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Rhetorical functions in academic writing

Introduction
Students are asked to write many different kinds of texts. Depending on your subject, these could be essays, laboratory reports, case-studies, book reviews, reflective diaries, posters, research proposals, and so on and are normally referred to as genres (See: genres in academic writing). These different genres, though, can be constructed from a small range of different text types. If, for example, you are asked to write an essay to answer the following question: Discuss possible solutions to the problem of international credit control. You could answer it in the following way: 1. Define credit control, say what it is and give an example; 2. Explain why international credit control is a problem in business today, support your explanation by evidence from your reading; 3. Describe some possible solutions to the problem of credit control in an international context, again support your suggestions with evidence from your reading; 4. Describe the advantages and disadvantages of each of the possible solutions; 5. Decide which solution you would prefer and give reasons. So in order to answer the question you need to be able to write texts to do the following:
y y y y y y y y

Define Give an example Explain why Support your explanation with evidence Describe a solution Describe advantages and disadvantages Choose Explain why

Bruce (2008) calls these various texts cognitive genres, but I have called them Rhetorical Functions.

Examples of texts and language.


A good source of language is Leech & Svartvik (1975). Typical rhetorical functions used in academic writing, based on: Werlich (1976) and Lackstrom, Selinker & Trimble (1973), are:

Descriptive
1. Describing objects, location, structure and direction 2. Reporting and narrating 3. Defining 4. Writing instructions 5. Describing function 6. Describing processes, developments and operations 7. Classifying / categorising 8. Giving examples 9. Including tables and charts

Critical
10. Writing critically 11. Arguing and discussing 12. Evaluating other points of view 13. Comparing and contrasting: similarities and differences 14. Generalising 15. Expressing degrees of certainty 16. Expressing reasons and explanations / cause and effect 17. Providing support 18. Working with different voices and finding your own 19. Taking a stance 20. Introducing 21. Drawing conclusions 22. Recommendations

Reflective
23. Writing reflectively