This paper analyzes the article of McFall (2011) that explores the impact of sudden changes in wealth on the retirement plans of Americans. The results of the study indicate that the crisis-caused decrease in wealth encourages people to postpone their retirement. The article appears to be violating a number of academic writing rules, as described by Ann Johns (2011). Still, at the closer look, it becomes apparent that the key features of the article include clarity, transparency, avoidance of plagiarism, clear navigation, and appropriate usage of metadiscourse, which makes the described article consistent with the modern view of academic writing. The “vision of reality” of the author appears to correspond to the one that is maintained by the discipline of economics. The deviation of the article from the framework described by Johns (2011) stems from the fact that McFall (2011) does not find it necessary to be distanced from the study.
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The article by Brooke McFall (2011) is devoted to defining the impact that a crisis can have on retirement plans; the data used in the study describes the lives of Americans. With the help of the 2008 surveys, the author was able to estimate the relationship between the two phenomena. The author reports using the “sustainable consumption” metric as described by Purvi Sevak and proceeds to describe the calculations and the results that have been presented in the form of tables extensively. Discussing the results, the author points out that the study contributes to the understanding of the impact of the sudden changes in wealth on postponing retirement that, as expected, turned out to be tangible. The author also found out that the Americans who had pessimistic expectations concerning the crisis were more likely to postpone their retirement.
Article Analysis: Key Features
According to Johns (2011), discourse is used by communities to “to keep in touch with each other, carry on discussions, explore controversies, and advance their aims” (p. 503). To achieve these aims, particular features are expected to be exhibited by the works of every discourse member. The features that are expected from academic writing are going to be described in this paper, and their presence in the article of McFall (2011) is going to be evaluated.
The primary requirement of academic texts is explicitness (Johns, 2011). This term incorporates qualities like transparency and clarity, objectiveness, and avoidance of ambiguity. To demonstrate this feature and its implementation in the article by McFall (2011), other, more particular features should be analyzed.
The article is introduced with the discussion of the factors that have directed the author towards conducting the research. Then the author proceeds to describe the study, its aims, methods, and results. Such an introduction is typical for academic discourse and ensures clarity and transparency of the work (Johns, 2011). Such a layout demonstrates that the work is meant for the academic community; the language used in the introduction indicates the same.
Specialized Language and Assumptions about Audience
Beginning with the heading, the author uses the kind of vocabulary that can appear foreign to academic work. The title includes the phrase “crash,” the introduction sports the words “housing bust,” “shock,” “plummeting” (McFall, 2011, p. 40) that can be described as emotionally colored and, therefore, would not be typically expected to appear in academic writing (Johns, 2011). However, if one explores the vocabulary of a microeconomics textbook, for example, that by Lieberman and Hall (2012), these expressions will be described as terms. For example, to explain the meaning of the phrase “housing bubble,” Lieberman and Hall (2012) point out that the “term bubble suggests something that is destined to burst” (p. 110). While the origin of such terms is obviously metaphoric, the discipline appears to have incorporated them along with the more “conventional” phrases. Moreover, from the explanation of the “housing bubble,” it can be suggested that economists find it convenient that the terms can be explained through their imagery. Therefore, the language used by McFall (2011) includes specific disciplinary terms as well as discipline-typical seemingly emotionally charged adjectives.
The economics terminology that also includes numerous other terms, for example, “total wealth,” “household assets,” “pre cash sustainable consumption level,” “annuitization factor” (McFall, 2011, p. 41 ). Apart from that, the author uses another layer of terminology that is connected to the calculations, for example, “nominator,” “denominator,” “regression results,” and so on (McFall, 2011, p. 41). From the heavy usage of terminology of both layers, it is obvious that the article is meant for specialists.
Metadiscourse and Reader Navigation
According to Johns (2011), metadiscourse is the part of an academic work that serves to provide a “map” of the said work (p. 506). McFall (2011) uses metadiscourse to describe the plan of the work in the introduction as well as to describe the calculations and tables as the instructions to reading them is given. It is obvious that such mapping facilitates the process of reading; apart from that, it should be pointed out that the maps contribute to the transparency and clarity of the work on the metadiscourse level.
Hedging Tactics and Intertextuality
McFall (2011) does not actively seek to utilize hedging techniques. Modal verbs are used not for hedging but in their primary meaning: “annuity that could be purchased in 2009” (McFall, 2011, p. 42). Still, certain suppositions that the author makes, appear to require hedging that is reflected in the phrases: “it is also plausible that”, “the result is suggestive”, “these results suggest” (McFall, 2011, pp. 42-43). According to Johns (2011) hedging techniques are expected to be used in academic discourse for the sake of objectivity.
Intertextuality presupposes acknowledging the sources used by the author; this feature is aimed at avoiding plagiarism (Jones, 2011, p. 509). McFall (2011) cites the source of the data and mentions all the works that have been used to create the present study. In the discussion, McFall (2011) points out that the article contributes to the current knowledge concerning the relationships between changes in wealth and retirement and demonstrates this fact by citing other relevant studies.
According to Johns (2011) the author of an academic work is expected to distance himself or herself from the study for the sake of objectivity. In the academic discourse, the author is not supposed to be involved in the study personally or emotionally. The easiest way to achieve this on the superficial level is to avoid the use of the personal pronoun, but this is not substantial to achieve objectivity.
McFall (2011) ignores the common techniques of distancing from the work. The author uses the personal pronoun throughout the work: “I use data”, “I provide estimates”, “I follow work”, “I implicitly assume,” “I first calculate” (twice), “I examined” (McFall, 2011, pp. 40-43). At the same time, it should be pointed out that personalized constructions are used by the author as well: “could be purchased”, “is then calculated”, “is calculated» (McFall, 2011, pp. 41-43). In general, it appears that the author uses various sentence structures and utilizes the ones that are most convenient and short. The author also does not avoid evaluating the findings. For example: “this is not surprising”, “it is also plausible” (McFall, 2011, p. 42). Such elements could hardly be described as nonobjective, but they demonstrate the fact that the author is not detached from the study.
Vision of Reality
According to Johns (2011), the vision of reality is a perspective that is shared by the discourse community. This term appears to be very similar to that of “disciplinary perspective” as described by Repko (2011): it includes the theoretical, methodological, and thematic preferences of the members of a discourse community as well as “ideological, ethical, and epistemological presupposition” (165). While describing economic discourse, Repko (2011) points out that its members tend to regard the reality perceptible and cognizable. The worldview of McFall (2011) appears to be comparable to these features: the study itself is devoted to exploring the reality and its phenomena. Apart from that, the mentioned linguistic features of the study can be attributed to the “perspective” of the economics discourse.
Since McFall (2011) refuses to be detached from the study, the work could be regarded as a “rebellious” one in the terms of Johns (2011). Still, it should be mentioned that nowadays the scientific word is more accepting of the usage of the personal pronoun which shows that the involvement of scientists in their work is being “redeemed» (Van Way 2007). This may be the case of the discourse evolving and developing as described by Johns (2011). At the same time, it should be pointed out that the key aspects of academic writing including clarity, transparency, intertextuality and avoidance of plagiarism, clear navigation and appropriate usage of metadiscourse are characteristic of the described article. As a result, the work is perfectly objective, and the involvement of the author into the process of the study does not appear to influence the results or their interpretation.
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Lieberman, M., & Hall, R. (2012). Microeconomics: Principles and Applications. Mason, Ohio: Cengage Learning.
McFall, B. (2011). Crash and Wait? The Impact of the Great Recession on the Retirement Plans of Older Americans. American Economic Review, 101(3), 40-44. Web.
Repko, A. F. (2011). Interdisciplinary research: Process and theory (2nd ed.). Los Angeles: Sage.
Van Way, C. W. (2007). On Scientific Writing. Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition, 31(3), 259-60. Web.