Current research

Photo by Zorlu Tuna Koç, Unsplash

My current research is in two areas of Applied Linguistics, second-language vocabulary studies and discourse analysis. These seemingly disparate topics are unified by my interest in language learning and teaching.

English academic vocabulary

My current focus is on English academic vocabulary with a view to inform English for Academic Purposes (EAP) instruction. This research focus is motivated by these facts: a) academic vocabulary knowledge has been found to predict performance in academic tasks (e.g., essays, presentations) and in overall performance at university (i.e., grade point averages) and b) English academic vocabulary learning and use is perceived as a challenge by students at English as a Medium of Instruction (EMI) universities and can be challenging for native speakers as well.

Which English academic words have more than one meaning?

Both of my current projects focus on English academic words with more than one meaning. Learning additional meanings for polysemous academic words happens very slowly both for native and non-native speakers of English, but many of these words appear in students’ readings and lectures and students need to use them in their spoken and written tasks. Given how useful but also challenging polysemous English academic words are, my first project estimates how many English academic words are polysemous. The words in an English academic wordlist which have more than one meaning both according to a learners’ dictionary and a lexical database are considered polysemous. The method used in this study is from computational linguistics (online dictionary consultation via Application Programme Interface).

Validating a test of polysemous English academic words

Polysemous English academic words are also the focus on my other current project. This project validates a test of polysemous English academic words that I designed with Dr Bojana Petric (Birkbeck, University of London). The validation of the test is done at universities in the UK and China. I am the PI and collaborators are Dr Bojana Petric, Dr Reka Jablonkai (University of Bath), Dr Niall Curry (Coventry University), Mr Weizhong Wu (Beihang University) (, and Ms Jia Ning (Shenyang University of Technology). This project was partly funded by the Education Strategy Fund and the Undergraduate Research Opportunities scheme of the University of Essex, in recognition of the potential this research has for EAP teaching.

Coherence in the eyes of EFL teachers

My earlier research on coherence error identification with the help of linguistic theories of coherence (e.g., Skoufaki, 2020) has led to a new research interest: I have recently examined teachers’ conceptualisations of coherence in writing and how they go about providing feedback and marking EFL learners’ writing for coherence. EFL teachers located coherence errors in paragraphs written by low-intermediate EFL learners and gave each of them a mark for coherence. They were also interviewed about what ‘coherence’ means to them and asked to comment on some of the feedback and marking in the aforementioned task.