Although most universities and research institutes employ staff who assist their academics in the preparation of high stakes research funding proposals, one research institute invited the authors to provide them with a different type of assistance: linguistic analysis and guidance. Informed by Halliday's Systemic Functional Linguistic Theory (2014) and work on the register of scientific English (Halliday & Martin 1993, Halliday 1998, 2004) we were mindful of the fact that we could not contribute much to what is being said (ideational meaning), so we focused on how it is being said (textual meaning). In particular, our analysis explored how the applicants use Theme + Rheme and Given + New to create textual patterns of emphasis that help persuade reviewers the proposed ideas are worth funding. The results of our SFL analyses of 18 applications revealed three different types of thematic patterning, which vary according to the stage of career of the main writer. Our results also shed light on how choices of textual meanings play a crucial role in addressing assessment criteria throughout a grant proposal. The insights gained may also have important implications for research into scientific discourse within the English for Academic Purposes (EAP) community.
- Grant proposals
- Systemic functional linguistics
- Focussed themes