25+ A-Level English Language investigation NEA ideas

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When A-Level English Language students learn that they have to complete an investigation for their NEA, most students get excited! After all, you get to choose a topic of your own choosing. Consequently, you could be working on something that actually excites you! However, it may soon become apparent that choosing an investigation topic may not be the easiest task. This could be because you may not be sure of your interests or think there are actually too many choices! As a result, it can be useful to research for some useful ideas.

If you are in a bit of a pickle and feel a bit overwhelmed with choosing your investigation topic, check out the rest of this article to hopefully get some good ideas.

What is an A-Level English Language investigation?

To complete A-Level English Language for the AQA and OCR exam boards, students have to carry out an independent investigation. This is known as an ‘NEA’, which stands for ‘non-exam assessment’.

There are actually two pieces of NEA that have to be completed by students. However, the investigation can be seen as the main one. For the AQA exam board, it requires students to research a topic related to language, which they can choose themselves!

Students will have to collect linguistic data and analyse this, answering questions they have come up with themselves, related to the topic. All of their data is all brought together in a report, with a maximum word limit of 2,000 words.

You can find out more about the language investigation on the AQA website. The OCR requirements for this investigation is similar, with this exam board emphasising critical thinking and independent data collection.

You can learn more about the A-Level English Language investigation for OCR on the OCR website.

How much of A-Level English Language is the investigation worth?

For AQA, students have to complete a 2,000 word investigation and a piece of original writing and commentary for their NEA. Together, this coursework equates to 20% of the final A-Level English Language grade. However, this article only focuses on the investigation NEA. If you want to learn about the original writing NEA check out our other Think Student article.

You can find these percentages on the AQA website. For OCR, students have to complete a poster describing their investigation, as well as the investigation itself. Together, this coursework also equates to 20% of the final grade.

You can find these percentages on the OCR website. However, A-Level English Language involves much more than just this investigation! Check out this Think Student article to discover what the full A-Level entails.

Alternatively, if you want to discover the best ways to revise for A-Level English Language, check out this Think Student article.

A-Level English Language Investigation ideas:

Thinking about what topic to research for your investigation can be difficult. After all, there are so many different topics to choose from! However, the purpose of this NEA is to give students a bit of freedom, as they are able to research aspects of language they find interesting themselves, instead of sticking rigidly to a curriculum.

This allows lots of room for creativity! Therefore, if you want to stand out and make the most of your academic freedom, check out this list of ideas:

1. An investigation into how different newspapers over time have represented migration.

Often, current issues or topics are received positively by the exam board. This is especially the case if the topic focuses on news stories or political upheaval, as this often provides students with a range of material.

If your question is too niche, there will not be enough material available! As migration is quite a hot topic, it requires students to think critically and really understand the changes across time.

This will also increase marks for context! Commentary on previous student’s ideas and some more feedback can be found on this examiner report from the AQA website for June 2022.

2. An investigation into how contestants on ‘Married at first sight’ use language to be viewed favourably by the audience.

AQA has stated that broader questions often do well because they enable students to explore a wide range of features. With this question, you could delve into how contestants use language to gain power over their partner. You could also explore gender differences.

Creating your own transcript may take time, however will be appreciated by examiners. If you want something fiction-like that isn’t actually from a novel, reality shows could be for you! After all, this examining report from OCR emphasised that using fiction texts were problematic.

3. An investigation into how males and females use face-threatening acts on reality shows.

Gender is a big topic covered in A-Level English Language. Thus, this question enables you to use knowledge you already have! Face threatening acts is a very relevant feature to discuss in the reality show genre.

There is also a lot of context you could bring up here, such as how the genders want to present themselves when consciously thinking about the media audience. This will get you those AO3 marks!

4. An investigation into the use of linguistic strategies used by lawyers when questioning witnesses and addressing judges.

It may be difficult to get yourself into a court room! However, this question could tackle the major A-Level English Language theme of power. You could investigate how lawyers attempt to get power over witnesses but then let judges have power over them.

You may find the linguistic strategies they use very interesting. Your awareness of the different power dynamic at play will alert the examiner to your ability to see from different perspectives and critically think.

5. An investigation into how media articles have represented covid compared to other plagues throughout history.

This question allows you to view how perspectives to diseases have changed over time. It could be useful to see if scare-mongering language was used more in the past or now and which linguistic strategies are used to influence reader’s thoughts.

This also shows the examiner that you are engaged with real world problems.

6. An investigation into how news presenters use linguistic strategies to report positive and negative news.

This question will allow you to explore a range of different language features, even extending to the tone and prosody of presenters as they deliver news. You could also explore the different ways that male and female presenters use language.

However, when investigating gender, make sure to use up to date research! Examiners don’t want to just see evidence that was carried out from research years ago.

7. An investigation into how Formula one commentators use language when commenting on different drivers.

Formula one commentators often seem unbiased. However, after creating a transcript, you may find that this is not the case! You could investigate how context could have influenced this to get extra AO3 marks.

As A03 contributes the most amount of marks, you should be aiming for this! If your interest is cars, this may be the question for you!

8. An investigation into the changes uses of language to describe women’s bodies in UK magazines.

This is a very hot topic, as body positivity is definitely increasing. Therefore, you could compare how magazines have changed their approach from demonising women’s bodies and promoting thinness to now embracing natural women.

You could also explore how this could potentially be empowering women and how this language could lead to an even bigger movement. This will show your open-mindedness to the examiner.

9. An investigation into the linguistic strategies employed by teachers in the same subject area within different year groups.

This question will hopefully allow you to collect a large amount of data, due to the high likelihood that you are completing your A-Level at school! This question and others can be found on this guide from the AQA website.

You could investigate how teachers use their language to potentially control their students. Interestingly, this could change depending on the different year groups, allowing you to comment on context again.

10. An investigation into how radio show presenters use dialect to identify with their audiences.

Many students have been reported to use song lyrics for their NEA investigation. However, examining reports have commented on the difficulty with this idea. Students who choose to analyse song lyrics may not get the highest marks.

However, if you are interested in music, analysing radio show presenter’s language could be interesting, as you could focus on how their audiences influence their language. Perhaps you could compare different radio show hosts who present for different regions!

11. An investigation into the linguistic strategies used by judges of game shows to intimidate the contestants.

Again, this question focuses on one of the main themes explored in A-Level English Language – power. It could be interesting to compare different judges approaches and see how their use of language accomplishes certain motives.

Different judges may want to create different personas, leading to carefully selected language use. If you want to read a sample of a project which explored this idea, check out this document from the AQA website.

For some more ideas, check out the list below:

12. An investigation into the linguistic strategies used to present climate change over time in online articles.

13. An investigation into how language regarding mental health has changed over time in social media.

14. An investigation into the ways in which contestants on Dragon’s Den use language to pitch their ideas to the Dragons.

15. An investigation into the changing amount of gender inclusive language across reality TV shows.

16. An investigation into the manipulative language used by criminal interviewees when discussing their crimes.

17. An investigation into how newspapers use language to create fear about certain mental health disorders.

18. An investigation into the different messages given to men and women on dealing with mental health across the media.

19. An investigation into the different linguistic strategies used to encourage men and women to exercise.

20. An investigation into politeness strategies used in interactions in a customer service centre for a supermarket.

21. An investigation into the linguistic strategies used to create power between males and females in the classroom.

22. An investigation into how language creates power dynamics between presenters and contestants on game shows.

23. An investigation into the ways in which different age groups use specific features in social media group chats.

24. An investigation into how a certain celebrity is presented across magazines.

25. An investigation exploring the representation of homosexuality in poems throughout time.

26. An investigation into the changing use of language to describe mental health disorders across news articles.

27. An investigation into how a family member may change their language use when speaking to different family members.

28. An investigation into the use of politeness strategies by cashiers at popular clothes shops.

29. An investigation into the linguistic strategies used by students to defy the teacher.

30. An investigation into representations of Multicultural London English on online discussion forums.

What makes a good question for your A-Level English Language NEA investigation?

All of the examining reports focus on the idea that your question needs to be focused on a bigger idea. This will allow you to investigate a range of different linguistic elements to create a comprehensive answer.

If your question is too specific, this could lead to not enough material to write about, or repetition. The best way to discover whether your question has enough potential is to carry out a literature review before you start.

This will enable you to see relevant research related to your question. Reading beyond the A-Level English Language specification will also enable you to get higher marks!

Choosing a question where you have to collect your own data yourself is also encouraged. After all, primary data is seen as more impressive than using secondary sources.

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