January Update

Hello! Now that we’re well into the new year I thought it was time for an update on the recent happenings in CASS-world. Today is the end of the first week of Term 2 as an MA student of Language and Linguistics at Lancaster University, as well as Research Student at CASS. As was evident last term I’ve had a healthy dose of both lives and it seems there’s plenty more to come in 2014.

Recent project happenings

In my mid-term update back in November I described the work I had started, and was planning to work on, to submit as my Term 1 MA assignments. I’m pleased to say that on the most part I stuck to my plans and deliberately worked on a diverse selection of linguistic research. I finished my corpus-assisted analysis of the press representation of Muslim people and Islam after the Woolwich attack in good time to get my metaphor in wrestling commentary paper completely finished before the Christmas holidays too. Dare I say the latter was a fun bit of work that required hours of watching and re-watching wrestling videos on YouTube as well as about a week of office time coding lines of data in a spreadsheet. I’m hoping that it paid off and showed that there’s more to pro-wrestling than necessarily meets the eye!

The only assignment which threw a curve-ball was my sociolinguistic plan to invade Lancaster’s coffee shops and listen to the ways in which people ordered drinks. It turned out to be too difficult to carry out properly in the time I had left over Christmas so I opted to start preparing for my MA dissertation by writing a bit of a sociolinguistically-informed design. Not quite as exciting as coffee but at least it’s given me a head start with thinking about the work I’ll be doing for the rest of the year.

Current happenings

After a lovely two week break at home in sunny Newcastle I got cracking on some more independent research with Tony for Muslim media awareness group iEngage. This time we were asked to look at the depiction of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets in the British press over the last five years. This was a much bigger task than the Woolwich research simply because of the much wider time span and, subsequently, much larger corpus. I was working with nearly 6 million words of press reports which was the most data I’ve worked with so far! Hopefully, like the last, the results will be useful to those who are interested in them.

Currently I’m starting to get into my MA dissertation work and reading up on all things corpus linguistics. I’m doing a double credit dissertation which means that, instead of doing another 3 modules for credit this term (like last term) I’m starting my dissertation now which will take me all the way through until mid-August. This is the largest single piece of work I’ve had to do so far and will surely be good preparation for the ever-looming PhD which I can now say I begin later this year! How things are moving so quickly.

Other tidbits

  • Just before Christmas I got to go back to my old high school to give a talk to the A-level English Language students there. It was great to go back and to chat to the students about their plans for their imminent departure from high school life. What was great to see was that they had covered a little bit about corpus linguistics in one of their lessons, which I certainly don’t remember from when I studied English Language there!
  •  The next day I was back in Lancaster to give a talk to some students at the Management School here at the University – I had been asked to talk about the process of writing a dissertation; however being from a completely different discipline I found myself saying very little about my own undergraduate dissertation and more generally about time management and stress reduction.

Overall it’s been nice to get stuck into a few different projects and feel like I’m developing more with everything I do. I think this term and especially, at this stage, the conference in Hong Kong, will be an early test of how I’m coming along with the transition towards being an independent researcher. I’m in quite a unique position at the moment in that I am straddling between the student life that I have known for the last three years at Lancaster and this new, more professionally oriented, lifestyle. I think that come next year I will be much more settled into this new role but I must be honest in saying for now it does all feel a little odd. I’m sure that as time goes on, and I get even busier in the world of corpus linguistics, things will feel a lot more clear.

Until next time!

4 comments

  1. Most people I’ve heard in Starbucks use “Can I get?”. It seems as though whenever America sneezes, we still catch a cold. Rest assured, you’re in a unique position, not ‘quite unique’. Quite literally. *smiles*

    Hearty congratulations Rob. I’d love to read your work at some point. By the way, what’s a ‘curve ball’?

  2. Indeed! I was more interested in the choices people made as to whether they ordered sizes in English (small, medium or large) or if they said the non-English sizes displayed on the menus (tall, grande, venti) – but it was far too loud in there and I ran out of energy to pursue it. What do you reckon is more popular? I’d guess the English which intuitively would be unsurprising but trying to find out WHY there’s a pattern one way or the other would be more interesting. Never mind, maybe one day I’ll do it or someone else can.

    Certainly – I’ll send you a couple of drafts of recent stuff I’ve been working – I think I have your gmail address from the WordPress “you have a new comment” emails I get.

    I used ‘curve ball’ basically to mean an unexpected problem occurred which forced me to change plans.

  3. Thanks Rob. My apologies for still sounding like a teacher. You’re far brighter than me in these departments, and a damned good read too. I knew what a ‘curve ball’ was, right from the ‘get-go’, I just didn’t expect you to use that expression. So I guess that was quite a curve ball you threw. Actually there are a lot of baseball terms used in the English language. I’ve even heard our football punters and commentators talking about ‘stepping up to the plate’. Odd innit?

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