I had some people ask me again about it this year, so I thought I'd share.
The CARS model was identified by John Swales (Swales, John M. "Genre Analysis: English in Academic and Research Settings". Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1990.). He is a linguist focused on genre. He defined genre as a text type that is ultimately determined by the task and situation and is immediately defined by communicative purpose. He studies speech communities (a group who share the same linguistic identity).
In his study of the speech community of research articles, he noticed a pattern in the article introductions, which he has defined as follows (from page 141 in his book):
Move 1: Establishing a territory
Step 1: Claiming Centrality [the researcher can claim interest or important, can refer to the central, favorite, or classic character of the issue, or can claim that there are many active investigators in the field.]Move 2: Establishing a niche
Step 2: Making topic generalization(s) [express in general terms the current state of knowledge, of technique, etc.]
Step 3: Reviewing items of previous research [relate what has been found (or claimed) with who has found it (or claimed it).]
Step 1A: Counter-claimingMove 3: Occupying the niche [this move offers to substantiate the counter-claim, fill the gap, answer the question, or continue the established tradition. Most research article introductions end with Move 3-Step 1. Move 3-Step 3, if it is included, is always at the end of the introduction.]
Step 1B: Indicating a gap
Step 1C: Question-raising
Step 1D: Continuing a tradition [follow the rhetorically-established tradition. This usually means that the researcher takes what is there already and delves deeper (conducts a test with more subjects, compares studies, etc.)]
Step 1A: Outlining purposesAccording to Swales, the moves show the need for researchers to re-establish in the eyes of the discourse community the significance of the research field itself [this is also part of what we teach regarding academic writing as conversation and could help students understand it better]; situate the actual research in terms of that significance [I've found that students struggle with making their papers their own. The four steps of move 2 help to point out where they can focus their efforts]; and show how the niche will be occupied and defended [this is where I teach them about the role of the thesis statement and of guiding the reader using signposts].
Step 1B: Announcing present research
Step 2: Announcing principle findings
Step 3: Indicating research article structure
Recently, there has been a spate of interest in how to ...Topic generalization:
In recent years, applied researchers have been increasingly interested in .. .
The time development ... is a classic problem in fluid mechanics.
Many investigators have recently turned to ...
A central issue in ... is the validity of ...
There are many situations where ...Reviewing previous research:
An elaborate system of ... is found in the ...
X was found by Sang et aI. (1972) to be impaired.Continuing a tradition:
X was impaired (Sang et aI., 1972).
It is desirable to perform test calculations ...Application for English 2010/2010 (perhaps 1010?)
It is of interest to compare ...
I use this to help students get an idea for how to start their final paper. We talk about why all those articles that Swales studied would have used the same general organization unconsciously. This could be a good lead-in for determining whether something is an academic source, but I haven't explored that since I usually teach this toward the end of the semester.
I also take the opportunity to focus in on Move 2 and how they need to decide what their purpose is and how they will give a new, different, or unique perspective on the topic.
I also have them bring some of their sources to class and then have them pick out the moves and steps in the introductions. Then, I have them do the same with their introduction (that I had them write and bring to class). Then we work on making those introductions even better.
Finally, I am including here a scan of a page from Swales' book that shows how the moves and steps work in an actual article.