Manchester and Salford New Researchers Forum in Linguistics – Careers Panel

Contributor: Claire

Two weekends ago  I attended ‘Manchester and Salford New Researchers Forum in Linguistics’, or, ‘#mancsafil’ as it was known on the social networking communities. I was a little daunted when I arrived as being one of only three graduates, who were not currently on postgraduate study but felt welcomed and accepted by all. The one aspect, apart from the research of course, is the networking and meeting people who are enthusiastic as you about your field.

After not encountering much Linguistics in the past 6 months, since graduating as I am focusing my attention towards Speech and Language Therapy, it was quite lovely to indulge in some of my favourite fields of linguistics, namely phonetics, phonology, sociophonetics and sociolinguistics!

This post  focuses on the outcomes of the Careers panel, consisting of the plenary speakers, all either recently finished their PhD, or in the finishing stages, and with recent teaching positions. Sam Kirkham (Lancaster University), Ingrid Lossius Falkum (Post Doctoral fellow at the University of Oslo), Laurel MacKenzie (University of Manchester), and George Walkden (University of Manchester) all discussed their experiences in job applications, interviews, publications, publishing PhD work, Conferences, Post Docs and Lectureships.

I must reinforce that this post is based on notes written two weeks ago – if I have gotten something wrong, it’s probably due to my bad handwriting and bad note-taking abilities, if anything should be changed or I’ve represented things incorrectly – please contact me!

How to present your PhD and long term future research while applying for jobs

George: Your future research should feed on from your PhD, but not directly

Laurel: There’s always unanswered questions that stem from your research, or others ways you could address your research question.

Sam: You should have a balance between short and long-term research aims, so that you have something concrete that you can achieve in the not so distant future.

Ingrid: Her PhD concentrated on polysemy, and as its such a huge subject, you cannot consider covering it all at once, you should always be looking for the next step.

Laurel: You should have plans for future work. Not for the rest of your life but where you want to go in the next few years. You should look at the broader implications of your study.

Sam: Had lots of ideas throughout PhD -> keep them for future research

Laurel: Keep a research journal and future project ideas.

George: had some insane and some brilliant ideas, he got some other publications out during his PhD because he couldn’t concentrate on one, but they were all related to his PhD somehow.

Laurel: If your PhD is not done while applying, you should have some concrete, just write something, like a chapter or a related topic, in a paper and send it somewhere, so at least you can say that it is under review.


Sam: Completing a PhD would be quicker without any publications, however he made a planned effort to submit a journal article to get a publication out and leave his PhD a little longer. He used his masters as a source for publication.

George: Getting something published takes a long time, he submitted something in the summer of 2010, and it is being published in Summer 2013, you may not hear anything for 6 months to a year.

Ingrid: You need one publication at least in the job market.

Sam: He made an effort not to go to a journal, but to go for  special issue, because it was quicker.

Publishing PhD Work

Laurel: would write working papers, then turn it into a chapter and then turn it into a conference article and then an expanded chapter.

George: Would write two standalone articles and turn them into chapters and then fit it into the grand scheme of the PhD.

Ingrid: Working papers are good – you’re forced to write a paper and then you make it into a chapter.

George: Working papers are not ideal, as they are not recognised everywhere, but you can get your research down and start to get recognised.


Sam: went to too many conferences and submitted a lot of undergraduate and Master’s work, and because it was all so different, people thought that he did different things. It’s not always helpful to resent.

George: If he hadn’t gone to conferences and networked, he wouldn’t have gotten his teaching job. You should ask yourself: what am I getting out of this conference?

Laurel: Her CV has formal and theoretical conferences, but also sociolinguistic conferences, it’s good to cross boundaries.

Sam: agrees with Laurel.

Ingrid: Went to too many conferences, but found it better to go to specialist conferences, because you get much better feedback.

George: Suggests going to LAGB because it gives you a landscape of the job market, and other research, also an excellent place to network and cross discipline.

Job Application Process

Laurel: Each job has different requirements. Regarding statements, you need to sit down, write down everything and then find your theme – the basis of a research statement should have a unifying theme.

Sam: You should have a consistent agenda, who you are and how it relates to your teaching and how you would fit into the university you’re applying to. There should be a coherent and consistent thread.

Ingrid: (regarding her post doctorate research proposal) she wrote different research proposals and contacted the staff, and collaborated together on a unified Research Proposal. It should be inline with staff interests.

Interview Process

Laurel: Used a lot of resources – careers centres etc., did a lot of research, didn’t do a practice interview, but wrote out answers to typical interview questions – LSA tips for job seekers, sample questions.

George: Questions he had: ‘Tell us your main ideas you’ve been researching and how can they be falsified?’, ‘How would you spend a grant?’, if all your work is in one theoretical framework: ‘what other frameworks could you use and how?’

Laurel: You’re asked, ‘Could you teach this’; do researching on funding groups, and what kind of money you could realistically get.

Sam: Was asked to give a teaching demonstration

Ingrid: Research the background of the committee members. Questions about a Research Proposal might be, ‘how would you do this from this point of view’, and it would be the point of view of one of the committee members.

Sam: Be realistic with timescales, such as when asked, ‘when will you finish you PhD’. Think about how you would prepare undergraduate and postgraduate work. What would you teach? Check what is on offer.

There were some questions asked and answers given, but notes on this part are even more wishy-washy!



Choosing University Courses

Contributor: Claire

As so many prospective undergraduates head off to university this September, we must turn back to those who are about to embark on the daunting process that is UCAS, and also those who are about to embark on preparing for postgraduate study for September 2013.

I’m currently looking at postgraduate courses which will train me as a Speech Therapist, there are eight courses and even though I have a good idea what I’m looking for, it really doesn’t get much easier.

I was asked to talk to a family friend’s daughter who is embarking on the UCAS process, this experience inspired me to write this post – while I wait for an influx of more relevant posts. The main advice I gave her: Study what you enjoy.

I was originally going to study maths at university, but ended up enjoying my English Language A2 far more and changed my mind last minute, and boy am I glad I did change. Generally, you’re going to do much better in something you enjoy, mainly due to the fact that you’ll put much more effort into your course, which is seriously needed as there is a very large element of self study in any university course.

So when you’ve chosen your subject, to weed out the right course for you, there are several aspects of the course/university you’ll want to look for:

1. Modules: These will vary so much between university courses, mainly due to staff and their specialities. This is particularly relevant in third year, because the modules will be based upon these specialities. Again, choose what you enjoy/are interested in, for similar reasons above. Most universities will list the names of the modules, try emailing them for more information on the content – makes you look interested in the course and gets your name into the department.

2. Staff: Researching the staff is really important for the above reasons, if you do some reading on your subject outside your course, you might find the author teaches or is affiliated at a particular uni, such as David Crystal at Bangor, though this should not be considered your only reason to get onto a course! Additionally when it comes to writing your dissertation, its great to have a member of staff of which your subject is their speciality.

3. Facilities: Especially if you’re doing a more piratical course, the facilities the university offer in your department can open doors, and really enhance learning.

4. Research: More relevant for prospective postgraduates, but still quite important. The research that is happening in that particular department can give an idea of the sort of area emphases there will be on your course, such as at UWE we have the Bristol Centre of Linguistics – which also gives weekly term time talks from visiting linguists but one of their areas of research is second language acquisition, and within the course during my 3 years, I had the opportunity to take two EFL based modules.

5. Contact Time and Course Structure: This information is the least easy to find, and you will probably have to email the department to find out, but this is very important, especially as university fees have risen, as you want to make sure you get the most from your money. You don’t want to get to the course and find out that you are only seeing your tutors eight hours a week. Additionally if you’re not very good at exams, it might be worth looking at more practical courses with a higher percentage of coursework, or vice versa.

6. Societies and Extra Curricular: As I have endeavoured to express with this website, it’s not all about the study these days, and more about the experiences you’ve thrown yourself into. Having a university with a great subject related society can be really enriching to your studies, help you make friends more easily with your peers. Additionally if you can’t make up your mind what to study, you can join a society relevant to your previous interests, enlarging your social groups, while being able to hold on! There are also many societies which can fit great alongside your course, such as the large number of sign language societies across UK universities.

The most important thing to remember, is if you want to go to university if you throw yourself into life and your course, generally wherever you end up you will enjoy it. Personally, I ended up going through clearing after my previous offers had been declined, and it has been the best thing that ever happened to me 🙂

If anyone else wants to contribute on what they think makes a great university course, or if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to write below!