Tips for TermPaper(II):Empirical Essays in Linguistics

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Tips for Term Paper (I):Literature Review篇
2018年9月11日
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Essay正文部分如何写得出彩?
2018年9月14日
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本期继续为大家带来termpaper的写作技巧,上一篇文章回顾:Tips for Term Paper (I):Literature Review篇

统一要求:1200-1600字(不含references),double space,3 页以内。

1.1. What are you supposed to do in a term paper?

In general, the successful composition of a term paper is an important qualification you are supposed to achieve in linguistics seminars at our department. It demonstrates the following:

  •   You have acquired a certain amount of expertise in a particular subfield of linguistics, so that you know your way around basic concepts, research interests and debates in the field
  •   You can collect relevant academic literature on a particular topic in this field in a sophisticated and independent manner
  •   You can identify (for your particular topic area) a problem or question worth researching 要有研究问题,Research Question
  •   You can read and understand previous research on this question conducted by professional linguists
  •   You can write a coherent piece of text in which you discuss a manageable selection of this research from a particular perspective (i.e. with a certain goal in mind that you pursue systematically and consistently throughout the paper) 题目不要太大,要有自己的观点和角度
  1. 1.2. From a research question to the structure of the paper

    You can never cover an entire topic area in your paper. You always need to narrow a potential topic down to a very specific research question, i.e. a particular problem within the topic area that you deal with. Therefore, probably the most important conceptual step in the planning of your paper is to distinguish between a topic area that you are interested in, and a very specific goal that you pursue in your paper.

  2. 1.3. Typical structure of a paper

    Every academic paper is framed by an introduction and a conclusion section. The ‘main body’ in- between is then structured according to your own preferences. It is generally neither advisable to have only one ‘mega-section’ between the introduction and the conclusion nor to have a fragmentation into a dozen of itsy-bitsy chapters. Rather, your argumentation stretches over several, relatively equally weighed sections. The particular focus of your paper should also show in relative page quantity. Here is an example:

Imagine a term paper written on Second Language Acquisition. It deals with the factors that affect the degree of foreign accent in L2 learners. The following table of contents is adapted from a suppositious student paper dealing with this topic.

Table of Contents
1. Introduction……………………………………………………………………………………….1

2. Determinants of Foreign Accents in L2 Learning: an Overview…………………..2

3. A Closer Examination of AOL, Amount of L1 Use and LOR…………………………4

3.1 Age of Onset (AOL) and Foreign Accent…………. …………………………………….4

3.2 Amount of L1 Use and Foreign Accent………………………………………… ……….5

3.3 Length of Residence (LOR) and Foreign Accent……………………………………….6

4. Two Case Studies………………………………………………………………………………….7

4.1 Flege et al. 2006…………………………………  ……………………………………………..7

4.2 Piske et al. 2001…………………………………………………………………………………..9

4.3 Comparative Analysis of the Studies……………………………………………………..11 5. Conclusion and Outlook………………………………………………………………………..15

6. Bibliography…………………………………………………………………………………………17

This outline shows you that the topic is first contextualized (2.), i.e. embedded in its theoretical context. It is here that the topic is properly introduced and defined, and that relevant theoretical literature is surveyed. The author then narrows down the scope of the paper (3.) to the three factors that she sets out to investigate in particular, i.e. her specific goal in this paper is to argue for the importance of precisely those three factors. After providing some important information on these factors (3.1-3.3), the author then analyses, discusses and compares selected empirical evidence on which her hypothesis is based, namely two case studies dealing with the specific factors she is interested in (4.). (The discussion of empirical research was a required aspect of this paper.) Finally, a conclusion section rounds off the paper, followed by a bibliography.

仔细看,实际上,这是一篇literature review的essay

  1. 1.4. What makes a good ‘introduction’ and ‘conclusion’?

    In general, those two framing elements of your paper are important, so do not ever neglect them!

    The introduction reveals the topic area in which your paper is situated, and identifies a specific problem or research question within this area. In other words, this initial part of the introduction leads from the topic area to your specific goal. In this, it answers the question of why you conduct this study, what makes it interesting, etc. Once you have narrowed down your scope like this, you essentially foreshadow how you are going to approach your research question. Specifically, you inform the reader about how the paper is going to be structured, and what you are going to do in the individual sections, i.e. what kinds of steps you are going to take in order to reach your goal, what kinds of data you are going to use, which methodology is relevant, etc. Again, we will give you an example of a possible student paper here

1. Introduction

The issue of how age influences the acquisition of a non-native language is one of the most controversial and frequently investigated topics in the field of Second Language Acquisition (SLA) (cf. Muñoz 2008a, Singleton 1995, among many others). It is commonly assumed that children are better language learners than adults, in the sense that they learn a second language more effectively and can achieve better ultimate results in that language (cf. Abello-Contesse et al. 2006: 7). Based on these assumptions, many countries have promoted early language instruction in primary schools or even in kindergarten. For example, the European Commission, in its publication Promoting Language Learning and Linguistic Diversity: An Action Plan 2004-2006 (2003) expresses its intention to encourage the early learning of foreign languages in each of its member states. However, the conception that the younger the better is frequently based on research conducted in immersion settings (Muñoz 2006a: vii). In those studies, older and younger learners that have immigrated to the country of the target language (TL) are compared with respect to their second language (L2) proficiency. Such naturalistic contexts, in which learners are exposed to their L2 on a daily basis, are obviously very different from classroom contexts which offer only limited exposure to the TL.

This paper focuses on the effects of learners’ initial age on foreign language learning in a minimal input situation in order to examine whether a younger starting age is also beneficial under these conditions. In a first step, it is necessary to briefly review some general assumptions about the issue of age in the field of SLA. Secondly, in chapter 3, basic differences between naturalistic and formal settings will be pointed out in order to demonstrate why starting age does not necessarily have the same effects in both contexts. Based on this examination, I will make predictions about the influence of learners’ initial age in formal language settings. Chapter 4 provides a close analysis of two previous studies which both examine possible advantages of a younger starting age in a minimal input situation, but draw different conclusions concerning this research question. In the subsequent chapter, I am going to seek possible explanations for the different results in order to give an outlook on whether an early start is advantageous or not.

The conclusion section typically refers back to the introduction: it concisely takes up your goal again and what your agenda of the term paper was. It then summarises your findings and indicates what you have not been able to discuss. It may also point to potential for future research, i.e. questions that follow from your findings.

做实证研究的话,研究方法的部分就比较重要了。这是是实证研究paper的分割线

 实证研究paper同样需要Introduction, 之后是Literature Review, 然后第三部分是methodology. 

    1. Methodology

      If you are doing empirical research for your term paper, the methodology section will be one of the most important sections in your work because it will state which methods you have used to generate new ideas, concepts, or findings in this paper.

      The methodology section should be written in such way that someone reading it should be able to replicate your study, and should then be able to compare his/her results with yours. Thus, together with the appendix, this section guarantees the transparency of what you are doing, one of the most essential properties of scientific research.

    2. Data
    3. This section should include a precise description of the data you have used for your analysis. You should refer to the following pieces of information:
    4. Explain the type and quantity of the data used. (Why did you choose this kind of data?) Describe the source of your data (text corpus, questionnaire, interview etc.) and include an explanatory statement. (Why did you choose this source?)
    5. Description of the data source:
    6.  for corpora/dictionaries as data source:

      o corpus/dictionary should be briefly described/introduced

    7.  for questionnaires as data source:
    8. o The questionnaire should be introduced. The individual tasks of the questionnaire should be explained and justified (Why did you choose these tasks?)
    9. o Give relevant personal details of participants (age, nationality, etc.) – what is relevant may vary depending on the kind of study and the method of data collection.
    10. • Mention problems you had while collecting the data and explain how you dealt with those problems.
    11. Method
    12. The following aspects should be considered here:
      • Data analysis: How did you process/transform the original data you collected?
    13. How did you analyse your data? According to which aspects/ principles /categories did you classify the data? You should justify your choices.
    14. Note that it is highly important to give examples of your own data to clarify your procedure of analysis, i.e. while explaining your method of analysis give respective examples from your own data in order to allow for transparency of your methods.

Results

In this section you will present your findings in detail and will provide examples from your data. You should typically start from general facts and then proceed to more specific/detailed sub-analyses. You can start with a very basic/general observation at the beginning such as how frequent the linguistic phenomenon is in your data.

Discussion (if there is one, cf. above)
The discussion section is where you critically discuss your findings with regard to your research question(s). More precisely, you should show how your research question(s) can be answered by means of the results of your research project.

Conclusion

The conclusion should be a self-contained text and should therefore be written in a way that allows readers to understand it without having read the full paper. Also, many readers first read the introduction (and give up reading the paper if they fail to see why it is interesting) and then jump to the conclusion to check whether it is worth reading the rest. Keep this in mind when writing the conclusion! Therefore, you should mention what your term paper was about and what your research question was. Your conclusion should highlight the central points of your analysis and state the answer to your research question. Furthermore, you should argue how your results contribute to the field of study and what implications they might have.

Refer to the limits of your analysis (but don’t be too negative! You need to sell your findings to the reader – and if you are too negative, they will feel frustrated) and state what could be done in future research. Furthermore, you can also place your findings in a wider linguistic context.

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