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Examining the role of metadiscourse in collaborative knowledge building community

Shaoming Chai (Aberdeen Institute of Data Science and Artificial Intelligence, South China Normal University, Foshan, China)
Emily Pey-Tee Oon (Faculty of Education, University of Macau, Taipa, China)
Yuan Chai (Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Macau, Taipa, China)
Zuokun Li (Faculty of Education, University of Macau, Taipa, China)

Library Hi Tech

ISSN: 0737-8831

Article publication date: 11 August 2023




Metadiscourse is an important dialogue technique used in productive knowledge building to help a group evaluate and advance their knowledge progress. Previous studies have identified and defined various types of metadiscourse. However, there is scant knowledge about how different metadiscourse types emerge among different groups or what implicit correlations lie between progressive discourse and metadiscourse. Moreover, research on how different types of metadiscourse influence groups' knowledge advancement and artifacts is still inadequate. Therefore, this study aims to further examine the roles that different types of metadiscourse play in the collaborative knowledge building community on both a fine-grained (i.e. progressive discourse) and coarse-grained (i.e. group knowledge advancement and group artifacts) level.


Data for this study are drawn from the behaviour of undergraduate students participating in a 12-week course at a key university in China. On the fine-grained level, epistemic network analysis (ENA) is applied to illustrate how metadiscourse promotes the development of progressive discourse. On the coarse-grained level, two different chi-square tests are conducted to examine the roles of different types of metadiscourse in groups' knowledge advancement and artifacts.


The analysis allowed several conclusions to be drawn. First, the types of metadiscourse that students most often adopted were reflecting on ideas development (RD) and commenting on ideas (CI); they less frequently adopted setting group goals (SG) and making group plans (MP). Second, most types of metadiscourse correlated with developments in progressive discourse, particularly RD and CI. Third, the metadiscourse types RD, CI and coordinating group efforts (CE) played essential roles in knowledge advancement. Fourth, higher-quality artifacts could be created by using the metadiscourse type reviewing the state of knowledge building progress (RP).


A more profound comprehension of the role that metadiscourse plays in the collaborative knowledge building community not only contributes to the literature in the knowledge building field but also carries a significant meaning in regulating community, promoting learner agency and sustained knowledge, and consequently improving collaborative learning performance.



The authors are indebted to the participants who made this research possible, and to the editor and reviewers who greatly helped strengthen this paper.

Competing interests: The authors declare no potential conflict of interest in the work.


Chai, S., Oon, E.P.-T., Chai, Y. and Li, Z. (2023), "Examining the role of metadiscourse in collaborative knowledge building community", Library Hi Tech, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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