Speaking in Academic Contexts 

Rhetorical Functions in Academic Speaking: Introductions

The purpose of the introduction is to show your listener what you are doing in your talk. It is also helpful to explain why you are doing it and how you are doing it.

For that reason, there are usually three main parts in the introduction. The most useful description is given by Swales (1990, pp. 137-165)

Research Report Introductions

Move 1

Establishing a research territory

  1. by showing that the general research area is important, central, interesting, problematic, or relevant in some way.
  2. by introducing and reviewing items of previous research in the area.

Move 2

Establishing a niche

  1. by indicating a gap in the previous research, raising a question about it, or extending previous knowledge in some way.

Move 3

Occupying the niche

  1. by outlining purposes or stating the nature of the present research.
  2. by indicating the structure of the RP.

Move 1: Establishing a research territory

Note particularly the language used in the first two sentences to express Move la.

  • Of particular interest and complexity are ....
  • Recently, there has been growing interest in ....
  • The development of ... has led to the hope that....
  • The .., has become a favourite topic for analysis ....
  • The study of ... has become an important aspect of ....
  • A central issue in ... is ....
  • Many researchers have extensively studied ... in recent years.
  • Many recent studies have focused on ....

Move 2: Establishing a niche

In many ways, Move 2 is the key move in Introductions. It connects Move 1 (what has been done) to Move 3 (what the present research will do). Move 2 thus establishes the reason for the study. By the end of Move 2, the listener should have a good idea of what is going to come in Move 3.

Move 2s establish a niche by indicating a gap. Probably the most common way to indicate a gap is to use a "negative" subject. Presumably, negative subjects are chosen because they signal immediately to the reader that Move 1 has come to an end. Note the following uses of little and few:

  • However, there is little information/attention/work/data/research ....
  • However, few studies/investigations/researchers/attempts ....

Of course, not all RP Introductions express Move 2 by indicating an obvious gap. You may prefer, for various reasons, to avoid negative comment altogether. In such cases, a useful alternative is to use a contrastive statement.

  • The research has tended to focus on ...,rather than on ....
  • These studies have emphasised ...,as opposed to ....
  • Although considerable research has been devoted to ... , rather less attention has been paid to ....
  • The previous research ... has concentrated on ....
  • Most studies have been content to ....
  • So far, investigations have been confined to ...

Move 3: Occupying the Niche

The third and final step is to show you want to fill the gap (or answer the question) that has been created in Move 2.

  • The purpose of this talk is to ...
  • The purpose of this investigation is to ...
  • The aim of this paper is to ...
  • This paper reports on the results obtained ....
  • This study was designed to ...
  • The subject of this talk is .
  • This talk is designed to .
  • This paper argues that ....
  • In this talk, we give results of ...
  • In this paper, we argue that ....
  • What I/we'd like to do is to discuss .
  • What I/we intend to do is to explain .
  • In my/our talk today, .
  • My/our topic today is .
  • Today, I'm/we're going to talk about .
  • I'm/We're going to talk to you about .
  • My colleagues and I are going to give a short presentation on .
  • Today I/we want to consider .
  • In this talk, I/we would like to concentrate on .
  • We have organise the rest of this talk in the following way ....
  • This presentation is structured as follows ....
  • The remainder of this paper is divided into five sections ....
  • I'm/We're going to deal with three aspects of the subject .
  • I'm/We're going to divide my presentation into three sections.
  • I/We've divided my presentation into three sections.
  • I/We thought it would be useful to divide my/our talk into three sections.
  • This subject can be looked at under the following headings: .

Example

Identify the moves in the following introductions:

THE THERMAL CONDUCTIVITY AND SPECIFIC HEAT OF EPOXY RESIN FROM 0.1 TO 8.0K.

We still do not completely understand the thermal properties of glassy materials at low temperatures. We know that the thermal conductivity has a plateau, and this is usually in the range 5 to 10K. We know that below this temperature it is dependent on temperature and it varies approximately as T. But, the specific heat below 4K is much larger than that which would be expected from the Debye theory and it often has an additional term which is proportional to T. We have made some progress towards understanding the thermal behaviour by assuming that there is a cut-off in the photon spectrum at high frequencies. This has been shown by, for example, Zaitlin and Anderson. We also know that there is an additional system of low-lying two-level states. this comes from the work of Anderson and colleagues and  Phillips. Nevertheless we need more experimental data and in particular we think it would be useful to make experiments on glassy samples whose properties can be varied slightly from one to the other. In the present investigation, we report our attempts to do this by using various samples of the same epoxy resin which have been subjected to different curing cycles. We have taken measurements of the specific heat (or the diffusing) and the thermal conductivity in the temperature range 0.1 to 80K for a set of specimens which covered up to nine different curing cycles.

(Kelham and Rosenburg, 1981)

Researchers have studied the communities living in the Malinche volcano area in the Mexican states of Tlaxcala and Pueblafind and have found an elaborate system of marking social distance and respect in the morphology of the language Nahuatl which is spoken there. The research raises questions of considerable interest for our understanding of the form and function of systems such as the complexity of the morphology involved, the semantic range of the elements, and the variation in the system in use raise, both in Nahuatl itself and in other languages.
All the grammarians of Classical Nahuatl have reported a system of elements usually referred to as 'honorifics' or 'reverentials' (cf. Olmos, 1547; Molina, 1571a; Carochi, 1645; Simeon, 1885; Garibay, 1970; Anderson, 1973; Andrews, 1975). Other researchers have reported similar systems for several modern varieties of Nahuatl (cf. Whorf, 1946 for Milpa Alta in the Federal District; Pitman, 1948 for Tetelcingo in Morelos; and Buchler and Freeze, 1966 and Buhler, 1967 for Hueyapan and Atempan in northern Puebla). But, none of these reports, except for Pittman's describes the system in much detail. In our presentation today, we would like to give more details based on materials collected in 1974-75 and during the summer of 1976 in a linguistic survey of Nahuatl-speaking communities on the western and south-western slopes of the Malinche volcano.

In recent years applied researchers have become increasingly interested in the interpersonal relationships with manager-subordinate dyads. They have focused on actual similarity between managers and their subordinates as related to managers' appraisals of subordinates' performance (Miles, 1964; Nieva, 1976; Rude, 1970; Senger, 1971), subordinates' job satisfaction (Huber, 1970) and subordinates' evaluations of their managers (Weiss, 1977).

In a few studies, researchers have examined the extent to which subordinates congruently perceive their managers (referred to here as "subordinate's perceptual congruence"). These studies suggest that subordinates who are more perceptually aware of their superiors' work-related attitudes receive higher performance evaluations (Golmieh, 1974; Green, 1972; Labovitz, 1972) and are more satisfied with their superiors (Howard, 1968).

But, each of these previous studies has researched only a part of this complex dyadic interpersonal relationship. First, none of the studies has examined the effects of a manager's congruent perception of a subordinate's work-related attitudes (i.e., "manager's perceptual congruence"). Second, no studies can be found that directly compare the relative importance of actual similarity with that of perceptual congruence. Third, none of the previous studies has looked at interpersonal perception by the manager and by the subordinates simultaneously within the same dyad.

The purpose of our present field investigation was to study both actual similarity and perceptual congruence and to examine them from the perspective of both the manager and the subordinate. In the study, we investigated the relationships of these perceptual processes in two important organizational outcomes: subordinates' satisfaction with work and supervision, and managers' evaluations of subordinates' job performance. Specifically, we examined: (a) the relative magnitude of perceptual congruence and actual similarity with these two organizational outcomes; (b) whether the more congruently a subordinate perceives the manager (subordinate's perceptual congruence), the more satisfied the subordinate will be; and (c) whether the more congruently a manager perceives the subordinate (manager's perceptual congruence), the higher they will evaluate the subordinate's performance.

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