Genre and thinking in academic writing tasks

Sarah W. Beck, Jill V. Jeffery

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Genre-based approaches to teaching writing have made important strides in heightening students' awareness of audience and purpose but have paid less attention to the ways in which expectations for written performance in school context are embedded in expectations for certain kinds of discipline-based thinking. In this paper we present a study that explored how a group of high school students studying history and literature within an interdisciplinary framework experience the thinking demands associated with a particular kind of writing characteristic of both subjects: analytic exposition. We found that the task of articulating interpretive thematic statements is a significant challenge for these students, in some cases because the nature of interpretative understanding remains elusive to them and in others because they struggle with finding the language to express this understanding in a concise form. A separate but related finding has to do with opportunities for interpretive insight that arose from writing in genres other than conventional analytic exposition, for example, narrative, descriptive, and imaginative writing. We conclude our discussion by recommending further investigation of ways in which alternatives to analytic exposition may be used as bridges to mastery of this important academic genre.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)228-272
Number of pages45
JournalJournal of Literacy Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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