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Research in the School of English

The School of English is a thriving research community conducting research in English Language and Literature from the Middle Ages to the present. We have longstanding research clusters in Descriptive Linguistics and across the broad area conventionally defined as ‘Traditional English Scholarship’ comprising Literary Studies (especially The Long Eighteenth Century and the Modern Period), Drama, and Creative Writing.

Man reading book in the library

In Descriptive Linguistics, we specialise in corpus linguistics, sociolinguistics, and language and the law. The School of English offers PhD research degrees through funded studentships and self-funded options.

In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF), 77 per cent of our research was rated as either 'world-leading' (4*) or 'internationally excellent' (3*). The REF panel judged 100 per cent of our impact beyond academia to be either 'outstanding' (4*) or 'very considerable' (3*), and ranked us in the top 20 English departments nationally for proportion of research outputs (books, articles, and software) at 3* or 4* level.

We are a centre of excellence for the study of English Language & Literature in the UK, which continues to shape cultural, social and educational agendas worldwide. As such, we also have an impressive track record of funded projects from UK research councils and our work features regularly in world-leading academic journals and publishers' catalogues.

In the field of corpus linguistics, our Research and Development for English Studies (RDUES) initiated and continues to develop the world-leading analytic tools WebCorp and eMargin. Our internationally renowned WebCorp web search software provides examples of language in context for use in research and teaching, while our eMargin tool, designed for the collaborative annotation of electronic texts, is being used widely across the HE sector and beyond.

We have a strong track record of external engagement with schools, businesses and arts organisations. Our Institute of Creative and Critical Writing is devoted to cultivating the literary arts and the life of ideas with public masterclasses, workshops and talks. As such, we have also fostered close links with the Birmingham Literature Festival over several years. Our Literary Studies research cluster has also been successful in raising cross-cultural and cross faith awareness for the public, schools, armed forces, and police through the work of one of our scholars, Islam Issa, and his award-winning project Stories of Sacrifice.

We have an eclectic understanding of our discipline and our work demonstrates the power of English to reinvent its historic boundaries and form new alliances. Researchers from the School of English collaborate regularly across academic disciplines, including law, music, visual art, photography, sociology and game theory. Illustrative examples include work on Music and Modernism, Beethoven and Shakespeare, and Art and Poetry in the Victorian period. In January 2020, the School of English joined with the School of Media to form the Birmingham Institute of Media and English (BIME), a move designed to foster further interdisciplinary work.