Concordances can be used by learners to analyse their errors in writing.

Activity 2 English for Academic Purposes

The appropriate use of sentence conjuncts (eg. however) in formal academic writing.

Stage A: Comparing examples

Learners are asked to distinguish the non native speaker text from the native speaker text.

Look at these two concordance outputs and say which is a native speaker text and a non native speaker text.

Click here for Text 1 and here for Text 2

Stage B: Analysis of “expert” writing and “learner” writing

Two teams are designated to work respectively with native-speaker and non-native-speaker text corpora.

Collect information on the context in which ‘however’ arises and the position it occupies in sentences.

Click here for a Learner Corpus and here for a Native speaker Corpus

Stage C: Reporting findings

Example: in the learners’ writing ‘however’ very often occurs at the beginning of a sentence or clause.

Learners can be asked to consider the range of possible positions of HOWEVER in their concordance texts, and to think how it affects the information in the text. This can help them to write more effectively and persuasively.

Stage D: Improving texts

Learners work on extracts from learners’ texts

Work with a partner to improve this piece of writing. Pay particular attention to the use of ‘however’. Click here for the Learner Text

Work on other conjuncts (thereby; moreover; nevertheless; therefore; thus.)

You can use an on-line Concordancer

Further reading:

Gaskell & Cobb: Can Learners use Concordance Feedback for Writing Errors? (2004)
Bolton, Nelson & Hung: A Corpus-based study of connectors in student writing (2002)
Kennedy & Miceli:An Evaluation of Intermediate Students’ Approaches to Corpus Investigation (2001)
Yoon & Hirvela: ESL Student Attitudes toward Corpus Use in L2 Writing (2004)
Yoon: The Influence of Corpus Technology on L2 Academic Writing (2008)