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A level English Language: Mini-Data Investigation
This assignment asks you to investigate the language used in a number of headlines from different newspapers. You need to work in groups to conduct your investigation. You will be required to analyse the language in the data set, give a presentation to the rest of the class and write a report on your findings.
What you need to do
Before you start the assignment read the following accompanying documents:

  • Course Requirements: This will give details of the Key Skills and English A Level criteria you’ll be trying to achieve.

  • Resources List: This tells you what resources you are expected to use for the assignment.

  • Data Set: This is the data you’ll be investigating for the assignment.

For this assignment, it’s best to work in small groups of three or four people.

You will need to do the following:

The following pages will provide you with all the instructions you need for doing these things. At the end of some of the sections, you’ll be given information on which Key Skills criteria you have achieved by doing the exercise.

The final section outlines which English Language A Level criteria you have achieved.


  1. On your own, read through the data carefully. As you read, you should make notes on what you think might be the most important language issues that are highlighted by the data.

  1. In your groups, write down your initial findings and discuss what you have noticed about the data. Prepare a list of language issues you could investigate or questions about language in use you could answer.

  1. Discuss these possible topics for your investigation and, as a group, decide which one you would most like to pursue. For example, you might decide to investigate:

  • language play in the headlines

  • contrasts between formality and informality

  • headline grammar

  • how men and women are represented

There are, of course, plenty of other topics to investigate. Discuss them within your group.

  1. Now that your group has decided on its topic for investigation, you should discuss which language features are likely to be of most help to you in pursuing your investigation or answering your question. For example, if you had decided to investigate language play in the two newspapers’ headlines, you could discuss:

  • puns

  • double meanings

  • mis-spellings

  • phonological features might all prove useful.

These would form the basis for your categorisation and analysis of the texts.

  1. Each member of the group should then choose one of these appropriate categories or classifications to investigate.


  1. You should each take your chosen language category and tabulate every example of when it occurs. You might find it useful to quantify the occurrence of these examples.

  1. Now that you have your data categorised and classified, you can begin your analysis and start to investigate your topic in detail.

  1. Look at all the examples that you have extracted from the data. Here are some questions that you can ask of them. These should guide your thinking and help you draw some conclusions about it.

  • Do you notice any patterns of language use emerging (for example: lexis, grammar, semantics, phonology)?

  • Do you notice any features that seem to dominate?

  • Are there any non-standard features of language regularly used?

  • Can you suggest any reasons for the presence of these features?

  • What effect might the contexts of production and reception have on the language choices made by the writers?

  1. Discuss your findings with your group, comparing what each member has discovered. Try to draw some conclusions from your investigation into this particular variety of language use.

What Key Skills have you achieved by doing this?
You’ll have contributed to group discussions about a complex subject (C3.1A) and read and synthesised information from two extended documents, though neither has an image. (C3.2) You’ll have provide evidence for your portfolio and your teacher may even have videoed some of your discussions.


  1. You are going to present the results of your investigation to the rest of your class. Each member of your group will be responsible for one part of the presentation. You should plan for your presentation to last between 12 and 15 minutes.

  1. You will need to decide:

  • how you will introduce the topic;

  • the best order for the material;

  • the order of speakers;

  • how the sections of your presentation will be linked;

  • how you will conclude the presentation.

  1. You should make sure that each speaker makes use of at least one visual aid (image). This might be a chart, a diagram, an OHT, a graph. The important thing to remember about visual aids is that they are there to enhance your audience’s understanding of the topic, not to distract their attention from it. They are aids to, not the main focus of your presentation.

  1. Each member of the group should write notes for their part of the presentation. These could be prompt or cue cards with the headings and main points of what you want to say on them. What they must not be is the word for word text of what you are going to say. This would be a guaranteed recipe for disaster as you would end up reading an essay aloud, not making a presentation.

What Key Skills have you achieved?
In addition to those already mentioned, you’ll have made a presentation about a complex subject and have used at least one image to illustrate complex points (C3.1B)

You’ll also have written one document about a complex subject. (C3.3)

Don’t forget to keep all your notes, classification documents and records of your discussions, as they will be needed for evidence for your portfolio that you have fulfilled the Key Skills requirements.


  1. Each member of the group should now write a report on the investigation and its findings. Don’t forget to include:

What Key Skills have you achieved?
You will have produced a piece of writing which will be an extended document about a complex subject and it will have included at least one image. (C3.3)

The assignment you have just completed will have prepared you for the main language investigation that you have to carry out for your A level coursework. It will have taught you the importance of

  • reading your data carefully

  • deciding what areas of the data to investigate or what questions to ask of it

  • classifying your data in such ways that will enable you to investigate it thoroughly

  • analysing the data carefully

  • drawing conclusions from your investigation

  • presenting your findings clearly

There are two main differences between this mini investigation and the one you must complete for your coursework. For your coursework investigation you must:

  1. collect your own set of language data, which can be either written or spoken;

  2. work, not in a team, but on your own.


BBC Keyskills:

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