The Impact of Language Variety and Expertise on Perceptions of Online Political Discussions

Research Study Analysis

University of Maryland University College

Research Study Analysis

What is a literature review and what does it do?

A literature review is a scholarly paper which discusses previously published information related to a particular subject. It can be either a simple summary of various sources or display an organizational pattern which combines summary and synthesis. Synthesis, or re-organization of information, might lead to a new interpretation of old material or incorporate new findings into the old. It therefore encourages us to see and appreciate the growth of knowledge. A literature review can also evaluate a source and highlight the most relevant information to the reader.

“The Impact of Language Variety and Expertise on Perceptions of Online Political Discuassions” by Tan, K., Swee, D., Lim, C., Detenber, B., and Alsagoff, L was published in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication in October 2007 and combines a literature review of previously published research on the subject with new findings of a study conducted by the the authors.

What terms are defined?

The study defines several terms important to the context and understanding of the study. Firstly, Scott’s (as cited in Tan, Swee, Lim, Detenber, &Alsagoff, 2007, para. 2)definition is used for the purpose of explaining the meaning of anonymity as “the degree to which a communicator perceives the message source in unknown and unspecified”. Secondly, the authors cited Short, Williams & Christie (as cited in Tan, et. al, 2007) to define the social presence theory as the feeling that interlocutors are sharing the same communicative space. Furthermore, Hoffman’s conceptualization is used to differentiate the terms expert and novice. Hoffman proposed that practice will allow a skill the lose the quality of being conscious, effortful, deliberate and linear and become a quality of automatic pattern recognition which allows the expert to possess and articulated, as well as conceptual, and principled understanding of the subject ( as cited in Tan, et. al, 2007). The study also defines the two languages addressed in the study: Colloquial Singapore English (CSE), which is more commonly referred to as Singlish, and Singapore Standard English (SSE). Singlish “is primarily a contact language with a grammatical structure significantly different from Singapore Standard English. (…) SSE, on the other hand, is a culturally-located variety of English with Standard English grammar plus a few local words to express local concepts.” (Tan et al., 2007, para. 12).

How many hypotheses are there?

The study states a total of four hypotheses based on the information of past research. Hypothesis one addresses language and linguistic style andstates that discussants who use Singlish will be perceived as a) less informative and b) less persuasive, and they will have c) lower source credibility than discussants who use Standard English. Hypothesis two addresses source expertise and assumes that discussants who have status cues indicating they are Novices will be perceived as being a) less informative and b) less persuasive, and as having c) lower source credibility than discussants who have status cues indicating they are Experts.The third and fourth hypothesis regard status cues and participation in online discussions; Hypothesis three states that participants will be more willing to participate in discussions if Singlish is used rather than Standard English. Hypothesis four states that people will be less willing to participate in discussions when discussants have status cues indicating that they are Novices, and more willing if status cues are present indicating they are Experts.

Where does the Research Methodology appear in the study?

Research Methodology refers to how the research of a study is carried. It is essentially the process in which researchers describe, explain and predict phenomena, or in other words, the method by which they gained new knowledge(Rajasekar, Philominathan, &Chinnathambi, 2013). In the study at hand, the research methodology can be found under the title “Method”. Detailed information on how Tan’ and colleagues’ study was carried out in terms of data collection and analysis, is stated under the subtitles participants, design, stimulus, procedures, measures, and data reduction and analysis.

How many cases or subjects were there in the study?

The information regarding subjects participating in the study is stated under the sub-title participants. The number of subjects is also commonly referred to as sample size. In this particular study, the sample size consisted of 80 subjects; thirty-eight female and forty-two male Singaporean undergraduates. Non-Singaporean respondents were not allowed to participate in the study in order to avoid possible confounds due to their unfamiliarity with local political issues and discussions (Tan et al., 2007).

How many hypotheses were supported by the data?

The research conducted by Tan and colleagues was ultimately only supportive of the thesis regarding language and credibility (1c). The language and expertise cues displayed an influence on perception of source credibility:

“When discussants identified as Novices wrote using Standard English they were evaluated more favorably (…) than Novices using Singlish. There was no significant effect of language when the discussants were identified as Experts. What this suggests is that Novices benefit from the use of Standard English, but Experts do not, nor do they suffer from using Singlish.”

The remaining hypotheses 1a, 2a, 1b, 2b, 2c, 3, and 4 were not supported by the findings of this study.

Where are the conclusions given in the research paper?

The conclusions of this research can be found under the title “discussion”. The discussion section provides an overview of all research findings, its implications, and possible limitations.


The study at hand followed several suggestions by Littlejohn (2009), thus, I believe it was well-designed. Littlejohn (2009) states that knowledge within a topical area grows and changes through continuing research, as it has in the research paper at hand. Tan and colleagues began their research by reviewing past findings on the subject; they formed their theories according to previous knowledge and used it as a base for their research. They evolved current knowledge on the topic by adding fresh research to previous studies. According to Littlejohn (2009), observation helps to form the basis of theories, which in turn leads to structured future observations and ultimately suggests new questions and findings. Tan and colleagues followed this schema, which suggests that their findings are reliable. In addition, inquiry is not a solitary process according to Littlejohn (2009), but heavily reliant on interaction within the scholar community; Tan and his colleagues based their research on fellow researcher’s knowledge and worked in a team on the study at hand. Furthermore, Tan and colleagues enabled peers to review their work by publishing it in a communication journal, which allows additional input to refine the theories and observations. Littlejohn (2009) states that there is no substitute for rigorous peer reviews. Bias, as mentioned in our text (Jupp, 2006, p. 17), can occur in many forms suchmeasurement bias or sampling bias. I do not see any bias on the researchers’ part, whether in aspects of data collection nor data interpretation. Based on these findings, it is safe to say that the study was well designed and led to reliable findings.


Jupp, V. (2006). The Sage Dictionary of Social Research Methods. Retrieved from

Littlejohn, S. (2009). Inquiry processes. In S. Littlejohn, & K. Foss (Eds.), Encyclopedia of communication theory. (pp. 518-521). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Retrieved from

Rajasekar, S., Philominathan, P., &Chinnathambi, V. (2013). Research Methods. Unpublished manuscript, Department of Physics. Retrieved from

Tan, K. W., Swee, D., Lim, C., Detenber, B. H., &Alsagoff, L. (2007, October). The Impact of Language Variety and Expertise on Perceptions of Online Political Discussions. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13 (1), 76-99.