Re-imagining the research article: Social-semiotic signposts and the potential for radical co-presence in the scholarly literature

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Margaret Malone


As a prestigious form of writing, the empirical research article is vital for communication, assessment and legitimisation of community-based research and practice. Yet, the research article is powerful partly because it draws upon social-semiotic conventions for the proper communication of new knowledge and practice, which are deeply and thoroughly embedded within institutions of higher education ‘dominated by technical rationality’, as Donald Schön (1995, p. 31) stressed nearly 30 years ago. This inherent tension is an important, but under scrutinised and underutilised, site of engagement for community-based research.

This article sheds light on what genre conventions are, why they are important, and how they might be used and adapted to better support the collaborative, reciprocal and justice-focused change goals of community-based research and practice. Using genre analysis and social semiotics, I undertake empirical analysis of co-authored peer reviewed research articles to reveal authors’ innovative rhetorical strategies. By uncovering the emerging shared patterns – what I call here the symbolic ‘signposts’ for communicating participatory research – I hope to strengthen them collectively. Building on these embryonic efforts, and informed by Santos’s (2018) concept of an ‘ecology of knowledges’, I propose some alternative signposts for reciprocal and non-hierarchical recognition. These social-semiotic guidelines seek to ensure that diverse ways of knowing and being are not merely accommodated within our texts, but are radically co-present.

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Research articles (Refereed)