Analyses of Move Structure and Verb Tense of Research Article Abstracts in Applied Linguistics

Fan-ping Tseng


This study examined 90 research article abstracts in three applied linguistics journals (i.e., TESOL Quarterly, Applied Linguistics, and Language Learning) from two dimensions: the move structure features and the verb tense of each move. The results showed that the abstracts analyzed tended to take a four-move structure instead of a five-move one as proposed in literature. In addition, since some publishers have word limits on abstract length, authors would usually follow the publisher’s guideline accordingly, thus there existing some differences concerning the move structure features among the abstracts in the three journals. In terms of the verb tense in each move, the preferred pattern was as follows: the present tense usually occurred in the first, second, and fifth move, while the past tense was often used in the third and fourth moves. It was also found that there were some variations between the abstracts written by native speakers and nonnative speakers of English. It is hoped that with detailed analyses of abstracts, the results of this study may serve as a complement to the guidelines for novice writers to construct a proper research article abstract in applied linguistics.

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International Journal of English Linguistics   ISSN 1923-869X (Print)   ISSN 1923-8703 (Online)   E-mail:

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