From Local to International Publishing Requirements
By Irina Khoutyz, Doctor of Philology, a professor at Kuban State University. Irina specializes in academic communication studies.
“The logic is not quite clear” seems to be a frequent reviewers’ comment on research papers written by non-native speakers. It arises from different expectations. Academics from different cultural backgrounds write differently as logic is affected by the writer’s culture and values. Although academic communities are aware of the differences in academic writing conventions, sometimes it’s hard to switch from local to international publishing requirements. The questions are “What should we know about international publishers’ expectations? How should we adjust to them while writing in English?”
Leaving aside disciplinary variations and variations of journal requirements, let us start with some basics.
1. Develop your ideas vertically
Vertical development means that all the blocks of information are logically connected, and you move from old to new information. By moving from old to new information the writer creates a logical information flow so that new knowledge doesn’t cause any difficulties with understanding. The Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University highlights that linking what’s already familiar to the new information promotes clarity. At the paragraph level, moving from old to new information is achieved by repeating the key concepts, using pronouns and synonyms. In the following example, a demonstrative pronoun this helps the author develop the idea of organizing a research paper: In fact, by including a proper introduction, an argumentative body and a conclusion can help writers to communicate the message of their argumentation better. This kind of structure may help students to better explain the different positions. (Luna et al., 2020, p. 235)
Vertical development also means that all ideas are focused on one topic: all sentences in a paragraph develop one idea; all ideas in an article are relevant to the research topic. There shouldn’t be any deviations from the topic.
2. Leave nothing to infer
In some cultures, however, the writing is indirect and implicit. In Chinese culture, for example, the argument is not expressed directly; the reader is expected to deduce the information that hasn’t been expressed by the author. Frequent references to historical and religious texts or proverbs may make the writing incoherent to the Western reader. All the extraneous information that a Chinese scholar might include to enliven the discourse of the article will be interpreted as a distraction by the English-language reader (Connor, 1996).
Similarly, academic writing in Russian does not always follow a vertical order. The author might introduce new information before any explanations are provided, and there are no typical structural requirements expected by the Russian academic community.
In an English-language article, a typical IMRaD structure helps the author to arrange the information in a logical way. The author starts with motivation for research: provides research background, identifies a gap, sets the aim or poses a research question, and explains how important the contribution is. It is expected that the author should describe why they chose a particular research method, how they collected and analyzed data, what results they got, and what the results mean to the exploration of the research topic.
3. Be reader-oriented
Cultures also differ in their expectations about the roles of writers and readers. Hinds (1987) described English-language academic writing as “writer-responsible” or reader-oriented. It means that it is the writer who has to make sure their ideas are clearly communicated to the reader. If cultures are described as “reader-responsible” (Japanese, for example), it means that they are writer-oriented, and it is the reader’s responsibility to make an effort to make sense of the writer’s ideas. Other cultures that follow a reader-responsible rhetoric, according to Hinds, are Chinese, Korean, and Thai. As for Russian academic tradition, we often assume that the reader is capable of reading between lines and can infer all the relevant information about the presented research on their own. This kind of attitude is likely to describe a reader-responsible tradition. That is why, writing in Russian, the author is free to present the information the way they find it appropriate.
If an academic culture favors a reader-oriented tradition, the writer is expected to foresee all the questions that the reader might have about the information in the paper. If you write in English, be direct and explicit, don’t make the reader interpret your meaning or go back and reread the text. One way of guiding the reader is repeating the most important information. For example, you should remind the reader of the aim of your research or a research question. Have a look at the fragment from the Conclusion:
To conclude, in this article I have sought to demonstrate how supplementing traditional university credits with Open Badge credentials issued by a university language centre can be a valid alternative to recognizing international certifications. I have argued that the ‘glocal’ character of Open Badge certifications renders them more conducive to a genuinely intercultural dialogue and to the use of English as a lingua franca. Their capacity to provide detailed information on the training experience undertaken makes them potentially useful for recruitment purposes. Their digital format means that they can be supplemented with further examples of coursework etc., where relevant. The fact that Digital Open Badges refer to both hard and soft skills makes them particularly useful in the field of ESP, where linguistic skills alone are not sufficient to guarantee effective communicative competence in the language. (Spencer, 2020, p. 137)
As can be seen, the author reminds the reader about the aim of the research so that it will be easier to understand the author’s contribution.
4. Guide the reader
There are other ways to help the reader. The English-language support office at Cornell University recommends using signposting language and linking words. Signposting language is represented by words or expressions that the writer can use to inform the reader about what to expect in the text. These expressions guide the reader through writing and help them notice a new idea or a contrasting opinion. These are such expressions as we intend to, let us discuss, now we can refer to, this will be discussed later, etc. For example: We not only intend to test this view but also to further our understanding of how blogs contribute to scholarly communication… (Hyland, Zou, 2019, p. 2) (See some of the links to the signposting language at the end of this post.)
Linking words help the reader understand how the ideas expressed in one sentence relate to the information presented before. Some linking words are in addition to, as a result, therefore, consequently, etc.: However, as a result of the knowledge provided by this study, it is possible to build alternative routes that can focus on the different types of difficulties detected by offering, for example, alternative explanations and more practice on some of the elements. (Luna et al., 2020, p. 247)
5. Engage the reader
It is a good idea to establish a rapport with the reader and engage them in the information flow. For this purpose, we can use various discursive means such as:
- inclusive pronouns (we, our) to show the reader that we see ourselves as part of the same community, e.g. If in-group harmony is a major value of members of collectivist cultures, we may expect them to favor more indirect modes of communication, at least within their in-groups. (Smith, 2011, p. 218)
- questions to hold the focus of the reader’s attention, stimulate their thinking process, and signal when we switch from one aspect of the topic to another, e.g. How, then, do we account for the use of ‘would’ in such cases of an unambiguously habitual simple past? (Binnick, 2005, p. 361)
- appeals to shared knowledge (shared knowledge markers) to demonstrate to the reader that we respect their knowledge, and we have a lot in common. “Shared information” might be represented by commonly known proper names, by phrases expressing author’s conviction that the reader is informed about the topic of the research (as we know, commonly; traditionally; obviously): There are, of course, limitations and failures (McQuail, 2010, p. 34); Obviously, this view rests on a Panglossian view of DDT in which it is virtually perfectly effective and safe, even though nothing really is. (Hyland, Zou, 2019, p. 18)
- directive verbs to navigate the readers’ attention, create their involvement and help them follow the writer’s arguments. Directive verbs ignite readers’ imagination and make the information more memorable: Look at Table 7.2 again for examples of behaviorist variables (Hyland, 2002, p.223)
To sum up
In order to switch from local to international academic writing requirements while writing in English, we need to adopt the writer-responsible rhetoric and be reader-oriented.
It is advisable to:
- carefully structure an article moving from old to new information
- use the structure expected in an international academic community and explain at the very beginning what you are going to write about and what your findings are
- provide examples with clear explanations to illustrate your point of view
- apply a reader-oriented approach to guide the reader’s comprehension
- introduce logical connections where necessary by using linking expressions and signposting language
- use engagement means to keep the reader’s focus and create a feeling of a dialogue
Show the reader that you care about them!
Here are a few links to the sources about academic writing in general and differences between English- and Russian-language academic writing:
Academic Phrasebank. University of Manchester. https://www.phrasebank.manchester.ac.uk/compare-and-contrast/.
A short guide to signposting in essays. University of Birmingham. https://intranet.birmingham.ac.uk/as/libraryservices/library/asc/resources/a-short-guide-to-signposting-in-essays.aspx.
Connor, U. (1996). Contrastive Rhetoric: cross-cultural aspects of second-language writing. Cambridge University Press.
Enslin, R. (2014). How to publish a research paper. International Journal of Scientific & Engineering Research. https://www.ijser.org/howtopublishpaper.aspx.
Hinds, J. (1987). Reader versus writer responsibility: A new typology. In U. Connor, & R. Kaplan (Eds.), Writing across languages: Analysis of L2 texts (pp. 141–152). Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
How to write a conclusion (with tips and examples). https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/how-to-write-a-conclusion.
How to publish a paper in international journal. What is Research. https://www.whatisresearch.com/how-to-publish-a-paper-in-international-journal/.
Khoutyz, I. (2020). Verbalization of cultural communication traditions in academic discourse. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioral Sciences: Conference Proceedings, 1070–1081. https://www.europeanproceedings.com/proceedings/EpSBS/volumes/vol95-dccd2020.
Khoutyz, I. (2016). Academic Communication: writing research papers as a culturally conditioned activity. ESP across Cultures, Universita di Foggia, 13, 83–98. http://edipuglia.it/esp/esp-across-cultures-13-2016/.
Khoutyz, I. (2016). Local Linguists Mastering Academic Writing in English: Seeking Explanations in Socio cultural Contexts. Scholarly Communication and the Publish or Perish Pressures of Academia, 143–163. https://www.igi-global.com/gateway/chapter/169461.
Khoutyz, I. (2015). Engagement in written academic discourse: a cross-cultural study of Russian and English research articles. International Journal of Russian Studies, 4 (2), 135–160. http://www.ijors.net/issue4_2_2015/pdf/__www.ijors.net_issue4_2_2015_article_3_khoutyz.pdf
Khoutyz, I. (2013). Engagement Features in Russian & English: a cross-cultural analysis of academic written discourse. Working Papers in TESOL & Applied Linguistics, 13 (1), 1–20. https://academiccommons.columbia.edu/doi/10.7916/D8GT5MRV.
Linking words. https://www.smart-words.org/linking-words/linking-words.pdf.
Luna, M., Villalón, R., Mateos, M., Martin, E. (2020). Improving university argumentative writing through online training. Journal of Writing Research, 12, 233–262. https://doi.org/10.17239/jowr-2020.12.01.08
Purdue Online Writing Lab. https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/index.html.
Savko, L. (2020). How can I publish a research paper in the journal for free? EAI Blog. https://blog.eai-conferences.org/2021/08/16/how-can-i-publish-a-research-paper-in-the-journal-for-free/.
Spencer, A. (2020). “The Certificate of Competence in English for the Social Services”: using open badges to supplement and intergrade traditional university credits in ESP. ESP Across Cultures, 17, 130–138.
Writing Commons: The encyclopedia for writers, researchers, and knowledge workers. https://writingcommons.org/section/organization/rhetorical-moves-in-academic-writing/.