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 difference between the number of males and females who went to the company’s meeting month ago.
Alternative hypotheses, H1: There is a difference between the number of males and females who attended 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).

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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

Where Next for EAP?

There has been much discussion recently about what exactly students have to do in order to succeed in HE. Gillett & Hammond (2009), for example, identified a range of tasks that need to be managed in order to succeed and Nesi & Gardner (2012) looked in great detail  at the genres which students need to work with. This has been a very useful contribution to the development of EAP.  However, Feak (2011) identifies the difficulties that some students might have with these genres in multidisciplinary degrees and courses.  Furthermore, my  recent experience working with students from one discipline, business students, has shown that many of the assignments that the students have to produce are much more complicated and not so easily classified.  I’d like to show some examples of these and ask how we can best help our insessional students to deal with them.

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Feedback – Who is it for?

I was visiting a colleague’s office recently and he showed me a piece of student work from another university where he was an external examiner. The piece of work was covered with red ticks, crosses, under-linings, crossings out and illegible comments. We discussed it and came to the conclusion that this feedback – if that’s what it was – was not very useful and that it was something that he – as an external examiner – should comment on. As I was leaving the office, I suddenly thought of something and went back to look at the text again. As I thought, the text was on formal examination paper and it was clear that the writing we had been looking at was an examination answer, something that the students would (might) never see again. It made me realise that comment/feedback on student writing – as with all writing – depends on purpose and audience, something that does not seem to have been discussed elsewhere. Continue reading

Assessment Criteria

Assessment Criteria

I ran a workshop at a BALEAP conference several years ago about assessment criteria. I was particularly interested in the difficulty of marking assignments, especially when the English course is part of a degree course and the marks contribute to the student’s degree classification.

The purpose of the workshop was to look at ways of using profile forms to assess such writing assignments. I was not satisfied that we came to a satisfactory solution at that time, and I’m still not happy with it. Continue reading