Macquarie University
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Genre and discourse in online discussions: a study of online discussion postings in a Thai EFL writing course

posted on 2022-03-28, 18:29 authored by Yupaporn Piriyasilpa
There have been a number of studies examining online discussions in both English language teaching (ELT) and non-ELT contexts. Studies which take a discourse perspective have analysed linguistic features such as speech acts (Chun, 1994), exchange structure (Bae Son, 2006; Kamhi-Stein, 2000) and turn taking (Bisenbach-Lucas, 2003). Within the theoretical framework of systemic functional linguistics (SFL), there is a growing number of research publications which analyse the language used in computer mediated communication (CMC) such as email messages (Don, 2007), bulletin boards (Taboada, 2004) and online discussions (Coffin et al, 2005a,b; Coffin and Hewings, 2005; Hewings and Coffin, 2004; Hewings and Coffin, 2006; Painter et al, 2003). Don focuses mainly on the use of appraisal in email messages, and Taboada examines the genres which occur in individual bulletin board messages. Coffin and colleagues have investigated the language used in online discussions from a number of perspectives. The first focuses on impacts of tutorial activities on students' interaction (Painter et al, 2003), choices of engagement (Coffin and Hewings, 2005), and the degree of critical reflection when making arguments (Hewings and Coffin, 2006); the second on the use of grammar; and the third on patterns of debate and arguments (Coffin et al, 2005a,b). These studies present important findings and directions for the analysis of language used in online discussions. However they are based on non-ELT contexts. Further studies are still needed to investigate student language in online discussions in ELT contexts in different areas, such as common genres, and the way that cohesion and coherence are managed according to different demands of the tasks assigned. -- The current study sets out to examine in particular the language of learners of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) in online discussion postings. The corpus comprises 274 online discussion postings, posted by a teacher and 26 students participating in five online discussions across a semester. The study uses systemic functional linguistics (e.g. Halliday, 1994; Martin, 1992; Martin and Rose, 2003) as a framework, taking a genre-based perspective and also analysing cohesion and coherence. -- The findings of the genre analysis show that online discussion postings are organised by students in a consistent pattern at a macro-structural level. That is to say, the structure of each online discussion posting is consistent with a potential macrostructure consisting of three macro-stages, namely, 'Opening Bonding', 'Responding' and 'Closing Bonding'. 'Bonding' macro-stages work to build relationships and to maintain a community in the online setting while 'Responding' macro-stages respond to the writing task as set by the teacher. Each macro-stage can be realised by stages from one or more elemental genres, and sometimes by a combination of genres and/or stages. -- The combination of 'Bonding' and 'Responding' macro-stages in student online discussion postings is related to the social goals of the participants when communicating in this community. That is, online discussion postings are organised by students to maintain two social purposes (to respond to the classroom task assigned by the teacher, and to maintain social relationships with the readers who are their peers and their teacher). This represents a new form of social practice which is realised by the consistent, identifiable textual macro-structure discussed above. At the same time, the combination of elemental genres and stages, constituting individual macro-stages, allows for flexibility in keeping with the nature of the social interaction conducted in this social setting. This macro-genre does not represent any one particular combination of elemental genres and stages described in the various schools of genre studies (cf. Coffin et al, 2005a, b; Martin, 1992; Swales, 1990), but rather, flexible combinations of them within a relatively stable 'higher-order' macrostructure (cf. Lemke, 2003).


Alternative Title

Study of online discussion postings in a Thai EFL writing course

Table of Contents

Introduction -- Literature review -- Research methodology -- Generic structure in student online discussion postings -- Cohesion and coherence in student online discussion postings -- Conclusion.


Bibliography: p. [371]-376

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Thesis (DAppLing), Macquarie University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Dept. of Linguistics

Department, Centre or School

Department of Linguistics

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

David Hall

Additional Supervisor 1

John Knox


Copyright disclaimer: Copyright Yupaporn Piriyasilpa 2009.




377, 489 p. ill

Former Identifiers

mq:9250 1396083