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English for Specic Purposes 25 (2006) 429

ENGLISH FOR
SPECIFIC
PURPOSES
www.elsevier.com/locate/esp

Visible and occluded citation features


in postgraduate second-language writing
Diane Pecorari

Department of Humanities, Malardalen University, 72123 Vasteras, Sweden

Abstract
As novice members of their academic discourse communities, postgraduates face the challenge of learning to write in ways which will be judged as appropriate by those communities.
Two resources in this eort are students own observations of the features of published texts in
their disciplines, and feedback on their texts from teachers and advisors. These resources
depend, though, on the extent to which textual features can be observed. Swales [Swales, J.
M. (1996). Occluded genres in the academy: The case of the submission letter. In E. Ventola
& A. Mauranen (Eds.). Academic writing: intercultural and textual issues (pp. 4558). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.] has noted the existence of occluded academic genres. The notion of
occlusion is extended here to refer to the features of academic texts which are not ordinarily
visible to the reader. One important area of occlusion is citation and, specically, the relationship between a reference to a source and the source itself. This article reports the ndings of an
investigation into three visible and occluded features of postgraduate second-language writing.
The novice writers in this study were found to respond to their disciplines expectations in
terms of the visible aspects of source use, but with regard to the occluded features their writing
diverged considerably from received disciplinary norms. The ndings also suggest that, with
respect to disciplinary norms, a gap may exist between what is prescribed and what is
practiced.
 2005 The American University. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Tel.: +46 21 151702.


E-mail address: Diane.Pecorari@mdh.se.

0889-4906/$30.00  2005 The American University. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.esp.2005.04.004

D. Pecorari / English for Specic Purposes 25 (2006) 429

1. Introduction
Writing is a key academic activity, and a crucial one for postgraduates, for whom
writing is simultaneously the most prominent learning activity and the normal mechanism by which they are assessed and awarded admission to their disciplinary discourse communities. Learning to write appropriate texts is, therefore, an essential
component of academic success. What constitutes an appropriate text, however, is
determined not only by general standards of good writing, but by the specic demands and constraints of the writers disciplinary community. Thus, learning to
write entails becoming an individual suciently versed in the ways of the academic
community to understand what makes a text appropriate. Or as Hyland puts it:
Learning to write academic genres. . . does, of course, involve students contending with issues of form and structure, and with public contexts for writing. To
be successful, however, it must also involve them in acquiring a metacognitive
awareness of these forms and contexts and a familiarity with the discoursal
strategies they need to perform roles, engage in interactions, and accomplish
goals in the target community. In sum, it requires that students gain an awareness of the disciplines symbolic resources for getting things done by routinely
connecting purposes with features of texts (Hyland, 2000, p. 145).
How novice academic writers gain this awareness has been the subject of considerable discussion and investigation, and two suggestive themes have emerged from accounts of studentadvisor relationships. First, parallels with apprenticeship have
been drawn, and in particular with the mode of learning Lave and Wenger (1991)
have termed legitimate peripheral participation (LPP) (by, e.g., Belcher, 1994; Becher
& Trowler, 2001; Berkenkotter & Huckin, 1995; Prior, 1998; Swales, 1998). LPP is
characterized by novices involvement in the authentic tasks of a community of practice, while in close contact with an established member of that community, so that
the skilled practitioner can observe and assess the novices performance, and the novice can observe and learn from the practitioners. While Lave and Wengers model of
learning is, as Swales rightly notes, a rather idealized one (Swales, 1998, p. 203), the
mutual engagement, active participation and observation which feature prominently
in the model are likely to be benecial. In Belchers (1994) study of three Ph.D. studentadvisor pairs, the only relationship which could be described as an unqualied
success was one which was characterized by a high degree of collaborative involvement between the student and the advisor in the activities of thesis research.
Other accounts of postgraduateadvisor interaction (e.g., Acker, Hill, & Black,
1994; Luebs, Fredrickson, Hyon, & Samraj, 1998; Prior, 1998) illustrate an aspect
of the relationship which may easily be taken for granted: its ad hoc nature. While
classroom-based learning is generally driven by a syllabus or set of learning objectives which more or less systematically address the areas the teacher believes to be
important, a common mode of interaction between students and thesis advisors is
for the student to present his or her recent eorts (reports on research, proposals,
draft chapters, etc.) for the advisors feedback. In this pattern of interaction, it is
the students work which triggers comments from the advisor and therefore to some

D. Pecorari / English for Specic Purposes 25 (2006) 429

extent sets the agenda for feedback. This, naturally enough, means that the advisor
responds to those positive and negative features of the text which are seen to merit
comment.
However, not all components of a text, nor all texts, are equally conspicuous.
Swales (1996) has noted the existence of genres, such as job applications or letters
accompanying an article submission, which are typically hidden, out of sight or
occluded from the public gaze (p. 46). These genres are especially likely to be occluded for a novice researcher, who typically has fewer opportunities to perform the
activities which render them visible (e.g., editing a scholarly journal, reviewing applications). At the same time, novices frequently need to produce such texts, often as
part of genre chains (Swales, 2004, pp. 1819). For example, publishing a research
article (a public genre) involves producing ancillary texts such as a submission letter
and responses to reviewers comments (occluded genres).
The realization that novice writers need to produce texts of a type they rarely see
modeled has sparked a growing awareness that the occluded academic genres should
be taught explicitly (Belcher, 2004, pp. 168169; Swales, 1997, pp. 380381), an eort
which is facilitated by increasing attention to these genres in textbooks (Swales &
Feak, 2000, 2004) and the research literature (e.g., Aguilar, 2004; Gosden, 2003;
Hyon & Chen, 2004).
However, less attention has been given to the fact that within visible, public genres
there exist features which are occluded (Pecorari, 2003). One example of occluded
features can be found in citations. While citations themselves are quite visible, some
aspects of what they signal are less so. For example, the reader of a new text cannot,
merely by reading the citing text, ordinarily know whether an idea, fact, etc. attributed to the earlier text is reported accurately. The relationship between the two texts
is, therefore occluded.
Because citation involves a referenceand often a minimal oneto something
external to the citing text, it is especially susceptible to occlusion. Indeed, the acceptance of some occlusion is implicit in the existence of conventions for citation. The
act of citing an earlier source creates a relationship between the citing and the cited
texts. The writer cannot, however, assume a reader with a suciently detailed knowledge of all the cited texts to be able to diagnose the nature of that relationship. The
conventional signals for source reporting are needed, therefore, to allow the writer to
reveal as much of the relationship as she or he thinks the reader needs to know. At
the same time the writer makes a tacit promise that the relationship is one which is
appropriate in the discourse community. Quotation marks, for example, not only
signal words repeated from a prior text, they promise the reader that the words
are repeated accurately, that they have not been taken out of context, that they come
from the work of the author who is named, and so on.
Whether this promise is kept depends on the writers skill (i.e., the ability to carry
out the rhetorical task of reporting sources transparently), on the writers integrity,
and on the writers expertise as a judge of what is acceptable within the discourse
community. In the case of postgraduates, however, expertise cannot be taken for
granted. By virtue of their status as students, it is accepted that their skills are in
a developmental state (hence the need for advisors to evaluate and guide their work).

D. Pecorari / English for Specic Purposes 25 (2006) 429

If that evaluation occurs on an ad hoc basis, though, there is reason to wonder


whether the occluded features will receive the attention they deserve.1
The conjunction of occluded textual features and ad hoc advising raises a number
of questions: as novice academic writers learn to write in their disciplinary discourse
communities, do they perform as satisfactorily on occluded textual features as on visible ones? Is feedback from supervisors directed where it is needed, or primarily at
the visible features of a text? And, most importantly, do novice writers gain sucient
skill in, and knowledge about, how they should perform academic writing in their
disciplines, during their postgraduate apprenticeships? The investigation reported
here addressed these questions through an analysis of the source use in the writing
of 17 postgraduate students in four academic disciplines. The texts were found to
be quite successful with regard to visible aspects of source use; however, the picture
that emerged of the occluded features was rather dierent.

2. Methods
The texts that made up the research corpus were written by nine masters students
and 8 Ph.D. students at three British universities, all of whom were non-native
speakers of English (NNSEs). To balance the competing needs of providing as much
context as possible for the writing samples and protecting the writers privacy, the
two subcorpora were gathered in dierent ways. In the case of the masters subcorpus, lecturers were contacted to ask whether they and their students would be willing
to take part in what was described in general terms as a study of academic writing.
This resulted in nine students completing the study: two each in biology, civil engineering, and education, and three in linguistics. None of the students or the supervisors were known to me before I solicited their involvement in the project. The
nine students and their supervisors agreed to take part in interviews, and to the
use of their writing (in the case of the students) or their comments on the writing
samples (in the case of the supervisors) in this project. So that the interviews could
be conducted during the period of active writing, the masters students were asked to
supply drafts of material which they anticipated would later be included in their dissertations.2 All complied, except for the two engineering students, who wrote no preliminary drafts prior to completing and submitting their dissertations. Although it
cannot be known how representative this relatively small number of students can
be said to be of postgraduate second-language writers, there is no reason to believe
1

Swales (1996) posits the relationship between novice status and occlusion as a loose one; access to the
occluded genres is likely to come with greater experience. In addition, the distinction between novice and
expert (or Junior and Senior Researchers, in Swales terms) is not a binary one but rather one of degree
(Swales, 2004, pp. 5657). This paper does not aim to explore fully the concept of occlusion (a pervasive
feature of language use which is by no means restricted to novices participation in a discourse
community), but rather examines occlusion in one site.
2
The terms thesis and dissertation are used dierently around the world. Here, the usage of the
students institutions will be adopted: the masters students wrote dissertations and the Ph.D. students
wrote theses. Supervisor and advisor will be used interchangeably.

D. Pecorari / English for Specic Purposes 25 (2006) 429

Table 1
Composition of the corpus by eld and level of study
Writing sample

Masters dissertations (draft)

Ph.D. theses (completed)

Writer

Length (number of words)

Writer

Length (number of words)

Science

Ingrid
Erden

2136
1373

Sci1
Sci2

2871
2805

Engineering

Yves
Pierre

2240
5025

Eng1
Eng2

3261
3237

Social science

Graciela
Maria

4227
3651

SS1
SS2

2314
2665

Humanities

Roula
Kwan
Helen

2430
2797
3510

H1
H2

3439
3474

Total number of words

51,455

Average number of words per writing sample

3027

that they diered substantially from their peers in any respect which might inuence
these ndings, apart from, perhaps, their willingness to participate in this study,
which might tentatively be interpreted as speaking to a degree of commitment to
and interest in writing well.
For the reasons detailed above, the masters writing samples were in draft form. In
order to include some nal-draft writing in the corpus, the Ph.D. subcorpus was composed of samples from completed Ph.D. theses taken from the shelves of the students
university libraries. No contact was made with the students or their supervisors. Selections of approximately equal length were selected from the early chapters of eight theses, two each from the four disciplines represented in the masters subcorpus. In all,
the corpus contained over 51,000 words with each writing sample averaging just over
3000. Table 1 gives details of the composition of the corpus. (To insure the anonymity
of the writers, the names of the masters students have been changed and the names of
the writers departments and universities are not given.)
The focus of this investigation was the visible and occluded use of sources and
citation in the student writing samples. Three aspects of source use proved to be relevant to the question of occlusion: (1) secondary citation; (2) the nature of the
sources used and reported; and (3) language repeated from the source. Investigating
these three areas involved rst establishing what the expectations of the writers disciplinary discourse communities were likely to be; then examining the visible portions of the texts; and, nally, examining the occluded aspects.
2.1. Establishing disciplinary expectations
A range of sources was used to shed light on what appropriate means in the
contexts of the disciplines considered here. A large body of the literature has addressed writing within academic disciplines (e.g., Becher & Trowler, 2001; Charles,

D. Pecorari / English for Specic Purposes 25 (2006) 429

2003; Hyland, 2000; Shaw, 1992, 2003; Swales, 1990, 1998, among many others).
Interviews with the writers and their supervisors, the observation of similarities
and dierences within and across disciplines in the corpus itself, and widely accepted
principles of source use also informed the question of appropriateness.
Secondary citation refers to a report of a source based not on the source itself, but
upon an account of it from another, later text. The MLA Style Manual and Guide to
Scholarly Writing expresses a preference for avoiding this form of citation: Whenever you can, take material from the original source, not a secondhand one (Gibaldi,
1998, p. 245). The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association
concurs that it is preferable to read and cite primary sources whenever possible
(American Psychological Association, 2001, p. 245). Both manuals agree that when
sources are used at second hand, the citation should make that clear, and on that
point there is likely to be widespread agreement.
The types of sources cited in an academic text are necessarily constrained by the
topic and therefore by the discipline in which the text is produced. Bechers useful
identication of urban and rural elds helps explain the preference of certain
disciplines for certain types of sources. Urban elds resemble big-city life in that they
are characterized by a densely concentrated population[,] a generally busyoccasionally freneticpace of life, a high level of collective activity, close competition
for space and resources, and a rapid and heavily used information network while
the opposite is generally true of a rural eld (Becher & Trowler, 2001, p. 106). Urban
elds tend to be in the sciences,3 while the soft disciplines and the hard, applied ones,
are often rural in nature (Becher & Trowler, 2001, p. 108). The areas represented in
the present study bear this out; the scientists alone could be said to participate in an
urban research environment.
Rural elds tend to favor book publications, while in urban elds the journal article dominates (Becher & Trowler, 2001, p. 110). Citing discussion by Whitley (1984)
and by Grith and Small (1983), Becher and Trowler (2001) discuss this preference
largely in terms of the extent to which topics require explanation and elaboration.
Where detailed accounts of complex procedures and close reasoning are needed, a
journal article may not oer sucient space to address the topic.
Clearly the nature of a research project determines the amount of space needed to
describe it, as illustrated by the fact that articles in technical elds are frequently under ten pages in length, while in the social sciences they can easily be more than double that. However, speed is likely also to be a consideration, since the fast pace of
urban elds puts a premium on rapid publication. Journal publication lends itself
to speed, and some journals are especially responsive to the need to disseminate ndings quickly. For example, the Lancet is published weekly, and oers an accelerated
3
Naturally, these broad classications, like all generalizations, apply better to some members of the
group than others. The scientists in the present study were in a branch of plant biology which greatly
resembles an urban eld as described above. On the other hand, for the botanists whose working practices
are described by Swales (1998) there are more research topics than researchers to do the work, and the
lifetime of a project can extend beyond the lifetime of the researcher. Swales botanists are, therefore, at the
extreme end of the rural scale.

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D. Pecorari / English for Specic Purposes 25 (2006) 429

refereeing process which can result in an article appearing in print within four weeks
of it being submitted. The prestigious Science4 publishes some papers electronically
before they appear in a paper edition. This dierential need for rapid publication is
conrmed by the broad range in time from submission to publication, which can be
as little as three months or as long as three years, depending on the eld (Becher &
Trowler, 2001, p. 112). So while there is likely to be considerable overlap among the
disciplines with regard to type of source cited, the (urban) scientists would be expected to show a preference for journal articles, especially newer ones, and the other
(rural) elds to cite a wider range of sources, including books and older sources.
With regard to language repeated from sources, disciplinary dierences are more
clear cut. Quotationthe repetition of language from a source, made evident by the
use of quotation marks or another typographical devicecomprises a signicant
minority of citations in the soft disciplines, but is vanishingly rare in hard elds.5
One of the biology supervisors conrmed this, commenting . . .it just wouldnt happen in a masters or Ph.D. thesis, you just wouldnt expect to see it, and I dont think
I ever have. This dierence may be dictated by the epistemological demands of hard
and soft elds. If a knowledge claim is based on objective fact, any accurate rendering of that fact is as good as any other. Where subjective claims are at stake (as they
often are in soft elds) especially great care may be needed to give a nuanced rendering, making claims neither stronger nor weaker than the original author intended.
Explicit quotation can be one strategy for accomplishing this.
Regardless of discipline, language repeated from a source should appear within
quotation marks, or in narrower margins (in the case of longer quotations), or
should otherwise be marked as coming from another source. The principle that quotation, when it used, must be signaled, is thought to be widely accepted across disciplines, and the fact that university disciplinary policies uniformly categorize
unsignaled repetition as plagiarism (Pecorari, 2001) suggests that no need is perceived to specify exceptions for particular disciplines.
It is noteworthy that arriving at the above description of best practice in source
use entails drawing on sources as disparate as prescriptive writing guides, descriptive
accounts of academic texts, and reports from individual informants. This highlights
the fact that expectations for writing within the disciplines have been codied unevenly, leaving many lacunae. For example, the MLA and APA guides oer negrained descriptions of scholarly writing practices, and are widely accepted as
authoritative within the humanities and social sciences, respectively. However, writers in the sciences and engineering lack a similarly detailed guide.
The scarcity of comprehensive standards has two practical implications for the
present research. First, it enhances the role of existing texts as models. Second, there
is likely to be some disagreementperhaps considerable disagreementabout general principles and how to apply them in practice. From the point of view of the nov4
Information for authors on http://www.thelancet.com/info/info?n1=authorinfo&n2=fast+track and
http://www.sciencemag.org/feature/contribinfo/prep/gen_info.shtml#express, respectively, both accessed
9 August 2004.
5
Swales (2004, p. 139) notes that psychology and economics also make sparing use of quotation.

D. Pecorari / English for Specic Purposes 25 (2006) 429

11

ice attempting to enter the discourse community this is unfortunate, as the likely concern of such a writer will be not only to produce texts which are acceptable to inuential individual readers such as advisors and examiners, but also to the disciplinary
discourse community generally.
2.2. Examining the visible features
Because of the highly conventional nature of citation in academic writing, identifying the visible manifestations of source use in the student writing samples was
straightforward. Secondary citation was identied where it was signaled by means
of the conventional Smith, as cited in Jones, or by a similar device. For example,
although Roulas citation in (1), is not in precisely the form advocated by writing
manuals, the mention of Hegel immediately followed by a citation to Cooper spells
out clearly that Hegel was not a primary source.
(1) Hegel regarded a dead metaphor as one that has lost its power to call up ideas
which the words once expressed (Cooper, 1986, p. 24). [Roula 6:1e]
The type of publication cited, and the year in which it was published, were also
evident in most cases from the citation and reference list (although 44, or nearly
10%, of the sources cited could not reliably be classied according to type, most often because entries in the reference list were missing or incomplete, particularly
among the (draft) dissertation writing samples). Similarly, quotation could be identied by the presence of quotation marks, the use of narrower margins for longer
quotations or, rarely, some other explicit textual device.
2.3. Examining the occluded features
By contrast, the very nature of occluded features meant that identifying them was
more complex and involved a certain amount of inference. Investigating the occluded citation features entailed examining not only the 17 writing samples but
the sources they cited. Altogether the student texts used and/or referred to 481
sources. Of these, 363, or three-quarters, were obtained. Portions of the student-written texts, accounting for nearly 31,000 words, or 60% of the corpus, were then compared to the sources to establish the relationship between each source and the
writers representation of it. Some parts of the student texts could not be compared,
for one of a number of reasons, including the absence of a citation, presumably indicating that the passage in question was original to the writer, or the unavailability of
the cited source.
In order to assess whether occlusion was involved in the rst two areassecondary citation and the nature of the source usedit was necessary to determine
whether the source cited was the one actually used at a given point in the student
text. This was done primarily on the basis of a degree of similarity between a portion
of the student writing sample and another text which indicated that the latter was
likely to be the source for the former, as in example (2).

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D. Pecorari / English for Specic Purposes 25 (2006) 429

Example (2a) comes from a student writing sample, (b) comes from Berg (1987), a
source cited elsewhere by the student but not in this section of the text, and (c) comes
from Deese (1984), the source cited by the student (here and elsewhere, the origin of
examples is given in square brackets and italics, underlining indicates language in
common between the student text and its source, and bold type indicates language
in common between two sources).
(2a) Deese 1984 does not nd a single example of a genuine spoonerism in his taperecorded English corpus and thinks that exchange is rarer than commonly supposed (p. 17). [H1 26:2g]
(2b) In his tape-recorded English corpus, Deese 1984 does not nd a single example
of a genuine spoonerism and concludes that this error category is much rarer
than we commonly suppose (Deese, 1984, p. 118). [(Berg, 1987, pp. 2829)]
(2c) Notice that there are, with one possible exception, no completed spoonerisms.
Neighboring speech sounds (with, as Lashley and others have observed, anticipation being the norm) are often the source of mispronounced words, but I
suspect that the complete reversals for spoonerisms are much rarer than we
commonly suppose. [Deese, 1984, p. 118]
The strong similarity between (2a) and (2b) forms the basis for the conclusion that
H1 has cited Deese at second hand, through Berg. The H1 passage can be subdivided
into three strings, (1) Deese (1984) does not nd a single example of a genuine spoonerism; (2) in his tape-recorded English corpus; and (3) thinks that exchange is rarer
than commonly supposed (p. 17). The rst two strings appear in identical form in
Berg, although reversed. The third string is not identical but shows great similarity
to Berg, as Table 2 illustrates.
The third string diers from Berg in six respects: (1) the choice of reporting verb;
(2) exchange in place of this error category (exchange was the error category
intended by Berg); (3) Berg retains much in the quotation from Deese, while H1
omits it; (4) Berg retains we suppose from Deese, while the student gives it in
the passive; (5) Berg signals six words as quotation, while H1 does not, perhaps because of the last two changes; and (6) in the nal citation, Berg repeats Deese 1984
as well as the page number, while H1 gives only the page number (note the discrepancy; Bergs reference is correct). In spite of these dierences, the underlying similarity of structure suggests that H1s string can be viewed as a modied version of
Bergs.

Table 2
Partial comparison of H1 and Berg (note that Bergs commonly appears out of order for ease of
comparison)
H1
Berg

and thinks
that exchange is
rarer than commonly supposed
(p. 17)
and concludes that this error is much rarer than commonly we suppose (Deese 1984,
category
p. 118)

D. Pecorari / English for Specic Purposes 25 (2006) 429

13

This interpretation is supported by the fact that the similarity between H1 and
Berg is greater than the similarity of either passage to Deese. Apart from the string
in Table 2, only the word spoonerism occurs in all three passages. The dierences
between (2a/b) and (2c) fall into two categories. First, Berg and H1 are more concise
than Deese: the qualication with one possible exception is omitted, as is the discussion of interactions with neighboring speech sounds. These two omissions are
hardly conclusive, since both involve propositions ancillary to Deeses main point;
they are, therefore, precisely the sort of detail that would tend to be left out of a reference to this point in Deeses book. More signicant is the reference in (2a) and (2b)
to the absence of genuine spoonerisms; Deese has completed spoonerisms, contrasting
them with aborted spoonerisms (Deese, 1984, pp. 118119), in which speakers begin exchange errors and then interrupt and correct themselves. Genuine is not an
obvious paraphrasing choice; its presence in both H1 and Berg is yet another similarity which, taken with those described above, suggests that the H1 and Berg wordings indicate unacknowledged secondary citation.
Two caveats should be noted, though. First, however likely it is that Berg was the
source of H1s account of Deeseand I have argued that it is likely indeedit remains an inference. The theoretical possibility can never be entirely eliminated that
the similarity is a result of coincidence, regardless of the degree of similarity between
two texts.6 Second, the conclusion that H1 reported Deeses work through Bergs account of it does not preclude the possibility that H1 also read Deese. That would not,
however, mitigate the potential consequences of adding an additional link to the
chain of reporting. Those consequences will be illustrated below.
Establishing occludedi.e., unsignaledrepetition of language involved comparing passages from the student texts with their sources. The conventions used for identifying shared words included the following: words were counted if they were spelled
dierently as a result of typographical error or dierent spelling conventions, or if
they were inected dierently for tense or number, but not if they appeared in two
texts as dierent word classes. Thus (invented examples), (3a) and (3b) are considered
to share dramatic, change(s), have/has, been and reali(z/s)ed, but not recent/recently.
(3a) In recent years, dramatic changes have been realized.
(3b) Recently, a dramatic change has been realised.
Important to note is that this comparison did not count all the words shared by
entire texts, but only those in contextually related sections. So, for example, spoonerism in (2a), is counted as being present in both texts, not only because the word occurs

Nor could the writer settle the question conclusively, since a writers memory, awareness of the writing
process and candour would always be open to question. Coincidence, though, is an implausible
explanation for cases like example 2. The shorter of the two strings shared by H1 and Berg is in his taperecorded English corpus. Corpus alone turns up 6,450,000 hits on Google, while the phrase English
corpus turns up 23,800, and no hits are generated for tape-recorded English corpus. This hints at the
scope of the coincidence involved in the longer of the two strings being re-created independently of Berg,
and then all three strings co-occurring.

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D. Pecorari / English for Specic Purposes 25 (2006) 429

in both but because it occurs in the repeated phrase does not nd a single example of
a genuine spoonerism, and because (2a) and (2b) address the same topic in a similar
way. Finally, all sources used for comparison were included in reference lists or otherwise identied by the writers, although not always in proximity to the part of the text
under comparison. It is possible that entirely uncited texts may have been used in
some or all of the writing samples.

3. Visible and occluded source use in the writing samples


The preceding section described conventional and expected features of source use
in four disciplines. The extent to which the texts in this corpus match the above
description can be taken as an indication of the writers success both in understanding what their disciplines expect of them, and in meeting those expectations. With
respect to the visible features, the writers performance was very much in line with
expectations; the use of acknowledged secondary citation, the nature of the sources
cited, and the signaling of quotation, fell within the bounds described. However,
when the occluded elements were examined, a dierent picture emerged.
3.1. Secondary citation
Secondary citation, as noted above, is generally less desirable than a reference to
the primary source, and should be signaled clearly when used. An examination of the
citations in this corpus indicate limited use of secondary citation. Altogether 858 instances of a source being mentioned occur in the corpus. (To arrive at this gure,
repeated mentions of the same source were counted separately, as were multiple
works referred to in a single citation.) As Fig. 1 shows, only 17 of the 858 source
mentions involve acknowledged secondary citation, with no such citations occurring
in biology, one in engineering and eight in each of the other two elds. In no eld is
this feature as common as once per 1000 words. One of the few examples of acknowledged secondary citation is shown in (4).
(4) Despite the commitment and involvement of those who held pastoral roles, . . .
(teachers) were largely ineective because their eorts were unbacked by a
structured programme of skills-based guidance for success. They saw themselves as solely concerned with the provision of emotional rst aid. . . (Hamblin, 1981, cited in Megahy, 1998, p. 28). [Graciela 3:4b]
However, the comparison of the student texts with their sources shows that this
supercial appearance of compliance with common practice is misleading. A much
larger number of citations appear to have been included through a secondary source,
without acknowledgement, as in example (5). Although the student text in (5a) refers
only to Bjerrum at this point, a source acknowledged elsewhere in the writing sample
reports the same point from Bjerrum, in similar language, suggesting that student
based this account of Bjerrum on Brenner et al.s.

D. Pecorari / English for Specic Purposes 25 (2006) 429

15

Secondary Citation
70

60

Acknowledged
Unacknowledged

Occurrences

50

40

30

20

10

0
SCI

ENG

HUM

SS

Fig. 1. Frequency of secondary citation.

(5a) The eect of the weathering process on both the shear strength and compressibility of clay has been explained by Bjerrum (1967) in the manner illustrated in
Figure (2.9). [Eng2 28:2]
(5b) The eect of weathering on strength and compressibility has been explained by
Bjerrum (1967) in the manner illustrated in Fig. 2.37. [Brenner, Nutalaya, Chilingarian, and Robertson, 1981, p. 205]
Similarly, in (6a), the student refers to Fischer et al. (1982) and Lombardi et al.
(1985).
(6a) Mannan which is a major constituent of the cell wall in C. albicans, inhibits a
Candida antigen-induced in vitro proliferation of normal lymphocytes and also
blocks the antigen-presenting ability of macrophages (Fischer et al., 1982).//In
addition, the polysaccharide fractions from C. albicans stimulate T-cells to produce a suppressor factor, which inhibits interleukin 1 and interleukin 2 production (Lombardi et al., 1985). [Sci2 26:1c]
(6b) Manna, a major constituent of the cell wall in C. albicans, was detected in the
serum of some patients with mucocutaneous candidiasis (Fischer et al., 1978).
Mannan inhibited a Candida antigen-induced in vitro proliferation of normal
lymphocytes and also blocked the antigen-presenting ability of macrophages
(Fischer et al., 1982).//In another study, polysaccharide fractions (containing
mostly mannose and glucose residues) from C. albicans stimulated the T-cells
to produce a suppressor factor, which in turn inhibited interleukin 1 and interleukin 2 production (Lombardi et al., 1985). [(Datta, Ganesan, & Natarajan,
1989, p. 70)]

16

D. Pecorari / English for Specic Purposes 25 (2006) 429

Datta et al. (1989) refer to the same two sources, and in virtually identical wording,
leading to the nearly inescapable conclusion that this report of the two sources was
based on Datta et al.s secondary account of them, although the citation does not
reect that. A further misleading impression is that it was the student who identied
relevant research articles and was able not only to describe their ndings, but to
relate them to each other and show how each contributes to informing a wider topic.
In (6b) we see that that eort was not the students but Datta et al.s.
This is a substantive point, not merely a formal one, as (7a) and (7b) demonstrate.
(Here and elsewhere, all typographical and grammatical errors were present in the
original, although, to avoid breaking up the example, the conventional sic is
not used.)
(7a) A major opponent of Shattuck-Hufnagel and Klatts conclusion is found in
Goldstein (1980) and van den Broecke and Goldstein (1980). Glostein has
found evidence for feature processing in 16-consonant confusion matrices
involving speech errors, listening errors for CV and VC syllables in a noisy
environment. Van den Broecke and Goldstein conclude that these robust categorical features play a role in the representation of consonants during both
speech production and perception. This analysis is supplemented by data from
German and Dutch, as is admitted by Shattuck-Hufnagel and Klatt (1979, p.
53), represents the best currently available evidence for the processing of features during speech (van den Broeke and Goldstein also investigated German
and Dutch data, in Fromkin, 1980). [H1 33:2]
(7b) A formal way to ask this question has recently been described by Goldstein
(Note 1). He has found evidence for three features (voicing, continuant, and
aspects of place of articulation) in 16-consonant confusion matrices involving
(1) speech errors, (2) listening errors for CV syllables in noise, and (3) listening
errors for VC syllables in noise. He concludes that these robust categorical
features play a role in the representation of consonants during both speech production and perception. This analysis probably represents the best currently
available evidence for the processing of features during speech production
and perception, but it is by no means conclusive. [Shattuck-Hufnagel and
Klatt, 1979, p. 53]
In (7a), the writer presents two opposing points of view, one held by co-authors
Shattuck-Hufnagel and Klatt and the other held by Goldstein, who is cited alone
and together with a co-author, van den Broecke. The passage begins with the writers
assertion that the two views are in opposition and then outlines Goldsteins evidence,
the conclusions reached by van den Broecke and Goldstein on the basis of that evidence, and nally reports Shattuck-Hufnagel and Klatts concession that that evidence has value. However, on examining Shattuck-Hufnagel and Klatt, it becomes
evident that this account of work done by their major opponent was written by
them. It was not the (presumably neutral) writer who had assessed the relative merits
of these two bodies of work, and the reliability of the assessment is called into question by the knowledge that it was drafted by a partisan in the conict.

D. Pecorari / English for Specic Purposes 25 (2006) 429

17

Secondary Citation / 1000 words


4.5

Occurrences per 1000 words

4
3.5
3

Acknowledged

2.5

Unacknowledged

2
1.5
1
0.5
0
SCI

ENG

HUM

SS

Fig. 2. Secondary citation per 1000 words of text.

This, presumably, is one of the reasons for the widely accepted principle that secondary citation should be acknowledged: so that the reader can judge whose interpretation is being put forward. Another reason may be simple accuracy, since the
more links in the transmission of a message, the more inaccuracies can creep in.
Nonetheless, unacknowledged secondary citation was prominent in this corpus,
amounting to 137 source mentions, eight times the number that were acknowledged,
so that 18% of all source mentions are at second hand (see Fig. 1). The reality conicts, therefore, with the supercial appearance that secondary citation is a marginal
feature. As Fig. 2 shows, the presence of this feature averages just over 2 occurrences
per 1000 words in the corpus, and rises to over 4 per 1000 words in the science and
humanities sub-corpora. It is interesting to note that the scientists, the group which
acknowledged no secondary citation, nearly tie with the humanities writers as the
heaviest users of it.
The 17 texts in this corpus thus presented the appearance of being in compliance
with conventions governing secondary references to sources. However, when this occluded aspect of source use was examined more closely, the appearance of conformity was not maintained.
3.2. Details of the sources
Given the preference of urban scholars to publish quickly and in journals, the
expectation was that the biologists would cite more journal articles, and more recent
ones, than the other writers. This expectation was met: the average age of the sources
cited by the scientists was 9 years, but more than double that, ranging from 19 to 22
years, for the other elds (see Fig. 3). Research articles made up 85% of the sources
cited by the biologists, but not more that 24% of those in the other elds (see Fig. 4).

18

D. Pecorari / English for Specic Purposes 25 (2006) 429

Source Age
25

Age Cited
20

Age Used

Year s

15

10

SCI

ENG

HUM

SS

Fig. 3. Age of sources.

Citation of RAs

100

RAs cited

Number ofcited RAs [%]

80

RAs used

60

40

20

0
SCI

ENG

HUM

SS

Fig. 4. Research articles as a proportion of all sources cited and used.

The biologists give the impression, therefore, of being sensitive to the need to contextualize their work in the most recent research literature.
However, because of the presence of secondary citation, the group of sources cited
in the writing samples was not precisely the same as the group of sources which were

D. Pecorari / English for Specic Purposes 25 (2006) 429

19

determined actually to have been used. As Fig. 3 shows, when the sources actually
used are considered, the picture changes somewhat. The proportion of RAs among
the scientists sources is slightly lower80%. The sources used are also somewhat
younger for all groups since, clearly, secondary sources have later publication dates
than the primary sources they report. In (8a), for example, Ingrid cites a 1994 study
by Kennard et al., but the similarity with Ferreira et al.s slightly later paper (8b) suggests that Ingrid based her account on the latter.
(8a) In B. oleracea, two marker loci associated with owering time showed signicant additive additive and additive dominant epistasis in a cross of cabbage
and broccoli (Kennard et al.). [Ingrid 4:1]
(8b) Likewise, in B. oleracea, two marker loci associated with owering time
showed signicant additive additive and additive dominant epistasis in a
cross of cabbage and broccoli (Kennard et al., 1994). [Ferreira, Stagopan, Yandell, Williams, and Osborn, 1995, p. 731]
The relevance of giving a misleading impression about the age of sources depends
on the discipline involved. For the urban biologists, citing and using recently published sources is positive. However, the fact that the sources used by the scientists
were more recent on average than those cited does not indicate that they were also
more up-to-date, as (9) illustrates. The sources cited in (9a) are research articles,
but as in example (5), the source appears to have been Datta et al. (1989), which is
not a research article but a review article of Current trends in Candida Albicans research. Thus, while the source used for this passage is in fact newer than those which
were cited, it is simply a retelling of older ndings and not a report of newer ones.
(9a) True hyphal cells have perforated septa and the cell junctions are not constricted. Chlamydospores are thick walled asexual spores formed by the rounding up of pre-existing cells (Odds et al., 1985; Torosantucci and Cassone, 1983).
[Sci2 18:2bii]
(9b) True hyphal cells are longer than blastoconidia and have perforated septa; cell
junctions are not constricted. Chlamydospores are thick-walled asexual spores
formed by the rounding up of pre-existing cells (Torosantucci and Cassone,
1983; Odds, 1985). [Datta et al., 1989, pp. 5859]
By contrast, some research topics benet from a historical grounding, and reference to some older sources speaks to the writer having taken an appropriately broad
time perspective. Such an impression given by Kwans discussion of educational evaluation in (10a), in which she appears to trace the changing understanding of evaluation, citing Tyler as an example of the early 20th century view, Cronbach for the
1960s and Popham on a change that had come about by the 1970s. From (10b) it
is clear that the historical progression has been outlined by Popham. Kwans role
has been to condense Pophams overview (the ellipses in the quotation from Popham
represent signicant amounts of omitted text), rather than to synthesize the original
sources.

20

D. Pecorari / English for Specic Purposes 25 (2006) 429

(10a) For centuries evaluation has been used by classroom teachers as an equivalent
of testing. Later on in early 1900s evaluation was accorded by some researchers a dierent function, i.e., appraisal of an educational programmes quality.
(Tyler, for example.) Then in 1960s Cronbach argued in one of his articles
entitled Course Improvement Through Evaluation for the necessity of focussing educational evaluation on the development process of a programme
(1963). In the early 1970s, evaluation was seen as a facilitator for decisionmaking in educational programmes. As Popham puts it In the early 1970s,
however, there was a pervasive belief that well-conducted educational evaluations could, and should, constitute the single most important factor in the
rendering of educational decisions. (1988:5). [Kwan 2:3]
(10b) For centuries the term evaluation has been used by classroom teachers. . . For
most educators, indeed, the idea of evaluation was essentially equivalent to
the idea of testing. . . In 1932 Ralph W. Tyler. . . came to view evaluation
not as the appraisal of students, but rather as the appraisal of an educational
programs quality. . . In a 1963 article entitled Course Improvement through
Evaluation,. . . Cronbach argued that if educational evaluation were to be of
assistance to curriculum developers, it had to be focused on the decisions
faced by curriculum specialists during the process of their development
eorts. . . In the early 1970s, however, there was a pervasive belief that wellconducted educational evaluations could, and should, constitute the single
most important factor in the rendering of educational decisions. [Popham,
1988, pp. 12]
Thus, with regard to the types of sources cited and used, the writers again can be
seen to have conformed supercially to disciplinary expectations. The urban biologists cited much more recent ndings, and a high proportion of research articles,
compared with the writers in the other three elds. These tendencies were, however,
less marked in the actual source use.
3.3. Imported language
It was expected that the science and engineering writers would avoid explicit quotation, and that those in the humanities and social sciences would use it as a minority
strategy, and this proved to be the case. Among the eight science and engineering
texts, only one, a masters dissertation in engineering, includes explicit quotation.
On the other hand, the humanities and social science texts contain 181 quotations
(see Fig. 5).
(11) However, despite the research and studies on this subject, both the nature and
scope of personal and social education remain controversial. (Galloway, 1990,
p. 1). [Graciela 2:2]
(12) Indeed, Trumper and Rizzi (1985) maintain that since the origins of this phenomenon aect not only Greek, it is more plausible to talk about a Sprachbund balcanico-calabrese meridionale-salentina (p. 70). [H2 42:1a]

D. Pecorari / English for Specic Purposes 25 (2006) 429

21

Presence of Quotations

120

Occurrences

100

80

60

40

20

0
SCI

ENG

HUM

SS

Fig. 5. Frequency of signaled quotation.

Quotation is, however, a visible feature only as long as it is signaled. Ordinarily, a


reader assumes that language not signaled as quotation has been composed by the
writer, not repeated from another source. However, in this corpus that assumption
is not reliable. Numerous passages contain language repeated (nearly) verbatim from
a source, without quotation marks, and often without mention of the source. Examples of this appear in (13), (14) and (15).
(13a) Sensitivity, S, is usually dened as the ratio between the undisturbed shear
strength to the remoulded shear strength, as determined either from vane test
or from unconned compression test. [Eng2 23:5]
(13b) Sensitivity, St, is usually dened as the ratio of the undisturbed shear strength
to the remoulded shear strength, determined either from vane tests or from
unconned compression tests. [Brenner et al., 1981, pp. 214215]
(14a) This view is not shared by those who distinguish that the practices appropriate
in the pastoral sphere may not always be appropriate in the academic sphere
(and vice versa), and even that separate organisational arrangements may be
necessary (Best, Ribbins, Jarvis, & Oddy, 1983, p. 276). [Graciela 3:2]
(14b) . . . there are grounds for arguing that the practices appropriate in the pastoral
sphere may not always be appropriate in the academic sphere (and vice versa),
and even that separate organizational arrangements may be necessary. [Best
et al., 1983, p. 276]
(15a) The control of owering time is a process of primary importance in agriculture and also of great scientic interest for the understanding of plant development. [Ingrid 3:1a]
(15b) The control of owering time is a process of primary importance in agriculture and also of great scientic interest for the understanding of plant development. [Lagercrantz, Putterill, Coupland, and Lydiate, 1996, p. 13]

22

D. Pecorari / English for Specic Purposes 25 (2006) 429

Unattributed Quotation

100

Portion Repeated [%]

80

60

40

20

0
SCI

ENG

HUM

SS

Fig. 6. Unattributed quotation as a proportion of compared writing samples.

Repetition of this sort is surprisingly common in the corpus. Considered as a proportion of the parts of the writing samples which were compared to their sources,
and excluding language signaled as quotation, 41% of the corpus consists of language repeated without attribution from sources. Interestingly, as Fig. 6 shows,
the writers who relied most on unsignaled repetition from their sources were the biologiststhe group which made no use at all of signaled quotation.
In three respects, thenthe use of secondary citation, the nature of the sources
reported and the use of explicit quotationthe texts give the appearance of conforming closely to expectations. Standards for secondary citation are likely to be
broadly shared across academic areas, while disciplines dier in the types of sources
used, and the acceptability of quoting language from a source. With regard to the
type and age of the source referred to, the prole presented by the science writers
sharply diers from the other three groups, and Bechers urban and rural distinction
oers an explanation for the dierence. The presence or absence of signaled quotation is accounted for by the familiar distinction between hard and soft subject areas.
In all three areas, the visible aspects of source use approximate disciplinary expectations more closely than the occluded aspects, which in some cases violate common
standards.

4. Explaining the divergence


Why did the writers in this study use sources in ways which so sharply diverged
from the predictable expectations of their discourse communities? Were the mis-

D. Pecorari / English for Specic Purposes 25 (2006) 429

23

leading aspects of source use intentional? This last is an important question since
inappropriate source use may be interpreted as plagiarism. While space does not
permit a full discussion of the role of intention in plagiarism, it should be noted
that a current trend in composition theory is concerned with providing alternative
explanations for dependence on the language of sources. Howard (1995, 1999) has
coined the term patchwriting to describe the dependence of novice writers on the
language of their sources, and argues that this is a common developmental stage.
Anecdotal accounts of writers who use the language of their sources without adequate attribution, but who seem to be motivated by something other than a
straightforward intention to cheat, can be found in Crocker and Shaw (2002), Currie (1998), Hull and Rose (1989), Matalene (1985), and Petric (2004), among others, and empirical evidence is provided by Pecorari (2003). Barks and Watts (2001)
argue for the need to raise students awareness of the complexities of issues in
source use, complexities which electronic media augment (Belcher, 2001; Bloch,
2001).
A number of alternatives are therefore available to the view that apparent plagiarism stems from an intentionally deceptive act. A further explanation that can be
added to these is the role that visibility and occlusion play in students eorts to enter
their discourse communities. Visibility is a key element in Lave and Wengers (1991)
articulation of legitimate peripheral participation. In the successful apprenticeship
they describe for tailors in West Africa, novices performed small tasks which exposed the relationship between pieces of a garment and the whole. By contrast,
apprentice butchers in a supermarket were blocked from learning, in part by the
physical layout of the workplace, which prevented them from seeing what the skilled
workers did: the working practices they were to learn were quite literally invisible to
them. Visibility is achieved when novices can observe the work processes, and not
merely their products.
Theses and dissertations are often produced and assessed with emphasis on the
product. It is reasonable to think that students model their own eorts at least in part
on the scholarly publications they read; they can, however, observe only the visible
features of the nished product. Students reading a published research article can
only guess whether the writer always consulted primary sources, cited sources accurately and signaled all quotations; a similar blind spot aects supervisors reading student texts. The processes and features that are not visible cannot be observed, but
only inferred.
In interviews, the student writers whose texts were investigated here emphasized
the tentative nature of their inferences. Ingrid, a biologist, explained that she was
uncertain to some extent about her writing but tried to observe what other writers
did: I think everyones doing it in more or less the same way. Having made their
best eorts, the students relied upon their advisors to judge their success. As Roula
said:
thats why I think the tutor has to. . . be a part of the whole thing, to read the
paraphrases and quotations and tell you if youre doing the right place, or if
you have to rewrite it, or if you dont have to just mention it at all.

24

D. Pecorari / English for Specic Purposes 25 (2006) 429

Ingrid, whose work leant heavily on its sources, agreed: I just do what I think I supposed to and they never actually make that much comments about it. (Here and
elsewhere, quotations from the interviews are verbatim, with nonstandard lexical
and grammatical usage maintained.)
The writers applied a straightforward principle: they inferred rules, attempted to
put them into practice, and waited for feedback. When the feedback did not include comments on source use, the students assumed that theirs was appropriate,
along with the inferences that guided it. For similar reasons the supervisors were
unaware of the problems with source use. Early in our interviews, I asked the
supervisors to comment generally on the strengths and weaknesses of the texts,
and their responses indicated that although the dissertation samples were drafts,
and therefore oered scope for improvement, they were broadly acceptable. The
comments of Dr. Frost, Ingrids supervisor, are revealing. He noted that she had
come to the study of plants through a background in animal biology and that
much of the relevant literature was new to her. However, he concluded, Shes
made a reasonable job of trying to understand what people are doing and why
theyre trying to do it. Dr. Frost criticized Ingrids work for referencing a relatively small proportion of the available literature on the topic but said clearly
shes found a lot of key ones, adding that the program wanted students to give
their topics broad coverage, and yes, she has. However, when we looked together at Ingrids text and its sources, this assessment changed sharply. Dr. Frost
was clear in categorizing Ingrids strategies as inappropriate: That is not what
theyre expected to do, and if Id spotted it I would have been very concerned about
it, yes [emphasis added].
The occluded aspects of academic writing were, therefore, in a blind spot for the
students and supervisors both. Certainly the students could have asked their supervisors to comment on their performance, but doing so would have presupposed an
awareness of what issues need comment. From the supervisors side, investigating
the occluded features of every student text would have been impossible in practical
terms. Dr. Frost noted this reality:
It worries me that she has taken a large chunk very much verbatim from published work and it doesnt surprise me that were not spotting it with so many
coming through all we do, youve got half an hour for each project report,
theres no way most people would have the time to go back and check to what
extent this sort of straight copying has occurred. Im not happy about it.
More importantly though, investigating the occluded features would reect suspicion
of the text. Precisely because the relationship between a source and a report of it is
occluded, it is widely accepted that source reports should be transparent; that is, they
should use the conventional signals to create an accurate portrait of the relationship
(Groom, 2000; Tadros, 1993). The absence of transparency is more often treated as a
question of academic ethics than of skills. An advisor would ordinarily investigate
the occluded features of a students text only if he or she suspected deliberate, transgressive behavior. That, thankfully, is not part of the typical advisor-student relationship. Thus, worryingly, these students and supervisors approached their tasks

D. Pecorari / English for Specic Purposes 25 (2006) 429

25

with strategies which left the occluded source features not only uninvestigated but
also unsuspected.
Non-normative source use was not detected because it was occluded. How did it
arise in the rst place? Of a number of factors which may have contributed to the
situation, two are closely related to the question of occlusion. First, the fact that
source relationships are occluded to the reader of a text aected both the supervisors,
as readers of their students work, and the students, as readers of the scholarly literature. The students prime opportunities to learnobservations of texts in their
elds, and feedbackonly educated them about visible textual features.
Second, occluded textual features may mask a gap between what the academic
community says it expects, and what is actually done. A case in point is the reporting
of secondary sources. In a survey of university plagiarism policies (Pecorari, 2001)
unacknowledged secondary citation was actually identied as a form of plagiarism,
evidence that secondary citation is addressedat least at some institutionsat a university-wide level, and not considered to need a discipline-specic approach. Yet the
instance of unattributed secondary citation in (16) was defended by the student and
supervisor involved as entirely appropriate.
(16) The medium developed by Murashige and Skoog (1962) (see Appendix: Student sources) for tobacco tissue culture is being used extensively in micro propagation of Mentha, as well as other plants. [Erden 3:1a]
Because this paper was conspicuous by being much older than the others Erden
cited, I asked him and his supervisor to comment on it. Erden explained that the
medium described in the paper is one which everybody uses. His supervisor concurred that the paper was widely used and cited, but not widely read:
A journal would insist on. . . that reference, Murashige and Skoog must be
among the most widely cited papers ever and virtually nobody will have read
it but everybody has to cite it.
The apparent paradox lies in the fact that the Murashige and Skoog medium, which is
sold commercially, already prepared, is widely enough used not to need explanation
or justication. The authors who rst described it are cited primarily to give credit for
their innovation. Understanding this as a legitimate exception to general rules about
citing secondary sources requires an understanding of the specic disciplinary context.
Other exceptions have been documented. Devitt (1991), in her study of the genres
of tax accounting, describes a common practice which she terms unmarked quotation, what teachers might call plagiarism and which often suits the rhetorical
needs and especially the epistemological values of the accounting community
(p. 348). Prior (1998, p. 136) reports an instance of what was apparently unattributed
secondary citation in the work of the student he calls Mai. Mai cited one author
(Erickson) but her text appears to have stronger similarities with another authors
(McLaughlins) account of Erickson, along with language repeated from McLaughlin. Yet Prior shows that McLaughlins text in turn has language in common with
Erickson, but not marked as quotation.

26

D. Pecorari / English for Specic Purposes 25 (2006) 429

At least two explanations are available for these seemingly exceptional cases. On
one hand, they may simply illustrate that unconventional source use is not limited to
students. However, the case of the Murashige and Skoog medium seems to indicate
either that university-wide prescriptions do not accurately reect the practices of the
disciplines, or that individuals may interpret general principles dierently, or both. If
so, one implication is that the source use documented here which appears to depart
from accepted standards may in some cases simply signal adherence to a set of local
standards. Another implication is that the task of novices learning to write in their
disciplines may have an additional level of complexity: not only must they be observant of visible practices and somehow learn and negotiate the occluded practices,
they must also be sensitive to the competing levels at which practice is regulated.
Their task could be facilitated by research into the writing practices that are acceptable in the disciplines.

5. Conclusion
The ndings presented here have pointed to the fact that fundamental aspects of
academic writing are occluded and therefore go unaddressed, with the worrying consequence that students may leave the university with important writing skills unlearned. Even more worryingly, the writers studied here used sources in ways
which might be labeled plagiarism, with potentially grave consequences should they
apply the same writing strategies later in their academic careers.
Swaless (1996) discussion of occlusion has been extended here in two ways. First,
occlusion has been shown to mask aspects of texts from established members of the
academic discourse community as well as novices; and second, it has been applied
not only to certain genres but to some features of visible genres. Other occluded features remain to be identied. Reporting verbs, for example, are evaluative (e.g.,
Thompson & Ye, 1991). To the experienced reader, factive reporting verbs (e.g., Stilton acknowledges X) and non-factive verbs (Stilton proposes X) convey quite distinct
evaluations. Whether the evaluation which is signaled to the reader is that which is
intended by the writer is ordinarily occluded to the reader. The chance that occlusion
masks an unintended evaluation is, presumably, higher when the writer is less experienced, and when the writer is an NNSE.
Occlusion gave the texts studied here a supercial appearance of appropriateness,
masking potential or actual problems which an ad hoc approach to thesis supervision could not reveal. This suggests that the project of learning about the occluded
aspects of academic texts can be facilitated by an apprenticeship approach. It is
worth noting that the thesis with the most appropriate source use, that of H2, included in its reference list a paper co-authored by the student with the supervisor.
Although it would be wrong to read too much into this isolated case, it is possible
that co-authoring a paper provided this student with an experience of situated
learning.
Adding elements of apprenticeship to postgraduate advising may or may not be
an achievable objective in practical terms. An apprenticeship approach calls on

D. Pecorari / English for Specic Purposes 25 (2006) 429

27

advisors to provide increased time, involvement and attention, all of which may
simply not be compatible with the reality of academic work loads and the nancial
constraints under which academic institutions labor. However, the evidence provided by this study is that novice writers and their advisors expend considerable
energy and attention in meeting those needs they can see. Some means of addressing the other, occluded demands of writing is necessary if postgraduate instruction
is to address the full range of students learning, and not merely the visible tip of
the iceberg.

Acknowledgements
I am grateful to Maggie Charles and Philip Shaw for their comments on early
drafts of this paper.

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Diane Pecorari is a senior lecturer in the Department of Humanities at Malardalen University in Sweden,
where she teaches English applied linguistics and academic writing. Her research interests include writing
across the disciplines and discourse analysis.