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Creating a Research Space

Typical Research Genre Structure

Swales’ Model of Rhetorical moves in Research Articles: Create A Research Space (CARS)

Move 1 Establishing a territory
Step 1 Claiming centrality and/or
Step 2 Making topic generalization(s) and/or
Step 3 Reviewing items of previous research 
Move 2 Establishing a niche 
Step 1A Counter-claiming or
Step 1B Indicating a gap or
Step 1C Question-raising or
Step 1D Continuing a tradition 
Move 3 Occupying the niche 
Step 1A Outlining purposes or
Step 1B Announcing present research
Step 2 Announcing principal findings
Step 3 Indicating research article structure

The CARS Model (Create a Research Space), by John Swales

According to Swales, research writers frequently use three rhetorical moves to create a context for their work. These moves can happen both in the introduction of a piece, as well as on a larger scale, throughout the research paper/proposal/document:

MOVE 1: Establishing a Territory (Annotated Bibliography/Literature Review)

  • Writers demonstrate the relevance or importance of their research topic (exigency)
    • Ask yourself: “Why is my research important in this current moment of 2016 – politically, socially, historically?” Then
    • Example phrase: “In recent years, researchers have become increasingly interested in...” “A central issue in ______ is...” “Many recent studies have focused on..."
  • Writers selectively synthesize and review previous work in a literature review
    • Imagine that all past research on your topic is an ongoing academic conversation that you need to understand fully before joining in; then, to structure your synthesis, ask yourself: "What would X author say to Y author? Does X author extend Y author's research, or does she critique it, etc.?"
    • Example phrase: “Much research has examined ______, though different conclusions have been made.”

MOVE 2: Establishing a Niche (Rhetorical Prospectus)

  • Writers show there is 1) some kind of gap, shortcoming, or limitation in existing work, or 2) that some extension or verification is required
    • Imagine that you now understand the conversation, and you see some limitation or place where extension is needed; join the conversation to make the limitation or need for more research clear.
    • Example phrases: (limitation) “However, these studies have failed to recognize the...” or (extension) “X...has been extensively studied. However, less attention has been paid to..."

MOVE 3: Occupying the Niche (Research Proposal)

  • Writers show how their work resolves (or, in the case of a proposal, will resolve) the gap, shortcoming, or limitation in existing work or that it successfully extends or verifies past research
    • Imagine that you now have everyone’s attention, and that you must explain to fellow scholars how your ideas will add or move the conversation forward.
    • Example phrases – for proposal: “The purpose of this investigation is to...” or “To focus my research, I will ask the following questions..."
    • Example phrases – for research article or dissertation introduction: “The remainder of this paper is divided into five sections. Section 1 describes..."

Works Consulted:

  • Swales, John M. Genre Analysis: English in Academic and Research Settings (1990)
  • Swales, John M. and Christine B. Feak. Academic Writing for Graduate Students (2008)


[Adapted by Lisha Storey, May 2015]