Medical Research Papers and Their Popularization. A Macro- and Micro-Linguistic Qualitative Genre Analysis

Diana Peppoloni


Communication between the scientific community and the general public is not always effective. There is a meaningful discrepancy that needs to be bridged, mainly because scientific knowledge is produced not only for a restricted specialized community but also for a general target, as part of a crucial social responsibility. The need to fill the gap is even more relevant in medical research as its findings are perceived of direct interest by the public.

The process of making specialized knowledge understandable to laypeople is known as popularization (Nash 1990) or popular scientific writing (Calsamiglia 2003), which includes knowledge dissemination in popular magazines, scientific news reports in newspapers and television documentaries. Popularized articles are usually written by journalists who are expert in a specific field and who act as mediators, recontextualizing scientific findings to make them useful and attractive to the large public.

In this study we will analyze two medical texts; the first is a research paper about a biomedical topic written and published in English, while the other is a popularization written in Italian and published in the magazine Focus. The purpose of our research is to carry out a qualitative linguistic analysis of the two texts and highlight similarities and differences in their structure and linguistic features, to identify their fundamental constitutive traits, and establish whether they belong to two distinct textual genres or whether one is the adapted version of the other, always referable to the same genre. 

What we infer from the results of our investigation is that we can assign the two texts to two different genres, having not only different constitutive traits, but also different target audiences and different communicative purposes.

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