Chinese university students' negotiation of epistemic voices upon transitioning into an English-mediated Linguistics module

Yan Zhao*

*Corresponding author for this work

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1 Citation (Scopus)


This qualitative EFL writing study was conducted in an English-mediated university in mainland China. The Chinese students were starting disciplinary learning while also solidifying their positioning as EFL academic writers. This transition poses challenges to the students in terms of negotiating appropriate and strategic epistemic positioning in their disciplinary writing assignments. The study takes a sociocognitive view of the writer voices shown in texts. To understand how the Chinese students position themselves to the knowledge available to them in this particular context, the study investigates the students' meaning-making tendencies in writing from the perspective of epistemology. Through specifically-designed essay instructions, I collected 145 essays along with peer comments from the Chinese students who were starting on a Linguistics module. The students had previously spent a year on English-for-Academic-Purpose training and study skills practices. Informed by Hood (2011)'s categorisation of 'the discourses of legitimization', I inductively and recursively analysed the emergent intertextuality patterns shown in the collected essays. Five intertextuality tendencies stand out in the 145 essays, which seem to suggest that, the student essays as a whole align more closely with 'analytical observations' (than with 'testimonial observations') and foreground the 'propositions' in the writing (than the 'knowers'). Four essays were then selected for further scrutiny. Pedagogically, this study raises the question of how teachers in English-mediated learning context in mainland China could nurture the development of L2 student writers' epistemic voices at this critical juncture of academic enculturation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-34
Number of pages28
JournalAsian ESP Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • EFL disciplinary writing
  • Intertextuality
  • Knowledge construction
  • Sociocognitive view
  • Writer voices

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