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Legal Research Article Abstracts: Text Analysis and Text Transformation

von Olivia Frey (Autor) Türkan Kaplan (Autor)

Studienarbeit 2010 31 Seiten

Didaktik - Englisch - Grammatik, Stil, Arbeitstechnik


Table of contents

1. Introduction

2. Text analysis of “legal research article abstracts”
2.1. Definition of “legal research article abstract”
2.2. Discourse community
2.3. Communicative purposes
2.4. Move structure
2.5. Lexico-grammatical and stylistic features
2.5.1. Lexis
2.5.2. Grammar
2.5.3. Register (level of formality, style)

3. Text transformation and rationale

4. Conclusion

5. Bibliography

6. Appendix

Olivia Frey: introduction (chapter 1), text analysis (chapter 2) and first part of conclusion (chapter 4)

Türkan Kaplan: text transformation and rationale (chapter 3) and second part of conclusion (chapter 4).

1. Introduction

This paper deals with the professional, specialized genre of legal research article abstracts about different legal matters (for instance, the EU’s anti-doping policy, European property law, fiduciary duties, drug law enforcement, software license agreements, p2p music file-sharing copyright). First, a detailed text analysis of 12 abstracts[1] of legal research articles is presented, including description of the discourse community, communicative purposes, move structure and lexico-grammatical features. Second, a transformation of one abstract into a newspaper article, i.e. a text type for a different, non-specialist audience, is carried out. In addition, a rationale explaining and justifying the lexical, grammatical, structural and stylistic choices made for the transformation is provided. Lastly, the paper is rounded off with a reflection on the analysis and transformation.

2. Text analysis of “legal research article abstracts”

2.1. Definition of “legal research article abstract”

Abstracts form an important genre of academic and scientific discourse, and are generally defined as a condensed version of a longer document (cf. Zellers (http://, 28 December 2009). According to Swales (1993: 179), abstracts either form an independent text – especially when they appear in an online-database – or a dependent text, for instance when they are part of the actual paper, immediately after the title page.

Legal research article abstracts in particular summarize or describe a completed scientific research project that is presented in the form of journal articles or research papers. Following set textual patterns, they briefly outline the major points covered in the paper (such as the field, content, objectives, methods, results and conclusions of the research project), without mentioning any details. All of them are about ¼-½ of a page long (i.e. one to five paragraphs, 130-350 words), depending on the length of the paper.

2.2. Discourse community

The main audience of legal research article abstracts are…

1. legal researchers and professionals engaged or interested in the respective topic;
2. documentalists, e.g. publishers of legal journals databases, who need to decide which articles to include without having to read them in full;
3. organizers of legal conferences where such articles are presented;
4. attendees of such conferences needing information about the program;
5. on a more general level, general educated readers interested in or affected by the respective legal topic (given that they have a certain level of background knowledge).

2.3. Communicative purposes

The main communicative purposes of legal abstracts are…

1. informing the readers about the content as well as the main aims, methods, results and conclusions of the respective legal research project.
2. convincing and/or helping them to decide whether to read or purchase the entire paper.
3. helping them to remember the key issues and findings of the respective research.
4. preparing them to understand the full text better by giving them an overview.
5. allowing documentalists to classify, categorize and find papers more easily through the use of key words and indexing.

2.4. Move structure

The basic move structure of the abstracts under investigation mirrors Bhatia’s (1993: 78-79) four-move structure for abstracts, which consists of the following moves and their respective communicative purposes.

1. Obligatory move 1: Introducing purpose (“What the author did”)
- Announcing the research being reported by indicating its main objectives, as well as the author’s intention(s) or hypothesis.
2. Obligatory move 2: Describing methodology (“How the author did it”)
- Indicating the experimental design, including information on the theoretical approach or model the project is based on, as well as the method(s), procedure(s), data and/or materials used for carrying it out.
3. Obligatory move 3: Summarizing results (“What the author found”)
- Outlining the main observations and findings of the research; suggesting solutions to the problem, if any, posed in the first move.
4. Obligatory move 4: Presenting conclusion (“What the author concluded”)
- Interpreting and discussing the results and drawing inferences about their implications for the general field or further research.
Almost 85% (i.e. 10 out of 12) of the abstracts under investigation include an additional optional move directly before move 1, namely “Setting the context.” It is realized by at least one of the following optional steps:
- Introducing the particular legal branch this research belongs to (for example, by providing background information, by summarizing past developments, or by making topic generalizations).
- Stressing the importance of the legal matter under investigation by claiming centrality.
- Challenging existing policies, regulations or laws (for instance, by making counter-claims, by indicating and/or filling a gap or by raising a question).
The following abstract[2] exemplifies the basic move structure of Bhatia’s model, including the above-mentioned additional move.

[Optional move: Setting the context] How does China control online political communication (OPC)? What are the features of China's Internet regulation, the structure of its regulatory body and patterns of policy implementation? What are the implications of these regulatory efforts?

[Move 1: Introducing purpose] This paper explores these questions.

[Move 2: Describing methodology] Document analysis, participant observation and interviews are conducted to examine the regulations and their actual implementation. China's control over OPC is contrasted with its manipulation of the mass media to see its distinct characteristics.

[Move 3: Summarizing results] The major argument is that, instead of paralyzing traditional authorities, the diffusion of Internet in Mainland China is accompanied by the growth of "virtual censorship" imposed by the authoritarian government upon nonofficial OPC. Boundaries emerge between "China's cyberspace" and "foreign cyberspaces", between apolitical discussions and OPC, as the result of various legislative, technological and administrative constraints.

[Move 4: Presenting conclusion] The conclusion is that virtual censorship is a new mode of media control that leads to limited transformation of traditional institutions manipulating political communication in China. Broader implications are also discussed and appeals made for more empirical and comparative work concerning the subject matter.

2.5. Lexico-grammatical and stylistic features

The following lexico-grammatical features and their possible functions are to be considered as overall tendencies. Of course, depending on the respective topics of the individual abstracts, technical and semi-technical terms and collocations from other lexical fields (for example, business and economics, politics, telecommunications, music) are used as well. However, listing all of them definitely goes beyond the scope of this paper, which focuses on what is typical of legal abstracts in general.

2.5.1. Lexis

The dominance of technical and semi-technical terms from the legal domain (i.e. legal jargon), indicating that all the abstracts under investigation deal with legal matters in a professional way. These nouns, adjectives and verbs are also used in certain collocations or phrases typical of legal discourse.

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[1] For the full text of these abstracts as well as detailed references see appendix.

[2] Source: “Virtual Censorship in China: Keeping the Gate Between the Cyberspaces” by Jack Linchuan Qiu [ (23 April 2010)]


ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
551 KB
Institution / Hochschule
Universität Wien – Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik
Legal Research Article Abstracts




Titel: Legal Research Article Abstracts: Text Analysis and Text Transformation