Reacting and responding in TESOL Quarterly
: a generic analysis of procedure and purpose in intertextual critical exchanges

  • Christopher Nicol

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


A key feature of ‘TESOL Quarterly’, a leading journal in the world of TESOL/applied linguistics, is its ‘Forum’ section which invites ‘responses and rebuttals’ from readers to any of its articles. These ‘responses or rebuttals’ form the focus of this research. In the interchanges between readers reacting to earlier research articles in TESOL Quarterly and authors responding to the said reaction I – examine the texts for evidence of genre-driven structure, whether shared between both ‘reaction’ and ‘response’ sections, or peculiar to each section, and attempt to determine the precise nature of the intended communicative purpose in particular and the implications for academic debate in general. The intended contribution of this thesis is to provide an analysis of how authors of research articles and their critics pursue their efforts beyond the research article which precipitated these exchanges in order to be recognized by their discourse community as, in the terminology of Swales (1981:51), ‘Primary Knowers’. Awareness of any principled generic process identified in this thesis may be of significance to practitioners in the applied linguistics community in their quest to establish academic reputation and in their pursuit of professional development. These findings may also be of use in triggering productive community discussion as a result of the questions they raise concerning the present nature of academic debate. Looking beyond the construction and status of the texts themselves, I inquire into the kind of ideational and social organization such exchanges keep in place and examine an alternative view of interaction. This study breaks new ground in two major ways. To the best of my knowledge, it is the first exploration of a bipartite, intertextual structure laying claim to genre status. Secondly, in its recourse to the comments of the writers’ themselves rather than relying exclusively on the evidence of their texts, as is the case with most studies of genre, this thesis offers an expanded opportunity to discuss perhaps the most interesting aspects of genre analysis – the light it throws on social ends and the role of genre in determining the nature of current academic debate as it here emerges.
Date of AwardMay 2005
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorSue Garton (Supervisor)


  • TESOL Quarterly
  • intertextual critical exchanges

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