A2 Coursework

Step-by-step advice
on how to do well

Of the three A2 modules , one is coursework. It will assess your ability to plan, carry out and present an investigation into an aspect of English Language of your choice. The module is worth 30% of the A2.

The Investigating Language coursework folder consists of one piece of work - a write-up of your investigation. The investigation must consist of the following ten sections: 

  1. Introduction
  2. Aims
  3. Hypothesis (hypotheses?)
  4. Methodology
  5. Description of Data
  6. Data
  7. Analysis
  8. Conclusions
  9. Evaluation
  10. Bibliography

 

The folder is marked as one piece of work (each section is not separately assessed), on the following criteria:

  • Language Frameworks - your ability to select suitable frameworks to process your data, and to use them accurately and in varying degrees of detail.
  • Interpretation - your ability to explore, explain and evaluate language use according to context.
  • Theoretical knowledge - your research into the area you are discussing: use of, and comment on, linguistic theory.
  • Use of language - your ability to express yourself clearly and accurately, with appropriate use of technical terms, and your ability to structure your comments usefully.

CHOOSING YOUR TOPIC

You can choose any aspect of English Language you like. You are strongly advised to:

  • choose a topic which you are interested in as you will be working with it for quite some time, and it will involve a lot of work.
  • choose something original - tabloids/broadsheets and other 'obvious' topics have been done to death.
  • be very specific.

Some ideas for topics you could investigate are:

  • The relationship between prosody in speech and pitch, tone and volume in song
  • The presence of opinion in Radio Two news bulletins
  • Male-female interaction in Disney (do the hero and heroine speak to each other in a realistic manner?)
  • A comparison of the language in literature and television programmes aimed at four-year-olds
  • Changes to the speech style of Basil Fawlty as his mood changes
  • The variation in a teenager's speech strategies when talking to male/female parents/guardians
  • A comparison of Christian religious song lyrics pre- and post-1900 (?Isaac Watts and Graham Kendrick?)
  • How realistic is male/female interaction in songs?
  • The language of political parties' web sites
  • A comparison of the language used in speeches by Margaret Thatcher and President Reagan
  • The language of villains in post-1990 Disney feature animations
  • A comparison of the language used in the Hollinshed Chronicles and the language used by Shakespeare in the same narratives
  • A comparison between the lyrics of Rice/Lloyd-Webber and Boublil/Schönberg musicals
  • The idiolects of Professor Dumbledore and Vernon Dursley in 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's stone'

 INTRODUCTION

The introduction to your investigation should contain research and background information on the topic you are studying. This should give an overview of the nature and features of your topic, and be the basis for your work.

You should include relevant information on theorists, theories and even on individual studies.

For example:if you are studying the language of text messages to discover whether it contains more features of the spoken or written mode, your introduction would contain information on the nature and features of spoken and written language, on the impact of new technology on modes and styles of communication, and perhaps (if someone has already produced research or speculation on the topic) on the language of text messaging.

Your introduction should also contain information on why you have chosen your topic, and perhaps why you think it is a valid area for study.

AIMS

The aims section of your investigation should be a brief and specific statement of the aspects of language you intend to study within the topic you have chosen. You should not be aiming to 'prove' anything - simply investigate with an open mind. Saying 'I aim to prove that...' is very bad. Don't do it.

For example:" to study the variation in a teacher's speech when speaking to classes of different ages, I aim to investigate:

  • Length of interaction
  • Register of language
  • Conversational styles and structures
  • Forms of address"

Study of these individual areas would then allow you to draw measured conclusions about the more general area of 'language use'.

Using bullet points is probably a good idea as it forces you to formulate discrete and precise ideas.

HYPOTHESIS

This section contains your initial ideas on what the outcome of your investigation will be. It is a statement of what, at the outset, you expect to find. You could formulate just one, general, hypothesis, or a number of hypotheses, depending on your topic and focus. Do not have too many hypotheses, though - four is about your limit. 

Your hypotheses do not need to be accurate, nor do they need to be controversial: you may find that you end up finding your hypotheses were entirely right, or that they were entirely wrong - this does not matter, as long as they have given you something against which to compare your conclusions.

For example:"In my investigation into the language used by footballers in post-match interviews, I expect that I will find a high proportion of features extremely typical of spontaneous speech, such as simple lexis, clichés, many non-fluency features, consistent use of first-person pronouns, compound sentence structure, incomplete sentences, inconsistent use of verb tense and verbs in the active voice."
 

METHODOLOGY

This section describes in detail how you will go about carrying out your investigation. It should be logically ordered and chronological. If you change your mind at any point on how you intend to conduct your investigation, you should also detail this.

You should describe:

Data collection:

  • What data you will collect (and why)
  • How you will decide what data to select
  • How much data you will collect (and why)

Data processing:

  • How you will render your data 'analysable' (i.e. transcription) if needed
  • What data statistics you will collect (counting things, i.e. MLU, sentence lengths, lexical density, length of text in words, frequency of disyllabic lexemes, percentage of colloquial or slang lexemes, number of speaking turns, number of interruptions)

Analysis:

  • What linguistic frameworks you will employ (and why)
  • What specific features you will look at (e.g. use of tag questions, monitoring features, typeface, over-extension, speech strategies,

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    sentence structures)

Your methodology should be written as concisely and exactly as possible. You should write in full paragraphs, but may include bullet-point or numbered lists if this aids clarity or organisation.
 

DESCRIPTION OF DATA

This section should describe the data from which you have worked in order that a marker can immediately grasp what you are dealing with. You should give details of the length, content, and context or source of the data you use.

For example:if you were investigating the reporting of political news items by different television networks, your description of data would include details of the length in seconds of each report, date taken, network, newsreader, topic and social or political context.

DATA

You should include copies of the data you use. This could be photocopies of books, advertisements, articles etc, or transcripts of conversations, broadcasts or songs etc. If you use non-written data, you should include a cassette with original recordings on it. 

Each piece of data needs a name, letter or number so you can make it clear in your analysis which item you are discussing.

For example:if you were discussing the representation of male and female characters in Enid Blyton's 'Famous Five' series, you might label your extracts 'Julian 1', 'George 1', etc .

ANALYSIS

Your analysis is the longest piece of your investigation. It is highly unlikely that you will have any difficulty reaching the minimum word count as your analysis will need to be thorough and detailed.

You should:

  1. analyse all your pieces of data individually, then…
  2. set about comparing and collating the insights and results that this gives you. You should look for patterns in the language used in your data, and write up your analysis based on common or comparable features, or possibly framework by framework. You are advised not to report your findings on each data extract separately (see huge big warning below).
  3. decide how to present your data - it may be appropriate to use tables, charts, graphs, diagrams etc.
  4. explain and interpret and explore your findings. You need to account for variation in language use by making reference to audience, purpose, mode, speaker/writer, field, time etc.
  5. relate your findings and ideas to the research you conducted for your introduction.

 

Your analysis should be as linguistic as possible. Where there is a linguistic term for something, use it!

You should also remember how much the Board likes the analytical sentence.

CONCLUSION

This section is what the whole investigation has been working towards. It gives the results of your investigation, drawing on the evidence gathered in your analysis. It should be a comment on your initial hypothesis, discussing the extent to which you were correct, and what factors, if any, account for the differences between your hypothesis and your results.

You could comment on findings with regard to individual aims or parts of your hypothesis if you find that your initial ideas were correct in part.

EVALUATION

This section is a personal reflection on the process and results of conducting your investigation.

It should comment on the validity, limits and further scope of your work.

You could discuss:

  • The amount of data used and the effects of this on the final results
  • The methodology employed and any alternatives which might be more productive
  • Anything you wished to do but could not, due to constraints of time, word count, 'workforce' etc
  • Anything you are aware of which might have caused your results to be inaccurate or non-representative
  • Any further research that could be done in this area to further define its linguistic features

For example:if you were investigating the language of railway tannoy announcements, you might say in your evaluation that your data may not be entirely representative geographically as it was taken only from GNER and Arriva trains and stations around Leeds, although you think the number of samples from each operator or station was sufficient to demonstrate clear patterns. You could also add that there is perhaps further scope for research into the language used by conductors, guards and sales assistants on trains to complete the picture for this field, but that this would take a great deal more time, space and researcher-power than you had at your disposal.
 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

This section lists the resources you used to gain your initial background information for your Introduction, and any texts you consulted for theory along the way (you need not credit textbooks used to help you with analytical frameworks). Your Bibliography should contain a numbered list giving details of books and websites used, in the following format:

For books, give:

Author's surname and first name/initial(s); Name of text ; date of publication (Place of publication: Publisher)

E.g. Grundy, Peter; Doing Pragmatics; 1995 (London: Arnold).

For websites, give:

Complete URL, e.g.

http://www.phon.ucl.ac.uk/home/estuary/home.htm

TIPS TO MAKE YOUR LIFE EASIER

START EARLY
It helps if you recognise at the outset that this will involve a lot of hard work. Don't leave it to the last minute.
THINK BEFORE YOU BEGIN
Making sensible, reasoned decisions now will save you trouble later and will put you on course for a sound investigation.
DO YOUR RESEARCH
Know your background - your investigation will be best if it builds on, and makes reference to, previous theory.
OVER-COLLECT DATA
Having too much data at the outset means you can select the best data to work with, and that you have extra materials which can help back up your point.
CONSIDER THE IMPLICATIONS
Using original spoken data will probably be very interesting and rewarding, but transcription takes hours - be ready for these things.
BE THOROUGH
A narrow, detailed investigation is better than a broad, superficial one.
BE HONEST
Don't write what you think a marker wants to hear, write what you think. Don't make up interpretations to fit the theory if this is not true to the data.
DON'T PANIC
If you're stuck or it's driving you mad, have a break. Ask for help.
TRY TO ENJOY IT
For once you get to decide what you work on. This could be unique, ground-breaking research. Have confidence in yourself and be proud of your work.


Category: Coursework

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