Abstract

There have been numerous investigations in recent years into the linguistic and rhetorical features of research articles, but none, to our knowledge, has examined the ‘fringe phenomenon’ of imperatives This study investigates the use of imperatives in research articles from ten disciplines Five articles in each field, all five from one journal, were scanned for imperative uses in both main text and notes, and instances were collated and analysed In fields where imperatives were present in the main text (five out of ten), we recorded interviews with the authors of one of the articles Results show that main-text imperatives tend to congregate in sections where the principal argumentation occurs, but are very unevenly distributed across fields The interview data also reveals that, despite the potentially face-threatening nature of imperatives, authors use them for vanous strategic purposes such as engaging the reader, achieving text economy, or manifesting personal style Finally, there appear to be a number of field-specific expectations and conventions Given these subtleties, a case can be made for rather more sophisticated materials for NNS researchers and students than currently available