Chapter 2

What is a Genre?

Like the word research, the word genre also has many definitions. At its most basic level, genre is the French word for “type.” In the world of English for Academic Purposes, it refers to a communicative event that is widely recognized. In terms of research, some common genres include research articles, grant proposals, conference papers, posters, abstracts, and even job-related documents such as cover letters, research statements, etc. In this book, we are focused on the research article genre.

As genres have particular characteristics, one way of learning how to write better within a given genre is to explore the characteristics of it, which is one of our primary goals in this book. Before we explore the research article, however, it’s important to know about genre systems, which are interrelated text types that often work together to achieve a communicative goal.

Genre chains

The concept of genre chains was first discussed in Swales (2004)[1], where he defined a “chain” as a genre that is an antecedent of another genre. When studying English for Academic Purposes, it is common to approach the learning academic writing, for example, by exploring genre chains because it helps us understand certain types of genre, like research writing, as it is systematized and chronologically organized in an order of sequences.

Genre ecologies

Genres are also sometimes conceptualized in terms of their ecologies, or interrelated and interacting genres Erickson (2000)[2]. In terms of the research article genre, it is helpful to envision the research write-up as only one piece of the communication that occurs between scholars. For example, lab reports, conference presentations and published conference proceedings, white papers, systematic reviews, and more are all part of ecologies that comprise a research communication genre.

  1. Swales, J. M. (2004). Research genres: Explorations and applications. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  2. Erickson, T. (2000). Making sense of computer-mediated communication (CMC): Conversations as genres, CMC systems as genre ecologies. In 33rd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, ed. R. H. Sprague, Jr. Maui: IEEE Computer Society Press.


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