Researching Interdisciplinary Discourse
Susan Hunston (University of Birmingham)
Wednesday 13th February 2019
This talk reports on a project designed to identify what is special about the language used in research articles in the field of environmental science, particularly in journals identified as ‘interdisciplinary’. The methods used in the project range from genre analysis of individual texts, through studies of individual words and phrases using concordancing software, to more quantitative, technical approaches to corpus data such as multi-dimensional analysis and topic modelling.
The findings point to two main conclusions. Firstly, researchers who write for an interdisciplinary journal bring with them the practices of their own discipline. As a consequence, interdisciplinary journals incorporate a variety of such practices in comparison with monodisciplinary journals. Secondly, researchers in this field, as in all fields, construct their identity in their discourse. This identity can be more or less interdisciplinary and can be ‘conciliatory’ or ‘antagonistic’ in its stance towards other disciplines.
Carrying out this project has raised many questions for us, including: What data should we collect? What methods should we use to analyse it? What does it all mean and does it matter? In the talk I shall give a sense of how these questions were approached as well as what we think the answers are. The talk is therefore about how a project of this kind comes about as well as what it finds.