"Strengthening Connections with the Audience: Reformation and Exemplification in Mathematics Research Articles" by Kristy Lesperance
Kristy was in her third year of undergraduate studies at the University of British Columbia when this essay was originally written, studying Mathematics under the faculty of Arts. The paper was written for an upper-level, intensive research and scholarly writing course using corpus analysis to investigate discursive features of literature from the student’s chosen major.
Differences of academic writing style across hard and soft disciplines have been noted by various scholars, such as Hyland (2009) and Becher (1994), including differences specifically in the incorporation of exemplification and reformulation (Hyland, 2007; Cuenca & Bach, 2007). Hyland (2007) describes these terms as “code glosses” (p. 266): elaborations intended to increase reader comprehension and demonstrate an author’s audience-sensitivity. Cuenca and Bach (2007) describe reformulations in essentially the same way: reiterations intended to improve reader comprehension through increased specificity.
Other scholars have argued that, in addition to a traditional textual analysis, a methodical incorporation of context could enhance the understanding that discourse analysis seeks to reveal, explicitly mentioning the significance of audience-sensitivity (Lillis, 2008; Paltridge, 2008; Swales, 1998; van Dijk, 2006). Although uncommon, some scholars, such as Graves, Moghaddasi and Hashim (2013), have ventured to discuss the particular macro-organizational features unique to mathematics research articles. However, despite a compendium of more than 1,700 journals pertaining to mathematics, and the wide variety of audiences towards which this writing is directed, it seems that the discipline remains untouched by textual or contextual discourse analysis beyond this macro-organizational level.
The present study explores salient differences in code gloss use between two discursively opposing sub-disciplines of mathematics – namely, theoretical mathematics (categorized as hard, pure) and mathematics education (soft, applied) – highlighting their similarities and differences. In particular, I seek to demonstrate that not only do disciplines themselves differ in their use of discursive features, but that differences can be noted across sub-disciplines within those broader disciplines. Using the study by Hyland (2007) as a guide, this article begins with an overview of literature regarding the definitions of "hard" and "soft" fields, the uniqueness of mathematics articles, and the significance of both context and audience-sensitivity in academic writing. It then outlines my corpus analytic methods and reviews my results, comparing my findings to those of Hyland.