Personality and impersonality in biotechnology discourse.

  • Inger Lassen Aalborg University
Keywords: IMRD model, Materials and Methods, genre and discourse analysis, scientific


With the emergence of biotechnology, the field account has been replaced by something that we may refer to as a laboratory account – a kind of narrative that constitutes the Materials and Methods section of the IMRD model (introduction, methods, results and discussion). Research focusing on field accounts from geology (Dressen 2002; Dressen and Swales 2000; Swales 2004) has shown that the author is usually ‘silenced’ in these accounts, and Dressen’s research corroborates similar findings by other researchers (see e.g. Myers 1990). Following Dressen (2002), this paper explores authorial traces in the Materials and Methods sections in two scientific research articles and compares the results with data from a discussion of one of these articles by a Danish research group. It is found that while the Materials and Methods sections are characterized by impersonality, the oral discussion foregrounds personality and at the same time demonstrates how the impersonal written texts cause comprehension problems - even to practitioners - with adverse implications for the replication of results.