Dr Paul Thompson PhD


Senior Lecturer
Director, Centre for Corpus Research

Department of English Language and Applied Linguistics

Photograph of Dr Paul Thompson by Rory Buckland

Contact details

Room S209, 52 Pritchatts Road
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT


I have been at the University of Birmingham since September 2009, and I am the Director of the Centre for Corpus Research.

Feedback and office hours

In the Autumn Semester:

  • Tuesday 11-12
  • Wednesday 11-12

Please email me to arrange a meeting, and if you'd like me to read some work then email it to me at least 24 hours in advance.

I am working on a research project (IDRD) on Thursdays and Fridays and am not available for meetings on those days.


  • PhD in Applied Linguistics, Reading
  • MA in TEFL, Reading
  • PGCE, York
  • BA in English & Related Literature, York


I took up the post of Director of the Centre for Corpus Research at Birmingham in September 2009, after working for thirteen years as a lecturer in EAP/Applied Linguistics at the University of Reading. I had taught in Kenya (one year) and Japan (fourteen years) before moving to Reading in 1996 to do doctoral research.


Four MA modules:

  • Computer-Assisted Language Learning (with Crayton Walker)
  • Introduction to Corpus Linguistics (with Nicholas Groom)
  • Research Methods in Corpus Linguistics (with Nicholas Groom)
  • Advances in Corpus Linguistics  (with Nicholas Groom)

 I supervise a number of undergraduate and MA dissertations.

Postgraduate supervision

I am interested in supervising postgraduate research students in the areas of:

  • corpus linguistics
  • applications of corpus-based approaches to language description, particularly in education
  • applications of IT in language teaching

I am currently supervising the following PhD students at the University of Birmingham:

  • Eman Al-Ajaji: 'Self representation in student academic writing: a comparative study' (joint supervision with Suganthi John)
  • Nourah Al-Alaji: 'Analysis of writer perspectives in medical case reports'
  • Howard Brown: 'EAP in Japan: At a Crossroads?'
  • Mark De Boer: 'Tool-mediated learning'
  • Barry Grossman: 'Conception, Construal, and Predication of Self- Awareness in English'
  • Yoko Hirata: 'Data-Driven Learning in a Japanese Context'
  • Nurcan Ileri: 'Lexical phrases in research article and PhD thesis abstracts in Applied Linguistics and Psychology'
  • Eric Jego: 'Medical Interview English Education at Japanese Medical Universities' (joint supervision with Nicholas Groom)
  • Shuangling Li: 'Phraseology' (joint supervision with Crayton Walker)
  • Timothy Main: 'Korean learner corpus analysis' (joint supervision with Crayton Walker)
  • Maryam Nasseri: 'Lexical and syntactic complexity in Iranian and British/non-British Master’s Theses' (joint supervision with Crayton Walker)
  • Susie Oswald: 'Perceptions of English as a Lingua Franca in a Swiss Context'
  • Cynthia Quinn: 'Learner concordancing and L2 writing'
  • Judith Roads: ‘Quaker Prose Style: A Corpus Linguistics Approach’ (joint supervision with Hugh Adlington)
  • Robert Stroud: 'An analysis of task-based learning through a virtual learning environment' (joint supervision with Caroline Tagg)
  • Thitima Sukaew (joint supervision with Joe Bennett)
  • Mehrdad Sepehri: 'The effect of Data-Driven Learning on EFL learners' writing skills development' [now submitted]

I have supervised the following to successful completion of their doctorates:

  • Manal Al-Makoshi, 2014 (Birmingham): 
    'Discourse markers and code-switching: Academic medical lectures in Saudi Arabia using English as the Medium of Instruction' (joint supervision with Crayton Walker)
  • Miguel Angel Benitez Castro, 2013 (Granada):
    'Formal, syntactic, semantic  and textual features of English shell nouns' (joint supervision with Salvador Valera Hernandez)
  • Andy Cresswell, 2010 (Reading):
    Textual metadiscourse in research articles and student essays : a corpus investigation using discourse tagging (joint supervision with Clare Furneaux)
  • David Giannoni, 2009 (Reading):
    'A corpus-based investigation of the academic value system'
    Published as 'Mapping Academic Values in the Disciplines: A Corpus-Based Approach' Bern: Peter Lang
  • Lu Yang, 2006 (Reading):
    'A discourse analytic study of EFL test-takers' spoken discourse competence and its impact on their oral proficiency and spoken grammatical competence' (joint supervision with Pauline Robinson)
  • Shih Pei-Chun, 2011 (Birmingham):
    'Cross-linguistic Transference of Politeness Phenomena'
  • Catherine Spargo, 2010 (Reading):
    'A corpus-based study of the semantics of the core modals MAY and CAN in human resource management texts'
  • Alastair Stone, 2012 (Reading):
    'Evolving identity - changing discourse: and examination of the representation of Slovene national identity in the leading daily newspaper during the transition from Yugoslav republic to an independent state'
  • Nawel Toumi, 2012 (Reading):
    'A comparative study of reflexive metadiscourse research articles: An EAP perspective, with implications for teaching writing to EAP learners at tertiary level in Tunisia'
    Published as: Reflexive Metadiscourse in L1 and FL English Scholars Press
  • Aleksandar Trklja, 2013 (Birmingham): 
    'A corpus linguistics study of translation semantic fields in English and German' (joint supervision with Wolfgang Teubert)
  • Linda Weinberg, 2010 (Reading):
    'A contextual study of language learner autonomy and motivation in a technology-enhanced EAP course'


With Susan Hunston, I am Principal Investigator on an ESRC project (ES/K007300/1) on 'Investigating interdisciplinary research discourse: the case of Global Environmental Change', August 2013 to August 2015.

With Alison Sealey and Mike Scott, I worked on an ESRC project (R000223900), 'An investigation into corpus-based learning about language in the primary school', June 2002 to May 2004.

With Hilary Nesi, a lecture and seminar recording project, the British Academic Spoken English (BASE) corpus, funded by a Resource Enhancement grant from the Arts and Humanities Board (RE/AN6806/APN13545), April 2002 to March 2005.

With Hilary Nesi, Sheena Gardner and Paul Wickens, an ESRC funded project, "An investigation of genres of assessed writing in British Higher Education" (RES-000-23-0800), December 2004 to November 2007. The major output of this project was the British Academic Written English (BAWE) corpus.

My research interests are in academic and other specialised discourses, in the linguistic aspects of human-computer interaction, in uses of educational technologies in language learning, and in the exploitation of corpus resources and methodologies in learning about language.

Other activities

  • Co-Editor of the Journal of English for Academic Purposes.
  • Member, ESRC Peer Review College


I have given talks at conferences and research meetings in more than twenty countries. In July 2014, I was an invited plenary speaker at the TaLC conference, Lancaster, 20-23 July. At the end of August I participated in a seminar at ESSE in Kosice, Slovakia, and then presented a paper at the AACL conference in Flagstaff, US, at the end of September.

University roles

Examinations Officer, Department of English Language and Applied Linguistics


Peer-reviewed articles

  • 2007 Corpus, Concordance, Classification: Young Learners in the L1 Classroom, Language Awareness16/3: 208-216. (with Alison Sealey)
  • 2007 Through children’s eyes? Corpus evidence of the features of children’s literature,International Journal of Corpus Linguistics12/1: 1-23. (with Alison Sealey)
  • 2006 'Nice things get said': corpus evidence and the National Literacy Strategy. Literacy Vol 40/1: 22-28 (with Alison Sealey)
  • 2005 Points of focus and position: intertextual reference in PhD theses, Journal of English for Academic Purposes 4/4: 307-323
  • 2004 'What do you call the dull words?' Primary school children using corpus-based approaches to learn about language, English in Education38/1: 80-91 (with Alison Sealey)
  • 2001 Looking at citations: Using corpora in English for Academic Purposes, Language Learning & Technology5/3: 91-105 (with Chris Tribble)

Book chapters

  • 2014: Exploring Hoey's notion of text colligation in a corpus of student writing. In A. Alcaraz-Sintes and S. Valera-Hernandez (eds) Diachrony and Synchrony in English Corpus Linguistics  Bern: Peter Lang, pp. 347-371.
  • 2013: (with Ana Diaz-Negrillo) Learner corpora: Looking towards the future. In A. Díaz-Negrillo, N. Ballier and P. Thompson (eds) Automatic Treatment and Analysis of Learner Corpus DataAmsterdam: John Benjamins, pp 9-30.
  • 2012: Thesis and dissertation writing. In B. Paltridge and S. Starfield (eds) Blackwell Handbook of English for Specific PurposesOxford: Wiley-Blackwell, pp 283–300.
  • 2012: Achieving a voice of authority in PhD theses. In K. Hyland and C. Sancho-Guinda (eds) Stance and voice in academic writing Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, pp 119–133.
  • 2010: Building a specialised audio-visual corpus. In A. O’Keeffe & M. McCarthy (eds) The Routledge Handbook of Corpus Linguistics London: Routledge,pp 93–103.
  • 2009 Shared disciplinary norms and individual traits in the writing of British undergraduates. In M. Gotti (ed)Commonality and Individuality in Academic DiscourseBern: Peter Lang, pp 53-82.
  • 2009 Literature reviews in applied PhD theses: evidence and problems. In K. Hyland & G. Diani (eds) Academic evaluation and review genresBasingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, pp 50-67.
  • 2006 A corpus perspective on the lexis of lectures, with a focus on Economics lectures. In K. Hyland and M. Bondi (eds) Academic discourse across disciplinesBern: Peter Lang, pp 253-270.
  • 2005 Spoken language corpora. In M. Wynne (ed) Developing Linguistic Corpora: a Guide to Good PracticeOxford: Oxbow Books, pp 59-70, Available online at: ahds.ac.uk/creating/guides/linguistic-corpora/
  • 2005 Aspects of identification and position in intertextual reference in PhD theses. In E. Tognini-Bonelli and G. del Lungo (eds) Strategies in Academic Discourse Amsterdam: John Benjamins, pp. 31-50

Edited collections

  • 2013 Automatic Treatment and Analysis of Learner Corpus DataAmsterdam: John Benjamins (with Ana Díaz-Negrillo and Nicolas Ballier)
  • 2011 IELTS Research Reports, Volume 11 Manchester: British Council (with Lynda Taylor)
  • 2009IELTS Research Reports, Volume 9 Manchester: British Council (with Lynda Taylor)
  • 2007 Special issue on ‘Corpus-based approaches to EAP pedagogyJournal of English for Academic Purposes, 6/4
  • 2002 Unity and Diversity in Language UseLondon: Continuum (with Kristyan Spelman-Miller


The language of academic discourse; how language use varies from one discipline to another; building collections of text for electronic storage (corpus-building)

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