Corpus collection guidelines

The target size for each sub-corpus is 200,000 words. It may be possible to gather the full 200,000 words in one university or alternatively, if there is insufficient time or an insufficient number of students, collaboration with other universities (where the same language is spoken) may be sought. In order to reach the 200,000 word target, contributions from minimum 200 students are needed, as each student may only contribute up to 1,000 words.

ICLE data collection involves the following stages:

1. Request students to fill in a learner profile

The ICLE learner profile has been created in order to provide researchers with information about contributors which will enable meaningful conclusions to be drawn from the results obtained when the corpus is analysed.  Using the profile, it will be possible both to draw general conclusions about advanced learner writing, and also to examine subsections e.g. Spanish mother tongue learners, learners who speak some English at home, learners for whom German is the second language and English is the third language. It will also be possible to examine more sociolinguistic aspects such as for instance male/female comparisons. If the corpus is used as a basis for developing specifically adapted teaching tools, the potential advantages of this facility are clear.                  

2. Collect the right type of material

The corpus will consist entirely of essay writing. Two types of essay writing are useful:  

Argumentative essay writing

Using titles such as the ones below:

  •  "Crime does not pay"
  • "Feminism has done more harm to the cause of women than good"
  • "Pollution: a silent conspiracy"
  • ...

These essays may be done by students in their own time (untimed), using language reference tools (dictionaries, grammars, etc.) but should be entirely the students' own work, i.e. they should not draw on other articles, books for the essay and should not ask  a native speaker of English for help. Alternatively, they may also be done under examination conditions.

Descriptive, narrative or technical subjects are not useful for the corpus. For this reason, the following types of titles should be avoided if possible:

  • "The joys of the English countryside"
  • "The British Electoral System" (prefer a topic such as "The British Electoral System is no guarantee of democracy")
  • "My year in America"
  • "The position of the adverb in journalistic English"    

Literature examination paper

These are in some ways easier to collect, but it should be remembered that they must be accompanied by relevant learner profiles. Literature examination papers should not amount to more than 25% of each national corpus.

Essays can be completed at home (untimed) and should be at least 500 words long (up to 1,000). Work should be entirely the students' own, no help should be sought from third parties, but they may use reference tools such as dictionaries and grammar books (use of reference tools should be indicated on the learner profile questionnaire).       

Important note: the essays should be at least 500 words long (up to 1,000). Leave all the spelling mistakes made by students. If you do not receive the essays in electronic form from the students, pay attention not to add spelling mistakes when keying in the data.

Suggested essay titles

  1. Crime does not pay.
  2. The prison system is outdated. No civilised society should punish its criminals: it should rehabilitate them.
  3. Most university degrees are theoretical and do not prepare students for the real world. They are therefore of very little value.
  4. A man/woman's financial reward should be commensurate with their contribution to the society they live in.
  5. The role of censorship in Western society.
  6. Marx once said that religion was the opium of the masses. If he was alive at the end of the 20th century, he would replace religion with television.
  7. All armies should consist entirely of professional soldiers : there is no value in a system of military service.
  8. The Gulf War has shown us that it is still a great thing to fight for one's country.
  9. Feminists have done more harm to the cause of women than good.
  10. In his novel Animal Farm, George Orwell wrote "All men are equal: but some are more equal than others". How true is this today?
  11. In the words of the old song "Money is the root of all evil".
  12. Europe.
  13. In the 19th century, Victor Hugo said: "How sad it is to think that nature is calling out but humanity refuses to pay heed. "Do you think it is still true nowadays ?
  14. Some people say that in our modern world, dominated byscience technology and industrialisation, there is no longer a place for dreaming and imagination. What is your opinion ?


3. Format the files and send them to Louvain

Contributors need to follow precise guidelines to format the files in a standardized way before sending them to Louvain.