Motivation for Research Students

Recently I led a workshop on motivation for PhD students at the University of Southampton as part of the Faculty of Humanities doctoral research training programme. While developing the workshop content and deciding what to include, I found it interesting and also useful reflecting back on my own motivation when I was a part-time PhD student. I remember it as very challenging – somewhat ironic really given that my thesis focused on motivation in language learning. Of course, the motivation for starting a PhD is not the same as the motivation required to get to the end – it’s important to make this distinction. The effort and persistence needed to keep going when the going gets tough can result in students losing sight of the reasons for embarking on the PhD in the first place. I know it was like that for me.

In the end, my workshop covered the reasons for doing a PhD and the benefits associated with it and we then looked at some of the principles that might be involved in keeping motivated to the end:

  • Managing your time
  • Looking after yourself
  • Knowing when and where you work best
  • Planning and managing tasks (including setting goals)
  • Collaborating with others
  • Engaging with the concept of flow
  • Developing strategies to help you through the tough times
  • Reminding yourself of why you are doing a PhD in the first place

My PowerPoint presentation from the workshop is available on Humbox


Social capital and modern language initiatives in times of policy uncertainty

Social capital and modern language initiatives in times of policy uncertainty is an article that I wrote with Hannah Doughty and Heather McGuinness and which has just been published in the Scottish Languages Review. We examined examples of bonding, bridging and linking social capital with references to policy initiatives in England and Scotland (it’s a comparative piece). This is an open access article.

I also wrote a piece for The Tablet Let Nation speak unto Nation about the decline in language learning in the UK and about the steps being taken by the Routes into Languages programme to address the decline.

The latest interesting Open Educational Resources (OERs)

This is a selection of recent OERs from the LanguageBox and Humbox. They cover a variety of themes including plagiarism, open educational resources, open access to languages research and getting employers involved in curriculum design

1             Plagiarism and Referencing

(Richard Galletly, Aston University)

This is a really useful presentation for anyone teaching first-year university students. It explains what plagiarism is, why students sometimes use it and how to avoid it. It also includes good advice for referencing and citing work.

2             Creating and sharing OERs through LanguageBox: a community-based repository

(Bianco Belgiorno-Appleyard, University of Southampton)

This presentation from the LLAS E-learning symposium is a helpful introduction to the FAVOR (Finding a Voice through Open Resources) Project, which provided training for language tutors to publish existing language teaching resources as OERs and to produce new digital materials.

3             No Open Learning without Open Access: a Portal for open access research into teaching modern languages

(John Canning, University of Southampton)

This presentation also comes from the E-learning symposium and is about the author’s journey in setting up an open access database of research articles related to teaching and learning modern languages. It is very useful for people who are interested in this research but who don’t work in universities

4       Piloting employer input into curriculum design

(Antonío Martínez-Arboleda, University of Leeds)

This is a very interesting take on OERs and is a presentation from a recent Higher Education Academy sponsored conference at the University of Leeds: Employability: Addressing the Gulf between Academic, Student and Employer Perspectives. It relates to findings from the OU SCORE Project and for more information on this, see Antonio’s other resource



Fascinating undergraduate research in languages, linguistics and area studies

I’ve just been reading the latest edition of Début, the undergraduate research journal for languages, linguistics and area studies and came across a fascinating piece of linguistics research by Emily Moline from the University of Florida

Moline has carried out a small research study on the use of uptalk by men and women in conversation. Uptalk refers to the tendency to use rising intonation (as in a question) at the end of a statement. It has previously been suggested that uptalk is a feature of young women’s talk and that it signals lack of confidence. Moline used participant-directed home recordings of conversations with three pairs (female, male, male & female) to investigate the following research questions:

  • Do women have higher uptalk usage?
  • How is uptalk used by men and women?

Her findings indicated that uptalk is used by speakers to signal that they would like to continue holding the floor so in effect, it is a way of extending the speaker’s turn. Interestingly, results did not show greater use of uptalk among female speakers – male speakers were found to use it too.

This was a small study and of course, more research would be needed to replicate findings but it is another very worthwhile piece of undergraduate research and is accessible online through Début.

My links of the week