of a Methods section
Here is the Methods section of a report written by
As you read through the text, note the ratio of active to passive
How would you explain this in the context of writing up the Methods section
of a report?
The Incidence of
among Hong Kong University Students
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)