Writing Research Articles in Discrete Mathematics: A Rhetorical, Multimodal Genre Analysis and Pedagogy

  • Author / Creator
    Moghaddasi Sarabi, Shahin
  • This dissertation reports my rhetorical, multimodal genre analysis of research articles (RAs) in discrete mathematics and its pedagogical applications. The increasing demand on graduate students to publish their research in English and the need of these students to write in the key genres of their disciplines motivated me to develop this research. I chose mathematics, as the target discipline, because of the existing gap in genre research concerning the discipline of mathematics. Two global research questions guided the study: How do mathematicians write their RAs? Why do they write the way they do? To answer my research questions precisely and to gain a deeper understanding of rhetorical actions of mathematicians, I focused on a manageable corpus of 30 RAs, including RAs with pure and applied orientations in discrete mathematics. I designed three heuristics for my research: 1) Examining the corpus of RAs for their macro-organization, the move structure of Introduction sections, the rhetorical strategies used for identifying research niches, and visual rhetoric in RAs in the corpus. 2) Collecting the discourse community perspectives on the nature of mathematical research and common rhetorical strategies for knowledge creation practiced by the discourse community. 3) Surveying existing literature in philosophy of mathematics, shared values for research and epistemology in the discipline. I then triangulated the findings of the three heuristics to obtain the following results and reach a deep understanding of the links between the discipline and its acceptable rhetorical practices that help to create new knowledge and advance the discipline. First, my examination of the macro-organizational structure of RAs in the corpus show that RAs in discrete mathematics do not use the traditional Introduction-Methods-Results-Discussion (IMRD) structure for an Introduction-Results model due to the well-established logic-driven induction/deduction research procedure in mathematics which makes unnecessary having extensive description of the research method and discussions of results as distinct sections. Second, the findings of pattern-seeking analysis of the rhetorical structure of introductory sections of the corpus articles show that the move structure of RAs in mathematics departed somewhat from patterns identified in other disciplines. A notable departure is that ‘establishing presumptions’ about abstract mathematical objects is an essential constituent of constructing arguments about knowledge claims in mathematics. I proposed that these ontology-driven variations arise out of the hypothetical nature of the mathematical concepts, and the epistemological grounds of mathematics as a logic-driven, argumentation-mediated discipline. Third, by examining the conventions for ‘Establishing a niche’ in the Introduction sections of the corpus articles, I identified five steps that discrete mathematicians choose from among or combine to establish a niche for their research. Accordingly, I proposed slight modifications to the Create A Research Space (CARS) model of RA introductions to accommodate the rhetorical strategies of writers in discrete mathematics and to assist newcomers in understanding the crucial features of RA introductions in this field. Fourth, through multimodal analysis of images and their links with surrounding texts, I identified ways that the nonverbal contributes to the discipline's intellectual project. I found that visuals perform three functions in the corpus: ontological, argumentative, and epistemological. I also found that visuals initiate three multimodal rhetorical moves in discrete mathematics RAs, suggesting that visual moves go beyond textual considerations by disrupting the RA’s chronological structure and that understanding the crucial associations between the visual representations, disciplinary knowledge, and the rhetorical structure of RAs in disciplines is central to understanding how knowledge is created in the discipline. Fifth, I designed a writing-in-mathematics course for graduate students in the discipline based on my findings. Using a combined reading-writing genre-based pedagogy, I planned tasks that guide students to examine the multidimensional nature of disciplinary genres and develop an awareness of the interplay between genres and the shared values of the relevant discourse community. A significant feature of my course is that it is applicable to any writing-in-disciplines course with some adjustments in the texts used for genre analysis purposes. My study thus not only contributes to existing scholarship in multimodal genre analysis in both ESP and Rhetorical Genre Studies in significant ways, but also has developed practical applications to assist graduate students learn how to write in their discipline of study.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2022
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.