A Corpus-driven Cross-disciplinary Study of Inclusive and Exclusive We in Research Article Abstracts

Main Article Content

Asiye Doğan-Uçar
Erdem Akbasb


With its distinct characteristics, the research article (hereafter RA) abstract has been a major area of interest within the field of metadiscourse. Investigating authorial presence displayed in RA abstracts can play an important role in illuminating the nature of the interaction among the writer, the text, and the reader. This study aimed to shed light on the disciplinary variation on how much, and for what purposes, authorial presence is shown in RA abstracts through the use of the first-person plural pronoun we as an engagement marker (the inclusive form) and a self-mention device (the exclusive form) using a corpus of RA abstracts in the fields of Bioengineering and Software Engineering (hard sciences), and Psychology and Sociology (soft sciences). The inclusive we was found to be very rare, therefore, the majority of the analysis focused on the exclusive we. The results indicated a considerable variation across the sampled disciplines and a general tendency to use self-mention when explaining purposes, procedures, and results, but not when introducing and concluding, or elaborating arguments. The findings of this study will contribute to a deeper understanding of the disciplinary variation in the use and communicative functions of we, which could enhance academic writing practices.


Download data is not yet available.

Article Details

Author Biographies

Asiye Doğan-Uçar, School of Foreign Languages, Erciyes University, Turkey

A Ph.D. student at Erciyes University, Kayseri, Turkey where she also works as an EFL instructor. She has a BA degree in ELT from Middle East Technical University and an MA degree in ELL from Erciyes University. Her research interests include discourse analysis, literature and culture in ELT.

Erdem Akbasb, English Language Teaching, Faculty of Education Erciyes University, Turkey

An assistant professor at the Department of Foreign Languages Education at Erciyes University, Kayseri, Turkey. Presenting his research extensively at various reputable international conferences, he published articles in national and international journals/books. Dr. Erdem Akbas co-organized the first-of-its-kind conference on Metadiscourse in 2017, 2019 and 2021; published an edited book and an edited special issue on Metadiscourse.


Akbaş, E. (2012). Exploring metadiscourse in master’s dissertation abstracts: Cultural and linguistic variations across postgraduate writers. International Journal of Applied Linguistics and English Literature, 1(1), 15-26. https://doi.org/10.7575/ijalel.v1n1p12

Akbaş, E. (2014). Are they discussing in the same way? Interactional metadiscourse in Turkish writers’ texts. In A. Łyda & K. Warchał. (Eds), Occupying niches: Interculturality, cross-culturality and aculturality in academic research. Second language learning and teaching (pp.119-133). Springer.


Akbaş, E., & Hardman, J. (2018). Strengthening or weakening claims in academic knowledge construction: A comparative study of hedges and boosters in postgraduate academic writing. Educational Sciences: Theory & Practice, 18(4), 831-859.


Akbaş, E., & Hatipoğlu, Ç. (2018). Metadiscourse variations across academic genres: Rhetorical preferences in textual and interpersonal markers. Educational Sciences: Theory & Practice, 18, 767–775. https://doi.org/10.12738/estp.2018.4.0001

Anthony, L. (2019). AntCorGen (Version 1.1.2) [Computer Software].

Tokyo, Japan: Waseda University. Available from https://www.laurenceanthony.net/software

Anthony, L. (2020). AntConc (Version 3.5.9) [Computer Software]. Tokyo,

Japan: Waseda University.


Baker, T. (2010). Genre matters in academic writing. International House Journal of Education and Development, 28. https://ihjournal.com/genre-matters-in-academic-writing

Becher, T. (1994). The significance of disciplinary differences. Studies in Higher Education, 19(2), 151-161.


Becher, T., & Trowler, P. (2001). Academic tribes and territories. McGraw-Hill Education.

Cao, F., & Hu, G. (2014). Interactive metadiscourse in research articles: A comparative study of paradigmatic and disciplinary influences. Journal of Pragmatics, 66, 15-31.


Chen, L., & Hu, G. (2020). Surprise markers in applied linguistics research articles: A diachronic perspective. Lingua, 248, 102992. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lingua.2020.102992

Gillaerts, P., & Van de Velde, F. (2010). Interactional metadiscourse in research article abstracts. Journal of English for Academic purposes, 9(2), 128-139.


Golmohammadi, S., Suluki, S., Daneshmand, F., & Salahshoor, F. (2014). Socio–Cognitive perspective to the analysis of the strategic features of the discussion section of research articles in applied linguistics: Native vs. non-native researchers. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 98, 604-613.


Harwood, N. (2005a). ‘Nowhere has anyone attempted… In this article I aim to do just that’: A corpus-based study of self-promotional I and we in academic writing across four disciplines. Journal of Pragmatics, 37(8), 1207-1231.


Harwood, N. (2005b). ‘We do not seem to have a theory… The theory I present here attempts to fill this gap’: Inclusive and exclusive pronouns in academic writing. Applied linguistics, 26(3), 343-375. https://doi.org/10.1093/applin/ami012

Hu, G., & Cao, F. (2015). Disciplinary and paradigmatic influences on interactional metadiscourse in research articles. English for Specific Purposes, 39, 12-25. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.esp.2015.03.002

Hyland, K. (2001). Humble servants of the discipline? Self-mention in research articles. English for specific purposes, 20(3), 207-226. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0889-4906(00)00012-0

Hyland, K. (2002). Authority and invisibility: Authorial identity in academic writing. Journal of pragmatics, 34(8), 1091-1112.


Hyland, K. (2004). Disciplinary Discourses: Social Interactions in Academic Writing. The Michigan University Press.

Hyland, K. (2005). Metadiscourse. Continuum.

Hyland, K., & Jiang, F. K. (2016). “We must conclude that…”: A diachronic study of academic engagement. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 24, 29-42. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jeap.2016.09.003

Hyland, K., & Jiang, F. K. (2017). Is academic writing becoming more informal? English for Specific Purposes, 45, 40-51.


Hyland, K., & Jiang, F. K. (2018). “In this paper we suggest”: Changing patterns of disciplinary metadiscourse. English for Specific Purposes, 51, 18-30. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.esp.2018.02.001

Hyland, K., & Tse, P. (2004). Metadiscourse in academic writing: A reappraisal. Applied Linguistics, 25(2), 156–177.


Jasim Al-Shujairi, Y. B. (2020). What, which and where: examining self-mention markers in ISI and Iraqi local research articles in applied linguistics. Asian Englishes, 22(1), 20-34.


Jiang, F. K., & Hyland, K. (2017). Metadiscursive nouns: Interaction and cohesion in abstract moves. English for Specific Purposes, 46, 1-14. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.esp.2016.11.001

Kawase, T. (2015). Metadiscourse in the introductions of PhD theses and research articles. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 20, 114-124. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jeap.2015.08.006

Kim, L. C., & Lim, J. M. H. (2013). Metadiscourse in English and Chinese research article introductions. Discourse Studies, 15(2), 129-146. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461445612471476

Kuo, C. H. (1999). The use of personal pronouns: Role relationships in scientific journal articles. English for Specific Purposes, 18(2), 121-138. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0889-4906(97)00058-6

Lorés-Sanz, R. (2006). I will argue that’: first person pronouns as metadiscoursal devices in research article abstracts in English and Spanish. ESP Across Cultures, 3, 23-40.

McHugh, M. L. (2012). Interrater reliability: The kappa statistic. Biochemia Medica, 22(3), 276-282.

Mu, C., Zhang, L. J., Ehrich, J., & Hong, H. (2015). The use of metadiscourse for knowledge construction in Chinese and English research articles. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 20, 135-148. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jeap.2015.09.003

Mur-Dueñas, P. (2011). An intercultural analysis of metadiscourse features in research articles written in English and in Spanish. Journal of Pragmatics, 43(12), 3068-3079.


Omidian, T., Shahriari, H., & Siyanova-Chanturia, A. (2018). A cross-disciplinary investigation of multi-word expressions in the moves of research article abstracts. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 36, 1-14. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jeap.2018.08.002

Salager-Meyer, F. (1990). Discoursal flaws in Medical English abstracts: A genre analysis per research- and text-type. Text - Interdisciplinary Journal for the Study of Discourse, 365-384.


Tang, R., & John, S. (1999). The I in identity: Exploring writer identity in student academic writing through first person pronoun. English for Specific Purposes,18, 23-39.


Walková, M. (2019). A three-dimensional model of personal self-mention in research papers. English for Specific Purposes, 53, 60-73. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.esp.2018.09.003

Wang, S. P., Tseng, W. T., & Johanson, R. (2021). To we or not to we: Corpus-based research on first-person pronoun use in abstracts and conclusions. SAGE Open, 11(2), 21582440211008893.