Stance in article highlights: The promotion of Covid-19 research

Hang (Joanna) Zou, Ken Hyland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Covid-19 was the greatest public health crisis of a century, accounting for millions of deaths and initiating an urgent surge of published biomedical research. In this climate of social anxiety, researchers scrambled to publicize their work and achieve a medical breakthrough. The use of journal highlights, a brief bullet pointed list summarising the novel results of a study, is an important tool in this promotional endeavour. In this study we focus on the stance taken by authors in this genre by examining 300 highlights dealing with the virus and comparing them with 300 from articles in the same 16 journals on other issues. Our results show significantly greater use of stance markers in the Covid highlights with hedges, boosters and self-mention particularly marked. Our study offers both a description of stance in highlights and an understanding of the potential impact of the intense, high-stakes competition generated by the pandemic in biomedical publishing. We believe this offers a valuable contribution to the literature on stance, academic discourse and rhetorical persuasion.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Applied Linguistics
Early online date12 Oct 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Oct 2023


  • biomedical publishing
  • Covid research
  • highlights
  • promotion
  • stance

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