Building, emptying out, or dreaming? Action structures and space in undergraduates' metaphors of academic writing
Ingrid Scharlau, Andrea Karsten and Katharina Rohlfing (accepted for publication in the Journal of Writing Research)
The aim of the present study is to bring new momentum into research on students' understanding of academic writing. Drawing on the idea that metaphors give insight into implicit conceptions of abstract entities and processes, we developed a detailed and differentiated set of conceptual metaphors that can be used to study student ideas about writing in research, teaching, and interventions. A large sample of undergraduates produced their everyday understanding of writing in short texts beginning with a self-generated metaphor. Based on theories from cognitive linguistics, the conceptual metaphors in their texts were analyzed in terms of their action quality (transitivity) and spatiality (spatial primitives). The undergraduates' conceptualizations were very heterogeneous. Most metaphors depart strongly from scientific approaches to academic writing within cognitive psychology and sociocultural theory. Roughly half of the metaphors could be collated to one of four metaphor systems. Depending on the desired degree of abstraction or concreteness, conceptual metaphors or metaphor systems can be employed in further studies to illuminate thinking about writing.
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