Genre analysis paper sample

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The following is an example of a genre analysis paper that a student might produce in an academic writing course. The student analyzes some representative published research papers in the field, analyzes the research approach, theories, and academic paradigm of the field, and linguistic features of the text. The student then writes a paper analyzing how papers are written in the field, and why, including how the research methods, paradigms, or theories shape the writing.

The following is a graduate-level introduction to writing psycholinguistics papers, particularly in the subfield of reading psychology. It is not entirely an A+ paper, and in fact, contains some generalities and is a bit broad in scope, making it more like an A- or B+ quality paper. I have used fictitious in-text citations here, and have left out the references section, as this is a fictitious example, designed simply to show what such an assignment would look like.

While psycholinguistics can refer to language acquisition, more properly, it is the study of language processing, including the psychological and neurological aspects of learning and using a first language (L1) or second language (L2). This, it is grounded primarily in experimental psychology methods, though other research approaches can also be included. While writing in psycholinguistics is similar to that of the other social sciences, it differs from theoretical linguistics, where papers depend on abstract theoretical arguments based on linguistic theories and examples from the researchers. Psycholinguistics papers depend on research experiments and data, and conclusions or arguments based on the research results. After describing the quantitative nature of the field, this paper will explain the structure of academic papers and the process of writing about one’s experiments and results; finally, stylistic matters will be discussed.

Psycholinguistics is concerned with understanding how language works in the human mind (psychology) and to some degree, in the brain (neural). This includes how language is learned, encoded and stored, and processed. A few researchers engage in more theoretical work as well (e.g., connectionist research), but generally psycholinguistics refers to the psychological and cognitive study of language. While earlier work in the field was more theoretical or qualitative (such as observational studies), the field has matured to a point where empirical and scientific research is needed to propose, test and validate new hypotheses and to extend our knowledge. Thus, the primary methods come from experimental psychology, such as cognitive psychology. Subjects usually come to a language lab for an experiment at a computer (experimental), or they may occasionally participate in a learning exercise in a group setting (quasi-experimental design). The researcher manipulates a particular variable, as in the classic control and experimental treatment group design, in accordance with the scientific method. Lab experiments often involve reaction time studies, language comprehension studies, language production studies, and many others. Quasi-experimental designs might compare a particular learning technique, or how well learners can learn a target structure. Occasionally, other methods include language tests, surveys and questionnaires; these might assess subjects’ language skills, their performance on a learning task, their attitudes, or other factors.

The research may be motivated by theories of language learning in linguistics, by psychological theories, or simply a particular hypothesis that is motivated by past research or models. In such research, the classical research model is generally followed: a control group that receives a standard treatment, i.e., normal conditions or learning environments; and an experimental group that receives a different treatment, learning situation, or teaching technique, which the researcher is interested in. For example, Richards (1995) compares two groups of adults learning English as a second language under two types of teaching conditions, and based on differing results on their learning between the two groups, he argues for one teaching method over another. Fisher (1998) examines how young American children learn the grammar of English verbs by comparing a normal control group with a group that undergoes a different learning situation disguised as a play activity. Based on the results, she argues in favor of a theoretical view of language known as Construction Grammar (Goldberg, 1996) and how it better explains how children learn verbs better than other existing theories. Such research shows the special difficulties of psychological research with children, which require clever and creative experiments to elicit reliable data, and which must effectively control for different possible factors that may influence the results. One may wish to examine poorly done research in language acquisition, such as Tomasello (1992, 1996, 1998), where other factors are not well controlled for, and the theoretical arguments fail to be convincing because he fails to adequately address alternative explanations for the data, or weaknesses of his interpretation and hypothesis.

Since particular factors are isolated and/or compared, statistical methods are generally used to provide evidence for the research findings. Qualitative methods are thus not often employed, at least not alone, as they cannot scientifically validate a research hypothesis. Qualitative methods can be useful for more exploratory purposes, but more often, they are used in combination with quantitative methods, in so-called mixed methods design, for exploring more complicated matters that cannot be fully controlled experimentally. For example, one might statistically compare two groups with respect to a desired variable, but also qualitatively analyze the group interactions for further evidence or for insight into aspects that the quantitative methods cannot address. More often, especially for experimental lab studies, strictly quantitative, statistical analyses are used. While ANOVAs may be used by more novice linguists, these methods are somewhat weak, and those trained more in social science statistics will use more elaborate methods, such as multivariate regression, logistic/loglinear regression, or even factor analysis.

Since academic papers in psycholinguistics are often quantitative and experimental, they follow the standard format and structure of experimental papers. Thus, the style is fairly rigid and formal, unlike more qualitative or theoretical papers in some fields, which tend not to follow a strict format. The psycholinguistics paper consists of the following sections: abstract, introduction, literature review, experiment, general discussion, and conclusion. The authors first provide a one-paragraph abstract, which summarizes the rationale of the study, the research question, basic findings, and implications. While abstracts in qualitative or theoretical writing are more open-ended, quantitative paper abstracts usually report more definitive conclusions, and they often suggest particular implications, applications, or future avenues for research that will be addressed in the discussion section.

The introduction provides direct background information on the topic, leading to a statement of the main point of the paper, e.g., a research question or a specific research hypothesis. The research hypothesis or hypotheses form the basis for the experiment presented later. A literature review then follows, critiquing relevant experimental studies, and assessing their positive contributions and limitations. This is generally done in the past tense for describing studies, and present tense for summarizing accepted facts, conclusions and theories. More relevant and recent studies may be framed in the perfect tense, particularly when these studies provide the rationale for the current author’s study. The current study may be based on the previous study, either as a replication study, or to directly address limitations that the author has identified. For example, Nerf (2011) cites previous studies of Chinese character processing among native Chinese readers, and identifies weakness in their interpretation or their results; they note that it is unclear how the models used in those studies would apply to processing bivalent Chinese semantic character components , while Nerf’s study is intended to address this limitation. Nerf thus critiques previous research, and identifies a research gap, which she intends to address in her own study; this thus forms the research rationale for her study.

The literature review leads into the author’s particular experiment to be reported, often by stating their research hypotheses, what they expect to find, and a brief description of the type of experiment to follow. The type of experiment is often referred to as a ‘research paradigm’ in psychology (not to be confused with ‘paradigm’ in the sense of academic fields and academic modes of thought). Typical types of experiments that one might see are behavioral experiments, i.e., lab experiments with human subjects performing tasks; reaction time experiments, which are behavioral experiments where subjects’ responses are timed and studied; neuroimaging experiments; eyetracking experiments; and less commonly, quantitative survey experiments.

The next section is the experimental section, which describes in great detail how the experiment was done. This is necessary, in case other researchers wish to replicate the experiment. This begins with a section introduction, often providing the rationale and a more detailed description of the experiment. Subsections follow with specific information, following the style of experimental psychology experiments. These subsections generally include: participants (who, how they were recruited, and standard IRB statements); materials (any materials used, such as experimental items, surveys, or such, are described in detail); procedures (how it was carried out, what the subjects did); and results – the raw statistical results. Generally, two groups are compared – a control group and a target or experimental group. These are generally counterbalanced for statistical reliability, though in some social psychology experiments, this may not be possible, and some experiments might also involve repeated measures designs. Based on the raw statistical results, the researchers conclude whether particular factors were statistically significant.

This is followed by the main general discussion section. This often begins with a summary of the results, and the factors that were significant or not significant. The researchers explain how this confirms, or partially confirms (or maybe disconfirms), their research hypotheses. The meaning of this is discussed in relation to issues raised in the literature review, and ongoing questions in the field that the study is designed to answer. One has to explain and interpret the results in light of current theories and questions, showing what their results mean for theories, models, or controversies. They also previous research, and how the current study may provide better results than past studies. They may have to explain why their findings are better if they contradict past studies or models. Basically, various implications of the study for the field are discussed, and the current research must also be defended against possible criticisms, objections, or controversies. At the end of this section, or in the conclusion, the writers briefly summarize the main implications, and perhaps hedge themselves by stating possible limitations. They also identify outstanding questions, and ideas for further research. Specifically, they note that their study controlled for lexical and phonological factors, there is a slight possibility that their results may not be generalizable to subjects who did not learn with a phoneme-based pedagogical spelling system (the Chinese pinyin system) in some parts of their home country, and thus, more research is needed to fully validate their results for all speakers regardless of educational background; they finally note that they intend to address that issue in an on-going follow-up study (Snerd 2009: 874).

Sources are used most in the literature review, where they are cited in a very dense, dry and concise manner, to provide a comprehensive overview of the issues and psycholinguists’ current knowledge, as well as to provide a specific rationale for the current experiment. The general discussion also contains a number of references, as one must interpret one’s findings in light of other research and models. The introduction may have a few references to frame the issue, and the experimental section may cite a few sources regarding the experimental design or less common statistical analysis methods. Of course, parenthetical in-text APA citations are used, and the references section follows rather strict APA format, as the psycholinguistics journals follow the current APA style just as exactingly as the standard psychology journals do. Finally, a references section should appear at the end, with all citations properly referenced in APA format.

Since psycholinguistics research is based largely on experimental psychology, the writing style is dense. A typical reader needs to be familiar with basic theories and models in the field, such as connectionism, schema theory, reading psychology, and theories of language acquisition, as well as a good familiarity with cognitive psychology and subfields of linguistics, and with the more common fields and approaches in theoretical linguistics, such as generative linguistics and cognitive linguistics. Thus, the language is fairly dense and scientific. Present and past tense are primarily used, with perfect tense for discussing recent studies in developing the rationale for one’s study, or, e.g., in explaining the relevance of one’s findings in the discussion section (“our findings have shown that X is the case”). The literature review and discussion sections may contain a number of transitional expressions for contrast, comparison, cause and effect. These sections tend to have more complex and longer sentences.

More important is the ability to offer careful and nuanced analyses of one’s results. One must be careful not to overstate or overgeneralize one’s results, and one has to think carefully through the possible relevant or implications of one’s results for differing models, theories, and viewpoints. For example, in reading psychology experiments, one may have to carefully consider the implications of connectionist, single-route and dual-route models, and whether one’s results really fit with or go against the specific implications of these models for one’s data. This can be abstract, technical, and difficult, and can be difficult to write up in a clear, coherent, and precise manner. This requires careful thought and analysis, especially if one wants to publish research in leading journals.