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Report on the methodology workshop for PhD Students


Methodology workshop, Queens' College, 16 May 2013

With no recipe or guidebook for designing and undertaking interdisciplinary research, the aim of this workshop was to delve deeper into this concept and provide a starting point for PhD students working in the field of language who are interested in cross-disciplinary work. Designed by, and for doctoral students, the event took place at Queens’ college and consisted of three sessions: introductions and networking, keynote talks and moderated group discussions. The workshop generated significant interest and was attended by 23 graduate students from Theoretical and Applied Linguistics, Psychology, Education, Divinity, Music, Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, and from the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit. 

The talks of our invited speakers, Professor Robert Foley (Department of Archaeology and Anthropology), Dr. Joanne Taylor (MRC, Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit) and Mr. Andrew Thwaites (Neurolex Group, Department of Psychology) provided tasters of 3 very different interdisciplinary projects. After the talks the moderated group discussions focused on research methodology as a starting point for achieving an interdisciplinary research design.  The participants were prompted to start their discussion by considering  how interdisciplinary in nature their own projects were, whether the research methods employed for their projects could be used in a different language research field, and whether they would be able to design an interdisciplinary project themselves. Finally, conclusions were drawn regarding what interdisciplinary research actually is, and what the difference is between, for example, cross-disciplinary research compared to multi-disciplinary research.  The discussions were generally lively with everyone keen to share their ideas and debate with the others. On one of the three discussion tables, encouraged by Professor Robert Foley, the participants even managed to design an interdisciplinary project as a hands-on activity. This outcome was met with great enthusiasm by the participants as it demonstrated that interdisciplinary projects are a palpable possibility.

Overall, the event was successful. The participants agreed that the talks were useful, that they had ample discussion time and they enjoyed the benefits which the small group discussions afforded.  Over half of the participants deemed the workshop as useful for their research and despite not being the main aim, some participants even made some valuable contacts. Finally, all the participants felt that the event was stimulating and fun.

As a way to build on the positive results of this event, a follow-up Cambridge Language Sciences workshop could focus on designing an interdisciplinary research under the guidance of a senior University member.

Roxana Herescu (Faculty of Education)

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