A comparative study of introductory it in research articles across eight disciplines
This paper presents a corpus-based analysis of the form, function, and frequency of introductory it plus that-clause and to-clause complementation. These structures are said to be particularly important in academic English. We examined disciplinary variation in 288 research articles across eight disciplines, four science and four non-science — Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Environmental Science, Business, Language and Linguistics, Law, and Public and Social Administration. We examined all 6,008 occurrences of it, recorded 110 different forms of the patterns, and investigated function. Results indicate that Biology, Chemistry, and Environmental Science writers used the structures significantly less frequently than non-science writers, while Law used them more often. Numerous other statistically significant disciplinary differences were found. Conclusions are that the structure performs the important functions of evaluating the likelihood or validity of propositions, evaluating or commenting on the difficulty of procedures and evaluating or commenting on the necessity of procedures.
Keywords: introductory it, corpus analysis, evaluation, disciplinary variation, research articles, research writing
Published online: 16 March 2011
Cited by 9 other publications
Deroey, Katrien L.B. & Miriam Taverniers
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