Investigating Interdisciplinary Research Discourse: the case of Global Environmental Change

Project Details


In cooperation with the international scientific publisher, Elsevier, we will investigate the discourse of interdisciplinary research (IDR) through comprehensive and innovative linguistic analyses of the full holdings of a successful IDR journal, 'Global Environmental Change'. This analysis will be complemented by linguistic analyses of samplings of five other IDR journals and five discipline-specific journals, and by surveys of, and interviews with editors, reviewers and researchers.

We aim to find out whether the discourse of IDR journals shows particularities that distinguish it from discipline-specific research journals in terms of linguistic features and of how writers position themselves in relation to their readership, and to other researchers. We also aim to describe change over time, to see whether the discourse features change as the interdisciplinary field becomes more established. We address these questions using corpus linguistic and interpretive research methods.

Layman's description

Academic disciplines are sometimes described as using ‘different languages’. An economist might use very different language from a biologist, for example. But what happens when these researchers publish in journals aimed at interdisciplinary audiences? And what happens as interdisciplinary fields, such as Environmental Studies, emerge? Looking at the language involved can tell us a lot about how disciplines can work together to solve the world’s problems.

Dr Paul Thompson and Professor Susan Hunston, in the Department of English, have secured funding from the ESRC for a two year research project that aims to identify the distinctive features of discourse practices in interdisciplinary research and determine how they differ from discourse practices in conventional disciplines. They will look at these across time, to see whether discourse practices change as a field becomes more established, and as an interdisciplinary community develops.

Working in collaboration with the scientific journal publisher Elsevier, they will build a corpus of the entire holdings of the journal 'Global Environmental Change', along with two other corpora that they will use for comparison: one containing samples of research articles from five other interdisciplinary journals, and the other from five discipline specific journals, in the period 2001-2012.
Short titleInvestigating Interdisciplinary Research Discourse: the case of Global Environmental Change
Effective start/end date30/08/133/11/15


  • Economic & Social Research Council


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.