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Research Methods in Applied Linguistics

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·         Word limit: 3000 words (try to meet but not exceed 3000 words)

·         This assignment is worth 100% of the total assessment for the module.


All items of coursework, including dissertations, carry a maximum word limit that you should aim to meet but must not exceed. There is no leeway on the word count for any piece of assessed work. Marking practices and word limits relate to an assignment’s intellectual, professional, and technical skills as outlined in the Faculty of Arts marking criteria and your work will be marked accordingly.


Your word count includes all quotations, citations, footnotes and endnotes, but excludes the essay title, tables and figures, and the set of references or bibliography at the end. Appendices containing either data or passages used for analysis are also excluded from the word count.


You must not substantially repeat material which you have previously submitted for this or any other module in English or in any other School or department. Repeated use of material can result in being awarded fewer or no marks for the assessment.

Ensure that you have sourced and acknowledged all secondary material used.  Derivative work will be marked down; plagiarized work will be dealt with according to the University’s Academic Offences policy.

All assessed coursework must be submitted both electronically and in hard copy according to School procedures. A lateness penalty of 5% per working day will be applied to all coursework which is not submitted both electronically and in paper form by the deadline. Emailed coursework is not acceptable.


Specific Guidelines for the research project

Task: Design, administer and process a questionnaire focusing on an area of interest of yours, and write a research report describing your results.

The following points are intended to help you through the process of carrying out the questionnaire survey.

Step 1: Choose a research topic. Because I expect you to go beyond simply providing some descriptive data (e.g. the extent to which international students are satisfied with their accommodation), it will be necessary for you to formulate a specific research question or hypothesis that you will then answer/test by means of the survey. You may find it helpful to think of the design in terms of the statistical procedures you will actually use to analyse the data: You can, for example, compare different groups (t-test or ANOVA) or you can look at the relationship of different variables (correlation). Of course, you can combine these (and in order to achieve a first-class grade, you will need to apply a range of statistical procedures). Some sample studies that I have co-authored in the past (all to be found on my personal website: are: Bardovi-Harlig & Dörnyei (1998), Dörnyei & Chan (2013) and Kormos & Dörnyei (2004).

Step 2: Based on your research topic, identify several (at least 4) multi-item scale variables that you would like to measure and write at least 4-5 closed-ended items (Likert scale, semantic differential scale or numerical rating scale) for each multi-item scales. You will need that many items so that if subsequent item analysis shows that some items need to be discarded, you’ll have enough items left. Follow the guidance in Chapter 5 of my book (Research Methods in applied Linguistics) on item format and item wording.

Step 3: Select also some relevant background variables you want to measure (e.g. sex, nationality) and write items to elicit the necessary objective information in a clear and straightforward way.

Step 4: Design the whole questionnaire. Follow the directions about the ordering of the items, the instructions and the format of the questionnaire. (Don’t forget: in the actual questionnaire the various scale items need to be mixed up!) IMPORTANT: Don’t forget about the research ethical matters (see Appendix at the end of this guide)!

Step 5: Administer the questionnaire to a sample of 30 (enough) to -50 respondents (but the more participants you have, the better!).

Step 6: Enter the data in an SPSS data file. Don’t forget to mark each questionnaire with an initial identification code once it is filled in and include this variable in the SPSS file as well.

Step 7: Check the data by submitting it first to Frequency analysis and then recode the negatively worded items. Following this, compute reliable multi-item scales – make sure that you exclude items that reduce the Cronbach Alpha coefficients of the scales. In the final research report you will need to report the Cronbach Alpha coefficient for all the final scales you used (as well as the items that you have excluded with a short explanation on why they might have failed to work).

Step 8: Analyse the data by means of various inferential statistical procedures (since this is a practice exercise, the more the merrier!).

Step 9: Prepare a research report. This report should contain the following parts (see also Chapter 12 of my book):

  • Title: This should be a thematic title (like the titles of journal articles) rather than simply ‘Research report’.
  • Introduction, describing the purpose of the study. In this you will need to provide a brief theoretical overview to situate your research but you won’t be required to read extensively and write a literature review. The focus in this paper is on your own data (i.e. ‘primary research’) and the proper use of research methodology rather than on the analysis of other people’s ideas (i.e. ‘secondary research’).
  • Method, describing in detail how the study was conducted. Such a description enables the reader of a research report to evaluate the appropriateness of the research design/approach and the reliability and validity of the results. It is both conventional and expedient to divide the ‘Method’ section into labelled subsections. The typical headings are as follows:
  • Participants (who have you selected and why? what are the main characteristics of your sample?)
  • Instrument (describing the questionnaire and justifying its content)
  • Procedures (summarising each step in the execution of the research; be very open about mentioning any problems or unforeseen obstacles/circumstances)
  • Data analysis (summarising the data processing procedures but not the actual results)
  • Results and discussion: This is either one combined or two separate sections, depending on whether you prefer presenting your results first and then evaluating/interpreting them or doing the two in an ongoing and combined manner. Make sure that you present the statistical results in properly formatted tables (and not simply tables imported from SPSS with lots of unnecessary information!) which have titles, and also that your analysis does not merely involve the verbal description of the results which are already presented in the tables (and which is therefore not necessary). Instead, focus in the analysis on what you have found and what the significance of your findings is.
  • Conclusion: This is a short section in which you summarise your main findings and what you have learned from the whole study. You can also talk here about the limitations of your research as well as the possible practical implications.
  • Appendix, containing a copy of the questionnaire that you have administered and any other technical information (e.g. tables) that you want to include as additional information or background knowledge but which do not warrant a place in the main body of the text.
  • References (if you have any).

Make sure that you divide the report into distinct sections that are separated with subheadings.

PLEASE NOTE: To accompany the research report you will also need to submit all the different data/syntax/output files that you have used. The simplest way is to send these to me as e-mail attachments.

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