Corpus and Repository of Writing

Great feedback! CWPA 2019 report

Bradley Dilger and Hadi Banat attended the Council of Writing Program Administrators’ annual conference in Baltimore, Maryland, and conducted a workshop to introduce the Crow platform and its various uses to the CWPA audience. Participants explored multiple features of the Crow platform and reflected on its potential uses for their own research and writing programs. After Dr. Dilger introduced the Crow project, design practices, and the technical aspects of building and maintaining the interface, graduate dissertation fellow Hadi Banat discussed Crow’s adopted methods to collect corpus texts and repository pedagogical materials. Both Dilger and Banat led a guided tour of our web interface, provided ample time for hands-on exploration, and assisted workshop participants by answering queries during our extensive individual work time. Finally, participants reported on their experience interacting with the interface, provided feedback on their interface experience, and reflected on ways to utilize this resource in their own institutional contexts.

Banat describing our approach to collaboration

During our conversations with CWPA workshop participants, we discussed the following:

  • Multiple Word Handling feature (Contains any word or Contain all words) in corpus search and possible additional interface features 
  • Our GitHub tools related to processing and de-identifying student texts
  • Pedagogical material de-identification, ownership, and labor concerns
  • Usability of the repository materials and corpus texts for graduate student practicums
  • Coding multimodal digital projects and related repository backend work 
  • Open source platform, user permissions, and access to data 
  • Open source platform and access criteria pertaining to various user profiles

After our conversations, we invited workshop participants to share more feedback with us by filling out a survey feedback form. Inspired by user experience and usability practitioners, outreach workshops and user feedback are instrumental for continuing the development of our interface. Thanks to our ACLS extension grant, we were able to offer gift cards to participants who filled out the survey, another part of our outreach work to build a network of potential Crow contributors and researchers.

Dilger responding to workshop participant questions

In addition to the time we spent in sessions and networking with other scholars and peers, we did not forget to enjoy the scenic inner harbour of Baltimore and the multicultural cuisines in the city. Dilger went for sunrise runs before breakfast and conference talks, and Banat enjoyed sunset walks after long days at the conference. (At CWPA, breakfast starts at 6:45am!) 

Baltimore’s inner harbor at sunset

At the end of the conference, CWPA organizers took us on a trip to the American Visionary Art Museum where we enjoyed snacks, desserts, and beer before we took a tour of the museum and admired its unique pieces. Through this social event, we also met new friends and had entertaining conversations outside the realm of academia.

Pieces from the American Visionary Art Museum

We hope to attend CWPA 2020 in Reno, Nevada and share our work with the writing program administration community again. 

Our Crow mascot enjoying the conference

Crow at Computers & Writing 2019

From June 20–22, our Crowbirds flocked to East Lansing for this year’s Computers & Writing conference hosted at Michigan State University by a team including Crow PI Bill Hart-Davidson.

Shelley Staples and graduate student Jeroen Gevers, both from the University of Arizona, presented on multimodal and multilingual composing in FYW courses by using data from Crow corpora. Dr. Staples and Gevers discussed a multimodal multilingual remediation project in ENGL 108, the last L2 writing course in the Foundations Writing sequence at UA. They shared their methods for coding multimodal assignments, which include the use of images, text, emojis, and more, and voiced the challenges they encountered in standardizing codes. They ended with a discussion, seeking recommendations for alternative practices that require less time and less intensive labor.

Bradley Dilger, Mark Fullmer, Emily Jones, Hadi Banat, and Michelle McMullin conducted a workshop to introduce the Crow platform and its various uses to the C&W audience. Participants explored multiple features of the platform and reflected on its potential uses for their own research and writing courses. After undergraduate researcher Jones introduced the Crow project and design practices, our brilliant developer Fullmer discussed the nitty-gritty technical aspects of building and maintaining the interface. Afterwards, Dr. Dilger and Banat led a guided tour of our web interface. Dr. McMullin assisted by answering queries during our extensive individual work time. Finally, participants reported on their experience interacting with the interface and reflected on ways to utilize this resource in their own institutional contexts.

Emily Jones introduces the Crow platform, with Mark Fullmer in the background via videoconference.

Emily Jones introduces the Crow platform, with Mark Fullmer in the background via videoconference.

Dilger, Banat, and McMullin collaborated with the “Building Healthcare Collectives Team” on a roundtable which focused on research projects funded by Humanities Without Walls, and the outcomes of utilizing digital spaces and tools to build infrastructures necessary for successful collaboration among researchers and across institutions. Dr. Dilger discussed the models Crow PIs use for team building, and how Crow leaders developed collaborative writing practices, balanced individuals’ needs, and maximized professional development and team productivity. Dr. Dilger called for action, commenting on the responsibility of faculty to mentor graduate students on the skills they need to build research agendas, enter the job market, and pursue their prospective careers.

Dr. McMullin discussed the need to make teams a site for research, by interrogating practices within a collaborative community. Relying on her Crow experiences, she presented recommendations and practical tips that teams can use to create digital infrastructures and develop best practices which honor both accountability and flexibility.

Banat, Crow’s rising fifth year PhD candidate and a 2019–2020 Purdue Research Foundation Fellow, focused on performing interdisciplinarity through the transfer of research, team building, collaboration, and grant writing practices from Crow to the Transculturation in FYW research project. He highlighted the value of involvement in research teams for knowledge construction and expertise development. In his lightning talk, he outlined Crow’s grant writing strategy in detail, inviting the audience to use the same guidelines and practices at their own institutions. He emphasized the value of mentoring that research participation provides, drawing comparisons between the Humanities Lab Practicum which was a common part of our HWW projects, and the engineering research lab model. Despite the fact that this was one of the conference’s final sessions, the roundtable ended with lively conversation surrounding best practices for grant writing and team building.

As at every conference, the Crow team found time to make new friends and socialize with scholars from other institutions who are pursuing brilliant projects. Crow conference experiences are holistic and comprehensive, as we use this opportunity to reflect on our experiences and learn from them.

Afterglow at the Hart-Davidson compound

Afterglow at the Hart-Davidson compound

The dormitory accommodation was a unique experience, as our Crowbirds are used to staying in nearby hotels. The communal living made conversations with scholars, colleagues, and peers easier and smoother. We also enjoyed after-conference socials at East Lansing breweries, where we discussed types of beer, future Crow projects, and prospective career plans for Crow’s graduating students. At the end of the conference, co-host Bill Hart-Davidson invited us and other attendees to his house for snacks, laughs, and lively conversation. The real fun started when a group of conference presenters enthusiastically formed a band and played some (loud) jams. Before heading back to West Lafayette, we enjoyed a delicious vegan brunch at People’s Kitchen and reflected on our third (and hopefully not last!) time presenting at the C&W conference.

Crow demo at CWPA 2019

We’re happy to demonstrate the Crow system at CWPA 2019!

Thanks to our grant funding, we can offer attendees who complete this feedback form a $25 gift card! Fill out the form, then get in touch with Bradley Dilger before the end of the conference. (We’re in Baltimore until Sunday.)

Follow along as we demonstrate the Crow system, then offer everyone time to explore it on their own devices: Handout as Google Doc

We also invite you to try this demonstration version of our repository intake form — the way we collect texts from participating instructors.

Thank you for your interest! We welcome your questions.

C&W 2019 Workshop

This summer, we have the opportunity to continue sharing our interface at various conferences. We are excited to lead a mini-workshop (Session G, Sat 6/22, 2:00p, Riverside Room) at this year’s Computers & Writing conference, where we will discuss the technical and ethical processes for building our database and provide users time to explore our interface. Attending? Workshop materials are at the bottom of this page.

Exploring a web-based archive of writing and assignments

Our team has developed the first web-based archive that links a repository of pedagogical materials with a corpus of student texts written in response to those assignments in first-year composition courses. This workshop will allow participants to explore the features of our platform for their own research and writing courses. A guided tour of our web interface will be followed with extensive individual work time supported by researchers. Participants will learn to explore linguistic and rhetorical features of student writing, develop classroom activities or research plans, and explore other uses.

Shelley Staples attending a workshop C&W 2016, sketching out the Crow platform’s connections between texts

Takeaways

After our workshop, participants will be able to:

  1. Use our platform to explore linguistic and rhetorical features of student writing;
  2. Develop classroom activities or research plans based on the corpus and repository date available through our platform;
  3. Discuss how information from our platform could be further developed for research and inform language teaching;
  4. Explore opportunities for managing data for programmatic use, such as assessment or professional development.

In addition to these main goals, participants will gain a general understanding of the data processing and development required to sustain for data-driven web-based software like our platform. Interested? Keep reading for a full description of our workshop.

Read more ›

Funded! ACLS Digital Extension, $150,000

We are very excited to announce that the Crow team has been awarded the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Digital Extension grant in the amount of $150,000. Congratulations to our Crow team, and in particular, to Shelley Staples, Ashley Velázquez, Hadi Banat, Bradley Dilger, Ali Yaylali, Aleksey Novikov, and Adriana Picoral. These Crowbirds contributed extensively to developing our application. We also wish to thank those at University of Arizona who supported our grant writing and submission: Kim Patton (Research, Discovery, & Innovation), Beth E. Stahmer (Social and Behavioral Science Research Institute), and Jane Zavisca (Associate Dean for Research, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences).

ACLS Digital Extension grants support digital research projects in humanities and the humanistic social sciences. According to John Paul Christy, director of public programs at ACLS, “This year’s awardees share a commitment to the kinds of community building – across disciplines, institutions, languages and cultures – that strengthen the enterprise of the digital humanities.” The Crow team is thrilled to be one of the first writing research projects funded by ACLS (if not the first one).

Our project, “Expanding the Corpus and Repository of Writing: An Archive of Multilingual Writing in English,” will run for three semesters, from July 2019 until December 2020. Key personnel on the grant include Staples (PI) and Dilger (Co-PI), research assistants at Arizona (Novikov; Picoral; Yalalyi) and Purdue (Lan; Gao) as well as undergraduate research assistants at Purdue. We also will continue to work with our amazing developer, Mark Fullmer.

This grant will allow our team to advance research in several areas. First, it will help us expand our data collection of multilingual writers to a new population of heritage Spanish writers at the University of Arizona (a newly designated Hispanic Serving Institution). Second, we will be able to automate some of our intertextuality research by creating a new computational tool. Our final goal for this project is to offer extensive outreach to researchers, teacher-researchers, and developers. To reach this goal, we plan to conduct multiple training workshops for teachers and researchers on how to use the Crow platform, as well as train teacher-researchers how to add their own texts to the Crow platform and train developers on how to use the API for their own projects. ACLS support will enable us to offer support and incentives to these educators.

Visualization of extension of Crow supported by grant: reaching new audiences in new ways.

Thanks again to everyone involved in various steps of the grant application in different capacities. We remain grateful to our current funders, the Humanities Without Walls Consortium, and our institutions, Purdue University, the University of Arizona, and Michigan State University. We are very happy to continue expanding Crow with the help of their continuing support.

APPLAWS: Fall 2018 and Spring 2019

We’re closing out the spring semester with another APPLAWS post, a celebration of the team’s Awards, Publications, Plans, Leadership, Achievements, Wooots, and Surprises over the past academic year. We have lots of exciting updates to share!

Hadi Banat became a PhD candidate, won a Purdue Research Foundation dissertation fellowship for 2019-2020, and with the Transculturation team won a $5,000 CILMAR grant. His chapter “Floating on Quicksand: Negotiating Academe as Muslim” in Harry Denny et al.’s Out in the Center: Public Controversies and Private Struggles published by the University Press of Colorado came out hot off the press. He has also finalized coding and analyzing the transculturation project pilot data set and mentored undergraduate researchers who joined the team. In Crow, he has been working with Shelley, Emily, Hannah and Mark on repository development and helped the grants team with writing the ACLS grant.

Bradley Dilger worked extensively with Crow undergraduate researchers to continue spotlighting Crowbirds on our website, to build our inventory of Crow swag (STICKERS!!!!!), and to help Crow develop its outreach strategy. With Michelle McMullin, he is continuing our “Constructive distributed work” project, and is also helping our team update its environmental scans of other corpora and repositories. Bradley also taught Empirical Research in Writing Studies in Spring 2019, and helped the Transculturation team (including Crowbird Hadi Banat) win a third CILMAR mini-grant.

Mark Fullmer helped launch a new release of the Crow web interface which included a substantial redesign of the search engine, changes which lay the groundwork for more advanced functionality like wildcard searches. He submitted a patent application for software that allows readers to dynamically assign the gender of personae in prepared texts, as used on https://genderedtextproject.com . In April, he attended DrupalCon, an annual event of the open-source content management system, and his contributions to Drupal’s layout interface were referenced during multiple sessions. He is currently collaborating with developers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln on further enhancements.

Jie Gao is a fourth year PhD candidate in Purdue SLS. She led the team that submitted a research article on citation, and also worked on a book chapter titled “L2 Speaking: Theory and Research” during the past 10 months. She is now analyzing data for her dissertation. She hopes to finish a few chapters by the end of July.

Hannah Gill is finishing up her sophomore year at the University of Arizona. This was her first semester working with Crow and she has loved it. She has spent most of her time in the lab processing student texts from the University of Arizona writing courses. In addition, she collaborated with other members of the Crow team on collecting instructional materials to the repository. She also helped in a workshop on CROW/MACAWS which focused on designing DDL activities with the help of the two interfaces. She was also admitted into her major (PPEL—philosophy, politics, economics, and law) which she will begin in the fall semester.

Jhonatan Henao-Muñoz completed his 2nd year as a Ph.D. student this spring and will be taking his last courses on fall. This past semester he co-coordinated the 29th version of #SPGS, worked as an intern in Crow, and volunteered in the NACIL2. At the 18TH SLAT Roundtable, he presented his work-in-progress on L2 peer-editing and online translator self-editing, collaborated in a Crow/MACAWS workshop for designing DDL materials. Finally, he was admitted in the M.A. in French Linguistics and Second Language Learning, and he was awarded with an internship for NHC. Next year he will continue working in Crow and start collecting data from intermediate Spanish and French courses.

Emily Jones is wrapping up her junior year at Purdue, and it was her busiest one yet. In addition to her position with Crow, she interned with Sycamore Review, worked as Editorial Assistant for a journal under Purdue Press, and tutored in Purdue’s Writing Lab. This spring she also presented her research on gendered violence in Victorian literature, for which she received Purdue’s OUR Scholarship. Over the past year, she has done content strategy, information architecture, and branding development for Crow. Next semester she will be fulfilling her history minor while studying at Scotland’s oldest university, the University of St Andrews.

Ge Lan worked on his dissertation this past year, including completing the first draft of his literature review and part of his methodology, writing Python programs for grammatical analysis, and exploring how to use Stanford Parser with command line. He has also been working on processing Crow data that was collected in fall 2018 at Purdue, and modifying a header script developed by UA team.

Lindsey Macdonald worked on her dissertation, “The Right to Health: A Rhetorical Ecology of Mental Health Advocacy and Legislation,” and has so far completed the literature review chapter and part of the methods. She received a Graduate Summer Research Grant, so she will be spending the summer completing her data analysis and hopefully writing a chapter or two.

Michelle McMullin successfully defended her dissertation, “Crafting new materialist research frameworks for collaborative response” in April. She is ecstatic to be joining the amazing faculty at North Carolina State University as assistant professor of technical communication in the fall. She will be presenting with our Crow team and a team from MSU on Humanities Without Walls projects at Computers & Writing at Michigan State University this summer. She will also be reprising her role, this year as Dr. Hawk Girl, as director of iDTech camp at University of Michigan this summer.

Sarah Merryman worked as an undergraduate tutor in the Purdue Writing Lab, weblog and social media intern for the Purdue English Department, and assistant JTRP editor for the Purdue University Press. She won the English Department’s Outstanding Senior Award and the Albert Viton Scholarship for her work at the Press. In addition to blogging for Crow, she also helped write IRB contracts, create web content strategies, and learned the basics of Python coding. This spring, she presented her research on writing lab data usability at the Purdue Undergraduate Symposium.

Sarah proudly displays her certificate of completion for Ge Lan’s Python Coding crash course

Aleksey Novikov passed his comprehensive exams this semester, and is at the stage of making connections between data and ideas for his dissertation proposal. This semester he has mostly worked with the other Macaws birds to create pedagogical webinars on using Data-driven Learning (DDL) with learner data. He also co-presented two pedagogically-oriented workshops: Crow/MACAWS workshop for designing DDL materials, and Teaching Russian with Real World Language with existing native speaker and learner corpora.

Emily Palese passed her comprehensive exams this semester and will soon begin her dissertation proposal. This past semester she taught English 107, worked on processing UA student texts for Crow, and collaborated on collecting instructional materials for the repository. She co-presented two workshops on pedagogical approaches for supporting multilingual writers, as well as a Crow/MACAWS workshop for designing DDL materials. Next year she will continue working on Crow’s repository as a Graduate Assistant Director in the Writing Program.

Ji-young Shin defended her prospectus and finished the first draft of the literature review for her dissertation. She received two external research awards for graduate students, the 2019 AAAL Graduate Student Award and the 2019 British Council Assessment Research Award. During the fall semester, she successfully conducted two Crow workshops with other Crowbirds at the 2018 TaLC conference and the Crow Symposium. She also contributed to building the teaching material repository for Crow and participated in organizing the Crow Symposium.

Shelley Staples published two peer reviewed articles in English for Specific Purposes Journal, one a single-authored paper on using corpus-based discourse analysis to inform instruction and one with Purdue grads and a soon-to-be grad on complexity in oral language assessment. She also published a chapter on Corpus Linguistics for the Handbook of SLA and Pragmatics and a chapter on conducting Multi-dimensional Analysis in an edited volume. She submitted five additional papers and two grants (results pending). She was an invited speaker at Lancaster University, Universidad de Sonora, Vanderbilt University, and Purdue, where she gave talks on corpus linguistics and also introduced students and faculty to the Crow interface. She took over the editorship of Brief Reports with TESOL Quarterly. With Crow, Dr. Staples led our “citation project” team to their article submission, the UA team in growing our corpus (processing texts from Spring 2018-Fall 2018), and the Repository team on exciting new developments including our new intake form. She also co-led a workshop at the SLAT Roundtable and worked with Adriana, Randi, Ge, and Aleks on writing up research from their AACL presentation. With MACAWS, Crow’s cousin, she led the team in their production of a series of webinars. Finally, she helped 5 PhD students reach the final lap in their careers as students, including Crowbirds Ashley J Velázquez and Aleksandra Swatek, and two Crowbirds (Emily Palese and Aleks Novikov) reach their exciting next stage in their PhD process.

David Stucker, a junior in Purdue University’s Professional Writing program, joined the Crow undergraduate researcher team in early February. He spent the semester developing corpus backend bug report documentation and environmental scan criteria, proposed corpus user-agreement considerations, and performed environmental scans of similar corpora. He intends to continue his work with Crow over the summer and the upcoming fall semester.

Aleksandra Swatek defended her PhD dissertation, “The language of engagement in math instructional video tutorials: A corpus-based study.” She also taught face-to-face courses (OEPP) and online courses (ICaP) at Purdue. She presented initial results of her dissertation research at the Purdue Linguistics, Literature, and Second Language Studies Conference. She is currently on the job market in Poland.

Ashley Velázquez successfully defended her dissertation, “What’s the ‘problem’ statement? An investigation of problem-based writing in a First Year Engineering program” in April. She is thrilled to be joining the faculty at the University of Washington-Bothell as an assistant professor in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences in Fall 2019. Dr. Velázquez was also selected to serve on TESOL’s Standards Professional Council this past fall for the next two years. This summer, before leaving for Washington State, she’ll be leading a workshop or two on how to use Crow and develop DDL materials for teaching second language writing at Wright State University.

SLAT roundtable

Participants work with Crow researcher Novikov at the SLAT roundtable

This semester, Arizona Crowbirds along with representatives from MACAWS, our new Multilingual Academic Corpus of Assignments: Writing and Speech, received the opportunity to present at the SLAT Roundtable. Our presenters were Aleksey Novikov, Emily Palese, Jhonatan Henao-Muñoz, Dr. Shelley Staples, and Hannah Gill. At the presentation, we introduced the two corpora (Crow and MACAWS) and the basic premise of Data-Driven Learning (DDL). With DDL, students and instructors use a hands-on approach to examine authentic corpus data to discover language patterns that can then be used to create lessons, activities, and instructional materials.

Since one of our main goals was to give participants concrete ideas about incorporating material from the corpus into their classroom settings, we gave examples of how Crow and MACAWS could be used in the foundations writing classroom (Crow) and in Russian language classes (MACAWS). Participants were then given the opportunity to split into groups and focus on creating activities tailored to the two corpora. For Crow, we used our online interface, released in October 2018. For MACAWS, we used a sample of off-line texts with the freeware program AntConc. The participants, most of whom were instructors in either the Russian department (MACAWS) or in the Writing Program (Crow), were given the chance to ask questions, voice concerns, and work closely with various features of the two corpora to explore how the corpora could be used to design their own activities, lessons, and instructional materials.

Crow researchers Hannah Gill, Aleksy Novikov, Jhonatan Henao-Muñoz, Shelley Staples, and Emily Palese (left to right). 

We ended by sharing the next steps for both Crow and MACAWS development. For Crow, this includes an expansion of the repository and improved capabilities for intake of pedagogical materials from instructors, which we plan to launch in Fall 2019. For MACAWS, this includes a planned beta release of its interface (built using the same front-end as Crow) for August 2019. We were also able to get feedback on the Crow interface about what was useful and possibilities for improvement. Since the presentation, we have discussed ways in which we can translate the advice and participant input into changes to the Crow interface.

Here are slides and the materials that we used in the presentation.

Follow us for updates on Twitter! @writecroworg

Crow Spotlight: Sarah Merryman

Sarah Merryman is a senior at Purdue University majoring in Professional Writing and minoring in Communications. At the invitation of Crow PI Bradley Dilger, Sarah started working with Crow as a project intern and wrote a series of blogs for its 2018 spring methodology workshop, her first venture into blogging. After becoming a full-time undergraduate researcher in the fall of 2018, her role expanded into social media promotion, IRB drafting, and creating content strategies.

These tasks challenged her to learn a new set of communication and writing skills. Because Crow is a multi-institutional team, she often conducted meetings and blog interviews through digital mediums like Google Hangouts. Navigating Crow’s organization platform, Basecamp, and learning how to pair-write articles with fellow Crowbirds helped her better understand the importance of sustainable collaboration in the workforce. Likewise, helping draft IRB proposals and contracts gave her a glimpse at the steps researchers take to launch their projects. On the flip side of the research equation, Sarah had the privilege of listening to linguistic scholars from various post-secondary institutions present their research findings at Crow’s 2018 Writing Research Without Walls symposium. Witnessing the internal process and public-facing product of linguistic research, inspired her to consider a research-oriented career sometime in the future.

Sarah proudly displays her certificate for completing the introductory Python coding course with teacher, and fellow Crowbird Ge Lan.
Sarah proudly displays her certificate for completing the introductory Python coding course with teacher, and fellow Crowbird Ge Lan.

However, collaboration and scholarly research were not the only areas of Crow she found both challenging and rewarding. Sarah completed a beginners course in Python coding taught by fellow Crow member Ge Lan. After years of considering the difficulty of computer coding on par with learning ancient Sanskrit backwards, Sarah was surprised to discover she enjoyed coding, and hopes to continue learning it in her spare time after graduation.

Her favorite part of being a Crowbird is the freedom to try new experiences. Unlike the repetitive, coffee-fetching experience she envisioned to be the rite-of-passage for interns everywhere, working with Crow allowed her to integrate her personal goals with Crow objectives. At the start of each semester, she met with PI Bradley Dilger and together they brainstormed a list of skills she wanted to develop. They then created a workflow that would allow her to work toward these professional goals. Sarah credits Crow with giving her the knowledge and experience to thrive in today’s workforce, where content strategy and the ability to collaborate with peers from different backgrounds and geographic distances is key.

Outside of Crow, Sarah has held a variety of positions at Purdue. Ever drawn to the publishing world, she has been a reporter for The Purdue Exponent and a member of the Journal of Purdue Undergraduate Research Student Editorial Board. She has worked at the Purdue University Press since 2017, first as the Administrative and Marketing Intern and then as the Assistant Editor for the Joint Transportation Research Program. As Assistant Editor, she edits and facilitates the publication of JTRP reports, which are downloaded and used worldwide. Always interested in trying out things that have never been done before, Sarah also served as the first undergraduate blog coordinator and social media intern for the Purdue English Department. She is finishing her time at Purdue as an undergraduate tutor in the Purdue Writing Lab.

Passionate about usability and UX design, Sarah conducted two research projects: one on the usability of writing center usage data, and another on a redesign of the PASE Mock Career Fair. However, her most memorable research experience was investigating the experiential design of the Purdue Farmers’ Market. What started as an in-class assignment somehow turned into a friendship with one of the farmers and a part-time job flipping burgers at his market booth. Who says research is all done in a lab?

Following her graduation in May, Sarah hopes to pursue a position in scholarly publishing. However, she also plans to spend some time enjoying the freedom of not having homework and to continue her education informally through hobbies. She wants to sharpen her social media skills, learn professional photography, and to travel. If she is feeling particularly ambitious, Sarah might even pursue a more health-conscious lifestyle. After her surprisingly pleasant experience learning Python, nothing seems too unusual to try – not even exercise.

Crowbird Spotlight: Adriana Picoral

Crowbird Adriana Picoral is a prime example of taking an interdisciplinary approach to academic research. Passionate about computer coding since the age of nine, Adriana always knew she wanted to be a computer scientist. Unfortunately, with female Computer Science students outnumbered by a ratio of 1 to 15 at her university (Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, in Brazil), Adriana’s presence in a STEM-focused major was constantly called into question. Jokingly, she credits her eventual interest in linguistics research to “running away from computer science because they were mean.” In reality, Adriana’s undergraduate thesis on developing a computer game to teach Portuguese to non-native adults is what sparked her interest in language learning.

Adriana’s research process has come a long way since her undergraduate thesis, but one key element has remained the same: a focus on interdisciplinary methods and tools to understand language acquisition. Her research analyzes the intersection of corpus linguistics, computational linguistics, and foreign language acquisition. For her dissertation, Adriana is researching how different factors affect third-language acquisition in adult learners. Specifically, she is looking at Spanish-English bilingual adults, and investigating how their native language affects their ability to learn Portuguese. She uses mixed methods by creating a corpora of Portuguese, English, and Spanish texts and then applying computational linguistics methods to analyze the language behavior.

Graphic used in Adriana's dissertation on copula verbs to adverbs
Preference of ESTAR copula use with intensifiers across different corpora for Adriana’s dissertation

But as much as she enjoys research, Adriana isn’t ruling out the possibility of working in industry instead of academia. In her internship with the Educational Testing Services (ETS), Adriana discovered how valuable an interdisciplinary researcher is in an industry already saturated with specialized employees. This became further evident in her 2018 internship with Google, where there was an abundance of linguists and software engineers, but not many employees who could do both, like Adriana.

After taking a corpus-linguistics class taught by Crow co-founder Shelley Staples, Adriana became a Crowbird in the fall of 2016. Since then, she has put her computer skills to work by standardizing the text format of Crow’s collected materials. Using her experience in coding, she worked with Shelley to create a system that converts all documents to normalized UTF-8 text files. This also labels the words in the texts for speech tags, such as verbs or nouns, for future language analyses. Adriana also created Python scripts to ensure repository materials are tagged and encoded accurately, and JavaScript web-interfaces to assist in manually coding students’ texts for a number of things, such as citation practices.

Aside from her work doing text nominalization, Adriana has also participated in multiple Crow workshops. In July 2018, she helped lead the debut of the Crow web interface in a 3-hour workshop at the Teaching and Language Corpora (TaLC) conference in Cambridge, England. That same year, she presented a comparative analysis of various linguistic tagging tools at the 14th American Association of Corpus Linguistics conference and a workshop on the citation practices of L2 writers at the American Association for Applied Linguistics (AAAL) conference.

Adriana with colleagues at AAAL 2019
Adriana (back, second from right) with colleagues at AAAL 2019

Moving forward, Adriana is interested in taking Crow’s research on citation a step farther by incorporating the computational methods she used in her dissertation into Crow. She intends to create machine learning models to classify new data. She is excited to work on a project that unites Crow work with her dissertation research. The ability to incorporate different interdisciplinary approaches into her work is Adriana’s favorite part about Crow.

We look forward to seeing how Adriana will continue to improve our interface and promote interdisciplinary research methods.

Crowbird Spotlight: Aleksandra Swatek

Aleksandra Swatek

“That’s the beauty of doing research: You do one small thing…and it grows to be something bigger,” says 5th year PhD candidate Aleksandra Swatek. This is certainly true, although one could hardly describe Aleksandra’s research as “small.”  Her dissertation seeks to analyze the language of engagement in online instructional videos, specifically math lectures from both Khan Academy and MIT. To do this, she has created a corpus of lecture transcripts from each source—both of which total about 1.5 million words.

Aleksandra’s research is uniquely positioned at the intersection of Second Language Studies and Corpus Linguistics, and she draws on methodologies from the latter in a variety of ways. For example, after assembling her data set, she used Sketchengine to analyze and compare the language used in the two corpora. She has already noted differences in the type and frequency of personal pronouns (we, I, you), stance markers (specifically modal verbs), and hypothetical reported speech (imagining how a student might respond). She hopes that the results of her research will help instructors better use language to engage online students, especially as traditional classroom settings transition into online spaces.

Chart showing the personal pronoun frequency within math lectures of Khan Academy and MIT. Khan used significantly more "we" pronouns and MIT used significantly more "I" pronouns. The use of "you" was roughly the same for both.

Aleksandra’s interest in corpus linguistics made her a perfect fit for Crow even before it existed. Initially, she worked with former Purdue professor Dr. Shelley Staples on the Purdue Second Language Writing Corpus, from which Crow eventually emerged. To date, she has been involved in a variety of Crow projects and conferences, including our recent presentation at the Teaching and Language Corpora (TaLC) conference where she helped to debut the Crow platform and collect feedback on our online interface. In collaboration with other Crow members, Aleksandra used our platform to research reporting verbs in student writing. She isn’t slowing down any time soon, either; a new project on formulaic language is currently in the works.

Aleksandra’s familiarity with corpora allows her to see and appreciate just what makes Crow unique: an eagerness to share and make data accessible. These attributes make Crow the only active, open-access corpus and repository of academic materials in the world. Aleksandra is excited to be part of a project that will benefit the greater community, particularly those conducting research on student writing. Going forward, she plans to continue doing research and finding ways to bridge the gap between science and humanities. In fact, this is something that occupies Aleksandra’s mind even in her rare free moments. What started as a hobby has turned into a project on the relationships between writing studies communities encompassing rhetoric and composition; second language writing; and technical communication and EAP. She is also an avid Starcraft 2 e-sports fan and a gamer herself.

Whether she’s working on her dissertation, analyzing the Crow corpus, or mulling over the role of humanities in the world, there is one thing we know for sure: Crow is lucky to have someone as dedicated to and passionate about accessible data on our team.

Photo credit: Zhaozhe Wang

Top