Exemplary Capstone Projects

English majors in their final year of studies carry out independent research on a topic approved by the Department and supervised by a teacher. The project is centered on a topic related to literature or applied linguistics. The project includes critical reflection on the research process and builds on undergraduate learning in the major. The Department nominates and recommends at most four excellent capstone projects each term. These exemplary capstone projects demonstrate the excellent quality of undergraduate training offered by the Department.

 

2018-2019 Term 1

 

Chan Wing Ki


Exploring “Japanglish”: An Investigation into English Accent of Japanese and Language Ideology in Japan


Supervisor: Prof. Jette Hansen Edwards


Chan Wing Ki’s Capstone project focuses on Japanese English; unlike most research on varieties of English, Chan’s focuses on more than one aspect of Japanese English – she conducts interviews, a phonological analysis of 5 speech samples, and a thorough background research on educational practices in Japan.  As such, the project is ambitious but Chan is able to link the various research findings into a coherent and engaging discussion about the status of Japanese English in Japan today.  As such, the project is exemplary, as the topic not only is demanding and comprehensive, but also requires a high level analytical (including phonological analysis) ability in order to pull together the various strands of research into a cogent and articulate argument. Chan has been able to do this, and therefore deserves the Exemplary Capstone Award for this project.

 

Wilson Kwong Wai Kit


Hedging Devices in Negatively-polite Spoken Discourse of Hong Kong Secondary School Students


Supervisor: Dr. Suzanne Wong


The project examines the use of hedging devices (such as “I guess,” “well” and “I am afraid that”) in the oral discourse of Hong Kong secondary school students and demonstrates that explicit instruction is effective in increasing the use of hedging devices to enhance pragmatic competence. The student has shown a solid grasp of the subject-matter and has identified a worthwhile research gap in the field to fill. The research questions are clearly articulated, and the teaching intervention was conducted professionally. The methodology is sound, and the data collected is analyzed meticulously. The report not only sheds light on the underuse of hedging devices in Hong Kong secondary school students’ oral output but also argues convincingly for the effectiveness of pedagogical intervention in heightening students’ awareness and application of hedging devices for negative politeness.

 

Stephanie Leung Tsoi Hang


“See you in the same old place”: the postcolonial uncanny in Killing the Angel: Short Stories by S. Quanan


Supervisor: Prof. Evelyn Chan


Stephanie Leung's capstone project examines the idea of the "uncanny" in the Hong Kong writer Quanan Shum's collection of short stories, showing how the notion maps onto the physical, historical, social, and political landscape of Hong Kong in Shum's works. Both the topic of the capstone project and Stephanie's approach are original, combining Stephanie's knowledge of the particular context of Hong Kong, effective use of reference material on Hong Kong's socioeconomics, and in-depth literary analysis. Stephanie's competent close reading of the texts, the high level of critical analysis she conducts, and the keen and subtle insights she derives, make this capstone project exemplary.

 

2017-2018 Term 2

 

Candy Ho Lok Tung


Exploring Medieval Female Archetypes in Game of Thrones


Supervisor: Prof. Jason Gleckman


Candy Ho’s capstone project on Medieval influences on the representation of women in the popular TV show, Game of Thrones, provides a useful model of what undergraduate English majors can achieve when exploring literary history. Ms. Ho takes, for her paper topic, three archetypes of women in the Middle Ages (the warrior woman, the evil queen/mother, and the ‘female rebel’) and explores how each type is presented in Game of Thrones. More impressively, Ms. Ho charts the history of each archetype with a great deal of specificity, citing numerous examples from antiquity to the Middle Ages and into the European Renaissance. The scope of the project is well-suited to a 25-30 page essay and the overall presentation, in terms of writing and organization, is exemplary. The overall effect of the project is to convey a strong sense of continuity in literary history, as well as gesturing towards new representations of women in contemporary media.

 

Candy Leung Tsz Ching


Incidental L2 Vocabulary Acquisition in Poem Comprehension by Hong Kong Advanced Learners of English


Supervisor: Prof. Helen Zhao


I recommend Ms Leung Tsz Ching Candy for the Exemplary Capstone Project award. Candy addresses a classic topic in second language acquisition research, i.e., how learners acquire new words. She approaches this question from a unique angle: how learners acquire new words in poems. Almost all of our undergraduates in the Department, who take various English literature courses, have to deal with this linguistic problem at some point as a second language reader of English literary texts. In her capstone project, Candy used the think-aloud technique, a commonly adopted instrument in applied linguistics research, and asked her participants to verbalise their ongoing thoughts while reading a carefully selected poem written by an Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde. She did detailed qualitative analyses of the types of knowledge and strategies that learners made use of during think-aloud interpretations of target unknown words in the poem. The depth of the data analyses is rarely seen among undergraduate work. The research is innovative and revealing. It is truly a wonderful synthesis of Candy’s undergraduate studies of English literature and applied linguistics in the Department. 

 

Joyce Tse Wing Yi


Hong Kong Identity Today


Supervisor: Prof. Eddie Tay


This is a socio-literary project on Hong Kong identity. It looks at how Hong Kong's history continues to influence the identity of Hong Kong people. It also examines literary works by Leung Ping-kwan, Louise Ho, Tammy Ho and Xu Xi, looking at moments when the writing engages with the question of identity. It also describes how the different generations of Hong Kong people think about their identity. The final argument, that the complexity (and inevitable conflicts that result) of Hong Kong's multiple identities should be celebrated is an authentic and heartfelt reaction to the polarized contemporary political landscape.

 

Mickey Pang Yin Chong


Investigation into speech performances of Hong Kong ESL learners at tertiary education level


Supervisor: Prof. Jette Hansen Edwards


I would like to nominate Yin Chong Pang for the Exemplary Capstone award. His project, Investigation into Speech Performances of Hong Kong ESL Learners at Tertiary Education Level was excellent both in research design as well as analysis and interpretation of results. What sets the project apart from others is the careful and insightful analysis and interpretation of the data in light of current research on speech processing. Ying Chong Pang’s work is on par with that expected of MA/MPhil students in applied linguistics. He is very deserving of this award.

 

Natalie Ng Lok Wing


Unveiling the Music in Irish Poetry


Supervisor: Prof. Michael O’Sullivan


The essay is entitled “Unveiling the Music in Irish Poetry”. It is highly original, interdisciplinary and also one of the best capstone projects I have read. The writing is graduate level and the research is wide-ranging. In all honesty, I believe the essay would very easily make a very worthwhile MA or even Mphil thesis topic. The idea to relate literature to music at the level of verse and poetic structure is also an important one for the department. 

 

Vivien Chan Ying Tung


Melancholy across the Eras of Romanticism and Modernism: the Cases of John Keats and Franz Kafka


Supervisor: Prof. Li Ou


This is an original research project on two apparently very different writers, Keats and Kafka, brought together by the idea of melancholy. The project traces the history of the idea of melancholy and considers the relevance of melancholy to the two authors, in their personal lives and writings. The project analyses the sources of the two authors’ melancholy, their different responses to it, and finally enquires whether they have managed to transcend it, especially through creative writing. The conclusion on Keats’s embrace of melancholy and Kafka’s vain grappling with it then broadens up to the different tenors of the Romantic and Modernist age, which gives the project a further scope. The reading of the text is keenly insightful and the critical analysis dexterous. The whole project stands out in its originality, in-depth reading, and the daring scope it attempts at.

 

2017-2018 Term 1

 

Alison Ng Tsz Ying


A Comparative Study of Early English Consonant Development between North American and British Children: Same or Different?


Supervisor: Prof. Jette Hansen Edwards


I’d like to nominate Alison Ng, for her project ‘A comparison of early English consonant development between North American and British children.’ Alison’s project had a unique focus, one that has been underexplored in the literature on child phonological acquisition. Her study is therefore both original and significant. Alison carried out her project through a careful phonological analysis of a large amount of child language, which both requires expertise and precision. It is also extremely time-consuming. Her careful and considered analysis of the data provided Alison with interesting findings, which she interpreted against the available literature. In all tasks – project development, data collection and analysis, and project write up – Alison displayed great maturity in her research engagement. Her work is excellent.

 

Canis Cheung Yee Ki


History and Class Consciousness in Post-colonial Hong Kong writings in English


Supervisor: Prof. Michael O’Sullivan


I feel that Canis’s presentation and essay are hugely important for Hong Kong Studies. The essay essentially questions why very little Hong Kong literature in English examines the issue of class in Hong Kong. Class is an important element and theme in writing in the UK, Ireland and the US, however, writing in English in Hong Kong, according to Canis, does not cover class, what she feels should be an important concern for writers in Hong Kong especially when social inequality is on the rise in Hong Kong. Canis also makes very use of Marxist scholars such as Lukacs and Eagleton in her paper and I feel this is quite an original use of these critics in relation to Hong Kong writing in English. I also think that the interview material that Canis chose to use in the essay is very original and shows that literature students are also very eager to incorporate other forms of research into their work. 

 

Heather Wong Siu Ting


Women Awakening: A Hong Kong Perspective on Social Class and Women’s Independence in Early 20th Century Women’s Writing


Supervisor: Prof. Michael O’Sullivan


The essay by Heather on feminism and identity in Woolf and on Xi Xi’s “Mourning Over the Breast” was, I felt, a deeply moving and important essay. It is written in a style that demonstrates for me that Heather has clearly taken on board the teachings and writings of feminist writers. I also feel it is well –written and that it demonstrates well how our students can learn to relate important ways of reading texts to events in their own lives.

 

Milton Lam Chin Hang


“of which…” vs. “(which)… of.” – A Corpus-based Study of Pied-piping Usage in Hong Kong English


Supervisor: Prof. Gerald Nelson


This research project addresses a fairly arcane topic in English grammar, namely, the pied-piping construction (eg. the job for which I applied), in contrast with the stranded preposition construction (the job I applied for). The methodology, too, is unusual at undergraduate level, since it uses corpus data and methods to examine the use of these constructions among Hong Kong speakers, across a variety of spoken and written genres. Although Milton has had no formal training in corpus-based methods, the resulting research is quite exceptional at every level. Milton analysed a very large amount of language data with meticulous care, and he applied some very sophisticated statistical measures to the analysis of the results. The discussion of those results shows an unusual level of awareness of the many variables that affect language performance. I was particularly impressed when Milton – without any prompting from me – clearly distinguished between the pied-piping construction and another construction that looks superficially similar to it (eg. the land, some of which was sold). Milton refers to this is as ‘pseudo-pied-piping’, and he quite correctly excluded it from his analysis. That level of discrimination among grammatical forms is vanishingly rare at undergraduate level. The final research report is by far the best I have supervised, and is far better than many of the reports I receive from students taking our MA course in Corpus Linguistics. Indeed, I have seen some published reports of corpus-based research that show none of the sophistication of Milton’s work.

 

2016-2017 Term 1

 

Felix Lo Tze Chun


Queer Writing in Crevasse: Spectrality, Subjectivation, Subversiveness


Supervisor: Prof. Julian Lamb


Felix Lo’s capstone essay offered a very sophisticated analysis of Nicholas Wong’s recent collection of poems, Crevasse. Wong is a gay Hong Kong poet, and though the collection is not explicitly gay, its themes and formal experimentation are sensitively analysed by Felix, whose approach was heavily influenced by queer theory. Felix argued that queerness is always inevitably spectral and elusive, and to define Wong’s collection as “queer” not only potentially curtails its relevance, but is fundamentally to misunderstand what queerness is.

 

Sally Leung Yuen Sze


Language Identity Exploration through my Study Abroad Poems:
An introspective, critical account of my year abroad


Supervisor: Prof.Jane Jackson


I would like to recommend Sally Leung Yuen Sze for the capstone award. She worked very well throughout the semester (enthusiastically!) and throughout her project she engaged in critical reflection on past, present, and future elements. Her project, which is entitled ‘Language Identity Exploration through my Study Abroad Poems: An introspective, critical account of my year abroad’, fits with the aims of the capstone course. During the semester, she experienced significant personal growth as she reflected on her self-identities, coursework, and international experience. Her study incorporates creative literary works (poems she wrote that illustrate her study abroad experience and unique developmental trajectory/identity expansion) and applied linguistics analysis (a critical investigation of language and identity elements in relation to relevant theories). Her report is both descriptive and analytical and demonstrates growth in self-awareness and deep reflection. In particular, she reflected on the impact of her UG studies/study abroad experience on her future career as an English language teacher and identified personal strengths as well as gaps in her preparation. Sally has applied to join the postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) after graduation and her reflective work has helped prepare her for this. In sum, she was actively engaged in this project throughout the semester and she produced very good work (presentation and written report). 

 

2016-2017 Term 2

Ashley Lau Yee Ting


Floating and Drowning in Fluidity: Identity Creation in The Woman Warrior and Mona in the Promised Land


Supervisor: Prof. Eli Park Sorensen


Ashley wrote a sophisticated capstone thesis on the complexities of Chinese-American identity, creating a subtle theoretical framework around Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior and Gish Jen’s Mona in the Promised Land. Working through a wide range of identity-related concepts — such as hybridity, mimicry, the liminal, double-consciousness and performativity — Ashley managed to combine this bold theoretical approach with an authoritative and passionate reading of the literary texts. Her discussion of the delicate balance between socio-cultural influence and individual creativity linked particularly well with the chosen texts. Lastly, Ashley brought her ideas into a broader discussion of diversity and identity-formation in today’s society, thus stressing the ongoing relevance of literary thought.

 

Renee Lee Yi Ki


The Pedagogical Potential of Code Switching in ESL Classrooms


Supervisor: Prof.Derek Chan


Renee Lee studied how alternating language use, or code switching (CS), could benefit or hinder English language education in local secondary classrooms. Although CS seems inevitable in many language contact situations, as psycho- and socio-linguistic studies have robustly attested, the Education Bureau discourages or even prohibits CS in the official Medium of Instruction (MOI) policy. Seeing the contested issues involved, Renee strategically triangulated classroom observation and survey data to gain a deeper insight into the myths and realities surrounding CS. The entire capstone project was meticulously designed and implemented. Renee even completed her target milestones ahead of schedule. I was impressed, once and again, when
Renee shared her interesting novel findings. CS is a well-received pedagogical tool, especially in domains of grammar acquisition and meaning negotiation, by learners and teachers alike. Teachers especially welcome CS, seeing it as an affective bridge between teachers and learners who share the same language background. Renee called for more research into this untapped potential of CS, which has far-reaching implications to pedagogy and policy. Renee’s performance in this capstone project, from beginning to end, is stellar.

 

 

2015-2016 Term 1
HelenWu Helen Wu

Paradoxes and Contradictions in Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage

Supervisor: Prof. Simon Haines

 

Helen’s capstone essay was an intelligent synthesis of two very different kinds of thinking. She had to tackle the complex logical categories of paradox and contradiction, and show she understood them, before applying them to the unlikely material of two of the most famous and influential (and long) Romantic poems: Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage and Don Juan. The result is really a most original approach to tone and personality in poetry. One wouldn’t normally think of Byron’s poetry as containing tensions of quite this kind, and yet Helen was able to show that they are to be found in many places, including quite unlikely ones. She also shows that there may be more continuity than is commonly thought between the two works, famously seen as representing completely different modes of self. I would not usually expect writing of such intellectual sophistication from a student at this level. Finally, Helen has been able to reflect thoughtfully on her work and on the significance of poetry in general.
 

LamieLam Jamie Ching Yee Lam

Pro-American Values in Hollywood Movie Musicals

Supervisor: Prof. Jason Gleckman

 

Jamie Lam’s capstone project accomplishes the goals of this activity well. Focusing on four popular American musicals, three of them set in foreign nations (The Sound of Music, Evita, and Les Misérables) and one set in the USA (Annie), this project explores the ways that American identity is forged through popular art. This project demonstrated a rich knowledge of twentieth-century American and European history (American ‘democracy’ versus Nazism, communism, and oligarchy) and, even more impressively, a knowledge of the sorts of character traits that American popular culture encourages in the people – such as a yearning for upward mobility, an obedience yet suspicion of the law, and a distaste for aristocracy and demagoguery. In addition, Jamie’s project conveyed her wide-ranging affection for American musicals and her expertise in the genre; the complex ideas are integrated with expressive, detailed depictions of the way musical scenes are presented in films to subtly convey ideological values.
 

JoannaSiu Joanna Siu

Acquisition of Present Perfect by Advanced Cantonese Learners of English

Supervisor: Prof. Derek H. L. Chan

 

Joanna Siu examined the usage patterns of English present perfect — a grammar focus that poses immense theoretical and pedagogical challenges within the domain of tense and aspect — among advanced English learners from Hong Kong. Joanna’s ingenuity in coming up with simple and effective tasks, namely translation and narrative story telling with a psycholinguistic twist, far exceeded my expectation. This endeavour would have required a solid understanding of the vast literature, which may take years to develop. Yet Joanna mastered it within a span of three months. The transformation, from a complete novice to a budding expert, is illuminating. Her project, though small in scale, yields new findings that hold important theoretical and practical implications to second language acquisition at large. Her co-authored abstract has been accepted by a leading international conference on tense, aspect, and modality in L2, scheduled to take place at the University of York, UK, on 20th and 21st June 2016. This is due recognition of Joanna’s sharp intellectual insights and commitment to applied language issues.
 

JaneWong Wong Po Chun Jane

The Phonological Aspect of Hong Kong English and Intelligibility

Supervisor: Prof. Jette Hansen Edwards

 

Jane’s capstone topic – the intelligibility of Hong Kong English – is to some extent quite difficult. Despite this, she was able to read critically and analyze, summarize, and synthesize the findings of a number of journal articles about Hong Kong English. She used them to construct a data collection survey that she gave to ten teachers of English at varying levels (primary, secondary, tertiary). After collecting her own data, she in turn compared her data against the synthesis from her readings, in order to better understand which features of HKE should be focused on in terms of instruction at the three levels of English education in Hong Kong. Her project was also linked directly to her own vocational goal of becoming a speech therapist in Hong Kong. A very impressive project for an undergraduate student!
 

2015-2016 Term 2
Acca Sum Acca Penelope Kwai Ching

The Vagina Poems

Supervisor: Prof. Eddie Tay

 

SUM Acca Penelope Kwai Ching’s creative project is very successful in the way it puts together its theoretical, critical, activist and poetic agenda. It was inspired by _The Vagina Monologues_ by Eve Ensler, a play consisting of monologues that explore what it means to be a woman. This project which consists of poems likewise uses the vagina as a symbol, allowing for the exploration of the female self. The accompanying essay is especially insightful because it discusses the creative process and at the same time, engage with what it means for a poet with an activist agenda to speak on behalf of others.
 

Acca Zhao Jiaxi Meya

Acquisition of Formulaic Expressions in English Legal Contracts and Agreements

Supervisor: Prof. Helen Zhao

 

Meya chose to work on a very unique topic for her capstone project: second language acquisition of formulaic language in English legal contracts. It’s a particularly meaningful topic for many extremely advanced learners of English in Hong Kong who aspire to become a lawyer for their future career. Legal contracts and agreements are an important genre of legal documents. There are many formulaic chunks that are unique to contracts, such as “in witness whereof” and “remain in full force and effect”, which seldom appear in daily communication outside the legal register. These formulaic expressions define the genre-specific features of contracts, and in some way, the identity of this particular speech community. It’s already a challenge for native speakers to acquire these social conventions. For second language learners, the demand is huge. The biggest contribution of Meya’s capstone project was to identify these unique formulaic expressions by using methods of corpus linguistics. It was impressive for an undergraduate student to implement this corpus-based study. It can easily be developed into a study of a much larger scale that has important values for students who wish to join the law society.
 

Acca Cherry Ma

The Corporation in Joseph Conrad’s Nostromo

Supervisor: Prof. Jason Gleckman

 

Cherry Ma’s ENGE4700 final project is an extensive (27 page) exploration of Joseph Conrad’s 1904 novel, Nostromo. Cherry’s focus is on the concept of the ‘corporation,’ which she sees as the dominant model used by the European-influenced elite of Conrad’s fictitious South American nation of Costaguana in their efforts to improve the economic and political conditions of an emerging regional power. Cherry’s analysis of the novel shows how its leading characters all view the process of political change in an optimistic manner, privileging ideas of ‘science,’ ‘progress,’ and ‘materialism’ which will ultimately generate investment, economic growth, and stable political institutions. Cherry’s most exciting idea is how this model of national growth is premised not only on a view of the nation as a ‘corporation’ – a well-organized administrative bureaucracy dedicated to economic expansion – but on a view of the corporate nation as a ‘person,’ a legal fiction that has its origin in the middle ages and continues, even today, to exert a great influence in determining the legal rights and duties of large and powerful institutions. In Cherry’s analysis, the efforts in the novel on the part of the Costaguanans, and their European financers, to construct the nation using a corporate model, are unsuccessful for the same reasons that envisioning a corporation as a person are problematic in the modern world. Instead of making a corporation more responsible and ‘human’ in its aims, the idea of ‘corporate personhood’ instead functions as an ideological mystification, providing corporations with the ‘rights’ of a person but without any spiritual component. As a result, the desperate efforts of the corporate ‘stakeholders’ to identify their values with an abstraction to which they have assigned human identity, can only result in failure – a process that Cherry meticulously analyzes in the course of her first-rate capstone project.
 

Acca Katrina Lau

An investigation of the stress influences on intelligibility and comprehensibility – The case of advanced Hong Kong ESL learners

Supervisor: Prof. Jette Hansen Edwards

 

Katrina went above and beyond the expectations of an undergraduate level capstone project in both the depth and range of her understanding of her research area, construction and operationalization of her research questions into an appropriate methodology, and analysis and interpretation of her data. Her final project was MPhil level work and far exceeded the other projects presented on the evening of her final capstone presentation. An extremely high caliber effort, deserving not only of the A that it was awarded, but also of an award of ‘Exemplary Capstone Project.’