Argumentation in a multi party asynchronous computer mediated conference: a generic analysis

Coffin, Caroline; Painter, Clare and Hewings, Ann (2005). Argumentation in a multi party asynchronous computer mediated conference: a generic analysis. Australian Review of Applied Linguistics, S19 pp. 41–63.


This paper draws on systemic functional linguistic genre analysis to illuminate the way in which post graduate applied linguistics students structure their argumentation within a multi party asynchronous computer mediated conference. Two conference discussions within the same postgraduate course are compared in order to reveal the way in which computer-based argumentation may differ from that operating in written essays and to show the influence of tutor role and task set in shaping the discussions in this mode. The analysis undertaken demonstrates differences in both conferences between the ‘stages’ found in written argument and those found in the electronic discussion and also differences between the two conference discussions attributable to differences in the discussion task. In particular, in one conference, there was a higher frequency of counter-argumentation, while in the other there was a greater degree of disclosing personal and professional experiences on the basis of which participants (often collaboratively) constructed claims. It is hoped that these findings will point to fruitful new lines of enquiry both in terms of a) the special characteristics of computer mediated conferencing, particularly its use within an educational context and b) the methods of analysis which we developed as a means of illuminating a relatively new form of communication.

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