Methodology for Research Papers
Handout for Language and Popular Culture
In the papers you have written and will be writing for this course, you
need to pay
attention to the question of
- WHICH METHODOLOGY to use in your analysis of things, and therefore
- How to provide evidence for the claims you make that are
claims in the discipline whose methodology you are using.
Given the scope of the course (Popular Conceptions of Language),
there are only a few approaches that have *already* been used in this
area, and if you are going to provide sources, and not try to do
"original" research (which is impossible, anyway), you have to use an
established methodology (from an established scholarly discipline) and
refer to work done in it for support of your various claims.
Marketing and Advertising Research. I am not an expert on
this, but I have provided you with the one article in the courspak
(LeClerc, Schmidt and Dubé), which you can use to some extent to back
up your own findings. I have also given you a
bibliography on foreign branding or, if you don't find these sources
adequate, consult some
of the journals cited in the bibliographies given by the various authors
of these articles, i.e. journals of marketing
research, psychology, etc.
Psychosocial Attitude Studies For attitudes
about language, you can consult the literature on this that has
been carried out since the 1960's beginning in French Canada, known as
matched guise research. I mentioned this in class, and can provide
some bibliography on it: consult the page on
"attitude" research on my webpage. The most useful of these may
Susan Erwin-Tripp's bibliography on the subject.
Linguistic Register There is some work done in
Linguistics per se on the concept of register and I have given
you several handouts on this already:
What would be interesting I think would be to look at the mixing of
registers, or register shift in the material you are examining.
If they use some kind of "scientific" register, how do they use (or
misuse, or manipulate) it? Do they follow the rules of scientific
word-formation (see my note on Pruziner and the prion in the
Register handout) or is it "scientistic" or fake-scientific, or what?
Within linguistics there has been some attention paid to the advertising
register, especially register development in languages that didn't have an
advertising register in the past. Look in Linguistics journals (especially
applied Linguistics) for some leads. Or do an ERIC search on CD-ROM for
the topic of "advertising language".
Film Study resources and background are given at this site.
Gender Differences If you are looking at gender/sex
differences in language and the
depiction of this in film, try this
bibliography for some resources, or
Vocal Variables If you are also looking at how voice
quality is important in the depiction of certain characters, you
should look at the following:
- This table.
- The book by Scherer and
Giles, Social Markers in Speech (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1979) on reserve in Rosengarten Reserve.
- Especially useful should be the article by Giles, 'Ethnicity Markers
in Speech' provided on-line in the 'Bulkpack Readings' under
'Course Documents' through Blackboard.
has many other bibliographies that you may have missed, that may be
relevant to issues you're dealing with.
Sociolinguistic Paradigms. The book by Lippi- Green
entitled English with an Accent is available for purchase, and is
also on reserve in Rosengarten; it deals with many different
sociolinguistic approaches to language and accent, etc. Xerox copies of
her Chapter 5 which focuses on Disney movies, are in your coursepak.
Film studies There is little work done on a
language in film within the film studies paradigm, but the focus on
*metaphor* is a strong one in film studies, and I put a book with this
title on reserve also ( Film and Metaphor Trevor Whittock,
Cambridge U. Press, 1990). I've given you a handout on the web on this
topic, and I would consider this a strong and useful methodology to use;
it's a more "literary" approach but it's important in the study and
understanding of meaning especially meaning in film. I also have a
bibliography on this site, linked here
which should be useful to you.
I am stressing this business because there is a tendency among many
students to not back
up claims with evidence from other sources. Or, people do their
thinking/writing, and afterwards they cite sources; but often the citation
doesn't back up what they claim, or it looks "tacked on". This isn't
the point of this kind of research (make claim first, find evidence for it
later); you are supposed to have an idea, investigate it, test it, read
what others have said, compare your work to theirs, present your results,
and do it convincingly .
Dealing with Accents.
I have tried to discuss in class how we need to have a way that you can
refer to accents, even stereotypical perceptions of accents, in a
'scientific' way in your papers. The problem is that you haven't had
enough linguistic methodology to be able to do this very well.
Here's a possible solution:
- Identify the variables (phonological, vocal, grammatical etc.)
are present in the speech samples you're dealing with.
- Check them out in a reliable source. For example, for American
go to the phonological atlas page linked on the website here
and check out what the variables are for the 'dialect' you're dealing
with. For British accents, consult something like Dialectology
by J.K. Chambers and Peter Trudgill ( Cambridge, U.K. : New York :
Cambridge University Press, 1998, Van Pelt Call Number: P367 .C47 1998),
or almost anything written by Peter Trudgill. Chambers and Trudgill's
bibliography is also useful, and Lippi-Greene's bibliography is also full
of useful sources; and there are other bibliographies and sources listed
on the course website.
- Take the variables you've identified as stereotypical, and make a scale
of 1 to 5 (or 10 or whatever). Low on the scale would be use of a small
number of variables (such as no auxiliary verbs, no plural markers, no 3rd
person verb markers, confusion of r and l, etc.) while higher on the scale
would be occurrence of most or all of these features.
- In your study, you could then call the High end "H" (i.e. an "H"
"accent") and the other end L. If a person is in the middle, use "M" for
them. Or use the numbers: 5 vs. 3 vs. 1, etc. Then you can refer to
different stereotypes, or different characters who use the variables
differently, by their position on the scale, and avoid vague terms like
"heavy, strong, broad, broken" etc.
- As an example of a kind of ranking of different usages, see the
table I have on the web for another course that illustrates different
variants of the sentence
"He's a man that likes his beer." (Ignore the other tables in that
document.) The ranking here is from high usage of "standard" features
down to low usage of standard, and more non-standard.)
Review of Literature
Another general "lack" is that of what is called the Review of the
Literature. In the RofLit you tell us which sources you consulted,
and are going to use for evidence. (You do not list here the films
and/or ads you use as the objects of your study.) You can state this in a
and economical way, before you begin to tell us what you have
done, and I have given a
model for this on the webpage, one that I did for
a chapter on language in Alsace (France). This review tells the reader
that you have not reinvented the wheel, you have consulted established
sources, and are not embarking on some unorthodox idea that is unrelated
anything known to the rest of the world. Most people aren't interested in
lone-scientist working 20 hour days in isolated lab to find miracle
solutions ignored by the rest of the world-type research.
of mad scientists working alone in their attics are Hollywood
conceptions of science, and occur commonly in popular culture. But
they're not accurate depictions of what science is or does.)
want to know is that your ideas are related to evidence
and assumptions and
warrants they already share or are willing to
accept if your arguments are well-grounded. If you are going to
depart from these, you
have to show why everybody else is wrong and you are right. (The
Unabomber got caught because his ideas were so far-out they could be
identified only by his brother; nobody else was interested in them.
And the Anthrax bioterrorists will be eventually unmasked by their unusual
isolationist behavior as well.)
Totally out-of-left-field "research" is usually whacko and
pseudoscientific (known in some circles as "junk science"); no
useful scientific work is ever done that doesn't rest on the work of
others, and we want to know how what you are doing is related to what is
already known or already assumed. What others have done doesn't have to
be the only "truth" but we have to be able to get from the current
known truth to a new one.
Summary On the question of
your summarization, it has to tell us how you have
demonstrated the claims that you make in the first paragraph; many of your
papers make claims on pg. 1, then we never hear about them again, or you
give us totally subjective "evidence". This won't wash.
Please come to see me or the writing tutor when you get your papers if you
don't understand what I am saying, and let's see what can be done to
salvage the situation. All of the papers have some merit, and are
salvageable, but they all need more work.