Nicci MacLeod

Nicci MacLeod
Current occupation

Research Associate, Centre for Forensic Linguistics

Brief outline of PhD research
Police Interviews with Women Reporting Rape: A Critical Discourse Analysis

The study investigated the discursive patterns of interactions between police interviewers and women reporting rape in significant witness interviews.  A central focus of the study was how interviewers draw on particular interactional resources to shape interviewees’ accounts in particular ways, and this was discussed in relation to the institutional role of the significant witness interview. The discussion was also extended to the ways in which mainstream rape ideology, or ‘rape myth’ is both reflected in, and maintained by, the discursive choices of participants.  The findings indicated that there are a number of issues to be addressed in terms of the training currently offered to officers who intend to conduct significant witness interviews. Furthermore, a need was identified to bring the linguistic and discursive processes of negotiation and transformation to the attention of the justice system as a whole.

Why did you choose to study for your PhD in the School of Languages and Social Sciences?
I had been enrolled as a PhD student at another university for two years when Professor Malcolm Coulthard, who was then LSS Associate Dean for Research, contacted me to tell me about a studentship opportunity at Aston. The chance to work alongside one of the pioneers of forensic linguistics was too good to miss! I was obviously delighted when the Centre for Forensic Linguistics was established two years after my arrival.

What did you find most useful about the PhD programme?
When my application was successful it quickly became clear that I had made the right decision. I received regular and high quality feedback from my supervisors Dr Carol Marley and Dr Pam Lowe, as well as fantastic research support from Professor Coulthard and the compulsory Research Methods training programme. There is also a wide range of additional training offered by the central Staff & Graduate Development office. I was also able to develop my teaching skills by assisting on a variety of undergraduate and postgraduate modules. I was encouraged to participate in international conferences throughout my studies, and delivered talks in Seattle and Amsterdam as well as at a number of UK conferences.

How has your PhD helped you in your current occupation?
The wide range of skills I developed over my three and a half years as a PhD student at Aston prepared me well for a career in research. Projects I have been involved in have taken me from 17th century quasi-legal discourse to the language of Twitter! I have also been able to make the most of the organisational and editing skills that I refined as a PhD student, having been on the local organising committee for the International Association of Forensic Linguists’ 10th Biennial Conference last year, and on the editorial board of the electronic proceedings of the conference. I continue to teach at Aston, and I am grateful for the early opportunities I was given to develop the skills necessary for continuing to do this effectively.