Masters Q&A

Ah, the wonders of social media. Everything I talk about on here seems to come my way through Twitter or Facebook! Facebook, for this one – namely the Go Wales Facebook page.

Basically, if you’re a Cardiff student – or at any Welsh uni, really – Go Wales is amazing. They offer a huge amount of placements and internships, in really interesting industries, that offer grads and undergrads the chance to get properly stuck in with a project, rather than just make the tea! And most of them are paid, too. They also have a really good, relevant and industry-varied jobs board – great if you’re looking for work in Wales. (It does get the ‘Go West’ song stuck in my head whenever I say it, though…!)

Spotted on their Facebook page that they wanted to speak to a few MA students about their experiences for a piece in The Times. Exciting! (And also a v good potential networking opportunity!).

Her questions were interesting, and it was good to reflect on my last year studying. This is also quite timely as I get my results next week…!! It was a hard year, a really hard year. But overall, I do think it was worth it. Here are my responses, in case any of you are weighing up between taking the postgrad plunge or not. My advice would be, if it’s a subject you really love, and you’re prepared to work hard, go for it.

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1)    In a nutshell, can you explain what forensic linguistics is?

Forensic Linguistics essentially studies the use of language within the legal system. This is actually quite a lot broader than it may sound – we study everything from interaction in the courtroom between barristers and witness, to the wording and delivery of the police caution, the interviewing of vulnerable witnesses (such as young children or victims of sexual assault) and whether legislation should be simplified  for people without legal training to be able to understand it easily.

2) Why did you decide to do a Masters degree in general, and this subject specifically?

I wanted to do a Masters because I didn’t feel like I was ‘done’ with learning! I felt I wanted to do more, and this subject had really grabbed my interest during my degree. I studied it on a smaller scale for a module during my second year at university, and it completely fascinated me. When I looked into it I saw Cardiff were one of the very few institutions in the world to offer it as an MA course, and had very good links with respected academics in the field. My decision was also by the fact that, with the economic climate the way and particularly the graduate jobs market the way they are, I felt doing a Masters would help hone my skills further, and make me stand out against other applicants for jobs.

3) How are you funding your studies?

I am entirely self-funded. I was fortunate enough to be given some money towards my fees by my grandparents, and my parents help me to pay my rent. Everything else (food, bills, et cetera) I fund myself through part-time employment; I work at weekends and as much as I can during University holidays. Funding my studies has not been easy; I live off around £30-40 a week and I really hate the fact I have to ask my parents for money. However I hope it will be a worthy investment for my future.

4) Where do you hope it will lead in career terms, and are you opening doors that would have been closed without a Masters?

I want to go into PR. While Forensic Linguistics may not seem all that related to it, there are definitely some overlapping elements that I know will be useful to my future employment. For example, key areas of Forensic Linguistics are the effective and the persuasive use of communication. I am also focusing my thesis on the effective use of magazine articles in a nationwide crime prevention campaign, allowing me to combine my academic and career interests.

I really think my MA has opened doors, on a few different levels. While I got a good degree result (a high 2:1), it makes me stand out as someone hard-working, intelligent and committed to the communications field. Without this, I feel I would find it harder to distinguish myself. It has also allowed me to develop skills I learnt from my degree even further, such as working individually and as a research group, analytical skills and the strength of my written communication. It has also pushed me to expand my ‘softer’ skills set, as I balance lots of deadlines simultaneously, to tight deadlines and to a high standard – as well as working part-time and doing work experience with a local cancer charity. Researching and writing my thesis has allowed me to begin to explore the theoretical background to my chosen career path, and I would feel confident and excited to talk about the project in PR job interviews. I would also be unable to do a PhD, something I may come back to in a few years’ time, without having done my MA.

5) What have you enjoyed about being a Masters student, and what hasn’t been so good?

I have really enjoyed that it allowed me to keep on studying something I was so interested in. I have learnt so much, both in terms of the Forensic Linguistics field and in wider ‘life skills’! I’ve also really appreciated the greater academic freedom you are afforded as a postgraduate. As an undergraduate everything is closely regulated and assignment specifications are very strict. As an MA student you are really encouraged to bring your own ideas and your own interests, both research interests and otherwise, to your studies. For example we were told to start thinking about our thesis topics right from the beginning of the year, tailoring it either towards ‘a subject you were passionate about’ or ‘something you feel will be useful for your future career’. This is what lead me to my subject of a communication campaign. You have a better and a closer relationship with your tutors, due to the smaller class sizes, and more contact time.

The main thing that hasn’t been so good is the workload, and the monetary constraints. It is a HUGE step up from undergraduate level, and while I knew it would be before I started, it still took some getting used to. Deadlines often come at the end of the term, meaning you end up having to write multiple assignments simultaneously; this can be a lot of pressure! In terms of money, it is definitely hard, particularly being less able to go out and socialise. But getting through it and (hopefully!) doing well is something I’m really proud of.

6) Anything else you would like to add… anything goes!

Nothing really – while it’s been a challenge, it’s good to challenge yourself every once in a while, and I’m really glad I decided to do a Masters.

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