Research and Rhetorical Purpose: Using Genre Analysis to Understand Source Use in Technical and Professional Writing Chapter uri icon


  • This chapter describes a pilot study of student research-based writing in a technical and professional writing course designed for college-level juniors and seniors across the curriculum; fifteen analytical research papers are coded based on the rhetorical move John Swales (1990) calls "reference to previous research" to increase our understanding of how students use sources to introduce, support, or compare/ contrast ideas and previous research. Student papers in this study overwhelmingly used sources to support main ideas, occasionally used sources to introduce ideas, often in the form of topic sentences, but rarely used sources to compare/ contrast ideas. The frequency of support instances and the infrequency of compare/ contrast instances may suggest students had difficulty using sources to position their research, whereas they had no trouble using source excerpts to support main ideas in their writing. Local impacts of this study included several discussions among instructors about the purpose of the analytical-report assignment in our technical and professional writing course as well as suggestions for pedagogical intervention and ongoing programmatic assessment as a result of the pilot study.

author list (cited authors)

  • Breuch, L., & Larson, B.

editor list (cited editors)

  • Serviss, T., & Jamieson, S.

Book Title

  • Points of Departure: Rethinking Student Source Use and Writing Studies Research Methods

publication date

  • January 2018
  • January 1, 2018 11:11 AM