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Teaching Fellow, English, Languages and Applied Linguistics
Research Fellow, Aston Institute for Forensic Linguistics

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Sarah Atkins is an applied linguist who conducts research in a range of professional settings, including healthcare, business and forensic/legal contexts. She completed her PhD at the University of Nottingham and has subsequently held posts at King’s College London (Knowledge Transfer Partnership) and the University of Nottingham (PI, Economic and Social Research Council Future Research Leaders award, £145,308), where she worked on projects researching the assessment of spoken communication for postgraduate doctors. She was then a member of Linguistic Profiling for Professionals, University of Nottingham, conducting linguistic consultancy projects with a range of external organisations. She has also worked for and remains a Visiting Research Fellow at the Centre for Sustainable Working Life, Birkbeck, University of London, researching spoken interaction in Schwartz Center Rounds®, which are supportive forums for healthcare staff to dicuss the emotional and ethical complexties of their jobs. Now a member of the Aston Institute for Forensic Linguistics, she currently works on a number of collaborative projects, including FoLD (the Forensic Linguistic Databank), the EXCROW corpus (of commercial extortion letters) and 'Crimes in Action' (analysing communication in emergency calls reporting kidnap and extortion).

Her work has a strong emphasis on applying findings in practical ways and she has developed a number of successful training interventions, including award-winning workshops and e-learning materials for healthcare professionals. She is interested in the ways in which linguistic methods and theories can be applied to real-world problems across various settings.

Research Projects/Collaborations

I am a member of the team developing the Forensic Linguistic Databank FoLD, a pioneering resource that provides a permanent, controlled access online repository for data of value to forensic linguistics.

As a team, we are also working on a project analysing genre and pragmatic patterns in extortion letters. The EXCROW corpus (the Extortion Corpus of Writings) currently includes 40 commercial historic extortion letters and emails from law enforcement partners, with the aim to provide a resource to develop investigative techniques.

Communicating and recording crime in action: a linguistic analysis
In this collaborative project with Drs Emma Richardson and Felicity Deamer (Aston) and Joanne Traynor (Anglia Ruskin), we are working with a police control room in the UK to examine the communication and miscommunication that can occur in emergency 999 calls, focusing on calls where members of the public are potentially reporting serious incidents of kidnap and extortion. Calls to 999 have been increasing in number and complexity in recent years (HMICFRS, 2019) and there can be difficulties in classifying ‘crimes in action' (incidents occurring in real-time which potentially present a threat to life, such as kidnap and extortion), difficulties that can have serious real-life consequences. Drawing on a dataset of anonymised emergency calls and accompanying incident logs, we seek to shed light on communicative patterns in how such incidents are reported and subsequently classified. The findings will have implications for call handler training, with the opportunity to develop collaborative, practical outputs with the project partner.

Applied linguistic research ethics in professional contexts
As part of my independent research time at the Institute, I have been conducting a study on ethics and professional practice in applied linguistics, particularly in the areas of consultancy and partnership work in which linguists are increasingly conducting their research.

Teaching Activity

I teach on:

- Spoken Discourse Analysis
- Introduction to Intercultural Communication
- Leadership and Managment Communciation
- Advanced Leadership and Management Communication
- Dissertation Supervisor (UG and PG)

At Aston I have also taught 'Analysing Discourse' and on the MA Forensic Linguistics. I previously taught topics on business and organisational communication as well as healthcare communication at the Univerisity of Nottingham and Birkbeck, University of London. I am also expereinced in delivering CPD courses to practitioners.


BA (Hons) English Studies (University of Nottingham)

MA Applied Linguistics (University of Nottingham)

PhD Applied Linguistics (University of Nottingham)

PGCHE (Aston University)

Membership of Professional Bodies

- FHEA, Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
- BAAL, British Association for Applied Linguistics
- IPrA, International Pragmatics Association
- IAFLL, The International Association for Forensic and Legal Linguistics

Visiting Appointments

Education/Academic qualification

PG Cert, Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (Distinction)

PhD, Applied Linguisitics, University of Nottingham


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