Genre analysis studies concerning the medical research article are limited, and the few studies that do exist tend to focus exclusively on the textual aspects of the genre, with little consideration for the context and discourse community in which texts are produced. The objective of this study is thus: 1) to analyze and describe the genre of the medical research article by emphasizing the written medical discourse (text) and the activity of medical research (context); 2) to compare study findings with those in the literature; 3) to investigate possible changes in the genre over time; and 4) to examine the potential pedagogic implications of genre research.
A multidimensional model is developed based on elements of register and genre analysis as well as on an examination of the medical discourse community. This model is applied to a study corpus comprising 17 medical research articles published between 2004 and 2006, selected from the British Medical Journal, the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Lancet, and the New England Journal of Medicine.
Ten rhetorical moves comprising a total of 28 steps are identified, and a series of within- and cross-section patterns are observed for specific lexicogrammatical features. Comparison with the literature shows that there is variation between studies of the same genre, which may be explained by a number of variables including the choice of study material, the methodology, the anticipated audience, and potential changes in generic structure. Genre as a descriptive framework for understanding and producing text appears to be a valuable pedagogic tool, provided students are made aware of the potential pitfalls of following such guidelines.
Key words: text, discourse, genre, register, discourse community, medical research article, systemic-functional linguistics