Conveying Communicative Intent: Moves and Metadiscourse in Abstract Writing

Chuah Ek Lon, Helen Tan, Ain Nadzimah Abdullah


Abstracts form the first reading contact of extended discourse in pursuance of a meaningful engagement with a report. An abstract possesses distinct features drawn from a specific genre of academic writing that communicates its discourse intent to any academic or professional community. Among the discourse conventions is the use of a move pattern and metadiscourse elements which together, establishes logical connections with the reader. This paper investigates good communication practice in abstract writing, a significant preliminary that fronts a report. The effectiveness of an abstract specifically, can be tied to the realization of a peculiar move structure that is accompanied by a judicious choice of words and phrases that relates to and involves the reader both interactively and interactionally. A content analysis of the move structure and its underlying metadiscourse in 100 randomly selected abstracts gives petite indication of how students manage abstract writing in a technical report. The results will have a bearing on situating appropriate pedagogical approaches for the teaching of a salient feature in academic writing and will also inform students of related genre expectations towards abstract writing. It is a skill that they may not have sufficient contact with in their university writing experience, though, nonetheless, one that needs to be accomplished to fulfill communicative intent that serves both local and international purposes insofar as academic writing is concerned.


abstract, metadiscourse, rhetorical moves and genre

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