Language comprehension - PhD research opportunities - University of Derby

Individual differences in language comprehension

Topic headline: Individual differences in language comprehension

Category: PhD research project

Institution: University of Derby

Department: Psychology

PhD supervisor: Dr Sigrid Lipka 

Application deadline: Applications accepted all year round

Funding availability: Self-funded PhD student only

Project description

This project would be part of an ongoing programme of research on individual differences in language comprehension. Various studies have investigated the intricate processes underlying sentence comprehension, in particular when readers are exposed to sentences with a temporary syntactic ambiguity (Lipka, 2002). It has been proposed (e.g., Ferreira & Patson, 2007) that readers do not always carry out a complete analysis of sentences but instead adopt ‘good enough’ – heuristics yielding rough interpretations which are not always fully consistent with linguistic input. The PhD project could adopt behavioral, eye-tracking or EEG methodologies to establish which factors determine readers’ choice of either fast heuristics or more detailed sentence processing strategies. Factors to focus on include readers’ cognitive characteristics such as linguistic ability, working memory or processing fluency and affective or motivational factors such as attitudes to reading, procrastination, suppression of task-irrelevant emotions and cognitive reflection. This research has potential wider impact to inform educational practices of language teaching in schools and to feed into the design of effective text-based teaching materials at university level.

There is the potential to design a project to incorporate the specific interests of the PhD student. A successful applicant will join a thriving postgraduate community at the Kedleston Road site of the University of Derby, and will have a good (at least upper second) degree in psychology or a closely related subject, and good quantitative research methods skills, and will be a well-organised, self-motivated researcher.


Background research

Lipka, S. (2002). Reading sentences with a Late Closure ambiguity: Does semantic information help? Language and Cognitive Processes, 17 (3), 271-298

McEwan, K., Gilbert, P., Dandeneau, S., Lipka, S., Maratos, F., Paterson, K.B, & Baldwin, M. [Feb 2014, in press, PLOS ONE] Facial expressions depicting compassionate and critical emotions: The development & validation of a new emotional face stimulus set.


PhD study at the University of Derby

The University of Derby is pleased to welcome applications from self-funded or externally sponsored students for programmes of research in this or related areas, beginning from September 2012. Applications are welcome from students wishing to study full time or part time, and from students in employment who have the support of their employers.

The University of Derby provides PhD students with a range of facilities and support, including dedicated office space, PC and IT facilities, and library services, and all PhD students in Psychology are members of the Centre for Psychological Research, an active community of psychological researchers.

At the University of Derby, the Traditional Route PhD is taken by students who already have a Masters level qualification that includes research methods. Students without previous Masters level training in research methods take the New Route PhD, which includes training in research methods.

Have a look at the application process details and fee information.


Enquiry contact details

Dr Sigrid Lipka 

T: 01332 593052