The Open UniversitySkip to content

Writing in multi-party computer conferences and single authored assignments: Exploring the role of writer as thinker

Hewings, A. and Coffin, C. (2007). Writing in multi-party computer conferences and single authored assignments: Exploring the role of writer as thinker. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 6(2) pp. 126–142.

Full text available as:
PDF (Accepted Manuscript) - Requires a PDF viewer such as GSview, Xpdf or Adobe Acrobat Reader
Download (177kB)
DOI (Digital Object Identifier) Link:
Google Scholar: Look up in Google Scholar


The increasing use of computers to enable or replace face-to-face tutorial discussion groups in higher education is creating a new form of academic writing. This small-scale study of 43 students and three tutors identifies ways in which students present their opinions in a forum which allows greater time for reflection, but also creates a permanent record. The notion of collaborative learning in computer conferencing militates against taking a strong, possibly controversial, stance. Opinions are therefore hedged, or located in the peer discourse community rather than the individual. Through a corpus analysis of the use of the pronouns I, we and it we identify ways in which student writers are representing themselves and their views in both computer conferences and in single-authored essays. A powerful authorial voice was often associated not with the individual I, but with the collective we. In their single-authored essays, students drew upon the consensual voice developed in the conference discussion to support their personal points of view. In both genres, students made use of impersonal it-clauses, but frequently preceded them by personal frames such as I think, thereby resisting the impersonal, but powerful, voice of much academic discourse. This paper contributes to our developing understanding of evolving student writing practices in disciplinary settings.

Item Type: Journal Item
Copyright Holders: 2007 Elsevier Ltd
ISSN: 1475-1585
Keywords: computer conferencing; pronouns; disciplinary writing; anticipatory it; identity; English for academic purposes
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS) > Languages and Applied Linguistics
Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS)
Interdisciplinary Research Centre: Centre for Research in Education and Educational Technology (CREET)
Language & Literacies
Item ID: 9725
Depositing User: Users 4510 not found.
Date Deposited: 04 Oct 2007
Last Modified: 27 Sep 2017 19:30
Share this page:


Download history for this item

These details should be considered as only a guide to the number of downloads performed manually. Algorithmic methods have been applied in an attempt to remove automated downloads from the displayed statistics but no guarantee can be made as to the accuracy of the figures.

Actions (login may be required)

Policies | Disclaimer

© The Open University   contact the OU