The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis in TESOL/AL


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The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis in TESOL/AL

  1. 1. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis in TESOL/AL Roberto Criollo, M.A. TABLE OF CONTENTS_________________________________________________________________Contents PageFOREWORD ixINTRODUCTION TO THE GUIDE 1CHAPTER ONE: SELECTING A TOPIC AND NARROWING ITDOWN 41.1 Selecting a Topic 71.2 How to Search for Bibliographic Resources 91.2.1 Books 91.2.2 Other Resources Specialized Journals and Handbooks Technical Dictionaries Bibliographies Computer Searches Databases Online Journals Other Theses 131.3 Reading and Exploiting Resources 131.4 Narrowing Down the Topic: Research Methodology 151.4.1 Research Methods Descriptive Research Survey Research Observational Research Ethnographic Research Correlational Research Relationship Studies Prediction Studies Experimental Research Other Research Types Historical Research Causal-Comparative Research Methodological Research 201.4.2 Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research 211.4.3 Selecting Appropriate Research Methodology 241.4.4 Research Procedures in Second Language Acquisition 25 i
  2. 2. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis in TESOL/AL Roberto Criollo, M.A. Error Analysis Methods for Investigating Developmental Patterns Obligatory Occasion Analysis Target-Like Use Analysis Frequency Analysis Research Methods for Studying Illocutionary Acts Methods for Investigating Input and Interaction 301.5 Narrowing Down Your Topic 301.6 Evaluating the Topic: Is Yours a Good Topic? 31CHAPTER TWO: WRITING THE INTRODUCTION 352.1 Parts of the Thesis 372.2 Content of the Introductory Chapter 392.3 Explanation of Key Elements in the Introduction 402.4 Rhetoric and Formulas 412.4.1 Introduction to the Problem 412.4.2 Purpose of the Study 472.4.3 Research Questions and Hypotheses 482.4.3.1 Research Questions 482.4.3.2 Hypotheses 492.4.4 Definitions of Terms 502.4.5 Significance of the Study 502.5 Sample Introductions 51CHAPTER THREE: ACADEMIC WRITING, COMPUTER SKILLS,AND FORMAT 753.1 Academic Writing: Things to Consider When Writing the Thesis 773.1.1 Formal Grammar and Style 773.1.2 Latinate versus Phrasal Verbs 783.1.3 Verbosity and Wordiness 803.2 Editing the Paper 803.2.1 Editing for Grammar 803.2.1.1 The Sentence 813.2.1.2 The Paragraph 823.3 Using the Computer 833.3.1 Word for Windows: A Beginning Tutorial 833.3.1.1 Turning on the Computer 853.3.1.2 Entering Text 863.3.1.3 Moving Around 86 ii
  3. 3. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis in TESOL/AL Roberto Criollo, M.A. Editing Text 863.3.1.5 The Toolbars (Barras de Herramientas) 873.3.1.6 Formatting Paragraphs 883.3.1.7 Cutting, Pasting, and Copying (Cortar, Pegar, y Copiar) 893.3.1.8 Windows (Ventanas) 903.3.1.9 Selecting Language 903.3.1.10 Spelling, Thesaurus, and Grammar (Ortografía y Gramática) 913.3.1.11 Inserting Clip Art (Imágenes Prediseñadas) 913.3.1.2 Columns 923.3.1.13 Sections 933.3.1.14 Finding and Replacing (Buscar y Reemplazar) 933.3.1.15 Spelling and Thesaurus 943.3.1.16 AutoCorrect (Autocorrección) 943.3.1.17 Footnotes (Notas a Pie de Página) 943.3.1.18 Headers and Footers (Encabezado y Pie de Página) 953.3.1.19 Inserting Tables 953.3.1.20 Inserting a Chart from Excel 963.4 Formatting Your Paper 973.4.1 Title Pages 973.4.2 Dedications 993.4.3 Acknowledgments 1003.4.4 Table of Contents 1013.4.5 Table of Appendices 1023.4.6 List of Tables 1023.4.7 Body of the Paper 1023.4.8 References 104CHAPTER FOUR: WRITING THE LITERATURE REVIEW 1054.1 Content and Function of the Literature Review 1074.2 Starting the Literature Review from an Outline 1074.3 American Psychological Association (APA) Style 1104.3.1 Citing References in Your Text 1104.3.2 Citing a Word Discussed in a Secondary Source 1124.3.3 Citations in the Reference List at the End of Your Paper 1124.3.3.1 Journal Article 1124.3.3.2 Book 1134.3.3.3 Chapter in a Book 1134.3.3.4 ERIC Document 1144.4 Developing the Outline 114 iii
  4. 4. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis in TESOL/AL Roberto Criollo, M.A.4.4.1 Structure of the Literature Review Paragraph 1144.4.2 Paragraph Writing Practice 1184.4.3 Successfully Expressing One’s Point of View: Coherence 1224.4.3.1 Sentence Connectors 1234. Uses of Connectors 1244. Using Connectors to Express One’s Point of View 1254.4.4 Some Practical Advice for the Review of Literature 1324.4.4.1 Integrating Ideas from Sources 1324.4.4.2 Common Errors in the Review of Literature 1334.4.4.3 Solutions to the Problems 1344.4.4.4 Revising Literature Review Paragraphs 134CHAPTER FIVE: WRITING THE METHOD CHAPTER 1395.1 Content and Function of Chapter III: The Methodology Chapter 1415.2 Describing Subjects 1415.3 Instruments 1415.3.1 Locating and Developing Instruments 1425.3.2 Developing One’s Own Instruments 1425.3.3 Procedures for Instrument Design 1425.4 Describing Instruments 1435.5 Describing Procedures 1435.6 Describing Data Analysis 1445.7 Sample Methodology Chapters and Appended Instruments 145CHAPTER SIX: WRITING THE RESULTS CHAPTER 1816.1 Analyzing Data 1836.1.1 Steps for Data Analysis Procedures 1836.1.2 Guidelines for Using Tables 1836.1.3 Considerations When Using Figures 1846.1.4 Appendices 1846.2 Content of Chapter Four 1856.2.1 Hypotheses (Subheadings) 1856.2.2 Variable 1856.2.3 Time Sequence 1866.3 Using Excel to Process Data 1866.3.1 Moving around the Worksheet 1866.3.2 Entering Data 1866.3.3 Editing Data 1876.3.4 Resizing 187 iv
  5. 5. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis in TESOL/AL Roberto Criollo, M.A.6.3.5 Averaging Test Scores 1876.3.6 Counting the Number of Students 1886.3.7 Creating a Chart 1886.3.8 Adding More Data 1896.3.9 Filling the Formula 1896.3.10 Putting New Series in the Chart 1906.3.11 Handling Data in Excel 1906.3.12 Entering Data 1906.3.13 Making a Chart 1906.3.14 Filtering 1916.3.15 Forms 1916.3.16 Sorting 1916.3.17 Subtotals 1926.3.18 Excel Practice 1926.4 Writing and Formatting the Chapter 1976.5 A Note on Quantitative Data Analysis 2066.5.1 Measures of Central Tendency 2066.5.2 Measures of Variability 2066.5.3 SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences) 2076.6 Sample Results Chapters 208CHAPTER SEVEN: WRITING THE CONCLUSIONS CHAPTERAND DEVELOPING A PRESENTATION 2417.1 Writing the Conclusions 2437.1.1 A Summary of Your Study 2437.1.2 Implications for Practice (in TESOL) 2437.1.3 Limitations of the Study 2437.1.4 Suggestions for Further Research 2447.2 Concluding Remarks about Chapter Five 2447.3 Sample Conclusions Chapters 2457.4 Organizing Your Thesis Presentation 2577.4.1 Content of the Presentation 2577.4.2 Developing a PowerPoint Presentation 2597.4.2.1 Basic Operation and Entering Text 2597.4.2.2 Changing the Background Color, Design, or Template 2597.4.2.3 Customizing Animation or Slide Transitions 2607.5 Defending the Thesis 2607.5.1 The Professional Examination 2617.5.2 Tips for a Successful Defense 262 v
  6. 6. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis in TESOL/AL Roberto Criollo, M.A. First of All, Prepare Yourself 2627.5.2.2 Just in Case: Backups, Equipment, and Materials 2627.5.2.3 Like a Good Actor, Rehearse for Your Big Night 2637.5.2.4 The One-Million-Dollar Question? 2647.5.2.5 Formality, Presence, and Etiquette 264EXERCISE ANSWER KEY 267LIST OF REFERENCES AND SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY 294Background Research Upon which the Text is Based 297Research Methodology 298Writing and Academic Writing 299Writing Papers, Theses, Dissertations 299Data Analysis and Statistics 299Specialized Dictionaries 300Theses Directed by the Author 301 vi
  7. 7. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis in TESOL/AL Roberto Criollo, M.A. FOREWORD_________________________________________________________________ “Professionalization” is the concept that best characterizes the currentsituation of the English Language Teaching (ELT) academic community inMexico (Wharton, 1994). This situation has generated a growing interest amongELT professionals to pursue graduate studies, participate in conferences, andpublish nationally and internationally. This interest, which emerges from boththeir personal motivation for professional development and as a result of theMexican educational policies, has generated a very dynamic academic communityin the last ten years. Given that the majority of these professionals are non-native English speakers,they are aware of the crucial role that their English language skills play in theircareers. Most of them are conscious that in order to participate actively in theELT profession they have to learn to communicate within the ELT discoursecommunity (Swales 1990). It is in this context that the presentation of a thesis as an “initiation ritual”into the profession has acquired a renewed meaning in Mexico. Learning tocommunicate within an academic discourse community is a social process.Every discourse community has its own meaning-making and interpretingpractices. Thus, ELT undergraduate students have to learn to communicatewithin the ELT discourse community by observing, comparing, analyzing,discussing, evaluating, writing and presenting; in other words, through their oraland written interaction with other novices and experts. They have to learn to writeacademic texts which meet the discoursal expectations of their tutors orprofessors, who will interpret and finally evaluate their texts. Thus, the process ofwriting a thesis has become an opportunity for undergraduate students to enhance ix
  8. 8. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis in TESOL/AL Roberto Criollo, M.A.their English skills and learn to communicate within the ELT community, whichenables their further professional development after graduation. Furthermore, thefact that students have to write a thesis has other advantages. It allows for a moreholistic evaluation where the students are expected to demonstrate their abilities,attitudes and values as well as their knowledge. The presentation of a thesis issometimes the only holistic evaluation process that students are subject to andwhere they integrate what they have learned along the years in the university. Roberto Criollos book comes then as an invaluable contribution to fill anexisting gap. Books that prepare for thesis writing in ELT and enable learners tocarry out research are hard to find. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis inTESOL/AL has several strengths. First of all, it is the result of the author’s ownreflective teaching practice and ongoing engagement with theory. Second, it wasdeveloped in a “real” context with students at the Benemérita UniversidadAutónoma de México. Nevertheless, as recently confirmed in an ELT event forTutors at the BUAP where professors from 5 Mexican state universities sharedcommon problems of thesis writing, this book will address the needs of manyuniversity students struggling with thesis writing in Mexico and elsewhere. Thethird advantage of the book is that it is Genre-based. It focuses on thecommunicative intentions, the content, the rhetorical organization, the grammarand the register used in the development of writing an ELT Thesis in English.Finally, it is a hands-on product based writing book which can either be used aspart of a course or by autonomous learners. As a practicing teacher educator, I am fortunate to see my former studentsmake a career in the ELT field. I got to know Roberto Criollo as anundergraduate student at the BUAP more than 10 years ago. Since then Isomehow knew he had the personal drive and capacity to become an outstanding x
  9. 9. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis in TESOL/AL Roberto Criollo, M.A.professional. Then he left for the US where he successfully completed an MA inTESOL at Columbia Teachers’ College. Now as colleagues and friends, wefrequently share ideas, teaching experiences, and a continuous concern formaking the field of ELT more professional. This book is certainly a contributionto this. Fatima Encinas Prudencio, Ex-coordinadora de la Licenciatura en Lenguas Modernas, BUAP.Coordinadora del programa de Inglés de la Universidad Iberoamericana Plantel Golfo Centro. xi
  10. 10. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis in TESOL/AL Roberto Criollo, M.A. INTRODUCTION TO THE GUIDE_________________________________________________________________ The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis in TESOL/AL is intended to helpstudents and BA./MA. candidates in the development and presentation of theirthesis projects. It is based on systematic research carried out over five years andon actual experience in the direction of 32 BA. theses and 2 MA. theses in thisfield. The underlying theoretical approach supporting this book is genre analysis(GA), which views writing as a communicative act within a discourse community.GA considers each genre (“type of text”) to be unique and thus suggests that it beexplicitly taught in terms of communicative purposes and rhetorical structure. Forthis reason, the Guide is completely and exclusively directed at developing thethesis, and no time is wasted explaining concepts or theoretical constructs that arenot directly related to the development of the thesis project. In addition, each chapter contains exercises that will prepare the learner forthe actual tasks he has to perform on his/her own project. The correct answers toeach exercise are provided in the Answer Key to the guide. In this way, the readercan see whether he/she has correctly understood the instructions, principles, ormodels presented in the chapter. The ultimate and unique feature of the Guide isthat it provides actual examples of thesis chapters for the reader to use as modelswhen developing his/her own. The Guide is organized in seven chapters, each focused on a different stageof the process of writing and defending a thesis. These chapters, althoughconsecutive, are not intended to be read in a linear manner. Instead, the readershould go to the chapters that he or she is interested in, depending on the stagethat he/she is at in the development of his or her own thesis project. From that 1
  11. 11. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis in TESOL/AL Roberto Criollo, M.A.particular chapter, the reader can hop back and forth, using the information that isuseful for his/her most practical and immediate purposes. Chapter One concerns the selection and the evaluation of the topic. It willbe useful for those who still do not have a thesis project or are doubtful about it.In Chapter Two, attention is paid to the process of writing an introduction to thethesis. This process is approached fully by presenting an outline of the content, anexplanation for each part of the chapter, the rhetorical formulas to be used, andsample introductions to guide the aspiring thesis writer. Chapter Three focuseson the writing conventions, the computer skills, and the formats and templatesnecessary to develop the thesis project. This part should be continuously used as areference when working on other chapters, as most of the content presented herewill apply to the whole paper. Chapter Four is, without a doubt, one of the mostinteresting chapters, as it deals with the theoretical framework of the thesis. In it,the reader will find the easy way to the development of the literature review forhis/her project. The approach and techniques used here will facilitate the task ofwriting what is, undoubtedly, the longest and most difficult chapter in the thesis.There are clear instructions from writing an outline, citing references in APAstyle, developing the outline, to several examples that will guide and train thereader. Similarly, Chapter Five deals with the methodology chapter, providingexplanations, exercises, and examples of chapters with appended researchinstruments that will facilitate work on this part of the thesis. In Chapter Six, the process of writing the results chapter of the thesis isexplained in detail. Data analysis, handling data in Excel, and calculatingstatistics are only some examples of what the reader will find in this chapter. Inaddition, the chapter is fully complemented with an explanation of the content ofthe results chapter, some exercises, and actual examples for the reader to study 2
  12. 12. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis in TESOL/AL Roberto Criollo, M.A.and use as models. Finally, Chapter Seven deals with the conclusions, developinga presentation, and preparing for defense. At the end of the book, the Answer Keyand a List of References and Suggested Bibliography are provided for the readerwho needs additional information or is interested in any of the given areasoutlined. It is now up to the reader to make the most of this guide. Good luck andmay your efforts be rewarded with an academic degree. Roberto Criollo, MA. 3
  13. 13. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis in TESOL/AL Roberto Criollo, M.A. CHAPTER ONE: SELECTING A TOPIC AND NARROWING IT DOWNSelecting a TopicHow to Search for Bibliographic ResourcesReading and Exploiting ResourcesResearch MethodologyNarrowing Down Your TopicEvaluating the Topic: Is Yours a Good Topic? 4
  14. 14. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis in TESOL/AL Roberto Criollo, M.A. In this chapter, we will look at the steps that should be taken whenselecting, narrowing down, and evaluating a thesis topic.1.1 Selecting a Topic One of the most difficult steps in developing a thesis is selecting a topic.Selection of topic requires familiarity with the state of research in the area ofTESOL/AL. You need to know: What has been accomplished What hypotheses have or have not been supported What the controversies and the unresolved issues are What theories are applicable What contributions have resulted from research(Long, Convey, & Chwalek, 1985) As you can see, choosing a topic may be difficult because of a lack ofknowledge of the area of study. Sometimes students do not have a clear idea ofwhat they can or cannot write a thesis on. Then, they tend to think of unrealisticor impossible topics that they will eventually drop. Before choosing a topic, acareful analysis of our area of study and its different sub-areas is necessary. On the other hand, it is also of crucial importance to select a topic based onone’s interests and concerns. Successful completion of a thesis project depends toa great extent on one’s willingness to ‘marry’ the topic. For that reason, the firststep in topic selection will always be defining one’s research interests. The figurebelow outlines the steps that should be followed in topic selection. 7
  15. 15. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis in TESOL/AL Roberto Criollo, M.A. Steps in Topic Selection Define your interests Think of a possible topic Review the literature nterests Identify specific researchable problems Decide on one of them and focus on it As the figure illustrates, you must first explore your interests and try to findsomething that you could develop as a thesis project. When you have found it, thesecond step is to review the literature related to this topic. Even when thisliterature review does not yet involve writing a theoretical background chapter,the main concepts and theories behind the topic should be investigated. The second step in topic selection involves then developing a preliminarylist of references and finding definitions for the most important terms related tothe topic to be researched into. The following section provides information onhow to do to this. Get ready to go to the library, buy a large notebook, and readthe information below. 8
  16. 16. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis in TESOL/AL Roberto Criollo, M.A.1.2 How to Search for Bibliographic Resources1.2.1 Books Using books seems to be easy, but it might be a very difficult task if theresearch is not systematic. Searching and exploring resources requires carefulplanning and organization. You may want to follow the steps below to optimizethe use of your bibliographic sources.1. Go to your library and look for books that are directly related to your topic.2. If you’re not sure whether or not a given book may be useful, check the table of contents.3. If the book is useful, check it out. If it is not, just leave it there... you may find lots of interesting books, but if they are not related to your project, do not waste your time and energy on them!4. Once you have a book in your hands, write its data on a list. You will need this later for your list of references. The APA format for citing references is shown below.Author’(s’) Last Names, First Name Initials. (Year in parentheses). Title of the book underlined or in italics. City of publication: Publishing House.Here’s one example:Ellis, R. (1994). The study of second language acquisition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Notice that the second line is indented as to show the author’s last name.5. Make copies of only the page(s) or chapter(s) you are going to need. Remember... everything may be interesting, but if it is not directly related to your study, you don’t need it. Remember to include the first page of the book so you can retrieve its data. 9
  17. 17. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis in TESOL/AL Roberto Criollo, M.A.6. Make copies of the bibliography at the end of the book.... you may find useful references there!7. Get a big binder and put all of your copies together. That will be your thesis bible.1.2.2 Other Resources Besides books, there are some other important sources of information thatcan make your literature review more comprehensive (Long, Convey, & Chwalek,1985). These are: Specialized Journals and Handbooks In this type of publications, you can find updated information about currenttheories in SLA and TESOL. Some of the most common ones are:  The TESOL Quarterly  Language  Applied Linguistics You can probably find some volumes of the TESOL Quarterly in yourLibrary. Also, you could subscribe to it, and get new information every threemonths! Technical DictionariesDictionaries that define terms and concepts in our field. One example is:Richards, J.C., Platt, J., & Platt, H. (1992). Longman dictionary of language teaching and applied linguistics. Essex: Longman. Besides providing you with some definitions of important concepts, atechnical dictionary can guide you in your search for resources, as it tells you how 10
  18. 18. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis in TESOL/AL Roberto Criollo, M.A.some terms are related and provides you with the bibliography where thedefinitions were taken. It is advisable to look for the original sources mentionedin the dictionary. A direct citation gives more weight to your research! Annotated BibliographiesThese are ‘books’ that only contain bibliography about a given concept (i.e.reading). Usually they are listed alphabetically and a brief explanation of thecontent of each book or article is given. You can also base your research on theseannotated bibliographies, but of course you should also look for the originalsources mentioned there! Computer Searches1. DatabasesNowadays, the internet has become a great aid for research. Without moving fromyour school, you can have access to numerous data bases with information aboutparticular topics in science and humanities. However, the risk of computersearches is that they are time-consuming and you can find a lot of trash on the net.I strongly encourage you to be serious in your computer searches. Some reliablesources of information are:  ERIC (Educational Resources Information Center): Book reviews and articles on different fields.  RLIN (Research Libraries Information Network): Book reviews and articles on different fields. It can be accessed by key words.  OCLC (On-Line College Library Center): Same as previous ones.  DIALOG: Same  ORBIT: Same 11
  19. 19. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis in TESOL/AL Roberto Criollo, M.A.  Bibliographic Retrieval System (BRS): Bibliographies and reviews.  Educational Testing Service (ETS): Statistical information and test instruments.  MICASE. The University of Michigan Corpus of American Spoken English. You will find samples to conduct discourse or conversation analysis.  CHILDES. The most important database on child language, with software and samples of child speech for you to use in your research. Important if you want to do research on children linguistic development.All of these data bases can be accessed through internet. Go to a searchinstrument (Alta Vista, Yahoo), and type any of the titles above... you’ll get to thesites. Once in the sites, look for the information on the topics you are researching. Online Journals A second important source of information and references that you will findon the world wide web is the Online Journal. An online journal is a publicationsimilar to a printed journal except that it is available through the net. Somejournals are refereed and some others aren’t. Some of them have a printedcounterpart, and some others do not. Yet some of them are free and some otherswill require you to use your plastic money.1. Check out the Cambridge Catalogue of Online Journals at Or the Oxford Journals: suggested free journals and e-zines are the following:3. The Internet TESL Journal: Directed at TESL teachers, with theoretical and practical stuff that you can use and cite. Check my article! 12
  20. 20. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis in TESOL/AL Roberto Criollo, M.A.4. TESL-EJ Language Learning and Technology ELT Spectrum magazine EFL Web Onestopenglish Magazine Macmillan publishers free magazine. Other ThesesTheses on related topics or on the same topic as yours can help you in two ways.First, you can use their information and cite them as references. Also, you mayfind in the list of references some titles of books that you didn’t know aboutwhich could be useful for your research! All of the sources listed above are valid and reliable references. In anycase, remember that you should provide careful reference of where you take theinformation from, and that reading original sources gives support to yourresearch. Beware of plagiarism! The last step in this search for references involves looking for definitions ofthe most important terms to be used in the research. Reading and note-takingshould then be done systematically. First, get your list of terms to be defined.Then, scan the materials, taking into account the considerations below1.3 Reading and Exploiting ResourcesAgain, although reading seems to be an activity for which no explanations orinstructions are necessary, reading and exploiting resources for a research projectneeds to be a systematic activity. Make sure that you follow the steps givenbelow: 13
  21. 21. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis in TESOL/AL Roberto Criollo, M.A. First, read the whole text of interest from the beginning to the end, trying to get just the general idea. Then put the text down and try to infer this main idea. In your own words, and in the shortest way possible (one sentence may be good), write what the text is about. Also write the main idea or point that you think the author is trying to make. Read the text again for more specific information. This time, you may want to use a highlighter to underline the important information. At this point, remember that important information means definitions, expression of points of view, conclusions, and the like. Also, the first sentence of each paragraph (the topic sentence... remember?) is usually the most important one and it tells you what the paragraph is about. Take some notes of the important information you intend to use for your project. Try to summarize the information using outlines, charts, graphs, or any other visual representation that can help you get a better understanding of the text. Later, you can write this information on cards (or even better, onto a notebook, which would be exclusive for your thesis notes), for further use in your literature review. There are two ways to take notes:  Copying directly from source, using the author’s own words (Quotation).  Summarizing and/or paraphrasing the information, using your own words (Citation). Citations involve a more careful reading and processing of information, andthey are recommended. However, they are more difficult to write. The importantthing, in any case, is avoid mixing the author’s words and yours. If you use aquotation, make sure you copy correctly and accurately, and if you use citations, 14
  22. 22. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis in TESOL/AL Roberto Criollo, M.A.make sure you are not using any word that the author has used. Every note shouldinclude references, including chapter or page numbers. Organize your notes in such a way that you can refer to them, read them again, and compare and contrast the information.1.4 Narrowing Down the Topic: Research MethodologyOnce you have developed a little literature review, it’s time to delimit your topic.That is, you must identify specific researchable problems. To do this, you need toselect the research method that you are going to use. Let us start by defining theconcept of thesis. What is a thesis?Simply stated, a thesis is a piece of research that is required by a university inorder to award an academic degree. What is research?“Research is the study of an event, situation, problem or phenomenon usingsystematic and objective methods in order to understand it better and developtheories or principles about it” (Richards, Platt, & Platt 1992; Vogt 1999). 15
  23. 23. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis in TESOL/AL Roberto Criollo, M.A.1.4.1 Research Methods There are some major types of research in the field of humanities. Belowyou will find the description of each of these research types (Based on Long,Convey, & Chwalek 1985).Exercise One: Fill in the blanks with the words you find appropriate in eachcase (the same word may be used more than once). The words you can choosefrom are given before each definition. When you finish, check your answersin the answer key at the end of this book. Questionnaires – Questions - Quantitative – Collecting – Qualitative - Hypotheses – Interviews1.4.1.1 Descriptive Research: It involves _________ data in order to answer__________ or test ____________ about the current status of the situation understudy. Survey Research typically employs ____________ or, in some cases,________ to determine people’s opinions, attitudes, and perceptions about thesituation being studied. Survey research ordinarily uses __________ methods,but ___________ methods may be necessary if the data are obtained frominterviews. Participant – Control – Non-participant – Observing – Situation - Investigation1. Observational Research determines the current status of a __________by __________ it rather than simply asking about it. Observational research canbe broadly defined as ____________ observation or ____________ observation.A case study is a type of observational research that ordinarily uses ___________observation. In it, the researcher performs an in-depth ____________ of the 16
  24. 24. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis in TESOL/AL Roberto Criollo, M.A.situation but usually is not directly involved in the situation and does not___________ or manipulate it. Records - Collected – Sociometrics – Participant – Researcher – Qualitative – Variables – Naturalistic - Recordings1. Ethnographic Research is a type of observational research that usuallyemploys _____________ observation as a form of inquiry in which the researcheris both an observer, and as such is responsible to persons outside the situationbeing studied, and also a genuine __________, and as such has a stake in thesituation and its outcomes. Ethnographic research usually occurs in a _________setting, that is, the researcher __________ and studies behavior as it normallyoccurs. It involves the intensive examination of a situation in which data are___________ on many __________ over an extended period of time. These datamay come from in-depth interviewing, field notes, diaries, thematic musings ofthe ______________, chronologs (running accounts of behavior), context maps ordiagrams, schedules, taxonomies, _____________ (relational diagrams showingwho interacts with whom) questionnaires, rating scales, checklists, and audio orvideo ___________. The analysis of the data is largely ______________, and it isalso more inductive. Criterion - Extent – Selection - Number – Relationship – Linear – Predict - Data – Magnitude – Predictors - Variables – Graphed – Statistic – Complex – Variable - Correlational Research: It involves collecting ___________ todetermine the existence of a _______________ between two or more variablesand to estimate the relationship’s ______________. The relationship is usuallydescribed by a _____________ called the Pearson Product-Moment Correlation 17
  25. 25. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis in TESOL/AL Roberto Criollo, M.A.Coefficient. This __________, which is between –1.00 and 1.00, describes the__________ of a ____________ relationship between two __________ –that is,how closely the points represented by ordered pairs of individual scores on eachvariable approximate a straight line when ____________ in a coordinate system.Values of –1.00 and 1.00 indicate a perfect ________ relationship (inverse anddirect, respectively), while a value of .00 indicates no linear __________.Correlational research studies are usually classified as relationship studies orprediction studies. Relationship Studies examine the association between measures ofdifferent _________ obtained at approximately the same time. In addition toinvestigating the ___________ between variables of interest, these studies oftentry to obtain a better understanding of factors that make up a ___________construct such as intelligence, self-concept, or school ability. Prediction Studies involve the establishment of an equation that is usedto _________ future performance on some variable, called the dependent ______or the criterion, from information obtained from other variables, called the________ variables or the predictors. In addition to predicting performance on thecriterion, researchers often seek to identify which ____________ are moreimportant in explaining changes in the _____________. Prediction studies areused to aid in the ________ or placement of individuals, to identify individuals toperform certain tasks or to receive special services, etc. Experimental error – Internal – Dependent – Representativeness - Experiment – Experimental – Validity - Evidence – Essential – Researcher – Independent – Differences – Instructional programs – Produce – Variable - Controlled 18
  26. 26. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis in TESOL/AL Roberto Criollo, M.A. Experimental Research: It involves the examination of the effects of atleast one independent __________ on one or more ____________ variables whileother relevant variables are controlled. Direct manipulation of at least oneindependent variable is the main characteristic that differentiates __________research from other methods. When well conducted, experimental researchprovides the strongest _________ for cause-and-effect relationships. Control ofextraneous variables is __________ in experimental research studies. The____________ tries to remove the influence of any __________, other than the___________ variables of interest, that might affect the dependent ___________.Variables that typically need to be ____________ are those involving individual___________ among subjects, such as ability or interest readiness, andenvironmental variables, such as teachers or ___________ _____________ orexperiences. Such variables may ___________ unwanted differences betweenexperimental groups. Uncontrolled extraneous variables that affect performanceon the dependent variables increase the chances of ___________ __________ andjeopardize the experiment’s __________.A good research design maximizes both the ___________ validity and theexternal validity of an ____________. Internal validity is the extent to whichchanges in the dependent ____________ can be attributed to changes in an___________ variable. External validity refers to the generalizability or______________ of the findings. Other Research Types Test — Anticipating — Research —Purpose—Systematically — Understanding — Past 19
  27. 27. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis in TESOL/AL Roberto Criollo, M.A. Historical ResearchIn this type of ______________, the researcher _____________ collects dataabout ____________ events in order to __________ hypotheses. The main____________ underlying this type of research is ______________ the past andpresent, and, if possible, _____________ the future. It is not very common in theareas of TESOL/AL. Causal-Comparative Research Group — Conducted — Causal-Comparative Research — Non-Experimental — Compared — Manipulated — Experimental — Subjects — After — Possess — Variables — Relationship This research type is similar to ______________ research in that it tries toestablish cause-and-effect relationships between ________________ of interest.However, the difference is that no experiment is ________________ and novariable is _______________. Here, the ________________is studied ex postfacto –that is, __________ the fact. In these studies, a _____________ ofindividuals possessing the target variables are studied and ______________ toanother group of ______________ who do not ______________ the variables,and some conclusions are drawn. Because of this characteristic, some authorsrefer to causal-comparative research as, _________________ but it goes better asa type of descriptive research. Methodological Research Instruments — Procedures — Measurement — Gathering — Described — Focuses 20
  28. 28. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis in TESOL/AL Roberto Criollo, M.A.Although the underlying methodological _________________ may be one of thetypes of research ________________ above, what makes a study methodologicalis the fact that it _________________ on testing certain procedures for_________________ data, designing or validatingresearch___________________, and investigating aspects of statistics,_________________, and evaluation. In other words, the subjects ofmethodological research are research methodologies!!1.4.2 Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research Once the different research methods available for use have been shown, itis important to draw a distinction between quantitative and qualitative research.Quantitative research refers to those studies in which data are analyzed in termsof numbers. That is, when you calculate percentages or statistics. In contrast,qualitative research includes “Studies of subjects that are hard to quantify” (Vogt1999). Thus, introspection, case studies, ethnographic studies, and surveys wheredata is collected by interviews, are typical examples of qualitative research. It is important to mention that no paradigm is inherently better than theother. However, there are some preferences depending on the country and theinstitution. American universities, for example, will encourage and value hardcorequantitative research, whereas British universities seem to find qualitativeresearch more fulfilling, especially at the graduate level. Choice ofmethodological paradigm will then depend on the institution requirements and onthe purposes of the research. Some studies lend themselves better for qualitativeresearch, and some others are rather hard to handle using percentages andstatistics. 21
  29. 29. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis in TESOL/AL Roberto Criollo, M.A. Finally, it must be emphasized that the quantitative-qualitative distinctiondoes not refer to a dichotomy of mutually exclusive paradigms, but rather to thefact that research methodologies can be arranged along a continuum betweenqualitative and quantitative paradigms. Thus, on one end of the continuum wewill find introspection techniques, whereas experimental research is the epitomeof quantitative research. The qualitative-quantitative continuum of researchmethodologies is illustrated in the figure on the next page, taken from Larsen-Freeman & Long (1991). 22
  30. 30. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis in TESOL/AL Roberto Criollo, M.A. 23
  31. 31. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis in TESOL/AL Roberto Criollo, M.A.1.4.3 Selecting Appropriate Research Methodology Research methodology must be carefully selected according to the nature ofthe study and the type of results that want to be obtained.Exercise Two: Read the following situations and choose the method(s) youwould use in each case. Check the Answer Key!1. You want to determine what are your students’ learning styles so that you can teach them in the most appropriate way, according to how they learn best.2. You want to investigate why one of your learners seems to be learning more slowly than the others, even when he’s getting the same amount of input as his peers.3. You are interested in finding out if students with low language learning achievement belong to the lower social classes.4. You want to know whether the teachers in your school consider the textbook is appropriate for the learners and for the program.5. You want to determine what types of questions teachers tend to ask in the classroom, and then determine the influence of these questions on students’ participation.6. You want to elicit and classify the types of written errors committed by LEMO students at advanced level.7. You want to determine what are learner background factors that have an influence on their TOEFL scores.8. You are interested in finding out whether teachers in LEMO beginning classrooms use the target language for communicating with their students and to what extent students also use it for actual communicative interaction. 24
  32. 32. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis in TESOL/AL Roberto Criollo, M.A.9. You want to know what types of materials, activities, cartoon characters, etc. you should use with your kindergarten children, so that you can teach then in the most effective way.1.4.4 Research Procedures in Second Language Acquisition Besides the major research methods described above, there are some morespecific research procedures in SLA (Ellis 1994). These procedures have beenused extensively and could be useful for your particular research. Let’s explorethem in detail. Error Analysis: Corder (1974) TYPE: Descriptive a) Collection of a sample of learner language b) Identification of errors c) Description of errors d) Explanation of errors e) *Evaluation of errorsa) Sampling:  Massive sample  Specific sample  Incidental sample  Natural samples  Elicited samples I. Clinical elicitation. 25
  33. 33. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis in TESOL/AL Roberto Criollo, M.A. II. Experimental methods of elicitation: Bilingual Syntax Measure (Burt, Dulay and Hernández 1973).The method of data collection can have a marked effect on the results obtained.  Cross-sectional samples  Longitudinal samplesb) Identification• Norm?• Errors and mistakes• Overt and covert errors• Correctness and appropriacyc) Description of errors• Description: Burt and Kiparsky (1972); Politzer and Ramírez (1973); Richards (1971b); Dulay, Burt and Krashen (1982). Description of errors can be very difficult and inaccurate.d) Explanation: Source of error. I. Psycholinguistic II. Sociolinguistic III. Epistemic IV. Discourse structuree) Evaluation of errors: Consideration of the effect of the error on theinterlocutors. I. Comprehension: II. Affective response:• Addressees: I. Native or Nonnative speakers II. ‘Experts’ or ‘non experts’ 26
  34. 34. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis in TESOL/AL Roberto Criollo, M.A. Methods for Investigating Developmental Patterns TYPE: Descriptive It replaced Error Analysis, once researchers acknowledged the need toconsider the entirety of learner language instead of looking at it as a collection oferrors. One of the most powerful ideas originated from the study ofdevelopmental patterns is that learner language is systematic.Developmental patterns  Order of acquisition  Sequence of acquisitionStudy of developmental patterns has focused primarily on grammatical structures.Methods: Obligatory Occasion Analysis (Brown 1974) a) Samples of naturally occurring language are collected. b) Obligatory occasions for the use of specific TL features are identified in the data. c) The percentage of accurate use of the feature is then calculated by establishing whether the feature in question has been supplied in all the contexts in which it is required. - A feature was considered to be acquired if it was supplied correctly 90% of the times. - Brown (1973) considered a feature to have been acquired if it was performed at the 90% level on 3 consecutive data collection points. - Problem with this method: It did not account for the phenomena of avoidance and oversuppliance. 27
  35. 35. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis in TESOL/AL Roberto Criollo, M.A. Target-Like Use Analysis (Pica 1983). 1. Samples of naturally occurring language are collected. 2. Obligatory contexts for use and non use of the feature are established. 3. Percentages of accuracy are estimated. Drawbacks of both Obligatory Occasion Analysis and Target-Like Use Analysis: Both are target-language based, that is, they compare learner language to the L2. Bley-Vroman (1983): The “Comparative Fallacy”. Frequency Analysis (Cazden et al. 1975) 1. Catalogue the various linguistic devices that learners use to express a particular grammatical structure (such as interrogation). 2. Calculate the frequency with which each device is used at different points in the learners’ development. Since it allows to observe ‘vertical variation’ in learners development (how different structures become prominent at different stages), frequency analysis is one of the best ways of examining sequences of acquisition. Many of the studies were longitudinal in design (case studies in the 60s and 70s). There were also some cross-sectional studies. In these, researchers argued that the accuracy in which different features were performed corresponded to their order of acquisition. The existence of developmental patterns can be investigated in different areas of language: linguistic (phonological, lexical, and grammatical), semantic, and pragmatic. 28
  36. 36. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis in TESOL/AL Roberto Criollo, M.A.Research in this area has focused mainly on the acquisition of grammaticalstructures. Research Methods for Studying Illocutionary Acts in Learner Language TYPE: DescriptiveIdeally, the study of illocutionary acts should involve the collection of three setsof data:1) Samples of illocutionary acts performed in the target language by L2 learners.2) Samples performed by native speakers of the target language.3) Samples of the same illocutionary act performed by the learners in their L1.Kasper and Dahl (1991) distinguish data collection methods according to themodality of data elicited:1) Perception/comprehension/intuition. a) Questionnaires. b) Observational performance data.2) Production. a) Discourse completion tasks. b) Role play. c) Naturally occurring speech.And the degree of control over learners’ production:1) Elicited.2) Observational.The most successful studies have employed a combination of data types. 29
  37. 37. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis in TESOL/AL Roberto Criollo, M.A. Methods for Investigating Input and Interaction1) Data collection.After collecting your data, you can follow different research methods, accordingto your interests: a) Linguistic Analysis (Descriptive). b) Discourse analysis (Ethnographic, descriptive) c) Conversational analysis (Ethnographic, descriptive) d) Experimental method. e) Pseudo-experimental method. f) Introspective techniques (Ethnographic).1.5 Narrowing Down Your Topic Now that we have explored the different research methods that you can use,it is time for you to select the research method that better suits the nature of yourstudy and its purposes. Decide what specific aspect of the topic you will focus on,and think of: Specific questions you will try to answer. The assumptions and theoretical framework that provide the context for those questions. The hypotheses you are interested in testing and the method you will use to test them. The procedures you should follow to narrow down your topic are describedbelow. First of all, decide on the research method that you will use. In other words, Learning strategies, pragmatic interference, and all kinds of topics can be seen and researched from different perspectives, according to what we are 30
  38. 38. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis in TESOL/AL Roberto Criollo, M.A. interested in. For example, if our topic is learning strategies, we could use descriptive, correlational or experimental research. Descriptive survey research could help us find out opinions, perceptions and attitudes about learning strategies. Correlational research can tell us whether learning strategies seem to be related to learning effectiveness, and experimental research can help us measure the effects of learning strategies on achievement in a controlled environment. Choice of research method is a personal decision, and it totally depends on what we are interested in doing. On the other hand, this is the most important part of the thesis, since it determines whether your study is valid or not as research. Write a specific problem statement. Construct a theoretical framework for your study. Formulate research questions and hypotheses. Identify the assumptions upon which the study will be based, and their plausibility.Congratulations! Now you have a thesis topic, and it is time to decide whetherthis is a good topic or not. This is a difficult decision, because after choosing atopic, it is very difficult to even think of giving up on it. However, some topicsmay be impossible or very difficult to research, and it is better to know it from thebeginning. The criteria given below of what constitutes a good topic might helpyou in deciding if yours is a good topic. As you read each question, reflect onyour topic and answer it to the best of your knowledge... good luck!1.6 Evaluating the Topic: Is Yours a Good Topic? Once you have selected your topic, you need to evaluate it. What is a goodtopic for a thesis? The following criteria may be helpful. 31
  39. 39. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis in TESOL/AL Roberto Criollo, M.A. What is a good topic?? Find it out by answering the questions below! Is your topic directly related to our field of study? Or is it cross-disciplinary? Do you have a sound base knowledge about this topic? Do you master its basic concepts? Is the topic relevant and applicable to the field? Is the topic interesting? Is the topic feasible? Is the topic original? Do you have an idea of the kind of bibliographic resources you will need for your research? Are they readily available? Do you know any professors in the staff who can help you and guide you in your research? Do you have a clear idea of the procedures you will need to carry out to develop your project (i.e. the instrument you will use to collect your data, the type of analyses you will follow to interpret your results)? Based on the instrument you intend to use, will you have access to the subjects or institutions you intend to develop your research in? Will your research be extensive enough as to cover the institution thesis requirements? Or will it be too short or too long?If most of your answers are ‘YES’, your topic is a good one; if not, you reallyneed to consider changing it. 32
  40. 40. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis in TESOL/AL Roberto Criollo, M.A. CHAPTER TWO: WRITING THE INTRODUCTIONParts of the ThesisContent of the Introductory ChapterExplanation of Key Elements in the IntroductionRhetoric and FormulasSample Introductions 35