Department of
Linguistics and English Language

TESOL Thesis Proposal Samples

Sample 1

For my thesis, the area I wish to specialize in is Assessment and Evaluation.

I would like to foster a classroom that successfully employs teaching methods that review a new idea after it is initially introduced, after the students have interacted with the concept, and after a period of reflection on the subject, and text respectively. From this I aim to create a synergistic flow that allows students to learn in a capacity that helps them remember, and will be familiar when testing, to increase the comfort level and success of the students.

Also, I would like to explore how students’ test performance improves depending on the order of the combination of tests. For example, I believe if students begin with a speaking examination, their capacity to recognize vocabulary expands and they will further be able to think in the language and as a result write better.

Additionally, I believe that the most effective testing results from a set of test are parallel to the learning experience/ if the learning experience includes a combination of methods to measure language ability such as visual, sensory/auditory, and written learning methods, then the students will be more successful in tests that mirror these same methods. I would like to prove that when a teacher employs similar learning and testing methods, they can provide a consistency necessary to provide an optimum learning experience.

Sample 2

Language planning, or "deliberate...future oriented change in systems of language code and/or speaking in a societal context" (as cited in Kaplan and Baldauf, 1997, 3), is an important measure to be taken in a wide range of organizations. Entities from schools to grocery stores to athletic associations must all consider the ways in which they will use language and overcome potential communication barriers in order to accomplish their aims. With English as the unquestioned "language of power" (Kaplan & Baldauf, 1997, 18) in the United States, and indeed much of the world, language planning for students of English in educational sectors is especially vital.


Brigham Young University as an institution strives to promote the development of well-rounded students of character and commitment to lifelong learning and service ("Aims of a BYU Education," 2012). As part of this mission, it is clear that BYU has great interest and investment in language learning and the promotion of cultural diversity and awareness. In 2011, 6% of the BYU student body came from outside the United States, with some 120 different countries represented. More than 50% of the student body speaks a language other than their mother tongue, and 32% of students regularly enroll in language classes, compared to the national average of only 9%. Further, more than fifty languages are regularly taught at BYU, and the institution boasts an impressive Center for Language Study and a foreign language student residence program ("Languages at BYU," 2012). However, despite these emphases in foreign language and culture learning at BYU, there is not currently an articulated plan for students learning English as a second language who are matriculated into the university— those who have come to learn of the language and culture of the majority group.

At present BYU seems to be relying on the "unplanned language plan" (Eggington & Evans, 2007)—surmising that the preparatory work done at the English Language Center and continual exposure to English within the university are enough to aid these language learners. However, previous studies have indicated that continual language and cultural support is often needed for ESL students even after they are admitted to university level studies (Cheng, Myles, & Curtis, 2004; Major, 2005).

The first step in creating any language plan is to collect information about the language learners and their experiences (Eggington & Evans, 2007). As such, an important first step to develop a language plan for the ESL students at BYU will be to assess the language behavior and behavior towards language of graduate and undergraduate ESL students at BYU who are currently enrolled as degree-seeking students.

Context and Methodology

With attention to prior models of language planning research in educational settings (Cheng, Myles, and Curtis, 2004; Peacock & Ho, 2003; Eggington & Evans, 2007), the applicant will conduct a large-scale quantitative survey of the ESL students at BYU. The survey will be designed to assess three essential research questions: Who are the ESL students at BYU? What is their language behavior? (What is their language use behavior? What is their language proficiency behavior? What are their language acquisition and strategy use behaviors?) What is their behavior towards language? (What are their motivations for learning? What are their attitudes towards the communicative process? What are their notions about themselves as learners and about those with whom they associate?).

Following receipt of IRB approval, the survey will be designed using Qualtrics software. Two pilot surveys will be conducted with a small body of students before launching it to the larger ESL student body at BYU. ESL students will be identified from those students who have graduated from the ELC to BYU, who are currently enrolled in ESL classes at BYU, and through other means.

Feasibility of Work and Other People Involved

At present Drs. Eggington, Anderson, and Evans have expressed interest in the proposed thesis research. In addition to these faculty mentors, other TESOL students will be involved during the pilot period of the survey formation. Graduate and undergraduate ESL students at BYU will be involved in taking the survey and sharing their insights.


Pilot surveys will be designed and disseminated during the Fall Semester of 2013 while the applicant is enrolled in Ling 620, Research in TESOL. This coursework will aid in survey construction and research approach. An elective of Ling 655, Teaching Culture, will also be taken to inform the applicant's understanding of the role of culture in language learning and to shed light on data interpretation following the survey.

Timeline for Completion

Fall Semester 2012 and Winter Semester 2013: Gather supporting literature

Spring and Summer Terms 2013: Obtain IRB approval, begin survey design

October 1, 2013: Complete first pilot survey

November 1, 2013: Complete second pilot survey

January 15, 2014: Launch survey to ESL students at BYU

February 1, 2014: Close survey to ESL students

Winter Semester 2014 through Summer Terms 2014: Analysis of survey results and write-up

Sample 3

1. Research Question and Purpose:

Throughout my years of learning and teaching, I have observed that many teachers have difficulties in motivating their students to learn. As the saying goes, it is not enough for a teacher to be ‘interesting’, the student must also be ‘interested’. The important question I pose as part of this proposal is: What can teachers specifically do to motivate ESL students in their language learning?

After reviewing some scholarly articles on the matter, such as from Guilloteaux & Dornyei’s “A Classroom-Oriented Investigation of the Effects of Motivational Strategies on Student Motivation”, I have discovered that only few investigations have been carried out when it comes to ‘Motivational Strategies’ within the TESOL realm. Therefore, I would like to conduct research that shows how the deliberate or explicit us of motivations strategies by ESL teachers can help improve the learning that takes place in ESL classrooms. I would also like to find which of the strategies has the greatest impact. Another purpose of this study, if the findings are significant enough, is to find a way to curricularize the most effective of these motivational strategies.

2. Duration of Research and Previous Research Experience:

Having discussed this idea with Dr. Neil Anderson, I feel that this is a very feasible and worthwhile project. With the cooperation of the faculty at the ELC and BYU, the research may span over one to two semesters. Observing the way Dr. Anderson conducted his research on reading strategies, and my assisting in it, has given me helpful insights on how to do my own research.

3. Research Method:

I will select a group of teachers from each class level at the ELC and have them apply the motivational strategies I propose, while other groups will continue without the ‘motivational strategies’ training. Both groups will have their students take a pretest at the beginning to measure learning motivation and a post-test at the end of the semester to measure the same. I will replicate a few of the most effective ideas and methods, found in the research of Guilloteaux & Dornyei’s article, to carry out this investigation.

4. Challenges:

A couple of challenges I might find are coordinating a few motivational strategies training meetings during the semester for the teachers who are to apply them in the classrooms, and the monitoring of how the trainees are using the strategies, as the level to which they succeed may vary from teacher to teacher. However, I am confident in finding ways to minimize factors that might give me incorrect readings or results.

5. Conclusion:

Overall, I’m just excited and passionate about seeing these results. I hope to make it a worthwhile experience for everyone involved. The findings of this research could help BYU’s TESOL and language programs, as well as other instructional institutions if the application of motivational strategies can be wisely taught, implemented and curricularized.