Maggie Charles

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Do-it-yourself (DIY) corpora can be defined as small-scale databases of electronic texts built by users for specific, limited and local purposes. Such corpora can be of great benefit to both teachers and students of English for academic purposes (EAP), who, with recent software advances, can now construct DIY corpora to their own specifications relatively easily. For teachers, who may be tasked with giving courses related to disciplinary areas in which they have little or no expertise, the specialist DIY corpus provides an opportunity to examine a body of texts that they have selected as relevant to the target course and thus enables them to familiarize themselves with the discourse of the discipline in question. Such corpus-based investigations not only facilitate teachers’ understanding of disciplinary norms and practices, but also provide examples for use in class or in course materials and give frequency information on lexis and phraseology so that instructional decisions can be made on a sound evidential basis. For graduate students, who have needs that are highly specific, it is also valuable to construct DIY corpora from material within their own field. This tailor-made resource provides individual, precisely-targeted information, which can be drawn upon to answer lexicogrammatical queries both at the composing and editing stages of the writing process. This paper makes the case for the use of DIY corpora in EAP contexts, illustrating the argument with examples of a teacher’s use of a corpus of theses to create a course for doctoral students in materials science and students’ uses of DIY corpora for writing support.


do-it-yourself corpora, corpora in EAP, academic writing, discipline-specific discourse

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