Writing Linguistics Research Paper

Content of this article

  1. Structure
  2. Outline sample
  3. How to start a linguistics essay
  4. How to write body paragraphs for a linguistics essay
  5. How to conclude a linguistics essay
  6. How to format a linguistics essay

How To Write A Linguistics Essay

Language is important and impacts as well as interacts with the world on a daily basis. Different sections and issues of language make for interesting essay topics, for example, how language forms, the meaning of language, and language content. While these examples might seem straightforward and fairly easy when read, developing a linguistic essay from them can be a challenge. Contrary to what many students might think, linguistic essays have largely taken after scientific articles and not literary theory essays. When writing linguistic papers, it is hence important to be direct, simple, clear, and concise. Students must also avoid overstatements, unnecessary qualifiers, digressions, and verbiage in their essay. Objectivity should be maintained throughout the essay, and personal opinions or experiences must be left out unless otherwise stated in the instructions. A complete linguistic essay must demonstrate or show a capacity for methodical, and clear thinking.

Linguistic essays are written for different purposes, but the main reason is to determine whether students are conversant with the basic concepts, debates, and research interests within the larger subject of linguistics. Teachers often seek to know their student`s capacity to deliver when given different scenarios and questions within linguistics. These help to determine the effectiveness of the teacher’s delivery methods as well as the students’ interest in a particular subject. An instructor can also be interested in determining how best students can incorporate or adhere to the writing standards needed in linguistic papers. As stated earlier, linguistic papers are taken after scientific papers and are hence expected to follow certain formats and include some sections that are often left out in other essays.

Lingustics Essay Structure

As with any scientific paper, three sections are included in a paper, and they include:

  • the introduction,
  • main body,
  • and the conclusion.

While the term main body is often included in structures, it should not appear as a title in an essay. However, students should only include sections or points that are in line with their main argument, point or perspective. A linguistics essay structure is hence essay, but needs to be strictly adhered to.

When called upon to write an essay, it is always advisable to begin with a draft before developing the final copy for submission or presentation. A linguistic essay draft provides one with the opportunity to consider many angles and perspectives and also gifts writers with the space of making some mistakes and correcting them as well. It will indeed take more time to prepare a draft and then prepare the final copy, but it saves students from getting lower grades as well as doing revisions and corrections later once the instructor detects some obvious mistakes.

An outline also comes in handy and in many occasions guides and helps students to be consistent with their argumentation. As already stated, an introduction, the main body, and a conclusion make up the structure of a linguistic essay, but when developing a linguistic essay outline, the main body section is often replaced by the points or supporting arguments.

Below is an example of an outline for a linguistic essay given that the essay topic is:

Developmental Language Disorders



Connection between language and reading disabilities:

  • Correlation between language and reading;
  • Language, reading and poor reading comprehension;
  • Common literacy outcomes for people with language impairments – focus is on children;
  • Speech perception in children.

Conclusion and Recommendations

How to write introduction for a linguistic essay

An introduction serves the purpose of revealing the topic or subject that the student has been asked to write about. A linguistic essay introduction is supposed to explain the main topic or subject and clearly specify the writer’s goal. Before starting the essay, it is important first to narrow down the scope and approach it from an angle that is specific. Readers need to be taken through the topic, the structure of the essay as well as the steps that need to be taken to reach the essay’s ultimate goal.

How to write body paragraphs for a linguistic essay

As already stated, the main body mainly has the supporting arguments and points which help to explain the writer’s perspective. In this section, thorough research comes in handy. Linguistics essays rely heavily on research, and it is advisable to make use of genuine sources to enhance the essay’s credibility. The points or arguments need to stand out and support the author’s main argument exhaustively.

How to write conclusion for a linguistic essay

A linguistics essay conclusion is not challenging and mainly references the introduction. The writer’s main goal must be restated. A summary of the main points or the findings of research must also be provided. The writer can also include a section specifying some of the things that can be done to improve research on the topic in the future.

How to format a linguistic essay

Use of examples is indeed essential when trying to make a point or when giving real situations which directly relate to the topic under review. Examples help to make something easier to understand and provides realistic instances of what the writer is handling. It is hence vital to use them because they also help to make the explanations easier and thus aid the readers to understand the writer’s point of view.

Research is vital to being a good linguistics essay writer. It is important to find other sources that will help one develop their main point and reference or cite them accordingly. Being scientific simply means writers need to follow APA or MLA standards or any other standards as specified by the instructor. In-text citations must be included, especially when the point included is not original or is borrowed from another article. Below are two examples to help differentiate between APA and MLA in-text citations:


According to Kiragu (2016), language can be defined as “a system that involves words as well as the symbols used by people and other animals to communicate.”

As depicted in the above example, while putting in-text citations using the APA format students are expected to use the author’ surname and year only.


According to Kiragu (16), language can be defined as “a system that involves words as well as the symbols used by people and other animals to communicate.”

Unlike the APA format where writers are asked to include the year, in MLA students are expected to include the page number from whence they got the definition or any other information.

Once all the sources have been accurately cited, it is important to include them in a bibliography at the end of the essay. Each formatting standard has its rules and writers need to familiarize themselves with each of them to avoid the possibility of using two in one document.

Finalizing Essay

Revising an essay is also vital to ensuring that an essay adheres to the formatting rules of the referencing style that the writer chose. It also gifts students with the opportunity of correcting some errors such as grammatical, punctuation, and vocabulary errors. In some instances, writers drift from their main argument, and it is only through revising an essay that such mistakes can be detected and avoided. Clarity and objectivity are indeed important to developing an essay which is specific and narrow in scope. The above can only be enhanced when revising an essay.

Plagiarism is often discouraged by instructors, but only a few students can adhere to this rule. Citations must be included, especially when a writer used other people’s work to develop their own. The style used to include citations is dependent on the instructions given, but the common ones include APA and MLA.

By Fritz Newmeyer

1.STRIVE FOR CLARITY.  Be clear!  A technical linguistics paper is not a mystery story -- there should never be any surprises. Say what your conclusion is going to be at the beginning of the paper with a few words on how you plan to get to the conclusion.  A good typical opening for a paper is something like:

In this paper, I will argue that a voiced segment must be bound in its governing category. This conclusion challenges previous work by Kenstowicz (1983) and Postal (1987), who maintain that such segments are invisible to all syntactic constraints.  My argument will take the following form. In section 2, I will show that [d] and [o] are 'alpha-emitters', and thus free in COMP. In section 3, I will establish that being free in COMP entails the property of counterjunctive trijacency (CT). Section 4, shows how, given the natural assumption that CT is sigma-sensitive, the effect of being subject to CT and that of being bound in one's governing category are notational variants. The final section, section 5, generalizes [d] and [o] to all voiced segments and speculates on the implications of the general findings in this paper for Gricean implicature.

Summarize in an analogous fashion at the end.  In fact, the first paragraph of a paper and the last can be virtually identical. Each section should be like a mini-paper in itself, previewing what will be said and summarizing at the end.

Your paper should be peppered with phrases like I will now argue...,As we have seen..., etc.  Anything to baby the reader is fine!

Almost all papers refer to the work of others, either to adopt or to challenge some principle proposed elsewhere. That's fine, of course, but it is absolutely essential that the reader understand whether a particular point is your own contribution or whether it is that of the author being cited. It is surprising how easy it is to confuse the reader, if you present someone else's idea in one paragraph and discuss the idea in the next, without saying at the beginning of the second paragraph if you are continuing to present the other author's ideas or are beginning to challenge them.

Avoid using deictic this as in all-too-common passages like This suggests that we must abandon the UCP. Invariably there is more than one potential antecedent for this. Write instead: The failure of coreference to hold between the subject and the object trace in sentence (89) suggests that we must abandon the UCP.

2.      EXAMPLES. The reader should never be in doubt as to the relevance of a particular example and should know why it is being given before  reading it. In other words, as the reader encounters an example or set of examples, they should already know what to be looking for. They shouldn't have to wait until after reading the examples to find out why they are there.

It should be clear when you give an example whether you thought of the example yourself or if you are citing somebody else's example.

Never break up a sentence of text with an example. Examples should follow a full sentence of text, which should end in a colon.

An example in the text itself should be in italics (or underlined) followed by the gloss, if necessary, in quotation marks. For example:  The German word Buch 'book' is neuter.

NONENGLISH EXAMPLES.  Examples from other languages should consist of (1) The sentence itself; (2) A word-for-word or morpheme-for-morpheme translation, containing the relevant grammatical information; (3) The actual translation:

nom. sg.)nom. sg.)

'the man who ate beans'

3.      IN-TEXT CITATIONS. Use the author-date format: Chomsky (1981) and Lakoff (1983) agree that language exists.  Use small letters after the date if there is more than one reference per year for any author, as in Chomsky (1963a).

If you are giving a direct quotation, you must use quotation marks, and put the author, date, and page number after the quotation. It’s the law! Also, it's not enough to change a word here or there in a quotation and decide that you now don't need to use quotation marks. In fact, you still do. But there is very rarely any reason to put a direct quote in a paper. It is always much better to paraphrase the material that you want to cite in your own words. Even so, you still have to give a citation to the author you are paraphrasing.

4.      FOOTNOTES.   Footnotes should always be contentful. Something like See Selkirk (1980) belongs in the main text, not in a footnote. Footnotes are normally reserved for little bits of extra clarification or material for further thought that would be digressions if they were put in the main text.

The first footnote is often an acknowledgement. By tradition, term papers do not have acknowledgements, MA theses sometimes do, while Ph D dissertations, articles, and books invariably do. However, if you rely heavily on an individual for data, even in a term paper, there should be an acknowledgement to that effect.

5.      REFERENCES. There is no single agreed upon format for references in the bibliography -- just copy a format from a journal article if you are unsure. But make sure that you include page numbers for articles and publisher and city for books.

After you have finished the paper, make sure that every paper or book that you cited in the main text has a reference in the reference list.

6.        PERSON, NUMBER, AND VOICE.  It is best to write in the first person singular:  I will argue that....  Personally, I find the first person plural very pompous sounding:  (e.g. We will argue that...).

Above all, avoid the agentless passive construction. Never use phraseology like  It has been argued that ... You would be amazed how often it is really not clear who has done the arguing.

7.        THE ONLY "PROOFS" ARE IN MATHEMATICAL LINGUISTICS. You should avoid using the word prove as in I will prove in this paper that tense has its own maximal projection. Proofs are attributes of deductive systems, not empirical science.  It is much better to use instead expressions such as attempt to establish, argueconvincingly, suggest, and so on.

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