Edited by Fannie, Gladys and Ivory


Have you ever experienced any difficulties when composing a piece of academic writing in English? It is an experience that almost every L2 writer has come across. Concordancing may be one of the resources to provide writing assistance to us.

Concordancing is a widespread online reference resource which provides common and typical linguistic patterns from a large amount of language data (Yoon, 2016). The following video clip shows how to use a concordancer procedurally. It is mentioned in the video clip that the two main steps of using a concordancer are to type the keywords in and choose the types of corpus we would like to search.

Concordancers serve two different but related functions for L2 writers:

As a reference tool for L2 writing

Concordancing can help L2 writers to solve lexical and grammatical problems encountered when composing academic writing by showing the rules and regularities of specific linguistic items with the aid of language data (Yoon, 2016).

As a cognitive tool

Concordancing sorts out and displays specific language data so that L2 writers are able to identify linguistic patterns, test hypothesis and attempt to find solutions for existing problems. It enhances the cognitive functions e.g. knowledge construction and meaning-making abilities of the users (Yoon, 2016).

Yoon (2016) did a study which investigated how 6 Korean ESL graduate students in Canada utilized a reference suite which provides users free access to 8 different language reference resources (5 concordancers including 3 Google search engines and 3 types of dictionaries) to solve the linguistic problems encountered in the process of completing authentic academic writing tasks.

Table 1. Major characteristics of the eight resources in the reference suite

Tab name Resource name Characteristic
COCA Corpus of Contemporary American English
  • The largest corpus interface freely available on the Web
  • Offers many features and options
  • Requires the use of query syntax for sophisticated searches
Google Google Web
  • Using the entire Web as its corpus
  • Provides rich but highly heterogeneous data

Google Scholar (GS)

Custom Search Engine (CSE)

  • Retrieves results only from the designated sites and URL patterns
  • Enables domain- or field-specific searches
JTW JustTheWord
  • Shows all the combinational relationships the queried word has with other words
Dictionaries Naver (bilingual)
  • Online Korean-English bidirectional dictionary
LDOCE (monolingual)
  • Online Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English
  • Online Roget’s 21 Century Thesaurus

The Source of Table 1: Yoon, 2016, p. 215

The results show that generally the reference suite serves as an effective reference and cognitive tool. However, users may still face some difficulties and limitations when using the tool.


Concordancers act as a reference tool for learners in academic writing by providing authentic texts (Hafner & Candlin, 2007). Most learners primarily used concordancers to confirm their existing language knowledge but not to explore more linguistic information (Yoon, 2016).

Concordancers can also help learners address lexical and grammatical issues. In previous research, the usages of prepositions and idiomatic expressions were the major target for confirmation (Chambers & O’Sullivan, 2004). Learners can acquire the most commonly used patterns of grammar, vocabulary, collocations and style by using the concordancer, so their awareness of accurate grammar can be enhanced.

Besides, the naturalness of the writing from an L2 learner can be consolidated (Fujii, 2007) because concordancers facilitate learners’ cognitive development towards linguistic characteristics (Yoon, 2016).

Most importantly, concordancers motivate learners to pursue more L2 knowledge. Combined with the other factors above, learners’ confidence in language use is boosted, resulting in a better performance in academic writing and creating a sense of independence as L2 writers.


Though writers adopt different strategies to effectively use corpus consultation, there are still difficulties for them (Yoon, 2016):

  1. The consultation cycle may take up a lot of time to think about a search strategy, result evaluation and target item to explore.
  2. The cycle may consume learners’ energy because of the need to make decisions in each step.
  3. Learners lack “rigor” in the process of observing query results, failing to further pursue the appropriateness of the information in a specific context.
  4. Learners lack flexibility in using concordancers, for instance, they only use one or two reference tools for their queries.
  5. The grammatical accuracy of the data is not guaranteed (e.g. papyr).
  6.   The data contains different varieties, genres and registers, probably causing learners to feel overwhelmed (Wu, Franken & Witten, 2009).


Although concordancers are viewed as problem-solving tools for academic writing, in Yoon’s study (2016), it suggests that the participants performed both verification and elicitation queries. In other words, the participants not only used them to confirm their existing knowledge, but also elicited new knowledge. They learned more about the language by performing queries based on the previous query results. Thus, the use of concordancers promotes some degree of learner autonomy.

An important point to note is that we should consider a concordancer’s size and tagging status before selecting the one that best fits our needs.

Table 2. Characteristics of some concordancers

Name of concordancers

COCA JTW Google search

Types of reference resource

a corpus a corpus a search engine


yes yes



about 450 millions words about 80 millions words

huge in size

Suitable for finding and checking collocation, L2 equivalent and alternatives

confirming the acceptability of multi-word strings

The Source of Table 2: Yoon, 2016

Figures 1 and 2 are the interfaces of COCA. Figure 1 shows the five functions provided by COCA including searching for collocations in different contexts and comparison between words. Figure 2 displays different details provided in a query result.

Figure 1. A screenshot of the front page of COCA.

Figure 2. A screenshot of COCA.

Figures 3 and 4 are the interfaces of JTW. Figure 3 shows that JTW is much simpler than COCA. Because of its smaller database, some words fail to provide options in query results (see Figure 4).

Figure 3. A screenshot of the front page of JTW.

Figure 4. A screenshot of JTW.

In fact, apart from COCA and JTW, there are a larger number of concordancers which can be found on the Internet. Here are some tips for choosing a concordancer:

A concordancer should…

  1. have a large POS-tagged source corpus that allows learners to perform both elicitation queries and verification queries
  2. be easy to use so it will not demotivate learners’ use of it by being too complicated to operate.  
  3. be fast so it will not interrupt learners’ flow of thoughts while writing.


To conclude, concordancer is a kind of reference resource tool for learners. It serves as an intellectual partner in helping learners to solve lexico-grammatical problems by providing options for learners to select the most suitable wordings for their writing. However, learners have to bear in mind that the concordancer is only a tool that works with them but not for them in their tasks.


Here are some questions for you:

  1. Have you ever used any concordancers in your academic writing? If yes, please share your experience with us. If no, please try the concordancers we have mentioned in this post and tell us your thoughts about them.
  2. If you were a teacher, would you introduce concordancers to your students? How would it benefit you and your students? What challenges would you encounter and how would you resolve them?

64 thoughts on “Role of Concordancers in ESL Academic Writing

  1. Thank you for the amazing post!
    This is the second time I encountered this notion and the first time was introduced by professor Miller in Language teaching approach course. Definitely, this is a convenient tool for learning vocabulary and grammar in authentic texts. I want to try it with my students in the future by leading them to explore new collocation and also checking their own errors.When my learners make collocation errors, I will ask them to put the root word into the concordancer and see if they can discover by themselves.

  2. Thank you for the amazing post!

    This is the second time I encountered this notion and the first time was introduced by professor Miller in Language teaching approach course. Definitely, this is a convenient tool for learning vocabulary and grammar in authentic texts. I want to try it with my students in the future by leading them to explore new collocations and also checking their own errors. When my learners make collocation errors, instead of correcting those errors, I will ask them to put the root word into the concordancer and see if they can discover by themselves with the aim of developing them into independent learners.

    • Sophia, thanks for your sharing too!

      I also think that concordances is a useful tool for learning linguistic patterns. What is the age of your students? As you said that you want them to do the self-checking and self-correction for their collocation errors. It seems like very young learners can’t achieve it well.

    • Sophia, thanks for you comment. Honestly, it was the first time for me to hear the tool when working on this post. It was also the first time for me using concordancer (e.g. JTW) for confirming my existing linguistic knowledge. It was quite amazing. I noticed that I had made some mistakes about collocations. I think it is a wonderful tool for self-learning and self-correction. Therefore, it is a good idea to introduce concordancers to student to let them explore the language’s characteristics themselves. Yet, as mentioned by Lucy, the language abilities of the target students should be one of the important factors to decide whether a teacher should introduce the tool to students. Less-able students may be overwhelmed by concordancers. It may end up demotivating students in L2 learning.

  3. Thanks for your group’s sharing!
    I have used corpus to do some research on lexis once in one of my undergraduate course. As you mentioned in the post, it is amazing and effective for it provides us with authentic texts which can give us better reflections. However, I think this way of learning, by using concordancers in learning L2, maybe for suitable for higher or advanced level learners for they have the ability to learn independently and critically. But I will introduce concordancers to my students because they can motivate students to pay more attention to linguistic features of L2, such as lexio and grammatical features.

    • Thanks for your reply, Lucy. 😊 I am also thinking how to introduce corpus to my students and encourage them to use it as they are junior secondary students (at the age of 12-14) and their English level is not high. As mentioned in the post, there are eight resources in the reference suite. I may choose to introduce my students with some familiar resources first such as dictionaries and Google search engines. Hope that they will get interested and motivated.

    • Thank you for your comment, Lucy. Yes, it is. Corpus provides learners with amazing resources about different linguistic characteristics. To a large extent, I agree that it is a very good tool for self-learning for higher capable learners. They can, thus, explore more knowledge about the language by themselves. Nevertheless, like Ivory, I am thinking about whether it is a good idea to introduce the tool to primary students (mainly upper primary students) and the way to introduce concordancers to them. As some students are quite outstanding in English, they might explore more information about linguistic patterns by using the introduced tool.

  4. Thanks for sharing!

    I firstly learn how to use concordancer in Becky’s class to do text analysis. I think it is convenient for learners to learn combination, phrases and collocation. I tried three websites mentioned above, and I like JTW most. JTW is the most straightforward one, which immediately shows all the collocations for users after typing the root word. And I can look up the usages in sentences with clicking the specific collocation. When writing, JTW must be the first choice to use. COCA shows detailed sentences firstly, so users need to filter many things before finding their target answer. As search engine, Google will give massive information which also needs time to filter.

    I will introduce concordances to my students in the future since students often have problems in collocation. Concordances will facilitate them to choose the better one and learn other collocation at the same time. These concordances are websites, much easier to learn how to use. I think the challenge is to teach them how to filter the most appropriate one or their target answer among massive results searched from the database. Fully introduction to the application is the key.

    • Thanks for your sharing, Yan.

      Your experience on using different concordances is very useful to us. I am thinking about how to do the final assignment of the genre analysis course. I may take your advice and attempt to use those concordances according to your recommendations!

      I agree that thorough introduction to the application of the concordances is very important. However, in reality, teachers do not have enough time to teach something outside the syllabus. I hope you can achieve your goal in the near future!

    • Yan, thanks for trying out the concordancers and comments on the three concordancers. You provided a criterion for introducing a concordancer to your students: whether it is easy to use. I think this is important too. From learners’ perspectives, the complication of a concordancer may make them frustrated and give up using it. I suggest that before introducing a concordancer, maybe one of the concordancers above or the others, I think teachers should try it out first (kind of like what you did). During the process of teaching students to use the concordancer, teachers can be more sophisticated to lead their students.

    • I agree with you th point that JTW is straightforward and we can look up the usage in sentences with clicking th specific collocation. But I don’t think it is very useful for writing.

    • Queenie, thanks for your sharing. I think if a learner uses concordancers persistently (even occasionally), (s)he will improve in her/his English competence overall, not just in writing, maybe also in speaking. At least the learner notices the acceptable combinations of different words. If (s)he can absorb them and use them naturally at a later stage, I think it is a big improvement for him/her.

  5. Thanks for sharing! I have used concordance to study the common use of some vocabularies and fixed collocation in the linguistics class when studying as undergraduate. When searnching on the website, the appropriate collacation of words and the pattern of the use of specific vocabularies can be noticed and then I have written down my findings of some commonly used collocation in my essay. And therefore I think it is an effective way for L2 learners to recognize the linguistic pattern of target language autonomously.

    I think concordancers deserve introduction to the students. It is a wonderful way for them to discover the features of linguistic use in English by themselves. Noticing is a necessary skill that should be developed for L2 learners. However, as for younger learners, they may not have autonomy to discover the lexical and grammatical pattern with the use of concordances. So the explanation of what concordance is and how to use it, step-by-step guidance by the teacher is important for students.

    • Mandy, thanks for your sharing.

      I am glad to hear that you used concordancer to study the common use of vocabulary and collocations when you were studying your undergraduate courses. I can imagine that you got a lot of benefits from using concordancers. Actually, my first bachelor degree is translation. Concordancer is supposed to be a very useful tool to me. Howeve, maybe I am older than most of you. Concordancers or high technology was not popular at that time. When I was studying in the university, no teachers introduced this useful tool to me. I needed to ask my tutors, find reference books or look those words up in different dictionaries or search engines to solve my linguistic questions. If I had known concordancer, I would have finished my assignments in an easier and more efficient way.

  6. I had the experience of using concordancer while writing academic paper such as Google Scholar, a website that provides huge and rich resources and a tool that can better facilitate our academic writing. As we know, every time when we write the academic paper, we have to cite the references. But with the help of Google Scholar, we don’t need to remember how to write in an APA or MLA style which is quite difficult for me.
    As a teacher, I will introduce concordancers into my class. However, the uses of concordancing can be classified into different categories serving different functions. For example, if it is used as a research tool, it is used to help writers investigate a linguistic item or a phenomenon. If it is used as a reference tool, it can assist in finding immediate solutions to linguistic problem. Therefore, it will be better for teachers to choose the right and appropriate one to introduce into the class. If the target learners are secondary school students, it is apparent that it is not suitable to introduce Google Scholar.
    Beside the reference and research function, it can also help learners address lexical and grammatical issues. In this way, students can know the most commonly used patterns of vocabulary, grammar or collocation.

    • Yes, Queenie, perhaps the most commonly used way of concordancers is to help language learners to find the accurate collaborations between words. And I think it is helpful for students who have the motivation to learn in autonomy. To cultivate students’ independence in learning is really beneficial, which is also our teaching aims in our daily teaching settings.

  7. Thanks for your sharing~
    I think the use of concordancer is of great benefits for language learners. Just as Sophia and Lucy have mentioned, concordancer can provide learners with rich authentic materials, so that students can independently figure out the kind of information or supportive evidence they want whether for research or for language learning. However, it also poses some requirements for students. First, they need to have the ability for searching, which means that using concordancer require students’ knowledge of how to use concordancer in an efficient and proper way. Second, they should have the ability to sum up the rules or patterns of all the results so that they can make better use of them. Third, the results may contain some mistakes which require students’ ability to distinguish. But, the affordances of concordancer cannot be denied, as long as its functions and limitations are clearly introduced to students. And with the guidance of teachers, students can surely make good use of the concordancers.

    • I am quite agree with you the point that although the use of concordancer is of great benefits, students still need to have the ability for searching and concluding the rules. Therefore, in this way it may not be appropriate to apply concordancers into low level students such as primary school students.

    • Yes, I totally agree with you about the requirments for students. There’s massive information out there, I think only if students are equipped with the ability to make their own judgment and evaluation critically for these results, they can perform good and generate useful patterns.

  8. Thanks for your group’s sharing!

    Actually, I began to get access to concordancers in Becky’s genre analysis of specialized discourse by using AntConc. User could choose a file and can not only see the frequency of the certain word you type, but also see the use of word in context, like the collocation. Also, I have tried the above two concordancers named JTW and COCA. I think both of them are user-friendly to demonstrate the use of certain word in context. It does help L2 learners solve the difficulty in learning vocabulary by providing different context.

    I would definitely introduce concordancers to my students especially for the sake of enhancing their self-access learning. Students could have more autonomy in learning vocabulary themselves with the use of concordancers. Teacher can spare more time and have more energy for addressing students’ other trouble.

    At the beginning, teacher should guide students in using concordancers to demonstrate various possibilities. Thus, students would not be restricted and could have more flexibility in using concordancers. Teacher also needs to necessarily choose a reliable concordancers so that it would not involve so many mistakes to mislead students.

    • I also had experience in using an application which is a little similar to AntConc when I studying my undergraduate degree. As a translation major student, using these kinds of application can help us choose the best words or collocation to translate Chinese into English. We only need to type the Chinese, then in the application it will show how others translate them,so we can choose the best translation.

    • Hi, Queenie. I would to know the applications you talked about. It sounds like Chinese-English online dictionary, but provides various suitable collocations. I think they will be useful for advanced learners to polish translation drafts and improve skills in choosing appropriate words.

  9. Thanks for your sharing, during my college life, I had some experiences in using corpus as a supporter for the translation . According to my personal using experience, I found it helpful, especially when you are not sure about the original usage or certain expressions. You can get the most frequently used expression. However, one of the drawbacks is that in order to use the corpus, you should first be the member of it and you need to pay for your using. If you are not a member, you can only use it for 15 chances per day, which I think may discourage some students from using it.
    And another thing I want to mention is that, because nowadays, some digital dictionaries have the function of providing some native expressions for their users. So if not the students are in the need of high accuracy, it is more simple to use. And most students are not paying attention to the importance of corpus, or they are lack of resources of using it. So we need to get our students be accustomed to the corpus and use it actively.

    • Shirley, thanks for your sharing. As I remember, some of the concordancers are free and not limited to checking times, for example, JTW. Apart from this, I think concordancers provide learners with another option. Concordancers, combined with other learning materials or tools like digital dictionaries, can be complementary tools for L2 learners. So, letting students know the other choice available for them (i.e. concordancers) is important. They can choose the most suitable tool for their learning.

    • Yes, as you mentioned about what kind of “accuracy” which students are looking for, I think some electronic dictionaries include lots of web-based information, which may not be that accurate linguistically. This kind of knowledge may mislead our students to some extent.

  10. Thanks for your sharing. Well, as for me, I have not been exposed to JTW or COCA while I frequently use Googel Scholar for searching for literature. Googel Scholar can provide users for related literature and make users aware of format of APA/MLA. So this is a convenient tool for learning vocabulary and grammar in authentic texts. And it helps learners to know more about patterns and collocation. Of course, all the operation is based on learners’ competence. First of all, they need to be equipped with indexing ability so that they can search for what they want. Next, the way for using corpus cost a lot of time and energy. For learners, they must have an efficient learning process. So learners need to get aware of language patterns and rules and recognize the mistakes or errors they may encounter. Anyway, teachers’instruction and guidance is indepensible for the operation. Learners will make use of concordancers in their learning activities with teachers’ assistance.

    • Yes, I also frequently use Google Scholar to help me figure out the APA or MLA format. But sometimes I don’t think all the formats given is right. For example, if you want to cite the book Sparse representation or collaborative representation: Which helps face recognition, you can see the APA format as followed in Google Scholar

      “Zhang, L., Yang, M., & Feng, X. (2011, November). Sparse representation or collaborative representation: Which helps face recognition?. In 2011 International conference on computer vision (pp. 471-478). IEEE.”

      But maybe the page you cite is not (pp. 471-478), so we have to change a little bit. What I mean is not just copy every word. I don’t know if I am right?

    • Chelsey,

      Thanks for your sharing! I sometimes use Google Scholar for searching literature. I agree with Queenie that it may not be a desirable way to learn about the format of APA/MLA. Instead, I frequently use Cityu library and copy the citation from it when I work on the reference list. I think it is more reliable. Of course, I still need to check it once again.

      I agree that using corpus to work on assignments or writing is time-consuming. Therefore, learners should bear in mind it is not a tool for saving time. They need to well manage their time.

    • I love Google Scholar too! It provides free access to a lot of insightful studies made by other researchers, but sometimes, I feel it’s difficult to evaluate those studies which I think should be an ability we need to teach our students.

  11. Thanks for your excellent sharing!

    I’ve heard this once from Professor Miller. It’s new for me, so I went into these websites and tried to use it and I think it is helpful for language learners to do self-correction. It’s easy to do and all the sources are authentic and academic. I wish I can know it earlier!

    If I teach high school students or undergraduates, I may introduce this to them as a tool for them when we need to do peer feedback. If they use this kind of tools, their feedback to their classmates may be more correct and they will treat it more seriously instead of complaining that they themselves are not professional.

    • Jean, thanks for you sharing. I think it is true that concordancers can facilitate and smoothen peer-review/-feedback activities. Theoretically, students’ mutual trust can thus be built up by the tool in academic aspect if they are willing to use a concordancer which contains accurate data to support their feedback to their peers.

  12. Thanks for your sharing!

    Actually, more than one of my undergraduate teachers have introduced concordancers to us. And I have used concordancer to find out the frequency of different collocation for certain words when doing assignments during my undergraduate study. It could give me large amount of data for study. I think it is quite useful for learning some fixed collocation of vocabulary and grammar in authentic texts.
    I would like to introduce concordancers to my students because it could give them opportunities to find out linguistic features by themselves and help them to learn autonomously. But as it is not very easy to operate, as teachers, it is very important to give clear instruction before ask students to use concordancers.

    • Thanks for reply, Jennifer!

      I agree that teachers need to be well prepared if they want to introduce concordancers to students. Otherwise, as it is not a very easy tool to use well, students may feel confused about it and it may affect their impression towards this useful tool.

  13. Thanks for ur hard work! There is a abundant information here. I never used concordances before but after reading ur post, I found it a very useful tool and saving time for searching correct use of English by providing so many real time examples. I will definitely recommend this tool to my students as they can solve problems by themselves in terms of language use problems rather that rely too much on teachers.

    • Thanks for your reply, Rachel!

      I agree that concordancer is a really useful self learning tool for students if they are self-motivated and hard working enough. So when they face any problems about linguistic patterns like collocations, they can look up themselves.

  14. Thank you for sharing. I am so sorry for myself that I don’t know JTW until I see this blog (OMG)😭

    I used to search information in Google for daily practive and Google Schoolar for academic references. I have received feedback from professors that the word choice in my essay is inaccurate. Therefore, I think it could be useful for me to use concordances for better understanding of language use.

    For myself, I need to update my knowledge with the help of concordances and I think it could also be helpful for my future students. Learners’ autonomy is essential in language learning, If I could guide them to learn language with the help of concordances, they must be beneficial to manage their learning after class.

    • Champion, thanks for your opinion. Just like you, I used to receive comments from someone professional on my writing. It was about the concern of lexical choices toooo. When working on this post, I finally figured out the problem and solved some of them by using a concordancer (JTW). Through our learning experiences, I think concordancers are critical for learners’ self-learning/-correction and language enhancement in the long run.

    • It is such a useful tool for students to self check their work. Most of the time, we got feedbacks from teachers and professors as you have mentioned. It is reliable but learners should take an active role if they really want to make great improvement. Using concordancers is a better way to achieve it. You can use more than one concordancer to check the words anytime you want.

  15. Thank you so much for your sharing! To be honest, I have never used it before. But in the future, I will use it to assist in my own writing and also apply it into my class. The way I see it, it is really helpful and beneficial for both our writing and speaking as we can search the idiomatic use and the most frequently used collocations which can help us produce natural language. As you mentioned, however, it may disrupt the whole process of writing and make us pay more attention to the use of discourse. So for those English beginners it might distract them from writing a little bit. Perhaps, at the outset, we can help them search something useful in concordancers first and then teach them how to balance the time for writing and searching step by step.

    • I can think of one possible way to introduce concordancers to students, especially the English beginners. Teacher can first underline the mistakes found in students’ work and ask students to use concordancers as the resource tool to correct their mistakes. They can just focus on some specific words suggested by the teachers.

  16. Thanks very much for your systematical sharing.

    As for the experience of using the concordancers to learn the language, I frequently use Google as a reference to search the accurate collaboration. I find this approach is effective when I encounter the difficulties in linguistics. Because I can observe many pragmatic usages about the specific word I searched in an authentic context. After the process of observation and comparison with different instantiations, I can make a decision which one is more appropriate.

    And I definitely agree that this approach to language learning leads to leaner autonomy. But as a teacher, I am also wondering whether this method could be introduced into my class. I once tried to use some American series’ scripts as the corpus to facilitate students to search the frequent collaborations. The aim of designing this material is to improve students’ accurate expression. But I found students with high level of English competence may feel this way was helpful, and those with a low level of language abilities may have a bit of confusion. The reason may be that they don’t have adequate linguistic knowledge to help them distinguish which use of the word they searched was better.

    Additionally, the corpus is good to study the features of a language by statistics of frequencies of lexical usage, which may help researchers generalize some distinct patterns. So I believe this can also be used in pedagogical purpose. But we need to be careful about the level of participants in a context if we hope to use this way effectively.

    • Miles, thanks for sharing your experience of introducing corpus to your class with us. It seems concordancers are suitable for high competent learners to enhance their language but a different picture for low achievers. I agree that students’ language foundation plays an important role in their ability to differentiate the best one in a query result in a corpus. Nevertheless, I am still wondering whether there is a corpus designed for less competent learners.

  17. Thanks for your sharing!
    Actually the first time I came across with concordancers was in Becky’s class. She introduced how to analyze a text with the help of AntConc. I was so amazed by this kind of high technology.
    I think concordancers provide a helpful way for EFL learners to learn phrases and fixed collocation. When I was not sure about the use of collocation in doing my writing tasks in high school, I had to spend a lot of time looking up the dictionary or asking my teachers for help. I think using concordancers may be more time-saving.
    If I was a teacher, I may introduce concordancers to my students who are in high school. Their ability of self-learning is well-developed and I think they will enjoy the process that discovering the lexical and grammatical features on their own.

    • Charlene, Thanks for introducing another concordancer (AntConc) to us besides the ones mentioned in the post. I noticed it is free. Good for us. We have got another free corpus tool. Apart from this, you also talked about that using concordancers may be more efficient. However, it seems interesting because some classmates hold different thoughts. For example, Chelsey thinks using the tool is time-consuming. Personally, it may (mainly) depend on one person’s familiarity with a corpus and his/her language competence (perhaps many other factors too).

    • Thanks for your comment.
      I agreed that concordancers are really helpful in providing collocation. However, we still need to teach our students not be rely on concordancers too much. Concordancers can only provide different options and collocation to the users but do not guarantee it is the best option to express your thoughts. Learners still have to look up the dictionary after using concordancers.

  18. Thank you for your inspiring post. Concordancers are so useful for someone like us. We need authentic resources to further our researches/ programs/ papers,etc. Our online library Run Run Shaw Library and google scholar benefit me when I am writing our assignments. But I usually spend much time deciding which secondary material is to be used. As stated in your post, “learners lack flexibility in using concordancers, for instance, they only use one or two reference tools for their queries.” I do learn something from your post about using concordancers more efficiently.

    If I were a teacher, I would decide to use concordancers or not based on the language level of my students. I only taught beginners in the past, so concordancers are not that necessary for them. But as a teacher, I can use them to enhance my own teaching skills and teaching methods.

    • Evelyn, thank you for your comment. Could you share how a teacher can consolidate his/her teaching skills and teaching methods by using concordancers with us? From teachers’ perspectives, perhaps, they can benefit from the tools to design their courses and materials.

  19. Thank you for your amazing sharing! I have experienced using concordancer myself especially when I write essays, like Google, CNKI(China National Knowledge Infrastructure)etc. They can not only be very useful in helping me to find authentic texts to cite my ideas, but also enable me to explore more information. So I really benefit a lot from concordancers.

    If I were a teacher who taught intermediate or high level students, I would introduce it to them. Because for them, the most frequent assessment type can be semi-controlled or free production, like writing essays. Then concordance can do a great favor. Instead, if I taught language beginners, I would not introduce it to them.

    • Thanks for your comment.
      It seems that many of us are benefit from Google and some other concordancers in our learning. I agree that concordancers sometimes may not be so suitable for language beginners. Instead of concordancers, dictionaries can be introduced to them. It is one of the reference tools which can help learners to acquire the meaning and some other useful information, e.g. POS, pronunciation and examples about the vocabulary.

    • Hello, Fay~ I also think it is more suitable for advanced and upper-mediate learners than the beginners as it requires other learning ability to use and learn from the concordancer as there are many different usages of words offered by the tools without further explanation of them, which is difficult for the beginners or low-level learners benefit from them.

  20. Thanks for your group’s sharing!
    I have been used Google Scholar for some information for the essay, and I think there are lots of good examples for us to exert in our essay. In terms of its benefits, as the other comments said, it provides learners with rich authentic materials. I can type some keywords of the information that I want to look up in the search bar, and many authentic pieces of research appear.
    In this sense, I will recommend my students use it. I will also teach them how to use it efficiently and properly. The ability to use Google Scholar is needed because not all the searching outcomes are highly related to the searching question. They need to have the ability to filter the kind of information or supportive evidence they want. In terms of the JTW, they should also sum up the rules or patterns of all the results to make better use of them. Students should also distinguish the results when using it because the application of the results does not fit to any context.

  21. Thanks for sharing.
    I used Baidu Scholar and Google Scholar when writing papers in undergraduate school. It do help me a lot since it gives more access to newest articles. Also, there’re various websites providing multiple resources and essays, which enlighten me a lot when I wrote thesis in college. And I think that online school libraries are also good channels which give convenient hyperlinks and suitable commendations.
    I think whether using the concordancers depends on the students’ English level and their needs. If my students are high level and they have to write academic papers, definitely I will use it to facilitate students. They will get many resources and ideas from it and know the format and other requirements of an academic essay when reading others’ academic essays. While students who have no academic needs may not benefit much from it cause it goes beyond their level.

  22. Thanks for your sharing!

    I have experience on using concordancer in my essay. And as you say it is an amazing tool that can provide us authentic texts and also a better reflection on our writing. And there are also a lot of websites that provide latest academic resources which is beneficial to my essay writing because it can gives me more real examples and ideas that can help me to further develop my own thoughts.

    But I also agree what Moon said above, whether using the concordancers should depends on the students’ English proficiency and also their aims on writing. According to my own learning experience, for the beginners, for example the pupils or secondary school students, it is unnecessary for them to use this tool because what they write is more like free writing that aims to practice or develop a habit of writing, the format or the requirements are much more simple than the real academic writing. But for the more advanced learners like middle school students or college students who needs to do academic writing or thesis, definitely I would recommended to use this because what they need is to further develop their topic and also need to know how to format their writing in order to make their work more logical and reader-friendly.

  23. Thank you for your sharing.
    The first time when I encountered the notion, concordance, was in Becky’s class. The guest lecturer introduced a free concordancer named AntConc to us and she taught us how to use it. I think it’s a useful tool to do genre analysis since it can help us to conduct comparative analysis of different genres.

    I’ve tried JTW and COCA by clicking the hyperlinks that you provided. Well, I prefer JTW and I will use it in the future.

    As for the second question, I think it depends on who my target students are. If they are primary school students, I might not introduce it. But for intermediate and advanced learners, concordancers provide them with a lot of collocations which are useful in their writing. So I will introduce it to them.

  24. Thank you for your sharing! I use concordancers quite often in my daily life because I would like to check whether my writing is authentic or not. I highly recommend “Collins”, “ozdic.com”, and “Free Online Collocations Dictionary”. All of them are able to provide you with professional and useful advice when you struggle with your essay writing. I will definitely suggest my students that they should capitalize on these digital tools which help improve their second language learning!

    • Thanks for your sharing Amanda! Actually I seldom use concordancers. So I don’t know who and where to turn to when I have academic writing problems. I’ll try the webs you recommend and thank you so much!
      And personally think English proficiency is a really important factor when using concordancers. I think it’s quite difficult for people below average to use it.

  25. Thanks for sharing! I have ever used Google and JTW. As for Google, I think there is too much information, it may take some time to select the results that we want. JTW I think is more suitable for those who want to learn about collocation of vocabulary. I usually use JTW when I am not sure about the proper usage of the words and want to test whether I used the word correctly as JTW can show the most common expression of words with some original texts. However, as the blog has mentioned, I also mainly use it to find out whether my usage is correct instead of learning different usage of the words. I think one of the reasons is that I usually first compose writing in Chinses in my mind and then I express my ideas in English. As there is no translation function of JTW, I can only test my own expression by it. As a teacher, I would also suggest my students use the concordancers as a tool to learn different usage and collocation of words especially for those who need to develop productive words and to improve their ability to use the vocabulary. One potential problem may be that there is much information offered by the concordancers for each word, which requires students to have the ability to select what to learn. Another problem is that without complete context, the meaning and usage of the phrases may confuse the students.

    • Hi Carmen, you have mentioned that you have used JTW before. I’m wondering if this website is available in mainland China. Have you ever tried it when you were in mainland China?
      I agree with you that there is much information about the words provided by concordancers. So it seems difficult for beginners and low-level learners to select information which they need.

  26. Thanks for sharing. Though I have heard about JTW before, I have never tried it. Because the interface of this website is really not something I am used to. It is a little complicated in design. However, JTW will be extremely useful I think. Take me as an example, before I came to Hong Kong. I really do not know how to write academic essay because we did not write any in college. The JWT can offered me really good examples of how to write it well.
    I would definitely recommend to my students in the future. However, I wonder if the website can be access in mainland China, and I do think this interface is a little difficult to understand for students who do not have very advance English proficiency level.

    • hhh I think you brought up a very important issue that is the interface. This is verly closely related to user experience!

  27. Thanks for sharing. Of course I’ve used concordancer before, and I use them mainly when I I do academic research or writing. Among the concordances you mentioned, I’ve tried JTW and I think it’s a very clear one, and I will try COCA probably next time.

    As an ESL teacher, I will definitely introduce concordancer to my students. But still, I would say that it depends on the students’ level as I used to teach kids that were only three or five. I think probably middle school students is a proper population to learn about concordancers, so if the students age is 15 and above, I will suggest them to use concordancers.

  28. Thank you for your post. I often use google scholar in supporting my academic writing, which very informative and effective to me. In using these tools, my writing experience was greatly improved in efficiency and accuracy. The authentic materials is good sources in English writing. As a primary school teacher, I will not recommend these concordancers to my students since my students cannot use these tools since it requires users to have relative language competence. Apparently most of my students will fail to achieve this requirement. However, for some advanced learners, I will try to gradually help them learning to use these.

  29. Thanks for your insightful sharing! I believe everyone used certain types of concordance. Personally, I love using Google Scholar to search for literature for my academic writing. And sometimes, I use dictionaries to check my collaboration or other linguistic features. This kinds of tools provide us with specific guidance on how to apply linguistic features and give us possibilities to explore knowledge outside of our academic words. And the corpus-based analysis tools like AntConc are especially useful for linguistic students to do their own research about language, as first, they can analyze numerous amount of texts, while human have limited energy to do so, and also, compared with manually counting and analyzing, these tools generate much more accurate results.

    But I do find some limitations when doing so. For example, you can only find closely relevant information when you got accurate key words. But sometimes, if I’m a total green hand, I might need to change for many times until I found an appropriate key word. Maybe one day, there can be a useful index book to introduce all common key words in popular area.

    Actually, I’m not a huge supporter for introducing these searching tools to my high school students. To some extent, this way of learning requires lots of time to search, to observe and to generate own patterns. And also, some web-based concordances are not that reliable. For example, one common electronic dictionary which is popular among my students are Jinshan Dictionary. This includes information from different kinds of on-line resources, including those which are not accurate at all. But I strongly suggest linguistic learners who are more self-motivated and have higher ability to critically find correct information from massive data to use these tools. But students should be taught to carefully choose a reliable and functioning tool.

  30. Thank you for your sharing!
    I have mainly used two types of concordancer for academic writing, including Google Scholar and a website called Netspeak. Usually, I used the former when I want to find literature for my writing. For example, I type “coherence” and then I can get tons of links in which the key word is embedded. The latter one is developed based on
    a corpus (I am sorry that I do not know what the corpus is.), which is mainly used when I encounter problems related to collocation. I think it is helpful especially I am confused about some prepositional phrase.
    If I were a teacher, I would definitely encourage students to use those corcondancers for learning. For one thing, they have to develop the ability to search for information needed independently. For another thing, those websites can provide a great deal of utterance used in authentic contexts, which will be a great component of materials used in formal education.
    However, at the very beginning, teachers should train students to make full use of those websites by showing them how to manipulate step by step. Also, as the input is not necessarily accurate, teachers should recommend a more reliable tool to students first, and encourage them to use different corpora to check the use of language.

Comments are closed.