Use of capital letters and full stops

For the paper described in the previous post, I ended up deleting a section which described an investigation into whether student use of capital letters and full stops could be used as a proxy  for writing in sentences and paragraphs. We looked at this because it is a time-consuming and labour-intensive task to classify student responses as being ‘a phrase’, ‘a sentence’, ‘a paragraph’ etc. – but spotting capital letters and full stops is easier (and can be automated!).

I removed this section from the paper because the findings were somewhat inconclusive, but I was nevertheless surprised how many responses finished with a full stop and especially by the large number that started with a capital letter. See the table below, for a range of questions in a range of different uses (sometimes summative and sometimes not).

Question Number of responses (and percentage of total) that started with a capital letter Number of responses (and percentage of total) that finished with a full stop
A-good-ideaAYRF

S154 10J

 1678 (60.9%)

622 (60.0%)

 1118 (40.6%)

433 (41.8%)

Oil-on-waterS154 10J  500 (53.9%)  294 (31.7%)
MetamorphicSXR103 10E  297 (41.6%)  166 (23.2%)
SedimentarySXR103 10E  317 (39.9%)   178 (22.4%)
SandstoneS104 10B  954 (58.2%)  684 (41.7%)
Electric-forceS104 10B  673 (56.7%)  445 (37.5%)

Answers that were paragraphs were found to be very likely to start with a capital letter and end with a full stop; answers that were written in note form or as phrases were less likely to start with a capital letter and end with a full stop. Answers in the form of sentences were somewhere in between.

The other very interesting thing was that capital letters and full stops were both [sometimes significantly] associated with correct rather than incorrect responses.

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