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"Understanding Recent Mathematics Research Articles Through Phrase Frames"

"Understanding Recent Mathematics Research Articles Through Phrase Frames"
September 16-18, 2016, Iowa State University, Ames, IA

Also see published article based on this presentation at

Cunningham, K. J. (2017). A phraseological exploration of recent mathematics research articles through key phrase framesJournal of English for Academic Purposes, 25, 71-83. doi:10.1016/j.jeap.2016.11.005  


While a wealth of resources are available for teaching research writing of traditional IMRD research papers, instructors have little to draw on when working with graduate students in mathematics. The present study offers insight into the genre of mathematical research articles through an exploration guided by phrase-frames, reoccurring multiword units with a variable slot or blank, and in doing so, shows the potential of phrase-frames for understanding subregisters and for teaching. The starting point of this exploration is a 2,289,670-word corpus of 128 recent mathematics research articles collected from 8 scholarly mathematics journals. Five- and six-gram phrase-frames were first generated in KfNgram and those with an occurrence of at least 20 per million words and across 75% of journals were retained for further analysis. Key frames were then identified using the academic section of the Corpus of Contemporary American English as a baseline through inverse relative error (.01 cut off) and sMAPE (1.95 cut off), resulting in 180 frames. Each frame was coded for open slot position (initial, medial or final) and common pattern, using common patterns from academic lexical bundles from Biber, Johansson, Leech, Conrad, and Finegan (1999) as used in Hyland (2008) as a starting point. Overlapping frames were consolidated and all frames functionally grouped. Finally, patterns were constructed to highlight key condensed frame with prominent fillers and extensions. These master groupings and how they reveal different aspects of mathematical texts is discussed.


Biber, D., Johansson, S., Leech, G., Conrad, S., & Finegan, E. (1999). Longman grammar of spoken and written english. Essex, England: Pearson Education Limited.

Hyland, K. (2008). As can be seen: Lexical bundles and disciplinary variation. English for Specific Purposes, 27, 4-21.