“We must conclude that…”: A diachronic study of academic engagement

Ken Hyland, Feng (Kevin) Jiang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Citations (Scopus)
16 Downloads (Pure)


Engagement is the way that writers explicitly acknowledge the presence of their readers in a text, drawing them in through readermention, personal asides, appeals to shared knowledge, questions and directives. This is a key rhetorical feature of academic writing and has been a topic of interest to applied linguists for over 20 years. Despite this interest, however, very little is known of how it has changed in recent years and whether such changes have occurred across different disciplines. Are academic texts becoming more interactional and if so in what ways and in what fields? Drawing on a corpus of 2.2 million words taken from the top five journals in each of four disciplines at three distinct time periods, we look for answers to these questions to determine whether reader engagement has changed in academic writing over the past 50 years. Our paper presents, and attempts to account for, some surprising variations and an overall decline in explicit engagement during this period.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-42
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of English for Academic Purposes
Early online date15 Sep 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016


  • Academic writing
  • Corpus research
  • Directives
  • Engagement
  • Questions
  • Shared knowledge

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