Vortrag: The methodological challenges in conducting writing research with adolescents
Experimental research methodologies are often needed to test linguistic hypotheses. In order to draw conclusions about the different stages of language acquisition and, in particular, about later-developing aspects of complex syntax such as relative clauses, subordinate clauses, and nominalisation (Dąbrowska, 2020), researchers must engage in literacy research with adolescents. The importance of strong writing skills for academic success and career advancement has been extensively discussed (MacArthur et al., 2019; Olinghouse et al., 2015) and highlights the necessity of understanding the development of this skill over the entire course of its acquisition. It may be especially pertinent to investigate and understand the predictors and components of skilled writing at different stages of development. The implications for educational and intervention practices make this area of research relevant to a variety of stakeholders.
Our study aims to investigate the extent to which print exposure, grammatical sensitivity, and language aptitude predict syntactic complexity in the writing of English first language 11-13-year-olds. Conducting research with sufficiently high statistical power and the subsequent need to recruit large sample sizes of participants (Winter, 2019) led to the first of several methodological challenges we faced in conducting research with adolescents. Linguistics working in the field of English first language acquisition who are based in non-English speaking countries are often faced with similar challenges in recruiting participants and must confront the possibility of working beyond the borders of the country. The additional ethical considerations when working with adolescents as a vulnerable and protected population may be additional barriers to research in this area.
In this presentation, we would like to discuss the participant-related methodological challenges we faced in collecting data with adolescents in the United Kingdom. The first part of the discussion will focus on cross-border recruitment and the requirements for working with minors. The second part will discuss the issue of compensation and the impact on motivation in studies of longer duration. The last part of the discussion will focus on informed consent and response rate issues. We will share reflections about how these challenges were overcome and provide suggestions for future research.
Dąbrowska, E. (2020). How writing changes language. In A. Mauranen & S. Vetchinnikova (Eds.), Language Change: The Impact of English as a Lingua Franca (pp. 75–94). Cambridge University Press.
MacArthur, C. A., Jennings, A., & Philippakos, Z. A. (2019). Which linguistic features predict quality of argumentative writing for college basic writers, and how do those features change with instruction? Reading and Writing, 32(6), 1553–1574. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11145-018-9853-6
Olinghouse, N. G., Graham, S., & Gillespie, A. (2015). The relationship of discourse and topic knowledge to fifth graders’ writing performance. Journal of Educational Psychology, 107(2), 391–406. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0037549
Winter, B. (2019). Statistics for Linguists: An Introduction Using R. In Statistics for Linguists: An Introduction Using R. Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315165547