Module PPP-4008:
Bilingualism: Res & Methods

Module Facts

Run by School of Psychology

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Dr Gary Oppenheim

Overall aims and purpose

Language use is an amazing example of acquired expertise. We're born without knowing any particular language, but language quickly becomes so central to our lives that many people have claimed that it would be impossible to think without it. Linguists have long studied languages to understand their abstract logic. But psychologists have also studied language for over a century, using it as a model system to understand how the human mind works, and what representations, processes, and neural substrates underly such complex learned behavior. Most of this research has focused on the simplest case, where a person only knows a single language, but over the past several decades, researchers have started to consider the more complex case of bilingualism. Bangor has been a center of this movement, so this research methods module is designed to give students the opportunity to learn from active researchers about some of the methods they use in their research.

(Bi)lingualism: Research and Methods is a methodology-focused masters-level module that can count towards many of the masters degrees in the School of Psychology and is required for Bangor’s MA in Bilingualism. Its primary aim is to help budding researchers build their ‘toolboxes’ for designing, conducting, and understanding current laboratory research on mental and neural topics in language processing, with particular focus on bilingualism (though the module is also entirely appropriate for students who are focused on the simpler case of monolingual language use). Several active researchers will contribute to the module, each introducing students to some of the methods that they use in their current research. The module will culminate with each student creating an original research proposal that applies their understanding of current research methods to a specific research question.

Please note that this is primarily a methods module; students seeking a masters-level overview of the psychology of language -- more focussed on theory and findings than research methods -- should consider also or instead enrolling in PPP-4018: Psychology of Language.

Course content

Students will learn about a range of experimental research methods that are currently used in the psychological study of language and bilingualism (and a sampling of current theoretical questions), considering experimental design and the strengths and weaknesses of each approach. We'll start with a quick recap of general principles in laboratory experiment design, core theoretical questions, and commonly used behavioural tasks. Then we'll consider specific research approaches in more detail. Capitalising on the expertise we have here at Bangor, approaches typically include: classic measures of adult behaviour (errors, response times, corpora); language acquisition (looking time, assessments); timecourse methods (eyetracking, ERP); and location methods (fMRI, neuropsychology); and computational modelling.

Please note that bilingualism research is an interdisciplinary topic that integrates laboratory experiments and language research with the added challenge of using multiple languages. Any student should certainly be able to succeed in this module, but students would benefit from some background in laboratory experimentation and/or the psychological or linguistic study of language.

Assessment Criteria

threshold

Adequate answer to the question, largely based on lecture material. No real development of arguments.

good

Reasonably comprehensive coverage. Well organised and structured. Good understanding of the material.

excellent

Comprehensive and accurate coverage of the area. Clarity of argument and expression. Depth of insight into theoretical issues

Learning outcomes

  1. Students will be able to demonstrate core knowledge of at least 5 methods used in the study of bilingualism

  2. Students will understand main findings defining the field in relation to at least 5 key methods of study.

  3. Students will be able to demonstrate in-depth knowledge of the key strengths and key weaknesses of each of the methodologies studied.

  4. Students will be able to reflect critically upon methodological approaches to a given question and will be able to design a potential study using the given approach.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
Written assignment, including essay Research Seminar Commentary 1

Research seminar commentaries (1 page each; to be uploaded to Blackboard within a week of attending the relevant talk). Short papers summarising and commenting on relevant out-of-class research seminars that you attend (often-relevant series include but are not limited to Bilingualism Centre Seminars, Psychology Colloquia, Linguistics Circle Meetings). Please note: you will be individually responsible for finding relevant research seminars to write about; this is how you engage with research outside the classroom. See Blackboard site for details.

A good one-page commentary will typically include:

  1. A summary of the presentation (research question, approach, and main findings)
  2. A consideration of the implications (what would it mean if we assume the speaker’s claims are correct)
  3. A discussion of your concerns about the research (if any), and ideally a description of any extra analyses or follow-up experiments that could address your concerns.
  4. If a talk does not address the experimental study of language and bilingualism directly, your commentary will also need to relate it to the experimental study of language and bilingualism.
5
Written assignment, including essay Bi-Weekly Report 1

“Bi-weekly” reports (1 page each; to be uploaded to Blackboard by the Monday following each sub-unit). Short papers summarizing and commenting on the methods presented in each subunit (usually two weeks of teaching), to be marked by the lecturer(s) who taught it. Your bi-weekly one-page reports should include:

  1. the merits of method(s) covered (Pick one method and discuss its pros and cons. Try to go beyond a summary of the content presented in lecture.)
  2. examples of useful insights gained using this method (Identify 2 or 3 results which have progressed our understanding of language and bilingualism using the method you have selected)
  3. a suggestion of one key new question that could be explored using this method (In a couple sentences, describe a new question and explain how you would go about using this method to address it).

IMPORTANT: Please do not just summarise the lectures and/or in-class experience (e.g. "At 14:00 on 29 September, 2015, in Brigantia room 342, Dr. Gary Oppenheim, PhD, asked us to name a picture of a dog. The he showed us a picture of a dog. Then we named it. Then he said, 'Wow, that was fast.' Then he said that researchers often use speed and accuracy to understand language production. Then he said..."). The point of this exercise is for you to evaluate the method yourself. So instead try imagining that you're compiling toolkit of useful research methods (because you are), and each report is a note to your future self about the most appropriate uses for a particular method.

See Blackboard site for details.

8
SUMMATIVE THEORETICAL ASSMT Written Research Project Proposal

A research project proposal (max 2000 words, excluding bibliography; to be uploaded to Blackboard). Your task is to propose a small research project based on TWO of the methodological approaches covered in the module, selecting and justifying specific techniques to address larger theoretical questions, appropriately reformulating bigger questions in terms of specific methodological constraints, and designing original experiments to address those questions..
You can either choose one of theoretical questions that we will provide later in the semester OR suggest your own (contact me to confirm its suitability).

First, provide a short summary of relevant theories and empirical research that can provide a partial answer to the question (~ 600 words). Then propose TWO (2) experiments that can provide a more complete or valid answer (~550 words each). These two experiments should use TWO complementary methods that we’ve covered this semester, meaning that each should be able to address a major aspect of the question that the other cannot. Then discuss the possible results from your two experiments in terms of their implications for your theoretical question (~300 words). Please note that this should present your own original research project ideas -- not someone else's ideas, and not just summarizing existing research.

See Blackboard for more details.

40
Written assignment, including essay Peer Project Critique 1

Peer project critique (½-1 page each to be [emailed directly to your classmates AND uploaded to Blackboard] by the Monday following the talks). You will be assigned to constructively critique the substance (not style) of two of your classmates' Oral Project Pre-proposals. The idea is for you to get practice peer-reviewing work, and for your classmates to have the chance to improve their projects based on your suggestions. Your classmates will read these, so remember to be tactful, be direct, but above all be constructive: your first and foremost goal in writing these should be to improve the project. Please note that I've not suggested that you should be 'nice', because students often worry so much about being 'nice' that they forget to be constructive. If a classmate presents a problematic proposal, and all you say is "Good job! I really liked your font!" then you deny them the useful feedback that they could use to improve their proposal before they submit the write-up.

Very briefly describe your understanding of their research question and approach, and then offer your questions/comments/concerns, focusing on suggestions for improvement (e.g. “I don’t think fMRI is the best method to study the timecourse of lexical access; maybe another method would be more appropriate?” or “I suspect that you’d be able to draw stronger conclusions if you included a baseline condition,” or “I worry that [some confound] might be a problem in this experiment because [explanation]; you might want to think about how to address it,” ). Each critique should be about ½ - ¾ of a page, but you can write a bit more if you want to be extra helpful. See Blackboard for more detail.

4
INDIVIDUAL PRESENTATION Oral Project Pre-proposal

Oral project pre-proposal (~10 minutes + 5 minutes Q&A; 10%; to be given in class in December, precise dates TBA). This in-class presentation will be your chance to get feedback on your final project proposal before you write it up 40% of your module mark. See Blackboard site for more details.

10
Written assignment, including essay Peer Project Critique 2

Peer project critique (½-1 page each to be [emailed directly to your classmates AND uploaded to Blackboard] by the Monday following the talks). You will be assigned to constructively critique the substance (not style) of two of your classmates' Oral Project Pre-proposals. The idea is for you to get practice peer-reviewing work, and for your classmates to have the chance to improve their projects based on your suggestions. Your classmates will read these, so remember to be tactful, be direct, but above all be constructive: your first and foremost goal in writing these should be to improve the project. Please note that I've not suggested that you should be 'nice', because students often worry so much about being 'nice' that they forget to be constructive. If a classmate presents a problematic proposal, and all you say is "Good job! I really liked your font!" then you deny them the useful feedback that they could use to improve their proposal before they submit the write-up.

Very briefly describe your understanding of their research question and approach, and then offer your questions/comments/concerns, focusing on suggestions for improvement (e.g. “I don’t think fMRI is the best method to study the timecourse of lexical access; maybe another method would be more appropriate?” or “I suspect that you’d be able to draw stronger conclusions if you included a baseline condition,” or “I worry that [some confound] might be a problem in this experiment because [explanation]; you might want to think about how to address it,” ). Each critique should be about ½ - ¾ of a page, but you can write a bit more if you want to be extra helpful. See Blackboard for more detail.

4
Written assignment, including essay Bi-Weekly Report 2

“Bi-weekly” reports (1 page each; to be uploaded to Blackboard by the Monday following each sub-unit). Short papers summarizing and commenting on the methods presented in each subunit (usually two weeks of teaching), to be marked by the lecturer(s) who taught it. Your bi-weekly one-page reports should include:

  1. the merits of method(s) covered (Pick one method and discuss its pros and cons. Try to go beyond a summary of the content presented in lecture.)
  2. examples of useful insights gained using this method (Identify 2 or 3 results which have progressed our understanding of language and bilingualism using the method you have selected)
  3. a suggestion of one key new question that could be explored using this method (In a couple sentences, describe a new question and explain how you would go about using this method to address it).

IMPORTANT: Please do not just summarise the lectures and/or in-class experience (e.g. "At 14:00 on 29 September, 2015, in Brigantia room 342, Dr. Gary Oppenheim, PhD, asked us to name a picture of a dog. The he showed us a picture of a dog. Then we named it. Then he said, 'Wow, that was fast.' Then he said that researchers often use speed and accuracy to understand language production. Then he said..."). The point of this exercise is for you to evaluate the method yourself. So instead try imagining that you're compiling toolkit of useful research methods (because you are), and each report is a note to your future self about the most appropriate uses for a particular method.

See Blackboard site for details.

8
Written assignment, including essay Bi-Weekly Report 3

“Bi-weekly” reports (1 page each; to be uploaded to Blackboard by the Monday following each sub-unit). Short papers summarizing and commenting on the methods presented in each subunit (usually two weeks of teaching), to be marked by the lecturer(s) who taught it. Your bi-weekly one-page reports should include:

  1. the merits of method(s) covered (Pick one method and discuss its pros and cons. Try to go beyond a summary of the content presented in lecture.)
  2. examples of useful insights gained using this method (Identify 2 or 3 results which have progressed our understanding of language and bilingualism using the method you have selected)
  3. a suggestion of one key new question that could be explored using this method (In a couple sentences, describe a new question and explain how you would go about using this method to address it).

IMPORTANT: Please do not just summarise the lectures and/or in-class experience (e.g. "At 14:00 on 29 September, 2015, in Brigantia room 342, Dr. Gary Oppenheim, PhD, asked us to name a picture of a dog. The he showed us a picture of a dog. Then we named it. Then he said, 'Wow, that was fast.' Then he said that researchers often use speed and accuracy to understand language production. Then he said..."). The point of this exercise is for you to evaluate the method yourself. So instead try imagining that you're compiling toolkit of useful research methods (because you are), and each report is a note to your future self about the most appropriate uses for a particular method.

See Blackboard site for details.

8
Written assignment, including essay Bi-Weekly Report 4

“Bi-weekly” reports (1 page each; to be uploaded to Blackboard by the Monday following each sub-unit). Short papers summarizing and commenting on the methods presented in each subunit (usually two weeks of teaching), to be marked by the lecturer(s) who taught it. Your bi-weekly one-page reports should include:

  1. the merits of method(s) covered (Pick one method and discuss its pros and cons. Try to go beyond a summary of the content presented in lecture.)
  2. examples of useful insights gained using this method (Identify 2 or 3 results which have progressed our understanding of language and bilingualism using the method you have selected)
  3. a suggestion of one key new question that could be explored using this method (In a couple sentences, describe a new question and explain how you would go about using this method to address it).

IMPORTANT: Please do not just summarise the lectures and/or in-class experience (e.g. "At 14:00 on 29 September, 2015, in Brigantia room 342, Dr. Gary Oppenheim, PhD, asked us to name a picture of a dog. The he showed us a picture of a dog. Then we named it. Then he said, 'Wow, that was fast.' Then he said that researchers often use speed and accuracy to understand language production. Then he said..."). The point of this exercise is for you to evaluate the method yourself. So instead try imagining that you're compiling toolkit of useful research methods (because you are), and each report is a note to your future self about the most appropriate uses for a particular method.

See Blackboard site for details.

8
Written assignment, including essay Research Seminar Commentary 2

Research seminar commentaries (1 page each; to be uploaded to Blackboard within a week of attending the relevant talk). Short papers summarising and commenting on relevant out-of-class research seminars that you attend (often-relevant series include but are not limited to Bilingualism Centre Seminars, Psychology Colloquia, Linguistics Circle Meetings). Please note: you will be individually responsible for finding relevant research seminars to write about; this is how you engage with research outside the classroom. See Blackboard site for details.

A good one-page commentary will typically include:

  1. A summary of the presentation (research question, approach, and main findings)
  2. A consideration of the implications (what would it mean if we assume the speaker’s claims are correct)
  3. A discussion of your concerns about the research (if any), and ideally a description of any extra analyses or follow-up experiments that could address your concerns.
  4. If a talk does not address the experimental study of language and bilingualism directly, your commentary will also need to relate it to the experimental study of language and bilingualism.
5

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Hours
Lecture 22
Workshop 22
Private study 156

Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • 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.
  • Mentoring - Able to support, help, guide, inspire and/or coach others
  • 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

  • Understand the scientific underpinnings of psychology as a discipline.
  • Apply multiple perspectives to psychological issues and integrate ideas and findings across the multiple perspectives in psychology.
  • Communicate psychological concepts effectively in written form.
  • Communicate psychological concepts effectively in oral form.
  • Be computer literate for the purpose of processing and disseminating psychological data and information.
  • Retrieve and organise information effectively.
  • Handle primary source material critically.
  • Use effectively personal planning and project management skills.
  • Work effectively under pressure (time pressure, limited resources, etc) as independent and pragmatic learners.
  • Problem-solve by clarifying questions, considering alternative solutions, making critical judgements, and evaluating outcomes.
  • Reason scientifically and demonstrate the relationship between theory and evidence.
  • Comprehend and use psychological data effectively, demonstrating a systematic knowledge of the application and limitations of various research paradigms and techniques.
  • Employ evidence-based reasoning and examine practical, theoretical and ethical issues associated with the use of different methodologies, paradigms and methods of analysis in psychology.

Resources

Reading list

Tracking down research articles is a basic skill that any researcher must develop. To provide practice in this skill, we will supply article citations instead of a Talis reading list.

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: