Not Just Writing Code: Computing Science Students Win Two Prizes in the 2021 SLC Undergraduate Writing Contest
By Andrew Ringer
In recent years, the School of Computing Science has been making strides to improve student writing. These efforts are now emerging, as two students in the School of Computing Science have been awarded prizes in the 2021 SLC Undergraduate Writing Contest.
Andy Liu received the second prize in the first year category for his paper titled Apple’s Monopolistic Control Over the Tech Industry and Rebekah Wong received the second prize in the middle years category for her paper titled The Perception of Quantifier Raising in Japanese-English Bilinguals. See the abstracts below to learn more about the papers:
First Year Category, Second Place:
Andy Liu - Apple’s Monopolistic Control Over the Tech Industry
Apple, a brand known worldwide for its electronic products, has become one of the biggest companies in tech. Its international dominance within the tech industry has led its business practices to be continually scrutinized. Many deem the company’s methods of maintaining its success as monopolistic because of the unfair control that it holds over its customers and certain areas of the industry. An opposing argument can also be made with the competition that Apple faces and how it prevents the company from exhibiting monopolistic control. However, this paper argues that Apple does exhibit monopolistic behaviour in the tech industry by examining Apple’s treatment of its customers and competing brands. The documented examples within news articles and journals of Apple demonstrating its control provide a new perspective of the company that many are unaware of.
Middle Years Category, Second Place:
Rebekah Wong - The Perception of Quantifier Raising in Japanese-English Bilinguals
Semantically, there is scope ambiguity in the way sentences are formed. For example, the phrase “three girls petted every cat” can yield two meanings: either the three girls combined petted every cat as the surface scope, or each of the three girls petted every single cat as the inverse scope. This phenomenon is referred to as Quantifier Raising (QR) (May, 1977), and although it is well-documented for in English, QR is not a universal phenomenon. Some believe that Japanese does not exhibit QR (Hoji & Kuroda, 1998), while others assert otherwise (Han et al., 2009; Tanaka & Kizu, 2012). Yet, if QR is established in English, then the knowledge of a language with QR may influence the acceptability of scope interpretations in Japanese-English bilinguals. Thus, this study aims to answer the following research question: to what extent does Japanese-English bilingualism affect the perception of QR movement in Japanese? Two bilingual speakers of English and Japanese were recruited for an oral translation task in which target sentences that exhibited QR in English were elicited in Japanese. Discourse contexts were visually presented using diagrams to describe the intended scope of the scenario, as each sentence contained two possible scope interpretations. Participants were later asked whether their translation for one of the scopes applied to the other interpretation. The study found that Japanese-English bilinguals accepted the meaning behind inverse scope elicitations much more frequently compared to previous QR studies conducted on native, monolingual Japanese speakers. Thus, the knowledge of different languages—particularly those exhibiting QR—may affect the overall perception of QR in Japanese, among other languages that have less pronounced scope ambiguities.
Both students mentioned SFU computing science lecturer Jacquie Nelsen, who joined the school in 2020, as an inspiration in their writing and for participating in the contest. Nelsen’s educational background includes a BA in geography and history, a MSc and PhD in mining engineering, as well as a teaching certificate. She incorporates this diverse background into her teaching in order to improve the writing of computing science undergraduate students.
“In my courses I try to bring in a diversified set of tools so that students learn to write projects from the very beginning of a project to the end,” says Nelsen.
This includes bringing in an SFU librarian to explain the research process as well as providing an array of writing assignments and different topics to help pique her students’ interest in writing. She encourages students to learn by doing and engages them in peer review exercises so that the students get feedback from their colleagues as well as their teachers.
While writing is not always thought of as an important skill in computing science, the ability to write is a distinct advantage in a competitive job market and a necessary skill to be able to communicate new technology with the public.
“I think it’s great that the School of Computing Science is getting more representation in writing contests,” says Wong. “I think this is breaking the stereotype that you don’t need to write in computing science, because contrary to popular belief writing is important no matter what discipline you are in.”
“Writing is important for computing science because people need to know what’s happening in the discipline,” says Liu. “Tech companies are growing and need to communicate with the population to explain their technology and research.”
Going forward, Nelsen will continue to build confidence in her students with their writing and encourage more writing in other courses across computing science. She is also looking to add more peer feedback exercises in her courses to help students help each other with their writing.