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Course content

Our innovative Forensic Linguistics programme offers the theory and techniques to critically analyse the use of language in a variety of legal contexts. You will learn to critically evaluate expert testimony on forensic matters and to consider the role of expertise in legal systems more generally.

You will receive a grounding in research methods and issues and debates in forensic linguistics. You will acquire tools for evaluating and examining a range of legal language in relation to issues such as power and comprehensibility. You will also develop skills in research and writing at higher degree level and learn to engage with the legal system as a site of social life where important decisions are made through language.

On successful completion of the programme you will have achieved the following outcomes:

• the application of descriptive data analysis skills in a wide range of spoken and written discourse contexts within the legal process, including emergency calls, police interviews, courtroom interaction, judicial judgments;

• a critical understanding of investigative data analysis skills in both spoken and written discourse contexts, including such areas as disputed authorship and plagiarism detection;

• critical understanding of the work of linguists as advisers and activists on legal systems and settings.

Structure

Students can complete either a PGDip or an MA in Forensic Linguistics. Both courses can be completed in year by full-time study or 2 years by part-time study.

• PGDip core modules:

Forensic Linguistics I
Forensic Linguistics II
Foundation Module: Core Skills, Principles, and Issues Involved in Language and Communication Research
Project in Forensic Linguistics

• PGDip optional modules:

Language Description
Discourse and Social Interaction
Current Issues in Sociolinguistics
Phonology
Qualitative Research Methods
Quantitative Research Methods
Text and Social Context
Second Language Development and Pedagogy

• MSc core modules:

Same modules as PGDip PLUS dissertation of between 14,000 and 20,000 words.

• MSc optional modules:

Same modules as PGDip

Teaching

Core knowledge and understanding is delivered via lectures and small-group seminars.

The teaching for core modules combines discussion of theoretical issues and practical challenges raised by the forensic setting, while the teaching for optional modules provides further theoretical discussion with some focus on the development of practical research skills. Sessions rely on your good preparation.

Core knowledge and understanding are also delivered via one-to-one or very small group supervision of individual projects. Intellectual Skills are promoted via lectures, seminars and group discussions, as well as small-group supervision and guidance for research undertaken in a small, team research project.

The learning activities will vary from module to module as appropriate, but will usually include interactive discussions of prepared texts/topics and, in some cases, student-led presentations.

Encouraged to explore our excellent library resources, you are expected to undertake preparation including wide-ranging reading to enable full participation.

Assessment

The programme will be assessed by such means as essays, data analyses, critical reviews, posters and oral presentation. Emphasis in assessment is placed on critical and conceptual sophistication as well as on the production of clear, persuasive and scholarly work presented in a professional manner and submitted on time.

Formative work is offered for one of the modules, in which you may undertake forms of assessment that may be new to you. Other modules offer a series of assignments with the express intention that you might learn cumulatively. Elsewhere, you are encouraged to consult the relevant module leader on the main ideas and plans for your assignments.

Modules are assessed on the basis of analytical descriptions of texts or other media and/or discursive essays. You will be encouraged to choose your own texts for analysis, or even to collect original data, and to relate your analyses to areas of personal interest or experience.

Career prospects

Graduates have gone on to further study (e.g. a PhD or law degree) or have pursued careers in a number of relevant areas such as policing, the courts and Government as well as careers in areas without a forensic connection.

Employers for graduates from this programme include: local government departments, police forces, secondary schools, language schools, universities, banks, solicitors and utility companies.

Career destinations include: crime intelligence analyst, crime analyst, specialist police interviewer, emergency call handler, lawyer, lecturer, teacher, programme administrator, research assistant, PR executive, marketing executive and writer.

Graduates from this programme also move on to non-legal careers and find that the legal and linguistic focus of their studies provides their employers with something a little unusual. Graduates in the job market have also benefited from the training in processing and using information thoughtfully, writing effectively and speaking convincingly which is essential to good postgraduate study.

Placements

We encourage students to make contact with local organisations in order to explore the opportunity of short placements. We provide work experience through the project module where you will work on an authentic research project.

Visit the Forensic Linguistics MA/PgDip page on the Cardiff University website for more details!

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