Inappropriate Use of Thesaurus

In a piece of work that a student handed in recently, I found the following sentences. The assignment was for a research methods course and the task was to analyse some questionnaire data using IBM SPSS Statistics.

The speculations are as per the following:

Null theory, H0: There is no contrast between the extent of guys and females who went to the company’s gathering a month ago.
Alternative speculation, H1: There is a contrast between the extent of guys and females who went to the association’s gathering a month ago.


The t-test equivalents to 2.933 with 67 degrees of opportunity, and related p-estimation of 0.05. Since the p-esteem is equivalent to the 0.05 level of essentialness, we infer that the test was inconsequential. In this way it is inferred that there is no connection between the pay and the quantity of years worked, additionally the invalid speculation can’t be rejected at 0.05 and presume that the compensation can’t be clarified from the quantity of years worked.

The language is very unusual. What I think the student should have written was:

The hypotheses are as per the following:

Null hypothesis, H0: There is no contrast between the number of males and females who went to the company’s meeting month ago.
Alternative hypotheses, H1: There is a contrast between the number of males and females who attended to the company’s meeting a month ago.


The t-test equivalents to 2.933 with 67 degrees of freedom, and related p-value of 0.05. Since the p-value is equivalent to the 0.05 level of significance, we infer that the test was not significant. In this way it is inferred that there is no relationship between the pay and the number of years worked, additionally the null hypothesis can’t be rejected at 0.05 and presume that the salary can’t be predicted from the number of years worked.

I might be wrong, but I assume that the student was trying to avoid plagiarism by using a thesaurus to paraphrase. He had been told to use his own words and was trying. However, what the student does not seem to realise is that specific technical terms cannot be paraphrased and need to be used with their precise meanings.

How should the student be expected to know what must be paraphrased and what must not be? In the case of – for example “p-esteem”, how should the student know that, in some contexts “esteem” is a synonym for “value”, but not here?

Languages for Specific Purposes: Review.

Language for Specific Purposes. Sandra Gollin-Kies, David R. Hall, and Stephen H. Moore. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.

Theoretical and practical books about ESP teaching are rare, so I was happy to see this book available recently. Although the title is “Languages for Specific Purposes”, most of the examples are from English and as well as that useful research from other languages is included. The book is highly recommended to all ESP, including EAP, teachers.

In Language for Specific Purposes, Gollin-Kies, Hall, and Moore provide a good overview of the history, concepts, application, pedagogy and research of language for specific purposes (LSP).

Continue reading

Cognitive Overload

I have recently received a large amount of work from my students of international business that is very messy, very badly organised – pages in the wrong order, tables not fitting on the page, even pages upside down and at 90 degrees. I have been wondering why. Most of the students I am thinking of were second or third language speakers of English and there seemed to be an inverse correlation between English language competence and quality of presentation of work , but I do not think it is direct. It has reminded me of several other experiences I have had and I wonder if there is a connection. Continue reading

ESP and Common Sense

I remember a number of years ago, after a morning of evaluating student oral presentations with a colleague and wondering why they sometimes said strange things, I mentioned that it seemed to me that people lost their common sense when they were speaking a language they were not very confident in. My colleague – who was a good linguist and had never experiences such issues – disagreed. Continue reading

Mastery of Speech (1919)

My daughter was recently given a series of 8 books with the title Mastery of Speech, written by Frederick Law and published in New York in 1919.
It is described as: A course in Eight Parts on General Speech, Business Talking and Public Speaking, What to Say and How to Say It under All Conditions.
The titles of the eight books are:

  • Book One: How to Speak Correctly and Pleasingly
  • Book Two: How to Use Words Correctly
  • Book Three: How to Speak Well Under All Ordinary Conditions
  • Book Four: How to Speak in Daily Business Life
  • Book Five: How to Speak under Trying Conditions
  • Book Six: How to Speak In Private Life and in Public Places
  • Book Seven: How to Speak on Public Occasions
  • Book Eight: How to Find Material for Talking and Speaking

Book 4 might be useful in ESP business contexts! Books 5, 6 & 8 might be useful in EAP situations! Continue reading

Failure to write

A group of students wrote something for me at the beginning of the semester. They were scientists and their lecturer wanted to see how well they could write so if they needed to develop their writing, we could start early in the year and not wait until they had submitted their first assessed assignments. Much of the writing was not very good and the lecturer was determined to arrange writing classes as soon as possible. I decided I’d try to talk to the students before we made decisions to see what I could find out about their experiences of writing. Continue reading

What is a blog?

I was recently asked to work with a group of students on blogging. The students had been asked to write a weekly assessed blog of between 500 and 700 words and were having difficulty.

As I thought about it, I realised that I did not have enough information about what the students were expected to do, and neither – I think – did the students. Continue reading


After 10 years of support, Garnet Education are no longer be in a position to sponsor the IATEFL SIG Journal after issue 47. Garnet Education has provided unmatched professional support of the highest quality which stretches from issue 30 (Summer-Autumn 2007) until now (issue 47). They have also sponsored the publication of four ESP SIG books, and for this we are indebted too. With Garnet’s sponsorship we have been able to develop a solid set of EAP and ESP publications which we will now have to maintain in our own right.

It is now necessary to make plans for the future of the journal. The opinion of the ESP SIG committee and the journal editors is that they should take this opportunity to switch to an electronic version of the journal in the immediate future in order to keep up with the times. The committee wanted to know what members thought of this proposal. A short questionnaire was sent out. The committee hoped that IATEFL would publish the findings, but, as they didn’t, here they are: Continue reading

How to write – What to write.

I’ve often quoted Frank Smith when discussing writing.  In Writing and the writer, Smith distinguishes between “composition” and “transcription” in writing. “Composition” is deciding what you want to say, and “transcription” is what you have to do to say it. His advice is “The rule is simple: Composition and transcription must be separated, and transcription must come last. It is asking too much of anyone, and especially of students trying to improve all aspects of their writing ability, to expect that they can concern themselves with polished transcription at the same time that they are trying to compose. The effort to concentrate on spelling, handwriting, and punctuation at the same time that one is struggling with ideas and their expression not only interferes with composition but creates the least favorable situation in which to develop transcription skills as well” (Smith, 1982, p. 24).

After watching Juzo Itami’s 1995 film Shizukana seikatsu (A quiet life) recently I decided to read  Nobel prize winner Kenzaburu Oe – on whose novel the film is based. In his novel The Changeling, he deals with a similar situation: Continue reading