The bit in the middle and why it's important: A computational analysis of the linguistic features of body paragraphs

John C. Myers, Philip M. McCarthy, Nicholas Duran, Danielle McNamara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This study examines the relationship between the linguistic characteristics of body paragraphs of student essays and the total number of paragraphs in the essays. Results indicate a significant relationship between the total number of paragraphs and a variety of linguistic characteristics known to affect student essay scores. These linguistic characteristics (e. g., semantic overlap, syntactic complexity) contribute to two underlying factors (i. e., textual cohesion and difficulty) that are used as dependent variables in mixed-effect models. Results suggest that student essays with 5-8 paragraphs tend to be more linguistically consistent than student essays with 3, 4, and 9 paragraphs. Essays with totals of 5-8 paragraphs, considered by many educators to contain an optimal number of paragraphs, may include functionally and structurally similar paragraphs. These findings could aid writing researchers and educators in obtaining a clearer view of the relationship between the total number of paragraphs comprising an essay and the linguistic characteristics that affect essay evaluation. Consequently, writing interventions may become better equipped to pinpoint student difficulties and facilitate student writing skills by providing more detailed and informed feedback.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)201-209
Number of pages9
JournalBehavior Research Methods
Volume43
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2011
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

Linguistics
Students
Semantics
Computational
Linguistic Features
Paragraph
Research Personnel

Keywords

  • Coh-metrix
  • Cohesion
  • Essay evaluation
  • NLP
  • Text difficulty
  • Writing ability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology

Cite this

The bit in the middle and why it's important : A computational analysis of the linguistic features of body paragraphs. / Myers, John C.; McCarthy, Philip M.; Duran, Nicholas; McNamara, Danielle.

In: Behavior Research Methods, Vol. 43, No. 1, 03.2011, p. 201-209.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

@article{63f59be595d0432cbf87554cb7497b5c,
title = "The bit in the middle and why it's important: A computational analysis of the linguistic features of body paragraphs",
abstract = "This study examines the relationship between the linguistic characteristics of body paragraphs of student essays and the total number of paragraphs in the essays. Results indicate a significant relationship between the total number of paragraphs and a variety of linguistic characteristics known to affect student essay scores. These linguistic characteristics (e. g., semantic overlap, syntactic complexity) contribute to two underlying factors (i. e., textual cohesion and difficulty) that are used as dependent variables in mixed-effect models. Results suggest that student essays with 5-8 paragraphs tend to be more linguistically consistent than student essays with 3, 4, and 9 paragraphs. Essays with totals of 5-8 paragraphs, considered by many educators to contain an optimal number of paragraphs, may include functionally and structurally similar paragraphs. These findings could aid writing researchers and educators in obtaining a clearer view of the relationship between the total number of paragraphs comprising an essay and the linguistic characteristics that affect essay evaluation. Consequently, writing interventions may become better equipped to pinpoint student difficulties and facilitate student writing skills by providing more detailed and informed feedback.",
keywords = "Coh-metrix, Cohesion, Essay evaluation, NLP, Text difficulty, Writing ability",
author = "Myers, {John C.} and McCarthy, {Philip M.} and Nicholas Duran and Danielle McNamara",
year = "2011",
month = "3",
doi = "10.3758/s13428-010-0021-4",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "43",
pages = "201--209",
journal = "Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, and Computers",
issn = "1554-351X",
publisher = "Springer New York",
number = "1",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - The bit in the middle and why it's important

T2 - A computational analysis of the linguistic features of body paragraphs

AU - Myers, John C.

AU - McCarthy, Philip M.

AU - Duran, Nicholas

AU - McNamara, Danielle

PY - 2011/3

Y1 - 2011/3

N2 - This study examines the relationship between the linguistic characteristics of body paragraphs of student essays and the total number of paragraphs in the essays. Results indicate a significant relationship between the total number of paragraphs and a variety of linguistic characteristics known to affect student essay scores. These linguistic characteristics (e. g., semantic overlap, syntactic complexity) contribute to two underlying factors (i. e., textual cohesion and difficulty) that are used as dependent variables in mixed-effect models. Results suggest that student essays with 5-8 paragraphs tend to be more linguistically consistent than student essays with 3, 4, and 9 paragraphs. Essays with totals of 5-8 paragraphs, considered by many educators to contain an optimal number of paragraphs, may include functionally and structurally similar paragraphs. These findings could aid writing researchers and educators in obtaining a clearer view of the relationship between the total number of paragraphs comprising an essay and the linguistic characteristics that affect essay evaluation. Consequently, writing interventions may become better equipped to pinpoint student difficulties and facilitate student writing skills by providing more detailed and informed feedback.

AB - This study examines the relationship between the linguistic characteristics of body paragraphs of student essays and the total number of paragraphs in the essays. Results indicate a significant relationship between the total number of paragraphs and a variety of linguistic characteristics known to affect student essay scores. These linguistic characteristics (e. g., semantic overlap, syntactic complexity) contribute to two underlying factors (i. e., textual cohesion and difficulty) that are used as dependent variables in mixed-effect models. Results suggest that student essays with 5-8 paragraphs tend to be more linguistically consistent than student essays with 3, 4, and 9 paragraphs. Essays with totals of 5-8 paragraphs, considered by many educators to contain an optimal number of paragraphs, may include functionally and structurally similar paragraphs. These findings could aid writing researchers and educators in obtaining a clearer view of the relationship between the total number of paragraphs comprising an essay and the linguistic characteristics that affect essay evaluation. Consequently, writing interventions may become better equipped to pinpoint student difficulties and facilitate student writing skills by providing more detailed and informed feedback.

KW - Coh-metrix

KW - Cohesion

KW - Essay evaluation

KW - NLP

KW - Text difficulty

KW - Writing ability

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=79953680454&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=79953680454&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.3758/s13428-010-0021-4

DO - 10.3758/s13428-010-0021-4

M3 - Article

C2 - 21287126

AN - SCOPUS:79953680454

VL - 43

SP - 201

EP - 209

JO - Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, and Computers

JF - Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, and Computers

SN - 1554-351X

IS - 1

ER -