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Check out the research

All the rankings in this feature are based on the results of the REF 2021 and all the results are based either on research done in one department or case studies based on projects
they have undertaken.

If you’re interested in a research-informed MA, you can start by checking the subjects a university covers in the degree, including the names of the options they offer – psycholinguistics, for example.

There are different ways of approaching psycholinguistics: at corpus universities like Liverpool, they concentrate on second language acquisition, which is how a second language is learned and represented in the mind. At linguistics-based universities like Essex, they add in the neuroscience on how the brain processes language. Meanwhile at Birkbeck, they research the impact of positive psychology on language learning.

The question is: which approach to psycholinguisics suits you?

The REF results are not only based on published research, but also on the case studies
of projects undertaken in the real world and measured for impact.

Case study: University of Liverpool

A great example is the work at Liverpool, where David Oakey focuses on what he calls circular research. The research informs the teaching, the teaching informs the projects and the results feed back into the research.

He gives me a simple example. Forty percent of the students of a local school have English as a second language, which creates problems when it comes to communicating with parents, many of whom barely speak English at all. The schools asked Liverpool for help.

Liverpool is a corpus university and focuses on areas like corpus linguistics discourse analysis, formulaic language and second language acquisition. “It’s in our academic DNA,” says David.

So, the first thing they asked for was example texts. A collection of school-to-parents communications was inputted and subjected to corpus analysis, which showed that the language used was corporate, formulaic and, when checked against the Cambridge English Profile, at least B1-B2 on the CEFR. Parents were not told their child had failed maths. Instead they were informed they “had not met target performance expectations in the subject”.

When they analysed spoken text they found “the teachers had adopted the same corporate language”. Unable to change the language of the school, Liverpool hit upon a plan to teach the parents to understand it with a syllabus based on the corpus of texts. The teaching
assistants drawn from the novice teachers on the Liverpool MATESOL observed and were supported by the more experienced teachers on the MA in Applied Linguistics for TESOL. That’s what I call impact.

Melanie Butler
Melanie Butler
Melanie started teaching EFL in Iran in 1975. She worked for the BBC World Service, Pearson/Longman and MET magazine before taking over at the Gazette in 1987 and also launching Study Travel magazine. Educated in ten schools in seven countries, she speaks fluent French and Spanish and rather rusty Italian.
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