“Stance and Engagement” Ken Hyland

Food for Thought

What’s something you notice when reading when trying to determine whether something is objective or subjective?

In academic texts, we’ve discussed how it’s impossible to remove an author’s personal evaluation of the material from their writing, why do you think this is?

Reading like a reader: what’s Hyland saying?

Stance and Engagement:

The two main forms of positioning and presentation an author uses to present their work and their ideas about that work.

Stance: The attitude the writer wants to convey to their audience

Hedges: Withholding a complete commitment to a proposition- examples like possibly, might, perhaps. These leave open a space for the reader to think about their own opinions on certain subjects.

Boosters: Allow writers to express their certainty in what they said and mark solidarity with the audience- examples like clearly, obviously. Writer takes up all the space and allows the reader none to interject with their own personal opinion.

Do you guys have a preferred strategy (in terms of hedges and boosters) that you find yourself using more often?

Or do you guys using them equally?

Engagement: How the writer relates to the reader.

Reader Pronouns: Utilization of You, Yours, and We. They are meant to bring the audience into conversation with the author and make them think about what’s being said and what the author’s stance might be.

Personal Asides: This is the author’s intentional interruption of the main point in order to offer their own opinion of the information they shared. Example: Writer acknowledges the audience and their potential opinions

Shared Knowledge: Writer uses a shared understanding of the topic in order to get their point across –

In regards to personal asides, do you think it’s more overall supplementary to the author’s point for them to interject in their own writing? Or does it detract from the main point they’re trying to make?

Reader like a Writer: what’s Hyland doing?

Hyland casually uses the rhetorical devices he lies out in his own writing. (Meta?)

He demonstrates his concept of hedgers even before laying it out and explaining it. “I take it to have three main components…” (Hyland 6.)

Hyland describes attitudes makers, which attach subtle evaluations to statements. He demonstrates this when attaching apostrophes to the ‘soft’ in “discursive ‘soft’ fields of philosophy”, a term which includes his own field of applied linguistics (Hyland 14).

Why do you think he does this? How about in terms of positioning himself?

What’s the purpose of casually using the same rhetorical devices as he’s explaining them?

Hyland explicitly mentions he’s analyzed 240 research articles from 8 disciplines for this article in the abstract. What might his intent be besides standard procedure?

Connecting Ideas

Hyland used boosters often through his paper. How did we as a class use stance and engagement in our SLRS?

We know personal pronouns were a big subject of discussion throughout the SLR process, how did you guys go about using them? Did you actively try to avoid sharing too many of your own opinions? Or did you just write them all down and edit them out later? What was that process like?

How does this piece seem to compare to others, for example “Why Johnny can’t write, and why employers are mad” in terms of accessibility for non-academics?

Questioning Ideas

All objective, academic articles have a stance, every article has an agenda, or else it would have no reason to exist. When expressing positions to the audience, is it worth using rhetorical devices to create the illusion of pure objectivity? 

Based on that, “The people who are known best have staked out the extreme positions. The people who sit in the middle and use words like ‘suggest,’ no one knows their work” (Hyland 8). Do you agree with this statement? Is taking a strong position (using boosters) a more effective way of writing?

“In the humanities and social sciences, the use of the first person is closely related to the desire to both strongly identify oneself with a particular argument and to gain credit from and individual perspective” (Hyland 9). Do you think there is a significant difference between using the first person in a humanities paper compared to a stem paper? What is that difference? 

Do boosters undermine the legitimacy of the author by making them seem less nuanced, and do they alienate the audience?

Going Beyond The Text

Which mediums (books, news articles etc.) do you feel are objective and which ones are subjective. Why is this the case?

You are about to give a major class presentation on a book that you haven’t read. Which of these rhetorical devices could you use/avoid to engage the audience and assert “objective” positions without giving yourself away? 

Stance: How writers portray themselves and their ideas

  1. Hedges: for cautious claims, “it seems”, “might” 
  2. Boosters: for bold assertions, “undoubtedly”, “cearly”

Engagement: How writers relate & connect to the audience 

  1. Reader Pronouns: bring in, “us”, “we”
  2. Personal Asides: interruptions, “yadda yadaa -and btw – yadda yadaa”
  3. Shared Knowledge: suggesting it’s universally understood, “we all know ~insert claim~”
  4. Questions: asking the audience, often rhetorical, “and what does that mean?

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