This page presents research notes and conference presentations that have been generated by the study.

Research Notes

Learning & Teaching Notes

  • Nerves (PDF)
  • Walking the audience round the slide (PDF)
  • Phonological Problems Checklist (PDF)

Conference Presentations

Cribb. V.M. (2012) Intonation and Discourse Marking in Oral Presentations Delivered by International Students. Pedagogies of Hope and Opportunity: The Arts and Humanities Annual Conference, Glasgow, 2012. PPT Slides

Cribb, V.M. (2012) Intonation and Metadiscourse Marking as Structuring Devices in the Academic Monologues of Non-native Speakers of English as an International Language (EIL). IVACS Conference 2012. The Sixth Inter-Varietal Applied Corpus Studies (IVACS) group International Conference on Corpora across Linguistics, Leeds Metropolitan University, 21st and 22nd June 2012. PPT Slides

Cribb, V.M. (2012) Text-structuring Metadiscourse Devices and Intonation Cues in Academic Spoken Monologues. BAAL 2012 Multilingual Theory and Practice in Applied Linguistics conference, University of Southampton, UK. September 2012. PPT Slides

Cribb, M. (2012) Intonation and Stress as Discourse Structuring Devices in International Students’ Oral Presentations. [Paper presented at the annual BES conference, Coventry University, June 2012] PPT Slides

Cribb, M. (2012) Prosodic features of European students of English during PowerPoint presentations. [Paper presented at the ELPHE Research Seminar, December 6 2001]

Research Summary (Original aims)

Title: Text-structuring Metadiscourse Devices and Intonation Cues in Academic Spoken Monologues

Principal Investigator: Dr Michael Cribb

Institution: Coventry University

Project Aims: UK Higher Education establishments accepted approximately 370,000 international students in 2008/9 (UKCISA, 2011). This number is likely to increase significantly in the future as internationalisation gathers pace and new funding arrangements come in. Most of these students do not have English as a first language and universities invest considerable time and money in providing English language classes to support their studies. Within these classes, students are expected to practice and acquire a range of academic skills of which delivering a spoken academic monologue such as an oral presentation is a key requirement (Jordan, 1997). An oral presentation typically requires the student to stand in front of class and present a body of information in an academic register for an extended period of time. This monologue will often be judged and graded by the tutor and thus carries significance and value for the student.

Delivering an academic oral presentation is not an easy task. Besides the fear of speaking in front of an audience, an academic monologue requires students to utilise certain verbal skills which are not required for everyday conversation. Thompson (2003) has suggested that lengthy monologues require control over the use of text-structuring metadiscourse devices and intonation cues in order for the listener to understand the larger-scale ‘hierarchical organisation’ of the discourse. Text-structuring metadiscourse includes signposting devices which direct the listener in how to interpret the discourse (e.g. ‘first’, ‘to conclude’). Intonation cues serve to delimit the phonological paragraph (or paratone) with the separation of paragraphs being achieved through changes in pitch, pauses, lengthening of speech and possibly laryngealisation. These discourse structuring cues, when used in a native-like way, help the audience to develop a ‘mental map of the overall organisation of the text’ (Thompson, 2003: 6).

For international students who are not native speakers of English, the lack of control over the use of these organisational devices means that their monologues are often perceived as flat and undifferentiated (Tyler & Bro, 1992) by the audience. The structuring devices are often under-used or applied in ways which confuse the listener. A hesitant and disfluent delivery can exacerbate this confusion. Class materials to aid students in this area are sadly lacking.

This project will investigate the text-structuring metadiscourse and intonation cues in academic monologues delivered by non-native speakers of English. The monologues will be drawn from a cohort of third-year international students studying at undergraduate level in Business and Engineering management. The project will investigate how miscues in their monologues lead to a lack of organisational clarity and coherence as perceived by a panel of ‘expert’ judges who will rate each monologue. These ratings will be correlated with the identified features to determine the mechanisms that lead to this loss in clarity and coherence.

The project outcomes will identify priority areas for students delivering academic monologues which will aid course designers and material writers in developing curriculum resources. These will be made available to students and subject tutors online to aid in their understanding of the assessment of international students.


Jordan, R.R. (1997) English for academic purposes: a guide and resource book for teachers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Thompson, S.E. (2003) Text-structuring metadiscourse, intonation and the signalling of organisation in academic lectures. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 2, pp. 5-20.

Tyler, A. & Bro, J. (1992) Discourse Structure in Nonnative English Discourse: The effect of ordering and interpretive cues on perceptions of comprehensibility. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 14(1), 71-86.

UKCISA (2011). Higher education statistics. UK Council for International Student Affairs. Accessed on 10th June 2011.