ESP and Genre Analysis

Hello, ESPers worldwide!

At Kanda University of International Studies (KUIS) in Chiba, Japan, I am focused on preparing my undergraduate students for success in their business careers. In this regard, I have recently been considering how I can more effectively conduct genre-based research and teaching.

Therefore, I was pleased to discover a short article titled Genre and English for Specific Purposes in the General Research Introductions section of the website Genre Across Borders: An International, Interdisciplinary Network of Researchers, Theories, and Resources. In the first two paragraphs of this article, Paltridge states the following:

The field known as English for specific purposes (ESP) began as an international movement within the field of English language teaching, focusing mostly on helping international students in English-medium universities with their academic writing and researchers in non-English speaking countries get published in English (Johns, 2013; Johns and Dudley-Evans, 1991). The field has now expanded to include areas such as English for occupational purposes, English for vocational purposes, English for science and technology, English for medical purposes, English for business purposes and English for community membership (Belcher, 2009, 2013).

The origins of ESP lie very much in the field of linguistics where early interest was in the grammatical features of specialized texts such as scientific reports. Following parallel developments in linguistics, ESP researchers then moved their interests beyond the sentence to the discourse level, and focused on ‘rhetorical functions’ (Trimble 1985) such as descriptions, narratives, definitions, exemplification, classification, comparison and contrast, cause and effect, and generalizations in specific purpose texts. Research has now moved to a further level by looking at linguistic forms and discourse structures within the context of specific texts, or genres.

In regard to preparing students to publish their work, Hyland (2009, p. 8) writes the following:

Clearly the advanced literacy competencies and insider knowledge involved in crafting a paper for publication and negotiating editorial correspondence presents considerable challenges for many early-career scholars, whatever their first language. There is however, a large and growing literature concerning the characteristics of published articles in different disciplines and it would be remiss of us as EAP practitioners not to make this knowledge explicit to those seeking to publish in English. Notwithstanding that the practices of publication and associated expectations differ markedly from one field to another, teaching should, I would argue, focus principally on isolating key features of texts and making these explicit to writers. This involves both raising awareness of the ways language is used to most persuasive effect and encouraging reflection on writers’ own preferred argument practices. In addition, however, I think it is productive to assist novice writers with the strategies they might employ in the publication process itself, giving particular attention to the analysis of their target publications and the navigation of the revision process.

Although I do teach a business writing class, my focus these days has not been on helping students to get published but instead on helping students to understand and create specific types of business communications. In other classes, I need to make students familiar with business documents such as financial statements in annual reports, marketing plans, business plans, and so on. Moreover, genre analysis is helpful in teaching students how to write résumés, cover letters, and other job-related and internship-related documents. Genre analysis is helpful in teaching students to construct online portfolios to display their work to prospective employers. Finally, genre analysis can be important in teaching students how to communicate in presentations or in interviews.

In regard to teaching the components of business plans and marketing plans, I have often used the following websites: 1) and 2)  These two sites have an abundance of free plans to which students can refer. I also like looking at the résumés in the career center manuals of various institutions. These can be very informative.

As an ESPer, I am excited about using genre analysis to empower my students to achieve success. There is an abundance of resources on genre analysis out there. Check out Bhatia’s publication on the AELFE website!

All the best,


About Kevin Knight

Kevin Knight
Kevin Knight (PhD in Linguistics, MBA, MPIA) is an associate professor in the Department of International Communication (International Business Career major) and has also been working in the Career Education Center of Kanda University of International Studies in Chiba, Japan. In the TESOL ESP Interest Section (ESPIS), he has served as chair and English in occupational settings (EOS) representative, and he is currently the ESPIS community manager. He was also a member of the Governance Review Task Force (GRTF) appointed by the board of directors. In addition, he has been a TESOL blogger in the area of English for Specific Purposes (ESP). He has more than 30 years of professional experience working for private, public, and academic sector institutions including Sony and the Japan Patent Office. His doctoral research on leadership communication (i.e., discourse) as a basis for leadership development was under the supervision of Emeritus Professor Christopher Candlin and Dr. Alan Jones.
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