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Document Type

Book Chapter

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Accepted Manuscript

Publication Date


Journal or Book Title

University Writing: Selves and Texts in Academic Societies Series: Studies in Writing, Volume


Series 24


Chapter 1

First Page


Last Page





This chapter analyzes the question of how and why texts written by students are similar to and different from texts written by researchers, in various disciplines and professions. The question is complex because it involves not only linguistic or textual differences, but also social and cultural differences—the communities and practices involved. This chapter first provides a brief theoretical and a schematic analysis of the complexity. It charts the relationships between writers and audiences in different social contexts and genres: academic and non-academic on one axis, scientific and non-scientific on the other axis. And the chapter suggests the stakes involved, as the distinctions are more than terminological. Distinctions may indicate fundamental differences in the way writing, learning, and research are conceived and practiced inside and outside formal higher education—and the way the identities of students, teachers, and researchers are constructed. The distinctions also in many ways determine what genres of writing get taught, to whom and by whom and for whose purposes. The chapter then briefly surveys several major research traditions that have taken up the problem: applied linguistics, linguistic anthropology/sociolinguistics, and rhetoric/professional communication. Finally, it discusses some of the methodological consequences this complex problem raises for research into academic writing, and some of the practical problems it raises for teachers and educational policy makers, in terms of what genres to teach to whom, and when and where to teach them.


This accepted book chapter is published as Russell, David R., and Viviana Cortes. (2012). “Academic and scientific texts: the same or different communities?” In University writing: Selves and Texts in Academic Societies. Ed. Montserrat Castello and Christiane Donahue. Brill. 2012; Chapter 1; 3-17.

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Published Version