The importance of analysing genres

time to complete: 20 minutes

Why is genre analysis important?

In order to create a text within a genre we need to know its common features. If you are asked to write a lab report, for example, you need to be able to analyse lab reports as a genre; this will help you notice and then replicate its organization and language in your own writing.

Depending on your academic background, you may have more or less experience with the type of text you are asked to produce. The more experience you have with a genre, the easier it will be for you to produce a similar text.

For example, if you are studying in a field in the arts and humanities, or the social sciences, you might be very familiar with essays. The moment you read the word essay, your mind probably went directly to a particular type of text. But do you know how to create a conservation plan? If you do not study archaeology or in another field that uses them, chances are you don’t know what a conservation plan looks like.

By developing your ability to analyse genres, you will be giving yourself an advantage: you will be better able to look at examples of particular types of texts, and find more easily their defining features. With practice, you will produce more successful texts for your assignments. Genre analysis is, therefore, a transferable skill that will be useful to you in your academic journey and beyond, in your professional career.

Task: Complete this short summary of the section above to check your understanding

Generic features

There are dozens of genres of written texts, possibly hundreds, and you will come across many different ones in your modules, depending on your field of study. Here, we will look at a few different genres from different faculties in order to focus on the generic features to look for when you come across a new genre. Some of these are:

  • Organization (including sections, headings, layout, length etc.)
  • Language (including style, vocabulary, linguistic functions etc.)

Self-assessment 2

Task:Which of the following genres are you familiar with or heard of? Tick all that apply

Obviously, these are just some examples of genres – there are many more as we said earlier, but then again you will only be exposed to the ones that are common in your discipline e.g. news reports for journalism students, and the more general ones found in most academic disciplines e.g. dissertations.

However, even the more general genres might have differences amongst the various fields e.g. work-based dissertations, laboratory-based dissertations, literature review-based dissertations, etc. So, genre analysis is a great tool that can help you understand the various academic genres you will have to consume and produce.