Volume 4 now available
- All change at Debut by John Canning
- Antigemination as thematic distinction by Gwilym Lockwood
- Variation in case governance with the preposition by Katarina Martinovic
Volume 4 now available
The last volume of Début: the undergraduate journal of languages, linguistics and area studies I will edit is going online in the next week or so. I thought I'd share a bit of my editorial.
Editorial: All change at Début
Final-year projects and dissertations (FYPD) undertaken by students at the end of their Bachelor degree courses are a topic of current interest in many countries. It is timely to reassert the importance of FYPD and to rethink their role in the curriculum as the context of higher education changes. (Healy et al 2013).
Every year thousands of undergraduates undertake a final year project, an independent study or some other form of original research. Most of this research is never seen by anyone outside the student's own department. I don't know if a copy of my own undergraduate dissertation still exists somewhere in depths of Aberystwyth University. I think I had my own copy, if it survives it is probably in my parents' attic. As far as I know it was not read by anyone other than those who marked it. I can't recall receiving any feedback on it, except the mark which was printed alongside the results of my other modules.
I don't regard the non-publication of my own undergraduate work as a great loss to the world. In contrast I regard setting up Début : the undergraduate journal of languages, linguistics and area studies which enables others to publish their undergraduate work as one of my major achievements. Undergraduate (and recently graduated) authors have received feedback on their work from academics outside their own institutions. They have revised their work and made great work even better.
This is my final edition as Debut Editor. I would like to thank all the authors, reviewers, colleagues at LLAS in Southampton, and colleagues all over the world who have urged their students to submit their work to Début : the undergraduate journal of languages, linguistics and area studies 4 (2013)
Without all these people Début would not be possible.
From September 2013 Billy Clark, Senior Lecturer in English Language at Middlesex University will be taking over as editor.
I look forward to seeing Début prosper under Billy's leadership and wish him all the best.
Healey M., L.Lannin, A, Stibbe and J. Derounian (2013) Developing and enhancing undergraduate final year projects and dissertations. York: Higher Education Academy. Available from: http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/projects/detail/ntfs/ntfsproject_Gloucestershire10
|Guest Editorial: Lessons I Have Learnt from Writing and Publishing in Début||83|
|Uptalk in Context||85|
|Replicating Oliphant's Saussurean Simulations||101|
|Instructions for authors||119|
As part of my Fellowship of the Staff and Educational Development Association I have to write an annual review of what I have been doing and what I’ve learnt and what I plan to do for the future. We are then alloated 'triads' of other fellows and we will comment on each other's reports. I wanted to do something a bit different year as we don't have to submit as a written report. I couldn't think how I might do it differently, so I decided to make my report public, crowdsource my professional development I suppose.
This year has been the most challenging of my career so far. Last year the Higher Education Academy took the decision to withdraw funding from its 24 subject centres. The decision focused my mind somewhat. What had we achieved as a team in the lifetime of the subject centre? Where were we going to go from here? More crucially what had I achieved in the eight years I had been part of the team? Where was I going?
Subject centres, LLAS at least, was very much a we organisation. This was great on one level, but I had found it increasingly difficult to distinguish myself from subject centre. I have also learnt a lot about how people see subject centre staff, and I don’t always like it. In 2010 I wrote a short piece for the Teaching in Higher Education about the identity of subject centre staff in the educational development community. The anonymous referee was adamant that subject centre academic coordinators are essentially administrators though one or two do some good pedagogic work (we need adminstrators of course, but I sensed very negative undertones in the reviewer's use of the word). I wanted to raise awareness about the job I did and somebody seemed to be suggesting that I had misinterpreted my own job. The reviewer said that he/she was a member of a subject centre advisory board—my first response was that I hoped they weren’t on our advisory board. I have always wanted to be taken seriously as an academic. I'm not sure that I am.
As the 2010-11 academic year drew to a close my angst increased. Our director did some good work in persuading the powers at be in Southampton that it was worth keeping LLAS work going as an independent unit—another opportunity though painful reflection was involved too. Who were we? Could we continue as we were? (How) would we have to change? The team, which had grown through Routes into Languages and Links into Languages would have to be much smaller. We had to reapply for our jobs. I was fortunate in this process, but lost a day of week of hours. We still had some funding from the HEA, but we needed to start charging for the sorts of activity which used to be free or low cost. And we had to start getting the funding in to keep going.
What have I done this year? What have I learnt?
The LLAS work
One of the challenges with the subject centre goings on has not been the changes which have taken place, but the continuity. As usual I organised and participated in workshops for Heads of Department, a workshop for new academic staff and a workshop on sustainable development in the humanities. I have received funding from the British Academy to produce an online statistics books for humanities students under the Academy’s Languages and Quantitative Skills Programme. I have long been dissatisfied with statistics textbooks. In my opinion they explain too little and assume that the reader will take concepts such as the normal distribution as an article of faith. The book uses the sorts of examples that humanities students will use such as historical and population data. I hope that by providing a more verbal resonating approach the book will help students (and academics) who find quantitative data difficult to deal with.
I edited two further editions of Debut: the undergraduate journal of languages, linguistics and area studies. In the latest issue my editorial reflects on the concept of publishing undergraduate research, how good it needs to be and how undergraduates journals help students to complete the research cycle. I am also part of LLAS’s EU-funded Sharing Practice in Enhancing and Assuring Quality(SPEAQ) project which, in my view at least, seeks to allow students and academics to reclaim ‘quality’ for themselves. I often feel that the term ‘quality’ has become increasingly associated with ‘tick-box’ approach to teaching which has little, if anything to do with the learning experience. We have developed a workshop to enable students, lecturers and quality managers to come together to reflect on the concept of quality.It has been interesting to learn about the experiences of academics from other countries who are our partners in the project.
I also headed up the organisation of the main LLAS biennial conference, the first of the post-HEA era. This year it was called 'Language Futures' and was held in Edinburgh.
One of my first tasks of the 2011-12 academic year was to provide maternity cover for my colleague Lisa who was coordinating the HEA’s Islamic Studies Network. As a non-expert in the field I knew this would be challenging, but with the closure of the subject centres most team members left the project too. Lisa was kind enough to draw up a plan of what had been done and what needed to be done. My main task was to begin the post-Islamic Studies Network (funding is about to end) sustainability plan. I drew up the consultation questionnaire over the Christmas period and we received over 50 responses. Now that Lisa is back this work is her capable hands and it looks likely some sort of scholarly association for Islamic Studies will be formed in the near future. I was fortunate to be able to draw on the wisdom and enthusiasm of the Advisory Board members.
Other University of Southampton work
I have been part of the University of Southampton’s participation in Green Academy, a scheme run by the Higher Education Academy to support institutions in embedding sustainability in the curriculum and overall life of the institution. One of the key achievements of our participation is that we have secured funding for full time programme assistant who is working on embedding sustainability into the CORE (curriculum, operations, research, experience) of the University of Southampton.
I will also be involved in teaching on a new Southampton-wide module: Sustainability in the Local and Global Environment. As in previous years I have also contributed sessions on employability and writing book reviews to the Faculty of Humanities Doctoral Training Programme.
The entrepreneurial John
I have used my 'non-working' time to develop skills in new areas. I have developed a website in Drupal called yazikopen a portal for open access research into learning and teaching modern languages. This has been a steep learning curve on the technical side of things as I do not have a background in web development. I am pleased that the website is functional, but I would like to work out ways to grow the website and see if there is any way enabling the website to generate revenue to cover its costs. I have also been being doing some freelance work and hope to develop further in this area.
At LLAS I am again organising a workshop for Heads of Department which will focus on the growing sources of public information about teaching in higher education (e.g. National Student Survey, Key Information Set etc.). I will also be putting in bids for various projects. I would like to continue development of the yazikopen website and will look for further freelancing opportunities.
I also hope to have a say in the open access debate. If true open access is to become a reality universities have a greater role to play in academic publishing.
I have spent this afternoon editing the next volume of Debut: the undergraduate journal of languages, linguistics and area studies. I am pleased that the journal has kept going and is now in its fifth edition.
Many colleagues complain that students do not like putting effort into work that does not count towards their degree. Much of the work submitted to Debut is based upon assessed work (I know this because they don’t always remove the lecturer name and course number). In most cases the student will have received a good mark (they often tell me this when they submit) and in some cases their lecturer has suggested they submit their work to Debut.
Their work is then reviewed by an academic in another institution who makes comments and recommends whether or not the work should be published in Debut. Few of these students, if any, will have experienced this double-blind review process. It is daunting enough for those of us with experience but for undergraduate students this is unknown territory. Last year I conducted a small-scale consultation on whether Debut should maintain the review process. I was fairly surprised that those who responded said that the review process should be kept.
After five issues I have the following thoughts and observations on Debut and undergraduate research in general.
I believe that discussions of academic publishing should be included in any undergraduate degree. Detractors might see it as ‘another thing to teach’, but surely an awareness of the process by which the articles and books they read came to be published must be seen as essential. Lecturers often complain about students citing unreliable sources in their essays and teaching them how to identify a good and bad source. However, a better, more detailed understanding of the process of academic publication may be a better way forward than teaching students to use context to discriminate between sources.
This is a draft version of the my forthcoming editorial for Début: the undergraduate journal of languages, linguistics and area studies. I have published it here as I think it is of wider interest than the LLAS community. Are there some topics undergraduates should simply not attempt?
Are some topics intrinsically too difficult for undergraduate students to write about? This question has been raised in some form by two reviewers in the past few months where a student has submitted a paper to the undergraduate journal Début which either engages with very complex ideas or attempts to challenge a well-established theory and offer an alternative. Should scholars lay off trying to dismantle received wisdom and attempting to make theoretical breakthroughs during their undergraduate education? Can undergraduate researchers genuinely advance the discipline? One might argue that if an idea is really good enough to be taken seriously by the academic community it is good enough to be published in a journal which is not restricted to undergraduates.
One of the most memorable incidents of my own academic career took place as an undergraduate. I was in a tutorial with a professor and three other students. I can’t remember what the trigger was, but he turned to one of my fellow tutees and responded, “You may be cleverer than me, but I have been reading this stuff for the past fifteen years.” He pointed to the books by Marx on his bookshelf and told us how difficult it was to really understand Marx, notably because his output was so enormous. If you wish to really understand something you have to do a lot of reading – that takes time.
But should a lack of time to read the entire literature prevent publication in an undergraduate journal such as Début? When we ask people to review for Début we send them a form which reminds them that this is an undergraduate journal and that their expectations should take account of this. Some reviewers feel that certain topics should not be attempted at all. Others suggest that well thought out and plausible arguments and theories developed by undergraduates should be published, irrespective of whether or not the arguments are fully polished or the writer does not have a full grasp of the existing literature or that their ideas would not make publication in a non-undergraduate journal.
Although undergraduate journals have become increasingly popular in recent years expectations remain unclear. In the first Début editorial in spring 2010 I conceived of the aims of the journal as follows:
Début not only aims to showcase existing research and scholarship — it is also a form of training for the aspiring academic. Whatever its advantages and limitations peer review forms an important part of the process by which academic knowledge comes into being – it is perhaps a matter of concern therefore that many students graduate unaware of how the articles which appear in journals came to be there. The articles in this first volume are “first class” essays made even better. (Canning 2010: ii).
Début is a fifth issue is a useful time to return to the aims and objectives of the journal, but equally importantly a good time to remind ourselves of what Début is not. Début was and still is an undergraduate journal. Undergraduate journals complete the research cycle for undergraduate students giving them an outlet for their work familiarising them with the (imperfect) peer review process (Walkington in Corbyn 2008). I hope that everyone who publishes in Début benefits from the process and that readers enjoy the articles.
I sincerely hope that some of today’s Début contributors will become academic stars of the future. What we see in Début today may be the beginnings of paradigm-shifting work for the future.
Canning, J. (2010) Editorial: Introducing Début: Début: the undergraduate journal of language linguistics and area studies 1.1 pp. i-ii
Corbyn, Z. (2008) Let students enjoy the power of print. Times Higher Education, 7 August 2008.