Dissertation > Language, writing > FOREIGN > English > Writing,rhetoric

A Contrastive Study of Citation Use in English Ma Theses by Native Speakers and Chinese EFL Learners

Author FangYuJuan
Tutor HuZhiQing
School Huazhong University of Science and Technology
Course Foreign Linguistics and Applied Linguistics
Keywords Citation rhetorical function MA theses Contrastive study
CLC H315
Type Master's thesis
Year 2010
Downloads 152
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A master’s degree thesis (or MA thesis) is a reflection of academic achievement, and citation, as an indispensable ingredient in MA thesis, is an application and development of the previous studies and it can largely affect the quality of MA thesis. Since 1960s, citation studies sprang up one after another, but most of them focused on library periodicals construction and information retrieval; despite some researchers regarded citation as a language phenomenon to analyze its theory and application, few of them conducted research on citation in MA thesis, let alone the contrastive study on citation in the theses of native speakers and EFL learners.In the present study, the research focus is not on the citation patterns, norms and style, or the reasons for citation and motivation of citing, but the rhetorical functions of citation. Taken the research achievement at home and abroad into consideration, the present author employs B. Petric’s modified citation classification to conduct this research. The corpus used in this study consists of 20 English MA theses in the field of linguistics (about 3 million words, from Introduction to Conclusion), 10 theses are written by native speakers (NS theses), 10 theses by Chinese EFL learners (EFL theses). The author firstly transforms the PDF form into Word form and marks all the citations in theses, and then adopts quantitative analysis to explore the general citation use in NS and EFL MA theses and the frequency and distribution of each rhetorical function of citation in each section of NS and EFL MA theses. In addition to this, the author selects some examples from Chinese EFL theses to carry out qualitative analysis to discuss the problems and deficiencies in citation use when Chinese EFL learners write MA theses. The purpose of the present study is to find out the differences and similarities between English MA theses respectively written by NS and Chinese EFL learners on citation use through quantitative analysis of the frequency and distribution of citation and qualitative analysis of Chinese EFL learners’problems and deficiencies in citation use. Research results show that there are both similarities and differences between NS and EFL MA theses in citation use. The findings from quantitative analysis are: 1) In terms of the number of words, without considering whether the citations are appropriately used or not, EFL learners employ more citations in their MA theses writing than those of native speakers, and there is no significant difference between them. 2) In the case of the frequency of citation, both in NS and EFL MA theses, citation is most frequently used in Literature Review, followed by Introduction, and citation is least frequently used in Conclusion. 3) In terms of the distribution of each rhetorical function of citation in different sections, the frequency of“attribution”is the highest in any section of NS and EFL MA theses showing the writers’inclination to employ much simpler citation functions instead of more complicated functions. Moreover, though there is no significant difference between NS and EFL MA theses in Method, Discussion and results, and Conclusion section, yet in Method section, the application of only five functions indicates the citation function in this section is less diversified than that of other four sections. Besides, no use of“application”and“further reference”in Conclusion section of NS MA theses shows that EFL learners employ more diversified citation functions in this section than native speakers. In Introduction section, there is significant difference between them in the aspects of“attribution”and“establishing links between sources”. The qualitative results show EFL learners have three aspects problems or deficiencies in citation use: 1) the low level of language proficiency bringing about linguistically deficient citation use; 2) the inappropriate use of rhetorical function of citation; and 3) the obscure relationship between the citing sentence and the citation or the context of the paper.Not only does the present study provide following researchers and EFL learners with accurate understanding of the usual rule and characteristics of citation use and presents some solutions to solve certain problems EFL learners come across when applying citation in their MA theses’writing, but also is of certain directive significance to the MA thesis writing and profound implications for the development of English for academic purposes. At last, the author points out some limitations of the present research and provides some suggestions for the future related study.

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