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Usage of Profanity by Malaysian Teenagers: Analytical Essay

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Research Methodology

3.0 Introduction

This chapter described the procedures and methodology utilized in the course of this research. The research design, participants, sampling method, data collection methods, research instruments, and data analysis procedures are also explained in this chapter.

3.1 Research design

3.1.1 Pilot Study

In order to determine the possibility of conducting this research, a pilot study was conducted in March 2018 where a preliminary study was developed to determine if Malaysians use bad language in English. The preliminary study was also meant to determine if Facebook could be one of the sources of research. The pilot study focused on a small portion of the main data, one picture, shared by the admin of the page, was purposively chosen from the “Only in Malaysia” page on Facebook. The reason for adopting purposive sampling was that not all the pictures shared by the admin triggered and stimulated netizens’ emotions. There were 129 comments which were left by the netizens on the picture, and out of 129 comments, there were 20 comments which include profanity words, both in the form of single words and in combination with other words as well as in the form of phrases. Profanity words used by netizens were investigated using Jay’s (2009) model. To conduct a preliminary study on the data, one stimulus (a picture) which provoked and stimulated both anger and surprise among the Malaysian netizens were purposively selected from the page called ‘Only in Malaysia’ because not all the pictures shared by the admin were able to stimulate the netizens’ emotions. The picture was about a group photo of a lecturer that condemned Tun Dr. Mahathir, Tun Dr. Mahathir and his wife, and some other people. There were 20 out of 129 netizens who used profanity while commenting on this picture. This preliminary study was thus used as a gauge to evaluate the suitability and usefulness of the framework, the model as well as the procedure for conducting the present study. The result of the pilot study indicated that one approach cannot cover the range of bad language found in the data. Thus, it would be more relevant to use a combination of approaches encompassing Pinker’s (2010) five categories of using profanity.

3.1.2 Mixed-Method Approach

This study used a mixed-methods (Tashakkori & Teddlie, 2003) design, which is a procedure for collecting, analyzing, and mixing both quantitative and qualitative data at some stage of the research process within a single study, to understand a research problem more completely (Creswell, 2002). The rationale for mixing is that neither quantitative nor qualitative methods are sufficient by themselves to capture the trends and details of the situation, which is the usage of profanity by Malaysian teenagers. When used in combination, quantitative and qualitative methods complement each other and allow for a more complete analysis (Green, Caracelli, & Graham, 1989, Tashakkori & Teddlie, 1998).

This study used a descriptive mixed-methods design. In the quantitative phase, questionnaires were distributed using a web-based survey and the data will be subjected to a discriminant function analysis. In the qualitative phase, a case study approach was used to collect text data through a Facebook page.

3.2 Sample

Reid (2018) described the population in a study as all units possessing certain characteristics, which are of interest of the researchers’ study. From the definition, the population can be understood as the targeted community or group of people who are involved or selected by the researcher for a study. Therefore for this study, the population from which the samples were derived consists of the following groups of participants:

  • Malaysian teenagers
  • Facebook users who leave profanity words comments in “Only in Malaysia” posting

In this study, the researcher employed the simple random sampling method for the selection of the participants.

3.3 Instrumentation

The methodology for the present study employed mixed methods; that is, employing more than one approach to investigate the research questions. According to Tayyebian (2015), using more than one approach also helped the researcher in enhancing confidence in the findings. Moreover, employing two or more independent measurement processes which confirm a proposition may reduce the uncertainty and ambiguity of the interpretation. Hence, the mixed approaches of the discourse analysis, the data of which was taken from Facebook and the questionnaire helped the researcher to obtain more valid data, resulting in more reliable results. The questionnaire was used not only to support the findings of this study but also to measure and examine the use of profanity among teenagers in Malaysia. Data obtained from the Facebook page is especially effective in obtaining culturally specific information about the values, behaviors, and social contexts among Malaysians in Facebook.

3.4 Data Procedures

Figure 1:Collecting Data Procedures

The data for the study were collected from a Facebook page called “Only in Malaysia”. The data were obtained from April 2018 to April 2019 for one year. Each topic was initiated by the picture uploaded and shared by the admin of the page, who was the person controlling the page and shared everyday topics. The topics are concerned about Malaysia. In the study, several comments were collected as they contained profanity words.

In collecting the data, the researcher first liked the page named “Only in Malaysia” where Malaysians can share and express their ideas and emotions about events, news, photos, and issues concerning Malaysia. By liking this page, the researcher was able to trace news and photos shared by the admin of the page and have access to all the comments shared by the members of “Only in Malaysia” as well as to find more information about the variety of bad words used by these netizens through a large corpus.

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Secondly, the researcher asked for permission from the page admin to use the topics shared by him besides using the members’ comments which were related to the present study. However, it was assured that the information regarding the users of bad language would remain confidential. After getting permission from the page administrator, the researcher could lead an ethical data collection.

The researcher followed everyday topics, debates, status messages, and comments being shared either by the members or administrator. In one year, it was found that profanity was used more noticeably and at a higher rate compared to other topics. During the period, there were also topics for which the members did not use bad words at all because the topics did not stimulate or trigger the emotions of Malaysian netizens.

In the next phase, of this study, profanity was identified among the comments written by the members of “Only in Malaysia” if they possessed the following characteristics:

  1. They were considered as swear words, curse words, obscene and vulgar terms, profane, and blasphemous terms, insults and slurs, epithets, and slang language (Jay, 1990)
  2. Words related to taboo themes, words related to organs and acts of sex, defecation, death, killing, bodies and their effluvia as well as food leftovers
  3. Expletive swearing including the moderate expletive, euphemistic expletive, and taboo expletive
  4. Abusive swearing related to ritual insults, name-calling, unfriendly suggestions, and sarcastic expressions
  5. Auxiliary swearing
  6. Humoristic swearing.

For storing the basic data, the researcher created a database table to store data collected from each sample:

  1. Usernames ID for future reference
  2. Comments contained profanity including words, phrases, and expressions
  3. Profanity words were saved within their full comments to be analyzed within the context of use according to Pinker’s (2010) model.

3.5 Data analysis

3.5.1 Facebook Data

In order to get rich data for this study, a descriptive approach was used. The descriptive approach is described as a research technique for the objective, systematic and quantitative description of the manifest content of communication to investigate messages and reduce them into categories (Rosenberry & Vicker, 2009). According to Zhang and Wildemuth (2009), qualitative content analysis pays attention to unique themes that illustrate the range of meanings of the phenomenon rather than the statistical significance of the occurrence of particular text or concept. Using a qualitative content analysis guided by theory, this study examined the presence of profanity words found in a Facebook page called ‘Only in Malaysia’. Postings from April 2018 to April 2019 that have been posted by the admin of the page were analyzed and the researcher found comments that contained profanity words posted by the netizens. Through this approach, the researcher could observe the lexical categories of profanity words and also the context that Malaysian used in using profanity words.

A framework analysis approach was used in the study since it is a more advanced method that consists of several stages such as familiarization, identifying a thematic framework, coding, charting, mapping, and interpretation. Lexical categories of profanity words found in this study will be analyzed using Jay (2009), who distinguishes profanity referents into nine categories, namely sexual references, profanity or blasphemy, scatological and disgusting objects, animal names, ethnic-racial-gender slurs, psychological-physical-social deviations, ancestral allusions, substandard vulgar terms, and offensive slang. Sexual references are related to sexual acts (e.g. fuck), sexual anatomies (e.g. cock, dick, cunt), and sexual deviations (e.g. motherfucker, cocksucker). Profane and blasphemous swear words refer to religious terms (e.g. Jesus Christ or damn), while scatological and disgusting objects refer to feces (e.g. crap), excretion organs (e.g. asshole), excretion processes (e.g. shitting), and body products (e.g. piss). Profanity may also be in the form of animal names (e.g. bitch, monkey) and ethnic-racial-gender slurs (e.g. nigger, fag). Psychological-physical-social deviations are also often used as profanity (e.g. moron, pox, whore). Ancestral allusions are profanity that involves or relates with family relationships and ancestors (e.g. son of a bitch, the bastard). Substandard vulgar terms are vulgar words of which the constructions are below the satisfactory standard of language (e.g. on the rag, fart face). Lastly, offensive slang refers to offensive substandard words that are invented to ease communication (e.g. bang, suck).

After gathering the data and having compiled a list of profanity words, first, each profanity word was checked for its frequency of occurrence in the data. In analyzing the frequency of occurrence of bad words, the total number of bad words was counted manually in the data. This was divided and multiplied by 100 to work out the percentage of each bad word used by Malaysian netizens on Facebook. A higher percentage indicates more frequent use of a bad word.

Next, each comment was approached and delved into individually to have a good comprehension of each bad word in each comment. Each comment was analyzed by having its lexical categories. The bad words included in each comment were examined thoroughly for their characteristics concerning Jay’s (2009) model (Table 1).

Table 1: Jay’s (2009) Model

  • Lexical Category
  • Example
  • Sexual References
    • Related to sexual acts (e.g. Fuck)
    • Sexual anatomies (e.g. Cock, dick, cunt)
    • Sexual deviations (e.g. Motherfucker, cocksucker).
  • Profanity Or Blasphemy
    • Refer to religious terms
    • E.g.: Jesus christ or damn
  • Scatological And Disgusting Objects
    • Scatological and disgusting objects refer to feces (e.g. Crap),
    • Excretion organs (e.g. Asshole),
    • Excretion processes (e.g. Shitting)
    • Body products (e.g. Piss).
  • Animal Names
    • E.g.: bitch, monkey
  • Ethnic-Racial-Gender Slurs
    • E.g.: nigger, fag
  • Psychological-Physical-Social Deviations
    • E.g.: moron, pox, whore
  • Ancestral Allusions
    • Involve or relate to family relationships and ancestors
    • E.g.: son of a bitch, bastard
  • Substandard Vulgar Terms
    • Vulgar words of which the constructions are below the satisfactory standard of language
    • E.g.: on the rag, fart face
  • Offensive Slang
    • Refers to offensive substandard words that are invented to ease communication
    • E.g.: bang, suck

Finally, based on the model of swearing types proposed by Pinker (2010), there are five categories of using profanity. The categories are dysphemistic, abusive, idiomatic, emphatic, and cathartic (Pinker, 2010).

3.5.2 Questionnaire

The questionnaire was designed by the researcher to find the answer to some of the questions raised after analyzing the corpus; furthermore, it was designed to get the Malaysian perception of profanity. Consequently, to further support the strength of profanity among Malaysians, a questionnaire link in Google Form was distributed in Whatsapp Groups. The questionnaire was both adopted and adapted from Fagersten’s (2000) questionnaire; however, the questions in the questionnaire were also designed based on the literature search and the findings of primary data. The questionnaire consists of two different parts, the sample questionnaire is provided in Appendix B. Each part of the questionnaire will be analyzed separately in chapter 4.

  • Liked Facebook Page ‘Only in Malaysia’
  • Pilot Study
  • Get permission from the Admin
  • Observed comments in comment boxes
  • list according to Jay’s (2008) and Pinker’s (2010) model
  • Created database
  • Distributed Google form in Whatsapp groups

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Usage of Profanity by Malaysian Teenagers: Analytical Essay. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 26, 2023, from
“Usage of Profanity by Malaysian Teenagers: Analytical Essay.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022,
Usage of Profanity by Malaysian Teenagers: Analytical Essay. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 26 May 2023].
Usage of Profanity by Malaysian Teenagers: Analytical Essay [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 27 [cited 2023 May 26]. Available from:
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