Billie O'Dwyer

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A Dissertation | Billie O’Dwyer

A Dissertation

linguistics | pdf

January 01, 2024

In 2021 I went back to univeristy to pursue a master’s degree in Linguistics and English Language Teaching. I was initially inspired to return to education into linguistics by my daughter after playing a game of Cluedo and speaking French for much of it. The potential for teaching and learning languages through the use of board games was something that really interested me, and it formed the basis of the idea for my dissertation.

When I knew a little more about the form my dissertation would take, I was a little frustrated to find that it wouldn’t be as exciting as I had hoped. Given that I would a) not be able to work with children and b) would not be able to do anything longitudinal, it seemed that I would simply be forced to demonstrate that when it comes to learning vocabulary, playing a board game is one of many useful tools. An obvious conclusion, given the decades of existing research on the subject. I was hoping for something much grander… Or at least, less forgone.

With no other ideas presenting themselves however, I applied myself to the initial research and planning. About four weeks into the process, a meeting with my supervisor yielded some good news, and some bad news. The bad was that the research I had already done was now basically useless, and I would need to start again, very much behind schedule.

On the other hand the emergence of an alternative, and significantly more interesting topic proved to be very good news indeed. When a door closes, and all that. My supervisor had had a conversation with one of her colleagues in the school of education, and discovered that they were in the process of putting together a research proposal for studying the use of board games in improving aspects of reading comprehension for school-age children. The lead researchers on the project had some ideas about the things they would be studying, but they needed someone to help design the approach that they would take. And so my supervisor proposed that I should design the experimental approach for the study and use it as the basis for my dissertation.

And so my dissertation took form. Months of research, design, study, analysis, and writing later, I submitted it for assessment, and received the highest mark in the cohort for my efforts. I’ve been asked by a few family and friends about reading it, so it’s here for all and sundry to consume at their leisure. Fair warning, it’s not exactly thrilling reading!

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