Some Incidental Writings from over the Years

Insights and Innovations: Revelations from the computerisation of text analysis

Readability scales and lexical variation have served for decades to provide insight into the use of language.  However, they have been restricted in their usefulness by the labour intensive nature of the analysis involved.  This paper reports on a computerisation of that analysis including the results of experiments conducted during the development of the software.  It presents empirical evidence related to long held theories on readability formulae and on the characteristics of lexical variation revealed by computerised analysis.  It concludes by presenting empirically based techniques for the use of lexical variation as a comparative statistic.

This paper does not presume to comment of the work of the linguistics greats.  Although research into that work was fundamental to the construction of the software this paper does not compare or contrast the formulae devised to predict the characteristics of longer lexical samples.  This paper presents the facts — what does happen to language when sample sizes range into many thousands of words.

Natural Language: Application of its analysis to the improvement of student authoring skills

One of the greatest assets a tertiary education can bestow on an intending Engineer is the ability to readily and efficiently produce and assimilate technical communications.  It has been suggested that such work will occupy 50% of an Engineer's professional time.

This document presents the concept that analysis of the language used in student authored documentation will provide information on which pedagogy of technical authorship may be based.  It presents the importance of the case and looks at the data involved and some of the means of analysing it.

Averaged Lexical Variation and Degree of Difficulty: Two new ways to trace writing development

Monitoring the development of student writing skills requires lexical comparators that are independent of document length.  With such comparators it is possible to relate prose artefacts across groups, between individuals and over time.  It is also possible to compare student work against an arbitrarily defined standard.  These requirements cannot be met by conventional assignment marking.  This paper presents an outline of the problems that led to the development of the lexical analysis software package Analyse.  It was as a consequence of this software development that Averaged Lexical Variation and Degree of Difficulty were devised.  These are presented as lexical comparators sufficiently sensitive to be able to identify those developments in student writing skill while meeting the criterion of being independent of document length.

Terminological Turgidity: Its use as a lexical comparator

Scientists use big words.  This paper proves it!  This paper also follows the search for a means to compare the use of big words between texts and to weigh up the worth of that test in marking student prose.


‘Thaths Dithpikabul’: a few words about something we don’t discuss

Plagiarism is like a lunatic asylum — everyone knows it exists, no one wants to be associated with it.  Senior university faculty resign hurriedly, yet university administration are hesitant to discuss the issue, often seeming to echo Chuck Jones’ Daffy Duck — “Thaths Dithpikabul” — while avoiding proaction.

Stories of rampant transgression of the rules relating to Intellectual Property abound, yet few people seem to be even familiar with those rules, particularly since the passing of the Copyright Amendment (Moral Rights) Act, 2000.  This article looks at the problem, the consequence of conviction and the challenge of eradicating this felony.

Teaching Cheating — To let the Assignment fit the Crime

Duley, R., (2003) "Teaching Cheating. Published by: F.A.S.E. Retrieved December 16, 2003 from

Plagiarism persists throughout academia.  Students (and, regrettably, faculty) are regularly exposed as cheats and frequently see their careers ruined as a consequence.  Much of the problem appears to be that few really understand what constitutes plagiarism, which frequently gives rise to pleas that the offence was committed inadvertently.
Proactivity in this field appears to be scarce.  Many commentators refer to detection and punishment but research has revealed little work in the area of stopping the issue arising.  Given that some training in computer programming has become ‘de rigueur’ in most undergraduate programs, this paper presents a programming approach to addressing the general problem of plagiarism.  In short, it advocates the policy of setting a thief to catch a thief, of using a study of plagiarism, and an assignment to create cheat catching software, as a salient warning to eschew the practice.


WYGIWIGY Graduates: What You Get Is What Institutions Give You

Each university has its own entry standards, its own curricular priorities and its own graduate profile expectations.  Faced with the conundrum of cramming a quart of understanding into a pint pot of curricular time, Software Engineering program designers have created individual solutions and vastly differing programs.  Consequently SE graduation parchments have become as meaningful as Sam Goldwyn’s verbal agreements.  They are not worth the paper they are printed on because no-one knows what they mean!  This paper elucidates the problem, explains its origin and postulates paths to solution.

Smiling for the Camera

These fella's Zoological name translates as "Long-tailed, long-nosed, short-legged, scaly-backed terrier" but this is considered a bit of a mouthful.   In Queensland and the Northern Territory the locals just call 'em 'Crocs'!   They're sort of 'locals'  too, really.   They've been around for a couple of hundred million years.

Talking of a mouthful, one of these makes lunch out of a tourist - sometimes even one of our indigenous brethren - every year or so.   Anyone who goes skinny-dipping by moonlight in one of our northern rivers is loopy!

Anyway, considering they were hunted to the brink of extinction in the '70s, crocs are just showing that they are true survivors.   What with Mick Dundee and our late TV crocodile wrestler (Steve Irwin - R.I.P.) they get better television coverage than I do!