Exploring Academic Voice in Multimodal Quantitative Texts

Main Article Content

Robert Prince
Arlene Archer


Research on students’ academic literacies practices has tended to focus on the written mode in order to understand the academic conventions necessary to access Higher Education. However, the representation of quantitative information can be a challenge to many students. Quantitative information can be represented through a range of modes (such as writing, visuals and numbers) and different information graphics (such as tables, charts, graphs). This paper focuses on the semiotic aspects of graphic representation in academic work, using student and published data from the Health Science, and an information graphic from the social domain as a counterpoint to explore aspects about agency and choice in academic voice in multimodal texts. It explores voice in terms of three aspects which work across modes, namely authorial engagement, citation and modality. The work of different modes and their inter-relations in quantitative texts is established, as is the use of sources in citation. We also look at the ways in which credibility and validity are established through modality. This exploration reveals that there is a complex interplay of modes in the construction of academic voice, which are largely tacit. This has implications for the way we think about and teach writing and text-making in quantitative disciplines in Higher Education.

Article Details

Author Biographies

Robert Prince, Centre for Higher Education Development, University of Cape Town

Robert Prince is the Director of the Alternative Admissions Research Project at the Centre for Higher Education Development, University of Cape Town, South Africa. He is interested in appropriate interventions to develop the academic practices of students, particularly from disadvantaged backgrounds, and various disciplines and at various levels across the tertiary curriculum.

Arlene Archer, Writing Centre, University of Cape Town

Arlene Archer is the co-ordinator of the Writing Centre at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. She teaches in Applied Language Studies, Higher Education Studies, Film and Media. Her research interests include drawing on popular culture and multimodal pedagogies to enable student access to Higher Education. She has published in journals such as Language and Education, Teaching in Higher Education, English in Education, Social Dynamics, Visual Communication.