The Novice Disciplinary Insider: How Novices Can Write Research Papers Like Disciplinary Insiders

by Percival Santos

Dongbei University of Finance and Economics (Dalian, China)

Keywords: Expert Insider Prose, Discipline-Specific Writing, research paper, EAP



EAP foundation programs should prepare students to write at least at the novice disciplinary level by the time they leave the program. To do so, they must situate the writing process within a given discipline. This paper proposes to teach research paper writing, a specific genre of academic writing prevalent in many social sciences disciplines, according to a 4-phase process. It adapts a novice disciplinary insider model wherein each phase corresponds with the kinds of knowledge needed to achieve the writing expertise of the novice disciplinary insider. Phases 1 to 3 pertain to the cognitive, epistemological and behavioral aspects of quantitative research methods (i.e., subject matter and discourse community knowledge) whereas phase 4 pertains to the skills needed to produce the research paper (i.e. genre, writing process, and rhetorical knowledge).



Research papers or reports are a core genre in many academic contexts. They tend to be the form of written assessment in both graduate and undergraduate academic writing (Samraj, 2004, p. 6). Casanave and Hubbard (1992) have ranked graduate-level research papers, both brief and long, in the top five common writing tasks in the humanities/social sciences and science/technology departments. In addition, Bridgeman and Carlson’s (1984, p. 260) study of graduate and undergraduate writing noted that brief research papers are common across fields such as civil engineering, electrical engineering, psychology, chemistry, and computer science. Also, Hale et al. (1996) examined the writing assignments of graduate and undergraduate students at U.S. universities and concluded that the library research paper was one of the most commonly observed genres in the different disciplines studied. However the label ‘research paper’ is not without its detractors. Larson (1982, p. 813), for example, calls it ‘a generic, cross-disciplinary term with no conceptual or substantive entity’. Similarly, Johns (1997) argues that undergraduates may not be clear as to the meaning of the research paper because of the great variation in the tasks required under the label. In this paper the label ‘research paper’ will be used to refer to a social science paper written by undergraduate students involving an element of primary data-collection and quantitative analysis. This type of research paper requires that students identify a topic, formulate a research question(s) and hypotheses, discuss secondary research in a relevant area, collect and interpret data, and finally write it in accordance with accepted norms and conventions in the social sciences.


This paper’s focus is on teaching research paper writing as embedded in a particular course: quantitative research methods, which is taught as a compulsory subject in many social science disciplines. It aims to teach this specific genre in this particular way as a solution to perceived deficiencies in the existing ways of approaching writing in many EAP foundation programs in the tertiary sector.


This paper will first discuss the inadequacies of some of the current dominant approaches to teaching writing. It will then propose an alternative approach to teaching writing. Specifically, it shall focus on research paper writing, a specific genre of academic writing prevalent in many social sciences disciplines. It will adapt a novice disciplinary insider model to teaching research paper writing according to a 4-phase process wherein each phase corresponds with the kinds of knowledge needed to achieve the writing expertise of the novice disciplinary insider. Phases 1 to 3 pertain to the cognitive, epistemological and behavioral aspects of quantitative research methods (i.e., subject matter and discourse community knowledge) whereas phase 4 pertains to the skills needed to produce the research report (i.e. genre, writing process, and rhetorical knowledge).


Approaches to Writing

Literacy education, or the practice of teaching students to be literate, is ‘underpinned, consciously or subconsciously, by particular ways of conceptualizing writing, and by particular ways of conceptualizing how writing can be learned’ (Ivanic, 2004, p. 220). Academic literacy, or the practice of teaching undergraduate students how to produce academic text such as essays, papers, reports, dissertations, etc., is similarly informed by explicit or implicit theories and approaches to the teaching and learning of writing.


Many undergraduates who speak English as a second or foreign language studying for a degree in an English-speaking context will receive instruction in English for Academic Purposes (EAP) programs. These programs will provide instruction in the four skills and will typically emphasize the academic writing skill as the preeminent one. The effectiveness of a program’s writing instruction will depend in part on the particular approach it adopts towards the teaching of academic literacy. An appreciation of how the dominant approaches and theories inform how writing is taught in these programs is thus desirable.


One approach to writing has, at its core, the belief that ‘writing is a unitary, context-free activity, in which the same patterns and rules apply to all writing, independent of text type’ (p. 227). This belief leads to a ‘skills’ approach, which focuses on the ‘autonomous linguistic “skills” of correct handwriting, spelling, punctuation and sentence structure’ (Ibid.) This approach employs methods, often in formulaic, prescriptive, and sequenced forms, to develop a series of skills or strategies, heavily focused on rhetorical structures, grammar, reading comprehension, and conventions.


However, ‘the primacy of this knowledge in relation to other aspects of writing, the way in which such knowledge is best developed, and the place of explicit teaching in this’ is highly contested (p. 228). It is evident that EAP students will be expected to write acceptable academic texts in the different disciplines and this requires much more than simply knowing how to generate ‘well-formed words, syntactic patterns which generate well-formed sentences’ (p. 227). Discipline-specific writing demands considerable content knowledge, cognitive abilities and behavioral traits associated with that discipline.


Another approach to academic writing believes that ‘good writing is not just correct writing, but writing which is linguistically appropriate to the purpose it is serving’ (p. 233). This approach seeks ‘to explore ways of scaffolding students’ learning and using knowledge of language to guide them towards a conscious understanding of target genres and the ways language creates meanings in context’ (Hyland, 2003, p. 21). Thus, following this line of reasoning, academic writing is largely a process of mastery of a limited number of genres, whereby students are taught ‘textual modeling’, or how to write according to an essay template, or a case study template, etc. This text-based, or genre-based approach ‘positions texts at the heart of the approach’ (de Chazal, 2014, p. 104). Thus, if a teacher wants to teach students how to write a research paper, then research papers are used as materials.


However, genre-based approaches to teaching academic writing have had their share of criticism. For instance, Badger and White (2000, p. 157) stated that it may ‘undervalue skills needed to produce a text, and see the learners as largely passive’. In addition, Lin (2006, p. 228) has warned it can ‘pose the inherent risk of becoming (and has indeed sometimes become) overly product-focused in a prescriptive way, since the curriculum is usually defined in terms of products – text in various genres’. The genre-based approach thus focuses too much on the ‘product’ of writing at the expense of the discipline-specific cognitive abilities and skills inherent in the process. It is thus clear that a pure genre-based approach to teaching disciplinary academic writing is, by itself, inadequate.


Yet another approach conceptualizes writing as primarily a ‘process in the mind’ involving both the ‘processes and procedures for composing a text’ (Ivanic, 2004, p. 231). This contrasts with the approach that conceptualizes writing as a product. This ‘process’ approach sees writing as a process of ‘generating ideas, planning, drafting, various ways of providing and working with feedback on drafts, revising and editing’ (Ibid.). It is driven by meaning, rather than form, and sees feedback as central to the writing activity. ‘Feedback on students’ written work can come from their peers (other EAP students) and their EAP teachers’ (de Chazal, 2014, p. 203).


But the process of writing can only be the ‘means to an end: the point of learning and improving the processes involved in writing is in order to improve the quality of the end result, not for their own sake’ (Ivanic, 2004, p. 231.). The act of academic writing must embed the textual aspects of writing within the mental and social aspects (p. 222). The creation of an academic text must embed the process of writing within the conventions of thinking and behaving in a given discipline.


The approaches described above conceptualize the practice of teaching writing as a decontextualized activity, something separate from the process of thinking and conceptualizing in a given discipline. They do not attempt to embed the process of writing within the ways of thinking about an issue, conceptualizing, and doing, that are characteristic of particular disciplines. They do not address the need to conceptualize writing as only one element, albeit a crucial one, in a process of making knowledge claims within a particular discipline. ‘Writing involves more than words’ and language is ‘only one of the resources that go into writing’ (Canagarajah, 2013, p. 440). ‘Subject teaching and knowledge must be embedded with writing about knowledge so that students can see how their own opinions from within their subject area’ (Perrin, 2014, p. 23). Disciplinary-specific writing demands considerable content knowledge, cognitive abilities and behavioral traits associated with that discipline. Hyland (2013, p. 241) asserts:


In most higher education contexts, however, students are not attending academic writing courses in order to learn to “write”, or even to write in some abstractly academic way; they are learning to write for purposes which lay outside the English class. For them, writing is a tool they need in order to participate in their disciplines and to demonstrate their learning to readers in those disciplines. Writing therefore contributes to learning in areas other than writing itself.


This paper will attempt to fill a gap in the literature by demonstrating how writing and subject knowledge can be integrated into an EAP writing program. It will attempt to show how subjectspecific novice-level expertise can be combined with writing-process knowledge in an EAP writing program. Specifically, it will explore how research paper writing can be embedded in a particular course, that is, quantitative research methods, which is taught as a compulsory subject in many social science disciplines.

This paper’s approach is based on two related notions of ‘disciplinary expertise and apprenticeship’, or of getting novices to think, act, and write like disciplinary experts, something not currently studied in the Second Language Writing, or EAP literature. This notion seeks to explore what it means to be an expert in a given discipline. This broad question can be broken down into several sub-questions:


  1. What kinds of content, behavioral, and writing knowledge does an expert need in a given discipline?
  2. Does an expert have certain ways of thinking or doing that are implicit, and if so, can they be made explicit for the novice?
  3. Can these ‘disciplinary moves’ be broken down into a sequence and taught to a novice?’
  4. How does a disciplinary expert make knowledge claims and how can the novice reproduce them?


This paper will break down the process of social science research into its constituent parts and will attempt to show how it can be taught in a 4-step sequence within a writing program. It is intended as a possible alternative to the current ways of teaching writing.


Expert Insider Prose

College students will go through four phases of writing (Figure 1). They enter university with non-academic writing skills in the first phase. The second one, which is generalized academic writing, occurs when they take freshman composition courses. The third phase, novice disciplinary writing, starts during the early phase in their major, usually in the second and third years. And finally, they acquire expert insider writing skills as they take advanced major courses in their senior year (Macdonald, 1994). These four phases of writing skill development also apply to undergraduate EAP students doing a foundation year program with the intention of pursuing a degree in an English-medium university.


        1. Nonacademic writing
        2. Generalized academic writing
        3. Novice approximations of particular disciplinary ways of making knowledge
        4. Expert insider prose

Figure 1: Macdonald’s Four Stages in Students’ Development as Writers


This paper will argue that EAP foundation programs should prepare students to write at least at the disciplinary novice level by the time they leave the program. For students to begin to think and write like disciplinary novices and later on expert insiders, they must possess writing expertise. In order to do so they must situate the writing process within a given discipline. A disciplinary insider draws on different sources of knowledge; subject matter, genre, methods of argument, kinds of evidence, ways of referencing other experts, rhetorical contexts and audiences (Beaufort, 2007) to be able to produce texts acceptable within the discipline (Figure 2).



Figure 2: Beaufort’s Five Skill Sets of Writing Expertise


Some of the skills necessary to achieve writing expertise are already being taught in EAP foundation programs, namely, genre, writing process, and rhetorical knowledge. However subject matter and discourse community knowledge are normally only acquired once students enter their chosen major. This paper proposes to teach research paper writing by focusing on these latter kinds of knowledge.


The Research Paper

Research papers or reports are a ‘core genre in many academic contexts, and they can be subdivided into more specific genres such as research reports and law reports’ (de Chazal, 2014, p. 193). Reports are characterized by their conventional structure, which broadly follows an objective →subjective pattern: methodology and an account of the research (more objective) is followed by interpretation, evaluation and recommendations (more subjective)’ (p. 194).


Carter (2007) coined the term ‘metadiscipline’, an umbrella term meant to describe a group of distinct disciplines with surprising similarities to each other in the kinds of disciplinary work they do. He identified 4 of them: Problem-Solving, Empirical Enquiry, Interpretive/Theoretical, and Performance. Bean (2011, p. 256-262) has created various templates for each one of Carter’s ‘metadisciplines’. The second one, Empirical Enquiry, involves using ‘disciplinary knowledge and procedures to advance empirical understanding of the world’ and is the research format usually employed in the physical and social sciences. It shall be the template (Appendix 1) employed by this paper to teach research paper writing in the social sciences.


What do social science research papers do? These papers describe social research. Some social research merely describes the state of social affairs, meaning it asks what but not why. But often it ‘has an explanatory purpose-providing reasons for phenomena, in terms of causal relationships. Why do some cities have higher unemployment rates than others? Why are some people more prejudiced than others’ (Babbie, 2005, p. 22)?


Social research can broadly be classified into two kinds: qualitative and quantitative research. Qualitative research ‘usually emphasizes words rather than quantification in the collection and analysis of data’ and attempts to understand the social world through ‘an examination of the interpretation of that world by its participants’ (Bryman, 2008, p. 366). The qualitative research report is beyond the scope of this paper. Its principal focus is writing about quantitative research.


Quantitative research is the principal way of determining causal relationships between phenomena. It is a ‘research strategy that emphasizes quantification in the collection and analysis of data’ (p. 22). In other words, it collects data that can be counted or measured, usually numerical information, and subjects it to statistical analysis. It can be divided into 4 distinct phases: research question, data collection, data analysis and research paper writing. The proposed model for teaching EAP students research paper writing in the social sciences follows this 4-part sequence (Figure 3) and it has been developed from several years of teaching research methods and EAP academic writing at undergraduate level.

Figure 3: Four Phases of Quantitative Research


These phases correspond with the kinds of knowledge needed to achieve the writing expertise that the expert writer possesses (Figure 4). Phases 1 to 3 pertain to the cognitive, epistemological and behavioural aspects of quantitative research methods (i.e., subject matter and discourse community knowledge) whereas phase 4 pertains to the skills needed to produce the research report (i.e. genre, writing process, and rhetorical and knowledge).


Figure 4. The Research Process and Forms of Knowledge


Subject Matter and Discourse Community Knowledge (Phases 1 to 3)

This paper will now illustrate the process of attaining writing expertise at the novice disciplinary level by describing the research paper writing experiences of a group of undergraduate students. It will focus on a group who researched the topic of body image. It will show extracts of one specimen research paper belonging to a member of that group. The course had the following characteristics:


  • 12 students took a research methods course in the Fall Semester of 2013 and each one submitted a research paper at the end of the course
  • they were asked to form small groups of 3 to 4
  • each group was asked to pick a topic, do a literature survey, formulate research questions and hypotheses and collect and analyze data together
  • however, writing was to be done individually and each student had to hand in a minimum 2,000-word quantitative research paper as the final assessment for the course


At the beginning of the semester the teacher led a discussion on what ‘learning a discipline’ meant, and on the nature of ‘expertise’ in an area. This point is crucial because disciplinary expertise is only partly about knowing the appropriate terminology, tools and methodology.

According to Hyland (2006, p. 38), learning a discipline implies:


learning to use language in disciplinarily approved ways. It involves learning a specialized discourse for reading and writing for presenting orally, for reasoning and problem solving, and for carrying out practical research activities (p. 38).


The teacher’s initial aim was to provide them with discourse community knowledge. For Barton (1994, p. 57):


A discourse community is a group of people who have texts and practices in common, whether it is a group of academics, or the readers of teenage magazines. In fact, discourse community can refer to the people the text is aimed at; it can be the people who read a text; or it can refer to the people who participate in a set of discourse practices both by reading and writing (p. 57).


Belonging to a discipline implies learning to use language in disciplinarily approved ways and becoming a member of a discourse community. Being a member of a discipline means knowing how to pose questions, analyse evidence, apply theories, and produce arguments in conversation with other members. With this in mind, the class had to read extensively on their chosen topic in order to familiarize themselves with the sort of discourse community the experts in the area belonged to. They were asked to answer the questions:

  1. What are the most common topics or issues they talk about?
  2. Are there any important debates or controversies in the discipline?
  3. Are the experts in general agreement on the basic issues in their field, or are there major areas of disagreement regarding the appropriate data, method, tools and theories, etc.?
  4. What language do they use to make an argument, present data, support the argument, etc.?
  5. What kind of genre (lab report, essay, etc.) do they often use?
  6. What kind of technical terms, or jargon frequently appear in the publications?
  7. What citation style do the journals use (APA, Chicago, etc.)?


After the class had a discussion on the above points they were shown how to do a literature review. The literature review is arguably the purest expression of a discourse/ disciplinary community. To be members of a discipline, in particular to be consumers and producers of knowledge of a discipline, students must be able to comprehend its fundamental role and function.


The groups had to write a ‘gap in knowledge’ literature review (Santos, 2014, p. 34). This kind of literature review is common in the physical sciences and in some social sciences. It shows what is known and not known about an empirical problem and aims to fill the gap through new research (Figure 5):


        • Orientation or introduction

Issue x has been a prominent subject of much research.

Issue x has attracted a lot of attention in the field of y.

        • Previous studies

Author A was concerned with topic x. Several authors (D, E, F) addressed problem y.

Authors A and B examined problem z.

Author A studied issue y with a view to accomplishing z.

Work by author A researched topic y.

        • Establishing a gap

Nevertheless, aspect x still needs to be addressed.

However, question x remains unanswered.

However, a solution to the issue of x still has not been found.

        • Gap to be filled

This paper will propose a solution to issue x.

This essay will address problem x by doing y.

Figure 5: Gap in Knowledge


This particular group of students interested in researching body image found several studies indicating a strong relationship between race/ethnicity and body image, and a link between gender and body image. The extract below (Extract 1) shows the first half of the specimen research paper’s literature survey:



Extract 1: Literature Survey on Body Image and Nationality

Body image has been defined as body satisfaction with one’s body (Feingold and Mazella, 1998) and research has shown that ethnicity and race have an important effect on it. For example, Caucasian American women have been shown to be less accepting of their weight than African American women (Thompson et al., 1996; Abood and Chandler, 1997; Wilfley et al., 1996). Also Caucasian American females are less satisfied with their bodies than African American women (Abood and Chandler, 1997; Wilfley et al., 1996; Fitzgibbon et al., 1997). Vaughan et al. (1981) has showed

Caucasian children placed a lower value on their bodies than African American children. Also Caucasian American women have shown higher incidences of anorexia and bulimia than African American women (Fitzgibbon et al., 1997). All these studies have focused on issues of race and body image of people living in the United States but they are limited to women and children.


They then established a ‘gap’ and proposed to fill it (Extract 2):


Extract 2: The Gap in Nationality/Ethnicity Research

There are no similar studies comparing Caucasian and African American males with regards to body image. Similarly there are no studies that have tried to explore the issue on an international level. There is no research that attempts to find links between different nationalities and body image. This study proposes to find a link between nationality and body image.


The following extract (Extract 3) shows the second half of the literature survey:


Extract 3: Continuation of Literature Survey on Gender and Caring about How One is Perceived

The question of the effect of gender on body image has been extensively researched. In one study, Cash and Henry (1993) conducted a survey, which was distributed to over 803 women in the United States. Their study indicates that almost one-half of the women surveyed had negative self-evaluations of their appearance and were worried about becoming overweight. In another study by Feingold and Mazella (1998) that conducted a meta-analysis of gender differences with body image and physical attractiveness showed there has been a dramatic decrease in body image among women. Rozin and Fallon (1988) examined cross-generation body image attitudes and have indicated that daughters preferred a thinner ideal similar to their mothers. In addition, girls valued their body parts less than boys valued their own body parts. Other findings have shown similar results in adult men and women (Vaughn, Stabler, and Clance, 1981).

With regards to men and body image, Mintz and Betz (1986) argue that men have felt pressured by culture to become muscular. Also Raudenbush and Zellner (1997) give evidence that men have preferred a bigger physique. In addition, Rozin and Fallon (1988) found that sons, similar to their fathers, preferred a heavier body ideal in a crossgeneration study of body image. The general population of men have preferred wide shoulders, muscularity, and strength for their ideal body (Raudenbush and Zellner, 1997). Likewise, Abell and Richards (1996) argued that because men had a desire to be bigger, this meant that they were more dissatisfied with their bodies than women. Miller, Coffman and Linke (1980) found that men have seen themselves as underweight, whereas women have seen themselves as overweight.


They then established a second ‘gap’ and proposed to fill it (Extract 4):


Extract 4: The Gap in Gender Research

However, the findings are not definitive. The studies can be grouped according to those that show that women are not confident or satisfied in general, those that show men not to be confident or satisfied in general, those that show women to be less confident or satisfied than men, and lastly those that show the opposite. The body of previous research is inconclusive at best and contradictory at worst. Furthermore, the relationship between gender and the degree to which a person cares about how other people perceive their appearance has not been studied. This study proposes to find a link between gender and the extent that people care about how they are perceived.


Subject matter knowledge is essential to the task of writing a social science research paper. They will need to know what kind of evidence the discipline often employs, how it is collected, what methods and tools are necessary, how the data are analyzed, and how knowledge claims are made.


From the sources in the literature review the group decided to ask two related research questions and formulated testable hypotheses for each one (Extract 5):


Extract 5: Research Questions and Hypotheses

        1. Is there a difference among various nationalities regarding body image?
          • Null Hypothesis: There is no difference between nationalities with regard to body image
          • Research Hypothesis: There is a difference between nationalities with regard to body image
        1. Is there a gender difference regarding the degree to which someone cares about how he is perceived by others?
          • Null Hypothesis: There is no gender difference regarding the degree to which someone cares about how he is perceived by others
          • Research Hypothesis: There is a gender difference regarding the degree to which someone cares about how he is perceived by others


They then determined that there were to be four principal variables in their study: nationality, gender, satisfaction with one’s own appearance, and caring about how others perceive one’s own appearance. For the first research question they wanted to investigate whether body image, or the degree of satisfaction with one’s appearance, varied among different nationalities. Thus nationality is the cause, or independent variable, and degree of satisfaction with appearance is the effect, or dependent variable. For the second research question they wanted to know whether there was a gender difference regarding the extent to which people cared how they appeared to others. Thus gender is the causal or independent variable, and caring how one appears to others is the effect, or dependent variable (Figure 6).


Figure 6: Two Research Questions


The ‘body image’ team has up to now accomplished the first phase of social research which usually starts with the researcher finding a suitable topic and reading as much as s/he can on it. S/he does a literature review, consulting published books and articles that elaborate on the topic. S/he will then formulate a theory about the phenomenon or how things to do with it are causally related, or simply make use of one that already exists. The researcher then will set out to test it. This usually means proving or disproving it in the form of a testable hypothesis. Hypothesis testing establishes a causal relationship between two things. It says that if one thing occurs, or is present, or is true, then another thing will also occur, or be true, or be present. It ‘is a process in which scientists evaluate systematically collected evidence to make a judgment of whether the evidence favors their hypothesis or favors the corresponding null hypothesis’ (Kellstedt and Whitten, 2013, p. 4).


Turning a theory into a testable hypothesis involves breaking the former down into a few abstract concepts, then working out what kind of relationship, preferably a causal one, exists between them. The next step is to work out how these abstract concepts can be quantified or measured. Quantifying a concept implies transforming it into a numerical value, known as a variable, which can increase or decrease. The concept/variable that is suspected of being the cause of the phenomenon is called the independent variable, and the one that is suspected of being affected is the dependent variable. The latter is the phenomenon that the investigators are attempting to explain. It is vitally important that the chosen variables are valid, that is, they really embody or can stand in for the concepts they are supposed to represent.


For the second phase of the project the ‘body image’ investigators needed to choose the kind of data they would need to test their hypotheses and they used a survey format. That meant they would have to create a survey questionnaire and utilize the responses to the survey questions as raw data for their research purposes. A comprehensive description of Phase 2 (Survey Data Collection) falls outside the scope of this paper. It will not be covered in detail due to constraints of word-length.


The group proceeded to write their own questionnaire. This group’s questionnaire consisted of a total of nineteen questions, each one with a limited range of answers. They had to ensure that the data their questionnaire would yield would be able to test the hypotheses so they included four questions to that effect. The extract below (Extract 6) features the first part of their survey, which contains all of the four variables they are testing:


Extract 6: Research Method Questionnaire

        1. What is your age? _______________
        2. What is your nationality? ___________________ 3. What is your year in school? (Circle one)

Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior 5th Year 6th Year

        1. What is your gender? (Circle one)

                        Male                            Female

        1. How satisfied are you with your physical appearance? (Circle one)

Very Unsatisfied Unsatisfied Somewhat Satisfied Satisfied  Very Satisfied

        1. How much do you care about how other people perceive of your appearance? (Circle one)

            Not at all Not very much        Moderately      A little             A lot


Thus respondents’ answers to questions 2 and 5 would constitute their independent and dependent variables for the first hypothesis. Their answers to questions 4 and 6 would constitute their independent and dependent variables for the second one. The group’s target population was the entire student body of 800 at Akita International University and their sample consisted of the 80 students who they approached in order to fill in the questionnaire. Finally, once the group had retrieved the surveys they then entered the raw data in an Excel spreadsheet.

The ‘body image’ researchers have now completed phase 2, which involves collecting data that can be expressed in numerical form so that it can help them test their hypotheses. Once they had collected all the questionnaires they then proceeded to transfer the raw numerical data onto the spreadsheet software that will allow him to subject them to statistical analysis.


The first step in statistical analysis is to visually represent the data in such a way that certain patterns are intelligible. This usually takes the form of pie charts, bar graphs as well as other graphs. The specimen research paper extracts below visually depicts the respondents’ nationalities (Extract 7), gender (Extract 8), year of study (Extract 9), body image (Extract 10), relationship between body image and having a boy/girlfriend (Extract 11), and the relationship between time spent grooming and body image (Extract 12):


Japanese respondents constituted the majority (Extract 7).


Extract 7: Nationality of Respondents 


There were slightly more males (44) than females (36) (Extract 8).


Extract 8: Male and Female Respondents

Sophomores constituted one-third of all respondents (Extract 9).


Extract 9: Respondents’ Year of Study

More than half of respondents (44) were somewhat satisfied with their body image (Extract 10).


Extract 10: Body Image Scale

Respondents’ answers to Q6 (Extract 11) tended to cluster around the middle values ‘not very much’ (18), ‘moderately’ (26), ‘a little’ (23).


Extract 11. Degree of caring about how they are perceived

There seems to be a negative correlation between body image and time spent grooming. The ones with the highest scores for body images tended to spend less time grooming themselves (Extract 12).


Extract 12. Time Spent Grooming and Body Image


The ‘body image’ team was now ready to analyze the raw survey data. They needed to know how to use ANOVA to compute, analyze and interpret the f-value for the data on the first research question as well as how to use the t-test to compute, analyze and interpret the t-value for the data on the second research question. They were asked to read and discuss chapters 11 and 13 of Statistics for People Who (Think They) Hate Statistics (Salkind, 2011), a bestselling introductory textbook on basic statistics. The class also practiced computing the procedures by answering the practice questions at the end of the chapters (using the excel data sets downloaded from the publisher’s website). As the book uses the SPSS (not Excel) statistical program the class also read the relevant chapters of Excel Statistics: A Quick Guide (Salkind, 2010), which shows how to utilize Microsoft Excel 2010 for basic operations.


The group had determined that the level of significance of the study, or p-level, was 5% or 0.05 and that the appropriate statistical functions needed to test their hypotheses were the t-test for Independent Samples and ANOVA. Single factor ANOVA is used to determine if there is a significant difference between three or more groups. They subjected the data from questions 2 and 5 of the 80 respondents to that procedure because they wanted to find out whether there was a significant difference between nationalities regarding their level of satisfaction with their appearance. In addition, they subjected the data from questions 4 and 6 to a t-test procedure. The t-test assesses whether the means of two groups are statistically different from each other. So they wanted to see whether there was a significant difference between males and females regarding how much they cared about how they were perceived. Students were then shown how to present statistical results (Figure 7):


1) Statement of Purpose

   According to the data obtained in the (ANOVA/t-Test/etc.) for (purpose)

   To determine if there was a significant difference between….(ANOVA/t-Test/etc.) procedure was conducted.

2)Positive Result

   The results revealed there was a statistically significant difference between…

   The results indicated significant differences between…

   The data showed a significant difference between… or Negative result

   The results revealed no significant differences between…

   The results indicated no significant differences between…

   The data showed no significant differences between…

3) Elaboration of Result

   The obtained value was…

   The critical value was…

4) Interpretation of negative result

   As the obtained value is not greater than the critical value, then (it can be said that) there is no significant difference… or, Interpretation of positive result

   As the obtained value is greater than the critical value, then (it can be concluded that) there is a significant difference

5) Maintaining the Null Hypothesis

   The null hypothesis will be kept The alternative hypothesis is rejected or, Rejecting the Null Hypothesis The null hypothesis is rejected

   The alternative hypothesis is accepted

Figure 7: Presenting Statistical Results


The extract (Extract 13) below from the specimen research paper shows the results:


Extract 13: Calculating ANOVA and t-Test

According to the data obtained in the single factor ANOVA for nationality differences with regards to body image, the results showed no significant differences between the students from different countries. The obtained value given was 2.114277 and the critical value was 2.22559. Because the obtained value was smaller than the critical value it can be said that there is no significant difference and the author will keep the null hypothesis.





Also, the t-test for Independent Samples measuring any gender difference regarding caring about how one is perceived shows that there was no significant difference between males and females. As the author had assumed that females would care more than males, she decided to use a one-tailed test. The obtained value given was 0.026535 and the one-tailed critical value was 1.664625. Again the author will keep the null hypothesis as the obtained value was lower than the critical value.


The ‘body image’ group has now completed phase 3, or data analysis. Data analysis refers to the practical application of statistical procedures to the analysis of social science data. It involves ‘knowing which techniques apply to which sort of data or which can best deal with certain kinds of problems in analysis’ (Rose & Sullivan, 1996, p. 4). There are many statistical procedures but this course trained students to use the ones that determine the strength of relationships between variables; the t-Test, ANOVA, correlation, linear regression and Chisquare. Put simply, the collected data set are subject to a given procedure using the Microsoft Excel program and the computer is instructed to compute for a relevant test value or score (called obtained value). The researcher then compares it against another value (called critical value). He then compares the obtained and critical values and makes a decision:


If obtained value > critical value, then he rejects the null hypothesis

(and accepts the research hypothesis)


If obtained value < critical value, he then retains the null hypothesis


The p-value, ‘is the degree of risk you are willing to take that you will reject a null hypothesis when it is actually true’ (Salkind, 2011, p. 166). It is a numerical value ranging from 0 to 1. For Kellstedt and Whitten (2013, p. 147) it is:


The probability that we would see the relationship that we are finding because of random chance. Put another way, the p-value tells us the probability that we would see the observed relationship between the two variables in our sample data if there were truly no relationship between them in the unobserved population.


Statistically speaking, the lower the p-value the better. However, a level of significance of 5% or 0.05 is the one used by most social scientists. Any observed relationship between variables at p = 0.05 means that there is a 5% chance that it is due to chance. A p-value of 0.05 is generally considered significant. Thus, when the obtained value of a given data set is greater than the critical value, and in addition the p-value is at least 0.05, it means the purported causal relationship between the two variables has a 95% or greater probability of being valid and the relationship is considered significant.


Genre, Writing Process and Rhetorical Knowledge (Phase 4)

Once the statistical analyses have been completed the findings need to be interpreted. At this stage they will need to learn genre and rhetorical knowledge in order to present the results and discuss them in a persuasive manner. Rhetorical knowledge is really about the writer’s awareness of the audience and purpose of the intended text. For Bean (2011, p. 40) what sets expert writers apart from novice ones is that the former think about the audience early in the writing process. Students discussed the following questions:


  1. Who is the reader(s)?
  2. What is h/er level of expertise on the topic?
  3. What does s/he know about the topic?
  4. What is their level of openness to it?
  5. How do I want to change their h/er views on it?


The students agreed that the reader would be a relatively sophisticated and intelligent college student who was relatively ‘naïve’ or uninformed, so s/he was going to need some background information on the topic. They also agree s/he would be relatively open to changing their minds so long as the paper had done a sufficiently rigorous job of framing the question, collecting data, analyzing it and arguing the case.


They now needed genre knowledge in order to frame the discussion. The research paper genre has been explored in a previous section (see page 8). This section will focus on the discussion section of the research paper. This is the place where findings are analyzed, and possible reasons or explanations are given for them. This is also the place where the writer articulates for the reader’s benefit the significance and possible implications of the research. It is important for the researcher to stay very close to the data. This means s/he must ‘be able to point to the specific data that allow those claims. Sometimes students take “leaps of faith” with their data and make claims that are unwarranted by their actual data’ (Heppner and Heppner, 2009, p.

249). The discussion section of the research paper should try to do the following:


  • Give possible reasons why there is a positive finding (independent variable), or give possible reasons why there is a negative finding (possible reasons are flaws in the research procedure, wrong choice of statistical test, or inappropriateness of previous research)
  • Position results within the larger literature of the area and discuss how it supports, contradicts, or extends that scholarship
  • Discuss the implications of the findings for future research


The students were given the three points above to think about for homework and they discussed them the next lesson. After the class discussion on how to interpret results, students were shown how to write it (Figure 8):


        • Restatement of Main Findings

The main findings of this study include…

Our research shows…

        • Explanation of Positive Results

It appears that (independent variable) affects (dependent variable) because…

The results of the main analysis suggests that…

The findings may indicate…

One possible explanation for this finding is that… or, Explanation of Negative Results

It appears that (independent variable) has no effect on (dependent variable) because…

The absence of any significant difference may indicate…

The failure of this study to find any significant differences between the variables may be attributed to…

        • Relationship of Results to Previous Theory or Research

Most of the studies only….

None compared… in general.

The studies were contradictory.

        • Errors


The ratio of A did not correspond to B.

The sample was unrepresentative

The sample was not random

The sample size was too small


There was an insufficient number of participants

The method of recruitment of informants was flawed

Figure 8: Interpreting the Results


The extract below (Extract 14) features the student’s interpretation of the findings:


Extract 14: Discussion

The research showed that there is no significant difference among nationalities regarding body image. The obtained value of 2.114277 was insufficient to prove the researcher’s first hypothesis. In addition the research also showed that there is no significant gender difference with regards to caring about how one’s physical appearance is perceived by others. The obtained value of 0.026535 was insufficient to prove the researcher’s second hypothesis.

The failure of this study to find any significant differences between the variables may be attributed to several factors- non-relevance of previous research as well as possible shortcomings of the research design and execution:

Non-relevance of previous research- At first glance the studies pointed to a strong relationship between race and body image as well as gender and body image. However, a closer examination of the findings shows that taken as a whole, the studies could not give conclusive proof that nationality/ethnicity was a factor in body image. Most of the studies compared Caucasian and African American women only. None compared

Caucasians and African Americans in general. Similarly the studies pointing to a strong relationship between gender and body image were contradictory. Thus the previous research could not establish a definitive link between the variables in this study.

Not a representative sample- The ratio of the respondents’ nationalities did not correspond to the actual makeup of the student body. There was a high ratio of Japanese students relative to the overall student population responding to the survey. There was only one respondent each from Korea and Australia, New Zealand, although their actual numbers were substantially greater. This could have made the results invalid.

Flaws in data-collection method- As the surveys were given out personally by the researchers, there could be a chance that a large number of respondents were friends of the investigators. It is possible the respondents might have not answered what they truly thought, worrying that the researchers might see their answers.


A sample research paper from a past course was given to the class as well as Bean’s Structural Template for Empirical Research Report (Appendix 1). The latter will assist them with phase 4 of the research process. In this phase, each student had to work individually to write the report. The class read the sample research paper for gist and they then identified the elements according to Bean’s template. They were then asked to write an introduction containing the elements shown in the template. The extract below (Extract 15) is from the specimen research paper:


Extract 15: The Introduction

This research report will investigate two related issues. First is the extent to which nationality can affect body image. Second is the degree to which a person cares about how other people perceive their appearance is affected by gender. This author is an undergraduate student at Akita International University, in Akita, Japan, and there is a wide range of nationalities represented here. Because of this one is able to encounter different cultures and perspectives from variety of students. One of the biggest differences the author noticed throughout her school life here is the way Japanese and international students present themselves. It seems that international students, especially western students have more self-satisfaction with their appearance and their characteristics than Japanese students do. Often times the author would hear female Japanese students talking about how fat they think they are and how they have to lose weight. Whenever the author talked about these things with international friends, they always come to a conclusion that the way one is right now is the best one can possibly be. Also, it seems like female students care more about their physical appearance than male students. From these two aspects, the researcher wanted to know if there is a difference between nationalities regarding satisfaction with physical appearance, and also a difference in gender and caring about how others perceive one’s appearance.


At this point students need to put into practice a different set of skills and knowledge in order to complete the paper. Writing process knowledge involves the skills of drafting, revising, editing, and proofreading that are necessary for a well-polished text. The drafting process is described below:


they wrote a draft focusing on the results and discussion sections the instructor read and suggested revisions to it they then wrote another draft and included the other sections of the paper; title page, abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion, references, appendix the instructor read the second draft and suggested revisions for the final report



This paper has argued that EAP foundation programs should prepare students to write at least at the novice disciplinary insider level by the time they leave the program. They must possess writing expertise. They must situate the writing process within a given discipline. A novice disciplinary insider draws on different sources of knowledge; subject matter, genre, methods of argument, kinds of evidence, ways of referencing other experts, rhetorical contexts and audiences. This paper aimed to teach research paper writing, a specific genre of academic writing prevalent in many social sciences disciplines, by focusing on these latter kinds of knowledge.



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Appendix 1:

  •  Structural Template for Empirical Research Report (APA Style)


Title Page

  • Gives title of paper and author’s name; provides a “running head” that will subsequently appear before the page number in the upper right-hand corner
  • Follows format of an APA title page and body of research report (see current APA manual)



  • Provides one-paragraph summary of whole paper (problem, methods, major findings, significance of study)



  • Explains the problem to be investigated
  • Show importance of problem
  • Reviews previous studies examining the same problem (a literature review) and point to conflicts in these studies or to unknowns meriting further investigation
  • Poses the determinate research questions(s) to be investigated
  • Presents the researcher’s hypothesis



  • Describes how the study was done (enabling future researchers to replicate the study exactly
  • Often has subheadings such as “participants,” “materials,” and “procedure”
  • Often provides operative definitions of key concepts in the problem/hypothesis



  • Presents the researcher’s findings or results
  • Often displays the findings in figures, charts, or graphs as well as describing them in words
  • Usually does not present raw data or behind-the-scenes mathematics; data focuses on composite results
  • Presents statistical analysis of data to show confidence levels and other advanced statistical implications or meanings



  • Presents researcher’s analysis of the results
  • Interprets and evaluates the collected data in terms of the original research question and hypothesis
  • Speculates on causes and consequences of the findings
  • Shows applications and practical or theoretical significance of the study
  • Usually includes a section pointing out limitations and possible flaws in the study and suggests directions for future research



  • Presents a bibliographic listing of cited sources
  • Follows APA formant (see current APA manual)



  • Provides a place to include questionnaires or other materials used in study


About the author

Percival Santos is Assistant Professor at the Center for Academic English Studies, Global Institute for Management and Economics (GIME), a faculty of Dongbei University of Finance and Economics, Dalian, China. He holds a doctorate from the London School of Economics, a PGCE from Cambridge University and the CELTA.

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