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Module QXL-4432:
Linguistics Research Methods

Module Facts

Run by School of Languages, Literatures, Linguistics and Media

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1 & 2

Organiser: Prof Thora Tenbrink

Overall aims and purpose

Linguistics can be thought of as the scientific study of language. The aim of this module is to equip students with (i) the foundations and tools necessary to design and carry out experiments and research appropriate to the scientific study of language and (ii) the necessary experience to evaluate papers and presentations that utilise a range of different research methods, enabling students to pursue the scientific study of language on a broader scale in the future. While this module provides essential insights into research methods that will be useful for the Master's dissertation, this is not primarily a dissertation preparation module, but more generally a study of research methods and design in Linguistics.

The module will introduce various types of quantitative, qualitative and mixed research methods. By reviewing different experimental designs and data, statistical concepts and analyses will also be introduced. Along with this, we will review basic concepts of empirical research design, and provide an introduction as to how research can be presented in the form of a dissertation. Students will also be introduced to how the library can help in research and to issues surrounding research ethics and the need for ethics approval.

A wide range of research is being conducted by staff in Linguistics and English Language, using different research methods. For this reason, the module will be taught by various lecturers, with each lecturer covering a topic within their own area of expertise. Staff will also present their own research interests and topics suitable for an MA/MSc dissertation, with the aim of helping students to choose a dissertation topic but also allowing them to engage with a wide range of approaches and topics, aiming for a broad perspective on research methods in linguistics.

Aims: - to help students to plan and undertake research projects in various topics within Linguistics and/or English Language. - to enhance students’ knowledge of how to analyse and present data by using diagrams, charts, graphs, etc., and also to introduce students to basic statistical tests and concepts. - to introduce students to important theoretical research concepts such as the scientific method, hypothesis testing, research questions, etc. - to introduce students to the methodological and ethical issues involved with linguistic research. - to provide practice and knowledge in finding, reading, summarising and critically commenting on research articles, reports and presentations.

Course content

The majority of this module is in semester 2, but some of the classes are taught in the second half of semester 1. All of the assessments are in semester 2.

The module will include: 1. The basics of research: Properties of good research (empirical methods, validity, falsifiability), aims, research questions and hypotheses, testing hypotheses (null & alternative hypothesis) – The empirical cycle.
2. Constructs and operationalisation through variables; Sampling and validity.
3. Types of methods: Quantitative, qualitative and mixed methodology.
4. Experimental research design & basic statistical concepts (within- & between-subjects, power and effect size, parametric/non-parametric data).
5. Using the Library Services for Research 6. Research methods (1): Interviews and questionnaires 7. Research methods (2): Experimental design 8. Research methods (3): Corpus approaches
9. Research methods (4): Discourse & Discourse Analysis
11. Statistical concepts 10. Writing a research proposal; academic writing style.

Assessment Criteria


C (50%):
The answer must address the question.
The answer must show a basic knowledge and understanding of the relevant key areas and principles of the foundational theories, constructs and methodologies of Linguistics.
The student must show evidence of being able to apply the principles to the analysis of language and linguistic examples and/or data.
The answer must show evidence of some background study.


The answer must be focussed and structured.
The answer must show a better-than-average standard of knowledge and understanding of the foundational theories, constructs and methodologies of Linguistics.
The linguistic examples used in the answer may be based upon examples from the literature but must also include original examples.
The answer must show evidence of background study with at least some from primary sources.


The answer must be highly focused and well-structured.
The answer must show comprehensive knowledge and detailed understanding.
The answer must show some original interpretation, new links between topics and/or a new approach to a problem.
The answer must show evidence of extensive background study using primary sources.

Learning outcomes

  1. Students will be able to produce a research proposal, suitable for masters level.

  2. Students will be able to generate research questions and hypotheses relevant to issues in linguistic research.

  3. Student will understand different research methodologies and be able to identify a suitable method for a research question.

  4. Students will understand methodological and ethical issues pertaining to linguistic data collection and analysis.

  5. Students will develop an advanced understanding of how academic work is written and structured

  6. Students will understand analytical tools, such as statistical procedures, and their appropriateness in the domain of linguistic research.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
ESSAY Research Article Critique

Critical assessment of a research article. Target length: 1200 words (+/- 10%).

WRITTEN PLAN Research Proposal (2000 words)

Research proposal for the master's dissertation, target length: 2,000 words (+/- 10%) excluding references and appendices.

ESSAY Critical Review of a Dissertation

Critical assessment of one of the dissertations from previous years. Target length: 800 words (+/- 10%).


Teaching and Learning Strategy

Private study

Directed Reading - students are given required reading each week (of about 2 hours) on the topic of that week's lecture.


Following submission of potential research questions, students will receive a one-to-one session to get feedback on the questions and receive guidance on selecting one to turn into a proposal, and how to do this. As well as this, students are encouraged to see the lecturer on a one-to-one basis during published office hours (or by appointment) to discuss issues with the module content, seek clarification on topics and discussions, and discuss feedback on assessments and class exercises.


Over the course of the module, there will be workshops done by the Study Skills team.


Weekly two-hour lectures for 11 weeks (over both semesters)

Private study

In their own time, students will be expected to do further reading, go through materials covered in class and do further research on the topics, and prepare assignments.


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others

Subject specific skills

  • Research skills - students will be able to undertake advanced independent research, involving formulating a research question, identifying and deploying appropriate linguistic methodology (theoretical or empirical), data collection techniques (experimental or field-based), as well as the selection and application of appropriate theoretical frameworks in order to adequately analyse and interpret data.
  • Writing & scholarly conventions - students will be able to present data, argumentation, findings and references in written form in keeping with the conventions current in language science and English language studies to an advanced standard.
  • Analysis & interpretation skills - students will be able to analyse and interpret data accurately and to draw appropriate conclusions based on the application of appropriate analytic and theoretical frameworks available in linguistics and English language studies.
  • Evaluation & reflection - students will be able to critically evaluate to an advanced standard a particular position, viewpoint or argument in relation to a specific area of investigation. They will be able to reflect on the efficacy of a particular approach, practice or performance, and moderate these as a consequence in order to achieve specific goals.
  • Independent investigation - students will develop the ability to plan, design and execute a highly original and significant piece of research or inquiry, either independently or as a member of a team in order to discover a specific solution to an outstanding issue or question through searching out and synthesising written, visual and oral information. Students will also develop skills of independent investigation, including interacting with peers and participants/informants.
  • Learning to learn - students will learn to reflect upon, modify and improve their learning strategies
  • Effective communication - students will develop the ability to communicate effectively, appropriately and confidently, in a range of contexts, to different audience types, and making use of a range of supporting materials
  • Awareness of and appreciation for linguistic and cultural differences - students will develop an awareness of and an appreciation for the range and nature of linguistic and cultural diversity.


Resource implications for students


Talis Reading list

Pre- and Co-requisite Modules

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses: