Surveys, interviews and questionnaires - Approaches to identifying specialised vocabulary for ESP

Vocabulary and English for Specific Purposes Research - Averil Coxhead 2018

Surveys, interviews and questionnaires
Approaches to identifying specialised vocabulary for ESP

Surveys can be a useful approach to gathering perspectives on specialised vocabulary. Coxhead (2011a, 2012a) developed an online survey to find out more about teachers’ perspectives on subject-specific or specialised vocabulary in New Zealand secondary schools. The survey focused on the teaching of specialised vocabulary, including questions on ways that teachers identified this vocabulary, introduced and consolidated their students’ understanding of this lexis and resources and hands-on activities they used in class for learning this vocabulary. The teachers reported being guided by the questions and feedback from their learners when making decisions on what vocabulary to focus on in class (Coxhead, 2011a) (see Chapter 5 for more on this study and vocabulary in secondary school contexts).

Peters and Fernández (2013) conducted interviews with Spanish students studying Architecture to find out more about the vocabulary these students focused on and the resources they used in their study of this vocabulary. The students in this study reported that they tended to look up technical words (such as gutter, façade and rubble) in technical dictionaries and that they also had problems learning words that would be considered general or scientific vocabulary, such as framework, sustainability and consumption. The learners reported that these words caused them more difficulty than the more technical words. The LATTE project also used interviews with tutors and students to investigate specialised vocabulary (see Coxhead et al., 2016; Coxhead et. al., under review; and Chapter 8). Interviews can be time consuming for participants and researchers, but they do allow for in-depth discussion, and checking of concepts and interpretations.

Questionnaires were developed in the LATTE project to find out more about the linguistic demands of students’ studies. One question in particular focused on what students considered to be specialised vocabulary (Coxhead et al., 2016). This question asked, What kinds of words do you need to know to study Carpentry? The student responses were compared to a pedagogical word list developed from a written corpus of carpentry, and there was a large overlap between items in the student responses and items in the specialised word list. These overlapping items included Dwangs, frames, galvanised (nails), bevel back, weather boards, cavity, Hardies, claddings, partitions, eliminate, isolate and minimise (see Chapter 8 for more on vocabulary in the trades).