Welcome to our newest senior research associate – Gavin Brookes!

CASS just keeps getting fuller! Gavin Brookes is the newest senior research associate to join the centre, and will be working on our “Beyond the checkbox – understanding what patients say in feedback on NHS services” project. Here’s a little about Gavin, in his own words:

received_10153870011246093I am very excited to begin my role as Senior Research Associate working with Professor Paul Baker on the CASS project, “Beyond the checkbox – understanding what patients say in feedback on NHS services”. The purpose of this research is to help the National Health Service better understand patient feedback with a view to improving frontline healthcare service provision (you can find more info. here: http://cass.lancs.ac.uk/?p=1832). This project is corpus linguistics at its most applied. Its aims are timely and have clear and significant practical consequences and I am thrilled to be a part of it!

I am endlessly fascinated by the relationship between discourse and social life and have adopted corpus linguistic, (critical) discourse analytical and multimodal approaches to investigate this relationship in my research to-date. My enthusiasm for this project will come as little surprise when I tell you that I am particularly interested in how discourse shapes and represents our experiences and understandings of health and illness. My ESRC-funded doctoral research, undertaken in the School of English Studies at The University of Nottingham, examines the discursive construction of a contested condition known as diabulimia in a specialised corpus of online health messages.

Outside academia I spend my time walking, travelling, reading fantasy and science fiction novels, partaking in pub quizzes, and following my beloved (if perpetually under-achieving) Mansfield Town FC. I am delighted to be here and can’t wait to learn more about, and get involved in, the research that is being undertaken within the Department.

Beyond the checkbox – understanding what patients say in feedback on NHS services

In 2016 I will be working on a new project in CASS, which has received funding from the ESRC (£61,532 FEC). The purpose of this project is to help the National Health Service better understand the results of patient feedback so that they can improve their services. The NHS gathers a great deal of user feedback on its services from patients. Much of this is in “free text” format and represents a rich dataset, although the amount of text generated in the thousands of feedback forms patients fill in each year makes it unfeasible to undertake a close qualitative analysis of all of it. Categorisation-based approaches like sentiment analysis have been tried on the dataset but have not found to be revealing. In this project we will be working with the NHS to first identify a set of research questions they would like to be answered from the data, and then we will use corpus-based discourse analysis to draw out the main themes and issues arising from the data. We will focus on four key NHS services – dentists, GP practices, hospitals and pharmacies. From these services alone we have around 423,418 comments to analyse, totalling 105,380,697 words. Some of the issues we are likely to be focussing on include: what matters most for patients, the key drivers for positive and negative feedback, indicators in comments that might trigger an alert or urgent review and differences across providers/services or by socio-demographic group.

Is this the way to do Corpus Linguistics? Feedback system for the Corpus Linguistics MOOC

Corpus linguistics (CL) is a set of incredibly versatile methods of language analysis applicable to a number of different contexts. So, for example, if you are interested in language, culture, history or society, corpus linguistics has something to offer. Today, thanks to the amazing development in computer technology, corpus linguistic tools are literally only a mouse click away or a touch away, if you are using a tablet or a smartphone. Are you then ready to get your hands dirty with computational analysis of large amounts of language? If the answer is yes, you have probably already registered for the new massively open online course (MOOC) on Corpus Linguistics, created and run by Tony McEnery and other members of the CASS team. (If you haven’t managed to register yet, you can still do so at the FutureLearn website. The course kicks off on 27th January 2014.)

An essential part of the Corpus Linguistics MOOC is its unique feedback system. You will be given a question, a data set and a software tool, and you will be asked to apply what you have learnt in the MOOC lectures to real language analysis. You will explore a topic using corpus techniques which will enable you to uncover interesting patterns in language data. We have a range of topics in store for you. These include English grammar, British and American language and culture, historical discourse of 17th century news books and learner language. But don’t worry, we won’t ask you to write an essay on the topic. Instead, we will give you a number of analyses and descriptions of the corpus data and you will decide which ones use the corpus techniques correctly. After you’ve made your decisions we will provide detailed comments on each of the options. In this way, the CASS Corpus Linguistics MOOC system aims to promote independent learning so that next time you can apply the corpus tools with confidence to answer your own questions.