This post will simply introduce the idea that there are different patterns of rhetoric (i.e. different conventions of essay structure) in written Chinese and written English, and contrast one particular Chinese rhetorical pattern – a so-called "Start-Sustain-Turn-Sum" pattern (Connor, 1996; Grabe & Kaplan, 1998; Hinds, 1990; Swales, 1990) – with the English introduction-body-conclusion essay structure.
To begin with, it is worth pointing out that culturally-based styles of structure can actually be very different, and that this difference has its origin in the divergent historical and philosophical pasts of the Chinese and Western peoples. As Igor observes, what is involved are the academic cultural norms and their unknowing subversion by those from a different background:
“Unlike the native speakers of English,
who expect expository prose to be developed as a
sequence of claims and (direct) Aristotelian proofs,
non-native users of English employ rhetorical
progression of text that are incongruous with the
expectations of the Anglo-American reader." (Igor, 2011, emphasis added)
The Chinese pattern to be mentioned here is one that has been called the "Start-Sustain-Turn-Sum" pattern, and is described in Xing, Wang and Spencer (2008) as follows:
"It is claimed that Chinese rhetorical style consists of a four-part pattern: qi ('start, open') establishes the field or prepares the reader for the topic; cheng ('carry on, sustain') introduces and develops the topic; zhuan ('turn') turns to a seemingly unrelated subject or looks at the problem from another angle; and he ('conclude') sums up the essay whereby the author's opinion is established or hinted at (Connor, 1996; Grabe & Kaplan, 1998; Hinds, 1990; Swales, 1990, cited in Xing, Wang and Spencer, 2008, emphasis added)."