A Systematic Review of Using Discipline-Specific Corpora for Lexico-Grammatical Pattern Learning: A Case Study for Computer Science Postgraduates

A Systematic Review of Using Discipline-Specific Corpora for Lexico-Grammatical Pattern Learning: A Case Study for Computer Science Postgraduates

Shaoqun Wu (Faculty of Computing and Mathematical Sciences, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand), Liang Li (Te Hononga School of Curriculum and Pedagogy, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand), Ian Witten (Faculty of Computing and Mathematical Sciences, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand) and Alex Yu (Centre for Business, Information Technology and Enterprise, Waikato Institute of Technology, Hamilton, New Zealand)
DOI: 10.4018/IJCALLT.2018010103

Abstract

This article reports on a language learning system and a program designed to help students with academic vocabulary in the New Zealand university computer science department. The system is a learner-friendly corpus-based tool that allows students to look up lexico-grammatical patterns of a given word in academic writing. The program, based on a data-driven learning approach, comprises tutorials, workshops, and follow-up exercises that help students learn useful formulaic patterns of academic words that are typical in computer science. The authors' results capture students' awareness of language patterns in academic text and their growing confidence in using academic words with the assistance of the tool. Not surprisingly, interpreting and transferring the corpus data into students' own writing requires training and practice. The effectiveness and limitations of the resources and tools used in this learning program are examined, and suggestions are made for further improvement and future research.
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The Corpora

Three corpora were built into FLAX to support the language program. The first corpus contained twenty-five conference proceedings and journal articles, written by professors in our department that covered a wide range of topics—such as Human Computer Interaction, Machine Learning and Digital Libraries. These articles, particular to computer science as taught in our university, were chosen by the lecturer who teaches a writing for research course for international students who are likely to go on to undertake Master’s or Doctoral research in certain specialist areas. Though small, this corpus provided sample texts from which academic words and lexico-grammatical patterns salient to computer science could be derived.

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