Should learning developers provide instruction in the use of metadiscourse?

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Metadiscourse is the language writers use to guide their readers through their texts and organise their arguments. This can take the form of phrases, for example, ‘this essay will discuss’, or ‘in conclusion’, or individual words such as ‘firstly’ or ‘therefore’. This study aims to determine how undergraduate students develop their use of metadiscourse over their first two years of study at a UK university and to investigate whether use of metadiscourse is related to the grade that a text receives from subject tutors. To achieve this, a corpus of summative written assignments was collected from 67 undergraduates studying a health discipline. This is the writing that we as Learning Developers are most closely involved with: assignments written as part of a course of study. The assignments were analysed using software developed for the field of corpus linguistics to identify how students used metadiscourse. The results of this study suggest that including explicit instruction in Learning Development sessions in the use of some aspects of metadiscourse could be of value. This supports an ‘academic literacies’ (Lea and Street, 1998) approach in that it recognises the need to make clear the implied assumptions that surround academic writing and the inherent variation between disciplines.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2
JournalJournal of Learning Development in Higher Education
Early online date23 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - 23 Mar 2021


  • metadiscourse
  • student writing
  • corpus analysis
  • academic discourse


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