Looking at citations: Using corpora in English for Academic Purposes

Paul Thompson, Chris Tribble

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

111 Citations (Scopus)


Appropriate reference to other texts is an essential feature of most academic writing, and we should expect courses in academic writing to sensitize students to the choices that are available to them when they decide to refer to other texts. A brief review of popular EAP writing textbooks finds, however, that attention is given mainly to surface features of citation, focusing on quotation, summary, and paraphrase.
Analysis of a purpose-built corpus of academic text can reveal much about what writers actually do, and can also generate rich speculation on why writers do what they do.
Extending Swales' (1990) division of citation forms into integral or non-integral, we present a classification scheme and the results of applying this scheme to the coding of academic texts in a corpus. The texts are doctoral theses, written in two departments: Agricultural Botany and Agricultural Economics. The results lead into a comparison of the citation practices of writers in different disciplines and the different rhetorical practices of these disciplines. Comparison with Hyland (1999), which looks at citation types in research articles, also indicates differences between genres.
We then look at examples of EAP student writing and apply the same analysis to these texts. The results show that the novice writers use a limited range of citation types, and we suggest that teaching should focus on extending the range of choices available to students. Lastly, we introduce a number of class activities in which students conduct their own analyses of citation practices in small corpora, to develop genre awareness, and we evaluate these activities.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3
Pages (from-to)91-105
Number of pages15
JournalLanguage Learning and Technology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2001


  • citations
  • EAP
  • Corpus


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