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Discourses and Tales of Grant-Seeking Activity

Academic Writing and Professional Expertise


Haying Feng

Grant seeking – the first step in knowledge production – has been an indispensable part of academic life, yet a challenging task for neophyte as well as veteran scholars. We are always curious about how grant winners compose their abstracts, cite previous work, present their proposed study, and negotiate with gate-keepers behind the scene. Building upon ethnographic data and a large corpus of authentic research grant proposals and grant reviews, this book intends to demystify the grant seeking activity. It is an invaluable resource for grant agencies, grant reviewers and grant writers, particularly novice grant writers and/or non-native English writers.
Discourses and Tales of Grant-Seeking Activity is however more than a resource book. It is one of the few studies that draw upon two genre theories, encompass both quantitative and qualitative research approaches, and unite an exploration of macro-level recurrences in discursive activity and micro-level examinations of individual writers’ agency, positioning, negotiation and identity construction. It enhances our understanding of the development of professional expertise in academia and thus will be of interest to researchers in the fields of academic writing, genre analysis and Language for Specific Purposes (LSP).


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CHAPTER SIX - Voices behind the Curtain: A Genre-Based Study of Grant Reviews - 163


163 CHAPTER 6 Voices behind the Curtain: A Genre-Based Study of Grant Reviews 6.1 Introduction In previous chapters, I have examined a sub-genre – research grant pro- posal abstracts (in Chapter 3), referential behavior (in Chapter 4), and a rhetorical move – niche claims (in Chapter 5) in the genre system of grant application. In this chapter, I turn to the gate keeping genre in this system – grant reviews. Grant seeking is an activity system involving various lite- rate activities, which pose different pragma-linguistic challenges for par- ticipants. A scholar needs the skill of window display in writing research grant proposal abstracts, the ability to position appropriately and strategi- cally in relation to the community in referring to previous research in the literature review, the ability to strike a balance between averral and attri- bution in niche claims, and the competence to encode as well as decode the ideologically loaded gate keeping discourse. In this chapter, I will first review previous research on academic peer reviews and discuss the unique feature of grant reviews. Evaluation theory (e.g. Hunston, 1993a, 2000) and politeness theory (Brown and Levinson, 1987) were then discussed and drawn upon as the analytical mode for this study. Results will be reported concerning the rhetorical moves of the ge- nre, values reflected in the grant reviews, face-threatening acts (FTAs) and corresponding politeness strategies. Implications for both encoders and decoders of the genre will be discussed. 6.1.1 The Genre of Grant Reviews Grant reviews (GRs) are a genre under the genre...

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