Dr Paul Thompson PhD

Photograph of Dr Paul Thompson by Rory Buckland

Department of English Language and Linguistics
Reader in Applied Corpus Linguistics
Deputy Director, Centre for Corpus Research

Contact details

Frankland Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

I have been at the University of Birmingham since September 2009, and I am the Deputy Director of the Centre for Corpus Research, as well as being Deputy Director of the College of Arts and Law Graduate School. I am a corpus linguist with particular interest in specialised discourses, and I have a background in English Language Teaching (ELT) and English for Academic Purposes (EAP).

The project blog page for my ESRC funded project 'Investigating Interdisciplinary Research Discourse' (2013-2015) is: http://idrd-bham.info/idrd/


  • 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.


I convene the MA module, 'Corpus Assisted Language Learning'.

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:

  • Sarah Alzeer: A Framework for Word List Evaluation (joint supervision with Amanda Patten)
  • Liwen Bing: A Longitudinal Study of the Disciplinary Writing Development of Chinese Students in a UK University: Writing Development from a Dynamic System Theory Perspective  (joint supervision with Amanda Patten)
  • Mark De Boer: 'Tool-mediated learning'
  • Eyad Ekram: 'A comparison of push and pull modes of delivery in teaching vocabulary using Whatsapp'
  • Yasin Goktas: ‘Evaluation of mobile technologies in teaching spoken English in a Turkish 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)
  • Cristina Lara: Morphological competition in English word-formation (University of Granada, joint supervision with Salvador Valera Hernandez)
  • Maryam Nasseri: 'Lexical and syntactic complexity in Iranian and British/non-British Master’s Theses' (joint supervision with Bodo Winter)
  • Susie Oswald: 'Perceptions of English as a Lingua Franca in a Swiss Context'
  • Cynthia Quinn: 'Learner concordancing and L2 writing'

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

  • Eman Al-Ajaji, 2016 (Birmingham): 'Self representation in student academic writing: a comparative study' (joint supervision with Suganthi John)
  • Nourah Al-Alaji, 2016 (Birmingham): 'How medical students express their attitudes towards their reflective experience in teaching hospitals: a corpus-based approach to the analysis of evaluation in reflective reports'
  • 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)
  • Howard Brown, 2017 (Birmingham): 'Getting Started with English-medium Instruction in Japan: Key Factors in Program Planning and Implementation'
  • Andy Cresswell, 2010 (Reading): ‘Textual metadiscourse in research articles and student essays : a corpus investigation using discourse tagging’ (joint supervision with Clare Furneaux)
  • Marianne Cronin, 2018 (Birmingham) ‘Feck off!’ Exploring the relationship between impoliteness, laughter and humour in the British-Irish sitcoms Father TedBlack Books and The IT Crowd (joint supervision with Michael Toolan)
  • 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
  • Barry Grossman, 2017 (Birmingham): 'A corpus approach to metaphorically-construed self-awareness in reflexive constructions'
  • Yoko Hirata, 2017 (Birmingham): 'Facilitating communication-oriented activities through data-driven learning'
  • Shuangling [Susie] Li, 2015 (Birmingham): 'A corpus-based study of the high frequency nouns 'time' and 'thing': Investigating the role of phraseology in the construction of meaning in discourse' (joint supervision with Crayton Walker)
  • 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'
  • Judith Roads, 2015 (Birmingham): 'The distinctiveness of Quaker prose, 1650-1699: a corpus-based enquiry' (joint supervision with Hugh Adlington)
  • Mehrdad Sepehri, 2015 (Birmingham): 'The effects of data driven learning on Iranian EFL learners' writing skills development'
  • 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'
  • Robert Stroud, 2018 (University of Birmingham): 'An analysis of task-based learning through a virtual learning environment' (joint supervision with Caroline Tagg)
  • 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'

Find out more - our PhD English Language and Applied Linguistics  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


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

External roles

  • Co-editor and founder of Applied Corpus Linguistics journal (2020-)
  • Co-Editor of the Journal of English for Academic Purposes (2009-2018)
  • Member, ESRC Peer Review College
  • Applied Linguistics Pathway Co-ordinator for Midlands Graduate School (MGS)

University roles

  • Deputy Director, College of Arts and Law Graduate School with responsibility for distance learning and student progression


Peer-reviewed articles

  • 2017: Multi-dimensional analysis, text constellations and interdisciplinary discourse International Journal of Corpus Linguistics 22/2:153-186 (with Akira Murakami, Susan Hunston and Dominik Vajn)
  • 2017 ‘What is this corpus about?’ Using topic modeling to explore a specialized corpus Corpora 12/2
    (with Akira Murakami, Susan Hunston and Dominik Vajn)
  • 2015 Shell-nounhood in academic discourse: A critical state-of-the-art review International Journal of Corpus Linguistics 20/3: 378-404 (with Miguel-Angel Benitez-Castro)
  • 2007 Corpus, Concordance, Classification: Young Learners in the L1 Classroom, Language Awareness 16/3: 208-216. (with Alison Sealey)
  • 2007 Through children’s eyes? Corpus evidence of the features of children’s literature,International Journal of Corpus Linguistics 12/1: 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 Education 38/1: 80-91 (with Alison Sealey)
  • 2001 Looking at citations: Using corpora in English for Academic Purposes, Language Learning & Technology 5/3: 91-105 (with Chris Tribble)

Book chapters

  • 2016 Genre approaches to theses and dissertations. In K. Hyland & P. Shaw (eds) The Routledge Handbook of English for Academic Purposes. London: Routledge.
  • 2015 Changing the bases for academic word lists. In P. Thompson and G. Diani (eds) English for Academic Purposes: Approaches and Implications Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Cambridge Scholars, pp. 317-342
  • 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 Data Amsterdam: John Benjamins, pp 9-30.
  • 2012 Thesis and dissertation writing. In B. Paltridge and S. Starfield (eds) Blackwell Handbook of English for Specific Purposes Oxford: 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 Discourse Bern: 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 genres Basingstoke: 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 disciplines Bern: Peter Lang, pp 253-270.
  • 2005 Spoken language corpora. In M. Wynne (ed) Developing Linguistic Corpora: a Guide to Good Practice Oxford: 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

  • 2015 English for Academic Purposes: Approaches and Implications Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Cambridge Scholars (with Giuliana Diani)
  • 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)
  • 2009 IELTS 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

View all publications in research portal


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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