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Course content

This programme develops a theoretical and practical understanding of communication in legal settings, including methods of data collection and analysis and training in the examination of Forensic Linguistic evidence.

Overview

The MA in Forensic Linguistics is an innovative programme which provides you with theory and techniques to critically analyse the use of language in a variety of legal contexts, 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 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 MA 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;
  • a critical understanding of the work of linguists as advisers and activists on legal systems and settings.

This degree programme has two main aims:

  1. To introduce you to linguistic aspects of the criminal justice system including those which centre on policing and the courtroom whilst also looking to the surrounding legal system. The programme examines issues of justice, fairness and equality in law as they relate to language and communication.
  2. To explore the role of the linguist when interacting with legal and legislative systems by examining the actual or potential impact of linguistics (broadly defined) on criminal investigations and on legal activities and procedures. Here, we examine the work of expert witnesses and linguistic consultants on language and law and consider the opportunities and challenges inherent in research for each purpose.

Distinctive features

  • This innovative programme is the longest running Master's level course on a forensic linguistic topic in the world. It is well-established and internationally recognised.
  • The Centre for Language and Communication Research has a strong reputation in a broad range of teaching and research areas, alongside forensic linguistics, including sociolinguistics, discourse analysis, multimodality, health communication, systemic functional grammar, phonology, corpus linguistics and language education. 
  • You will become involved in the lively research culture in forensic linguistics.
  • You will come into contact with many staff on the forensic linguistics programme who bring expertise on a wide range of forensic topics.
  • As well as undertaking taught modules, you will also have the opportunity to undertake a practical module where you will work on an authentic research project on a forensic linguistic topic. This will provide you with experience of research work, team working and collaboration and an opportunity to hone your research abilities.

Learning and assessment

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.

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.


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

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