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

Paul Thompson is 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

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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