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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 SEVEN - Pushing at the Gatekeeper’s Fence: Case studyof Two Scholars Seeking Grants in Hong Kong - 195


195 CHAPTER 7 Pushing at the Gatekeeper’s Fence: Case Study of Two Scholars Seeking Grant in Hong Kong 7.1 Introduction Grant seeking for most academics, as Myers (1990) described in his case study of two biologists, has always been a ‘bumpy ride’, fraught with disappointments and frustrations. These disappointments and frustrations cannot be ignored as they shape much of what any given scholar is like (Geertz, 1983). They are ‘critical moments that recognizably call on ex- pert behavior’ and thus a window through which to see the features of discursive competence that constitute scholars’ professional expertise (Candlin, 1999, p. 16). Through detailed descriptions of two Hong Kong scholars’ discur- sive actions and interactions with various social agents after experienc- ing disappointment and frustration in grant seeking, the study in this chapter attempts to explore two questions: (a) how academics, particu- larly NNES academics, either in the role of an applicant or a reviewer, are positioned and position themselves in relation to other actors and institutions in the discursive negotiation process; (b) how the negotiabil- ity of a grant writer, through acts of positioning and re-positioning, can be a measure of, and contribute to the development of, academics’ pro- fessional expertise. Some theoretical notions discussed in section 2.2 will be re-empha- sized here as the theoretical bases for this specific study. Two overarch- ing notions are identification and negotiability (Wenger, 1998). Grant applicants in most cases would choose to identify, accommodate, and exploit the genre system (Bazerman, 1994b) of grant application,...

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