Tense Analysis in Rhetorical Movement of Results and Discussion Chapters of Master’s Theses in Hard Sciences

Zahra Shirian Dastjerdi, Helen Tan, Ain Nadzimah Abdullah


In order to gain insights into the tense profile in master theses’ Integrated Results and Discussion chapters, the present study investigated the use of tenses in obligatory rhetorical units (moves and steps) in 20 master’s theses in the hard sciences written by ESL students within a period of 10 years from 2002 to 2012. To conduct the study, a mixed method of quantitative and qualitative approaches was adopted. The quantitative analysis was conducted to locate the tenses in the identified obligatory rhetorical units of the corpus. Besides, to enhance the robustness of the methodology, the shifts in the use of the tenses and possible reasons for tense preferences in the obligatory rhetorical units were investigated qualitatively in the form of contextual analysis. The contextual analysis revealed that the simple present tense (66.03%) was the most preferred tense, followed by the use of simple past tense (28.14%). Also, the contextual analysis revealed that the contributing factors in the tense choices were temporal aspects, rhetorical unit function, nature of disciplines, the structure of the report, writer’s personal tendency, and level of generalizability of issues.


tense, obligatory rhetorical units (moves and steps), contextual analysis

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