Research Plan

Order Description
The completion of an online module on ethics, details of which are given below. This is not graded, but completion of this online module is compulsory for completion of the unit and will help you to complete part 2 of this assessment.
A 500 word research plan setting out what you intend to do as your research project for Assessment 3. It should include:

The question that your research project aims to answer (see Assessment 3, below).
The research site you intend to collect your data from (without identifying any research participants).
Any ethical issues faced by carrying out your research and how this will be addressed.
The data collection methods that will be used and the types of data that will be collected.
The type of linguistic analysis that will be used.
An intended timeline of your project, from planning to submission.

The purpose of this assessment is to prepare you for your research project and to provide you with feedback so that any potential problems or ethical issues are resolved before you begin the research. The grading of the research plan will reflect the thoroughness of your planning, your attention to each stage of the research project and how well you support your design with reference to other research and academic literature.
You will carry out a small ethnography of communication project and write up the results. There are four choices of focus for the project, including family, workplace and social contexts. You will have already chosen which of these you are doing in the research plan you submit in week 7, and whichever option you choose, you must gain informed consent of all participants using the form provided below.

Aim: to discover how the culture of the group influences the language and language practices the group uses and how they use it.

You will visit your research site at least 4-5 times, so you need to begin early in the unit (at least by week 8). Bear in mind that you cannot start the research until you have had your research plan and ethics approved by the unit convenor (this will be done by May 2nd, so that you have plenty of time to get on with your project).


Your research project should answer ONE of the following questions. Make clear in your report which question your are answering.

How do the linguistic practices of a multilingual family vary across the members of the family and the situational context?

For this question you will most likely focus on your own family’s linguistic practices. This question has been designed with students from multilingual backgrounds in mind, as it would be hard to access the familial interactions of another family within the time you have.
If you choose to focus on this topic, then you may want to think about analysing code-switching, domains of language use, and inter-generational transmission of language and culture. A useful starting point would be Zhu Hua’s work on bilingual conflict talk in families, or Shoshana Blum-Kulka’s work on family dinner-table talk.
How do ritual communicative events shape a group’s identity?

This topic could focus on a sports team, a social club or a group of friends. The ritual events need not be as exotic as a rite-of-passage, they simply need to be communicative events that take place on a regular basis and have a ritual structure and perform some function within the group. We will discuss my work on sports rituals which may give you some ideas, or you could look into Erving Goffman’s writing on everyday rituals.

What is the relationship between language and the cultural practices of sub-cultures (e.g. online-gamers, hipsters, emos)?

This topic addresses the way in which a group of individuals identify themselves as a sub-culture through language. This could be lexical, syntactic, phonetic or orthographic. See Mary Bucholtz’s work on Nerd Girls for inspiration.

How is language used to construct workplace culture?

This is similar to questions 2 and 3, but focuses on a workplace. You should only collect data from private workplace interactions, i.e. ones that only involve people in the workplace, not customers or other outsiders. A series of staff meetings would be ideal for this. See Janet Holmes et al.’s work on Language in the Workplace for some ideas.
You will submit a 2000 word report of your research project, providing an analysis of the linguistic practices found in their research site and how this links into theories of culture and identity. The report should discuss the methodology used and analyse the linguistic data in light of theories of language and culture covered in the unit. It should also provide a good level of ethnographic detail about the community/family/group being researched. Your discussion should draw upon relevant academic literature. A good report will discuss the relevance of ethnography for linguistic research and it’s application to the real world.

Your research project should be structured as a research article, with sections entitled: introduction, literature review, methodology, analysis/discussion, and conclusion. Further guidance on this will be given in class.


The research project will be assessed according to the following criteria, each of which you will receive feedback on:

Theory and Critical Thinking:

Showing knowledge and understanding of ethnographic theory and how it can be applied to the understanding of language and culture.
Discussing your research findings in relation to existing theories about language culture, appropriate to the question you have chosen to answer.
Making appropriate reference to academic literature to support your ethnographic analysis of language in use.

Method and Problem-solving:

The thoroughness and appropriateness of the methods used to collect and analyse your data.
How well you have considered the ethical issues raised by ethnographic research.

Ethnographic Writing

The level of detail in which the group being studied is written about. Ethnographic writing is not just about description of a culture, it is also about the ethnographer’s interpretation of culture as a participant observer.
The style in which the ethnography is written, there are a variety of options, which will be discussed in class, but clarity and good presentation is essential.

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