Macquarie University
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A genre-based investigation of Introduction and Method sections of research articles in clinical psychology: a systemic-functional perspective

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posted on 2022-03-28, 22:36 authored by Dragana Stosic
This thesis investigates language use in high-impact medical journal articles that report on randomised controlled trials within the field of clinical psychology. Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) are considered the gold standard for assessing the effectiveness of treatments. Since the 1990s, there have been growing concerns about the quality of RCT reporting, leading to the creation of The Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) Statement. Although this document provides a medical perspective on the reporting requirements, it does not provide explicit guidelines on language use. Thus, this study aims to examine the linguistic construction of a trial's justification and scientificity in Introduction and Method sections of RCT reports concerned with depressive and anxiety disorders. Following John Swales' Creating-a-Research-Space (CARS) model, the generic structure of research article (RA) Introductions has been widely explored in studies on English for Specific Purposes (ESP). Within the ESP tradition, there has also been an increasing interest into the generic structure of RA Methods, especially with reference to their comprehensiveness and ability to demonstrate scientific rigour and credibility. However, the lack of a functionally-oriented linguistic framework has limited ESP research to predominantly quantitative studies of lexicogrammatical forms. To conduct an in-depth qualitative analysis of genre-sensitive language use, this thesis has adopted a functional approach to genre grounded in systemic functional linguistics (SFL). More precisely, it employed the "Sydney School" perspective on genre and James Martin's modelling of discourse semantics to explore the language patterns that enact the social practices of justifying a trial and demonstrating its scientificity. The findings indicate that RCT Introductions and Methods are structured as research warrants and methodology recounts, respectively. Furthermore, additional genre embedding is used to deepen trial justification or zoom in on different aspects of RCT methodology. At the discourse semantic level, a balance between objectivity and persuasion is achieved through a wide range of implicit appraisal resources. The results of this research carry important theoretical implications for SFL genre theory and ideational discourse semantics. In addition, SFL pedagogical tools such as 'the teaching-learning cycle' and the '3x3 toolkit' can be used to recontextualise the findings with a view to scaffolding literacy in a (post-)tertiary environment -- abstract.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction -- Chapter 2. Theoretical foundations -- Chapter 3. Deconstructing Introductions in clinical psychology RCT reports -- Chapter 4. Deconstructing Methods in clinical psychology RCT reports -- Chapter 5. Conclusion -- References -- Appendices.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 274-284

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Media, Communications, Creative Arts, Language and Literature

Department, Centre or School

Department of Media, Communications, Creative Arts, Language and Literature

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Marika Kalyuga


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