Voice Discourse – genre Metadiscourse Social positioning Thirdspace pedagogy
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2018, 254 p., 8 b/w ill., 6 col. ill., 68 b/w tab.

Biographical notes

Iga Lehman (Author)

Iga Maria Lehman is Assistant Professor at the Institute of English Studies at the University of Social Sciences in Warsaw, specializing in academic discourse analysis, identity and cultural studies. She has a wide experience of teaching in culturally diverse academic settings.


Title: Authorial Presence in English Academic Texts
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