Being a Clever & Efficient Scholar

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Hints for Researchers

On the whole, doing research to find what other scholar-teachers have written takes patience and time--and luck and the help of colleagues. Since most of us have limited time, being clever about the process is essential. Here are some suggestions that might help you be more efficient in your search for information.

List of Clever Approaches to Searches

With so much material available about English grammar, we need to be clever in looking for materials of usefulness for particular projects. Here are some strategies to consider using.

Where To Start When Studying English Grammar

When doing research on English grammar, always start with the great reference grammars. Never start by looking for journal articles or books, start with these two reference tools:

Biber, D., Johansson, S., Leech, G., Conrad, S., & Finegan, E. (1999). Longman grammar of spoken and written English. Harlow, England: Pearson Education Limited.

Quirk, R., Greenbaum, S., Leech, G., & Svartvik, J. (1985). A comprehensive grammar of the English language. London: Longman.

After you have studied the information in the two reference grammar books, then you can turn to finding other resources in journals and books. These hints are designed to help you in that next set of steps in doing research on English grammar.

1. Look at the reference lists in your textbooks--who and what is listed there? You can search for the particular articles or chapters listed, but you can also search to see if the authors have done other relevant work by searching on their names. And don't just look in the grammar course textbooks--try looking in other texts that might have references to your topic, for example, the text and articles used in the SLA course or the approaches course.

2. Look at the reference list in any article that you find that is useful--who and what is listed there? You can search for the particular articles or chapters listed, but you can also search to see if the authors have done other relevant work by searching on their names. That is, if you find one useful article that is focused appropriately on your topic, you can use the references in that article to find other useful materials.

3. Look to see if there's a recent doctoral dissertation on your topic. The reference list there should be very helpful and complete. Let me know of any of these dissertations seem useful, and I'll see if I can buy a copy for us to use.

4. Use databases such as the CD of the TESOL Quarterly. If you find an article on your topic, be sure to check the reference list to find more sources. I have a copy of that TQ CD that you can check out to use.

5. Look through the most recent issues of journals that might have articles of help. Try the TQ, English for Specific Purposes, and any others where articles that you are reading have been published.

6. Most important of all--look for lots of choices and do not attempt to use publications that just do not make sense to you when you start to read them. You do not have time to take on highly specialized sub-fields of linguistics.

7. And finally keep in touch with the other people in our class who are working on your topic: they might find treasures that you can use. And, of course, you can share your discoveries with them.

8. A very clever approach to scholarship on the web: learn how to use the system. Don't just click around and hope for the best!

9. Also, when you find a reference or article through Galileo, but sure to look at the list of key words given with the information about the article. You might find a new angle on your search. If you find some useful keywords, please email them to me and share them with your colleagues.

Patience & Scholarship

Being an effective scholar takes time, patience, and skill at using the tools available for finding what other scholar-teachers have published on topics of interest to you. You can't do a good job with research studies if you wait until the week or the weekend before the paper is due to start your searching and reading. Actually, I hope that you'll be developing skills that you will use for the rest of your career--not just as a graduate student but as a scholar-teacher who is an active member of our profession.

I look forward to hearing from you, especially to help you with aspects of the Longman Student Grammar that you find confusing or puzzling.  Please send your questions to me at