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Example of a Methods section

Here is the Methods section of a report written by a student.

TASK: As you read through the text, note the ratio of active to passive verb forms:

How would you explain this in the context of writing up the Methods section of a report?

The Incidence of Code-mixing
among Hong Kong University Students


Research design
It was decided to adopt the Language Diary method which was employed by Gibbons in his 1987 study. This particular method of collecting data is useful because it minimises some of the problems experienced in other methods such as observation, where there is the possibility that the presence of an observer may influence the target behaviour, and questionnaires, in which firstly there is the possibility that respondents may not have sufficient awareness of their language behaviour to answer questions about it, and secondly it may happen that negative attitudes towards code-mixing may result in questions being answered incorrectly. The Language Diary requires correspondents to keep a record of all verbal exchanges over a 24-hour period, noting choice of code and other factors which may be relevant, such as subject of the exchange and role of the principal speaker. There were two sections in the Diary. The first consisted of questions to elicit basic background information from the subject, such as educational background and language spoken, followed by some notes intended to help with completing the Diary. The second section took the form of a record sheet on which respondents were asked to keep a note of their conversations over a 24-hour period (see Appendix A for a specimen copy [not provided in CRM]). The format of the language diary was based on that devised by Gibbons (1987: pp18-19) with some minor alterations, for example `cinema ticket' was used instead of `bus ticket' because people are not issued with bus tickets in Hong Kong, and `television and entertainment' were added as additional examples of possible subject matter. The list of languages which the subjects might speak was reduced to `English, Cantonese, Mandarin and others' for the sake of simplicity, and because the number of exchanges found by Gibbons in the other Chinese dialects included by him were minimal (1987: 23).

Respondents were obtained by personal contact from among the friends of members of the research group. It proved rather difficult to recruit volunteers due to the substantial amount of effort involved in completing the diaries in comparison with ordinary questionnaires. Potential respondents were given careful instructions as to what was required of them so as to avoid possible misunderstandings. For example, some students were confused by the similarity to the concept of a questionnaire and thought that they had to answer questions for 24 hours rather than simply record details of conversations.

A total of eight language diaries were completed. The respondents were all first year students from the Faculty of Social Sciences, apart from one who was a post-graduate, and the sample comprised seven females and one male. These eight respondents provided details of 69 verbal exchanges in all.

Clarissa Poon (1993)

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