Building Transfer Skills through Metacognitive Analysis

Developing transfer skills for writing across disciplines involves metacognitive analysis, meaning intentional and explicit analysis and reflection. This analysis includes several steps as stated below:

Collect Model Texts

First of all, make sure of the type of writing you need to do for a class, conference, grant, etc. For example, it could be a conference proposal or grant proposal. The model texts can be published research articles from academic journals or from course work (e.g., reading materials, sample writings provided by professors).

Skim the Model Texts and Locate Major Components

After collecting the model texts, you skim the texts and find out all the major components of the model texts. The major components can be signified by subheadings. For example, if it is a research article, typical writing components include an introduction, research questions, literature review, methodology, findings/results, discussion, and conclusion and implications.

Analyze each Component

After identifying each component, you should read each component closely for multiple times and analyze the function(s) of each component as well as the organizational structure within each component.

Examine Rhetorical Elements

After the functional and structural analysis of each component, you should turn to the language use in each component. For example, what are the characteristics of the tone, tense, and word choice in a literature review of a research article from your field? What are those different from other parts of the research article? Is “I” or “we” used in each component? What is the tense used in each part?

Explore the Use of Citation and Reference

Citation and reference use are essential in writing for graduate students. As mentioned in Chapter 2, there are many different citation and reference rules across disciplines and also vary based upon specific documentation styles. You need to pay attention to how sources are cited and incorporated into the text and why the sources are included. Remember that citation use is also a political act. You are more likely to cite the scholars whom you are familiar with and whose works are in line with yours. You may want to ask yourself: are the sources used appropriately to align with your own argument?

Scholarly Implications of In-text Citations

Before moving on, it is good to take a moment to review, in context, what paraphrasing and quoting mean in context–when it was discussed in Chapter 2, that was mostly about the legal implications and mechanical process. Now, it is time to examine the scholarly implications of citing the work of another author by paraphrasing as opposed to quoting, etc.

Several excerpts, using APA, from the article “Sociocultural Theory in the L2 Classroom” by Neomy Storch (2017) are underlined to show how in-text citations can be used for different purposes:

Example 1:

“Initially SCT [socio-cultural theory] was met with vigorous resistance from established researchers in the field of SLA (e.g., Gregg, 1993; Long, 1990)” (Storch, 2017, p. 69).

 Purpose: In-text citation at the end of a sentence (author’s last name and year of publication with parentheses). It is used to back up the author’s argument by giving examples of the “established researchers”. As you can tell here, the cited sources are all from the 1990s. Why did the author cite old sources, not more recent ones?

Example 2:

“Poehner (2008), for example, writing about the reciprocity of the learner in the ZPD [Zone of Proximal Development], notes that we should view the learner as agentive rather than as a passive recipient of assistance” (Storch, 2017, p. 71).

Purpose: In-text citation within a sentence with summarizing and paraphrasing. It is used to give an example to support the author’s own argument. Compared to just mentioning a study like in Example 1 as background information and evidence, the specific point from Poehner (2008) has the significance to be emphasized in the text to further support the author’s argument.

Example 3:

“Swain (2006) proposed the term ‘languaging’ to describe how language mediates the thinking process. She defined languaging as a ‘process of making meaning and shaping knowledge and experience through language” (2006, p. 98)’ (Storch, 2017, p. 71).

Purpose: In-text citation within a sentence with short quotes. It is used to draw upon an important study and scholar to give a definition to an essential term. Instead of paraphrasing, quotes are used to more directly state an idea using the author’s original words, offering a particularly clear explanation of a concept or offering a unique insight.

Example 4:

“A study by Guk and Kellog (2007), which compared teacher-fronted activities and group work in an EFL primary class in Korea, found more evidence of scaffolding in the group interactions than in whole-class teacher–student interactions” (Storch, 2017, p. 74).

Purpose: In-text citation within a sentence with summarizing and paraphrasing. It is used to highlight findings of the cited study, which has an essential value for Storch (2017). Also, by starting with “A study” rather than the authors (see Example 2), the finding of the study is more emphasized than the authors.

Apart from giving credits to the original authors (as illustrated in Chapter 2), In-text citations have been used in diverse ways to indicate the value of the cited sources. Therefore, it is important to know why a particular study is included and how it is incorporated in the text, and what purposes it serves.

Reflection Questions:

  1. How are the sources incorporated in the model text? (e.g., What are the introductory phrases used? What verbs are used?) How similar or different is the usage from the one practiced in your field?
  2. What are the strategies used in the in-text citation practices?
  3. Do you know the differences among summaries, paraphrases, and quotations? How are summaries, paraphrases, and quotations used for different purposes?


The practice of references varies across disciplines. Below are some examples from the same article “Sociocultural Theory in the L2 Classroom” by Neomy Storch (2017). The author used APA (American Psychological Association) style.

Example 1: Journal Article

Aljaafreh, A., & Lantolf, J. P. (1994). Negative feedback as regulation and second language learning in the zone of proximal development. Modern Language Journal, 78, 465–483.

Example 2: Book Chapter

Brooks, L., & Swain, M. (2009). Languaging in collaborative writing: Creation and response to expertise. In A. Mackey & C. Polio (Eds.), Multiple perspectives on interaction: Second language research in honor of Susan M. Gass (pp. 58–89). Routledge.

Example 3: Book

Bitchener, J., & Storch, N. (2016). Written CF for L2 development. Multilingual Matters.

Example 4: Dissertation

Watanabe, Y. (2014). Collaborative and independent writing: Japanese university English learners’ processes, texts and opinions (Unpublished PhD thesis). Ontario Institute of Studies in Education, University of Toronto.

Reflection Questions:

  1. What is italicized in the references?
  2. What do you notice about the names of the authors?
  3. What are the rules similar or different across different types of publications (e.g., books, book chapters, journal articles, and dissertation)?
  4. Are those rules applicable to the type of documentation style commonly practiced in your field? Please give examples.

Report the Analyses

After you are done with all the steps (from Step 1 to Step 5), you are ready to write a report on your analyses. The analysis paper does not have a certain format. The essence is to show your analyses clearly and support your analyses with evidence from the model text you select. Remember the goal of this analysis is to help you understand how a certain type of writing is constructed, its rules, and how effectively you can write one for the target audience.

Reflect upon the Analysis Process

After you are done with the analysis report, your reflection upon the analysis process will be beneficial to internalize the process. You will reflect upon how you analyze the model text, how easy or difficult the analysis is, whom you ask for help, what skills you have acquired, how you might apply those skills in analyzing new writing texts, what you learn from this analysis process, etc.


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