Category Archives: Student Blogs

Making Progress

I’m finally making progress. Since my last blog, I’ve conducted three interviews with my colleagues, asking them about their experiences with hybrid, remote, and in-person learning during the pandemic. I’m still not sure how many more interviews I want to conduct, or whether I want to expand my study by interviewing teachers from other disciplines, but I hope that as I start analyzing the data, I’ll begin drawing out important threads that will guide my future processes. 

For now, I’m feeling pretty productive, and I hope I can keep this energy up throughout the semester. The interview process has affirmed some of my prior beliefs about teaching during COVID, but a lot of what my coworkers have shared has surprised me as well, so I’m looking forward to continuing this data collection to see what other useful information I can glean. I hope to get another interview conducted this week, and maybe one or two next week before our school’s week-long fall break. I’ll be able to use that time off of work to transcribe the interviews and perhaps even start some preliminary analysis of the data.

Speaking of transcription, I’ve transcribed about three-quarters of my first interview. I think I’ll continue doing my own transcription rather than hiring someone to do it for me, because I find it useful to re-listen to the interview and then comb through it line-by-line to edit the spelling, punctuation, and grammar. It’s almost like a “pre-analysis” stage in which I’m familiarizing myself with the data and refreshing my memories of the original interview. 

Since I’m going to do the bulk of transcribing interviews myself, I need to figure out a better system. Notability—the app I’ve been using to record—is convenient because I can take notes in the app with my stylus, and when the audio plays back, the notes I took are highlighted in real time so I can see exactly what I was thinking as my interviewee was speaking. However, the app can only slow the audio down to 0.7x speed. I’m a fast typer, so if I really wanted to, I could manage to keep up, but the faster I type, the more errors appear, and the more errors appear, the more I get flustered and stop typing to go back and fix any mistakes. So, to speed up the process, I’m going to need to slow down the audio. 

My main goals for this week are going to be to get some more interviews and figure out a streamlined way to convert the audio from Notability into another format, but I’ve also started thinking about what else I can add to my thesis. The numerous news stories about workers striking and resigning in response to poor working conditions has me wondering how many educators are following suit. I’m toying with the idea of researching whether the pandemic caused teachers to leave the profession, but that might be too far out of the scope of my project because none of the teachers I’ve interviewed so far have indicated that they plan to resign or retire. 

Like many of my thesis-related ideas, I’m going to put this one on the back-burner; maybe it’ll be relevant to add to my introduction or conclusion to demonstrate that asking for teacher’s input—i.e., the entire premise of my thesis—is an important part of keeping our education system functioning.

Ready for Feedback

First, thank you Dr. Zamora for listening to my request for flexible writing time and allowing me to take a breath this weekend. I was able to get so much work done in class last week and also had the ability to rest my eyes and brain a bit more this weekend. I feel like this extra hour to hour and a half each week is exactly what I need to get through the semester. I am looking forward to the spring semester when I can really just focus on this course.

I am presenting my work in progress this week so I will share a bit of the introduction here. While reviewing my essays, I am noticing that I am in major need of a revision period. So I am taking a play out of the Kelsey Carter handbook and printing out a section of my work to read and discuss with the class. I am looking forward to great feedback and suggestions.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Title and Objective of Thesis –

The Other 175 Days The New Teacher’s Guide to Creating an Interpersonal Classroom

By Kate Lynn Walker

After the first few days of school, this book will guide new teachers through their first years of teaching. There are many books, as the title alludes to about The First Days of School by Harry Wong, but there are not many books about making it through the entire school year. Through my professional development and research there are even fewer books that focus on managing and creating an interpersonal high school classroom. This thesis project is a bridge between a literature review and a teacher’s first-hand experience in the classroom.

Goal of Inquiry: 

  •  to calm the nerves of first year teachers
  •  to inspire teachers to give students-controlled freedom 
  •  to share what works with my fellow educators 
  •  to allow students to grow in supportive classrooms
  •  to guide teachers towards helpful research in the field of secondary education

Questions for Peers –

1. If you are a teacher, what fears did you have about entering the classroom as a first-year teacher? Or what struggles have you encountered during your first years of teaching? If you are not a teacher, what fears could you imagine having entering the classroom in today’s world?

2. I have only drafted the essays in a print format. What ideas do you have about creating a sellable/distributable product? Digital with hyperlinks? Paperback workbook with perforated pull-outs?  

3. I am trying to find a way to incorporate research without distracting from my narrative voice… suggestions? I have been thinking of making the book look like a magazine or high school textbook with my written text starting on the left margin and filling the right margin with images, quotes from professionals, charts, graphics, etc. What other ideas do you have?

Progress!

Sixth Blog

I am now officially on a roll.  My page counts have really turned a corner. I have made a routine of looking over my notes to ensure that what I’m thinking now is married with my original ideas.  I’ve also made sure to go back into my notes from the Summer’s Writer’s Retreat. I must make sure to ensure that all of those helpful comments are also incorporated.  Again, I focus on ensuring that all of my characters can be cared about.  They do evoke feelings from the reader.

            I am also mindful to not over-write. I went back to look over yet another master of Science Fiction, Richard Matheson.  He wrote such classics as, I am Legend (my personal Fav) and about a ga-zillion short stories.  All of his works thrust readers right into the setting, forcing them to do the work readers like to do – playing a bit of catch-up.  Having readers play catch-up is like setting the hook in fishing: not enough bait and the fish loses interest.  Too much bait and a school of smaller fish comes along and eats it all.  The perfect bait has the right fish swallowing it whole. The right fish represents my target audience.  Matheson was incredibly aware of who his audience was. He knew that his work could cross boundaries and could be adapted for future audiences.  I am Legend was recreated in print and film over a half dozen times.  Vincent Price, Charlton Heston and Will Smith have all played, Robert Neville, the sole survivor of a global apocalypse. In the original, Neville is just an ordinary Joe bent on killing vampires.  Heston and Smith added intellect to the character and in both of their versions, Neville is the only man who can save the world. I’m drawing on these aspects to make sure my characters have unlimited flexibility as well.

            Robert Heinlein was another author who captivated his target audience with tales that dropped readers onto distant world wrought with strife and discontent.  Starship Troopers had audiences wondering why mankind had to hate the Arachnoids who were inhabiting Human colonies across the cosmos.  Audience members then had to read further as to why a third alien race was the source of empathy within the novel.  As many of my classes have spoken about readers want to do a little work.  It’s the work that gets the audience hooked.

            And as I wrap this blog up for the week I have leaned that all of what I described means noting if if all doesn’t come together in one neat package that leaves the readers with the same feeling like they just had a great meal. I have finally figured out how to connect all four stories in this thesis of mine and in doing so discovered another set of audience members who just might be interested in reading my tales.  I now have all I need and I am pushing to meet my self-imposed deadlines.            

Two or Three Minutes, Two or Three Hours

“The highest compliment you can pay me is that I work hard every day, that I never dog it.” – Wayne Gretzky 

A Brief Introduction

Let me start this blog with one of the most awe-striking and inspiring things I can share with you that has happened since our last class meeting; the New Jersey Devils started their season with a massive, heart-pounding, and invigorating overtime win over the Chicago Blackhawks, setting a record for the quickest goal ever scored in a season-opening game in the process! (The childlike excitement of opening nights, and every game thereafter never goes away! I can feel my face splitting into a grin just typing this!) Between the excitement of one event and being sidelined with allergies this weekend, I guess you could say I binged on my thesis work this weekend, and there’s not only a sense of clarity but so much more investment on my part to keep the momentum and meaning going! I should also make it clear that I think headings are going to become a staple of my blog posts from here on out; it’s mainly an organizational tactic to make sure all my bases are covered and labeled clearly, and it’s also for the aesthetic that comes with the outline sidebar on Google Docs. 

There’s a whole soundtrack that goes along with this post, so I’ll let you choose between starting with either “Wake Me Up” by Avicii, “Spirits – Sondr Remix” by The Strumbellas, or “Bo Exotic” by Turbo, and then going to one of the others. 

Thesis Progress 

The Research Side 

From the research perspective, I am situated right where I want to be for this moment in the semester. I have amassed just about 16 solid peer-reviewed articles taken from databases, an array of newspaper clippings that span from the genesis of forensic linguistics in the late 1960s to the present day detailing either implicitly or explicitly the presence of forensic linguistics, three podcasts in their entirety and various assorted episodes of others, a handful of documentaries, and a few more books that I am currently working through reading and marking up. (Thank you to Dr. Fall, if you are reading this, for giving me a godsend with Word Crimes! I found it in digital form for free through Kean! Still working on the Routledge Handbook.) The research I have thus far covers a couple of categories: written evidence analysis(both the spoken evidence analysis (interviews and otherwise) and the complexities that come with recorded or digitally enhanced forensic linguistic analysis.

Assessing what I have so far, I recognize that there is a need for more articles that highlight the genesis and evolution of the field, rather than just the application and implication, and this will be my focus for the upcoming week. (I say week, but I have the Learning Commons popped open in another tab, and I know that the texts I am thumbing through have material that is suitable for this purpose.) Additionally, I am interested in looking into the nature of police investigation and interrogation techniques, and the tandem of linguistic, psychological, and sociological factors, issues, and implications embedded within them. (I figure this is enriching information for my project, and even if I don’t end up having a need for it, just in general.) Thus far, my starting point is two books I’ve rented in digital form from the school library, a handful of podcast pieces, and some journal articles I have left over from my forensic psychology class from my undergraduate minor. An avenue I could take to finding solid sources on this sub-topic would be to find some way to retrieve the syllabus with all the linked articles, if possible, or reach out to the professor directly. I could supplement this plan with targeted database searches and continuously sifting through podcasts.

Something paramount to finding a beginning, and serving as an origin or sounding board when I do get stuck in a loop has been looking at forensic linguistics-based graduate programs across the country, and running a marathon through any readily available syllabi, recommended resources on program websites, and sifting through the related resources and articles that then appear within databases. (This process is also giving me further education and career goals and dreams, but that’s a whole different ballpark!)

I have also looked into adjacent subjects and fields to bolster my research, including corpus linguistics, or the practice of amassing large bodies of “real-life” language stored in computer databases and utilizing it for researching trends, shifts, and other noteworthy linguistic phenomena. The purpose of going a bit offside is two-fold; one, this is a field I am familiar with thanks to the work I completed in Dr. Nelson’s course, which means I have ample understanding and some sources in the bank, and two, I am starting to see a connection between the two fields, in the sense that with so much of forensic linguistics moving into the virtual realm, the overlap between that and corpus linguistics is about to Venn diagram. Also, corpus linguistics is taking root in the legal world, which is critical to explicating the necessity of forensic linguistics.

(I’m beginning to seriously consider submitting an application for Research Days, because this is something I think people will be interested in once it is brought to their attention, and it is good motivation!)  

To further clarify what my research is shaping up to look like, here’s a quick outline of the moving components for each category/subcategory and some brief rationales and descriptions! (Let me know if you think it is too much, not enough, or needs something else, like a plan for how to integrate everything or more cowbell!)

  1. Forensic Linguistics 
    1. Genesis and History of Forensic Linguistics 
    2. Categories of Forensic Linguistics/Areas of Application
      1. Written Evidence Analysis 
        1. Offshoot of discourse analysis – examining language construction, syntax, phonological structure, etc. 
          1. Can be either digital or handwritten 
          2. Handwritten instances offer potential to branch into forensic stenography – signature/handwriting analysis, forgery investigations, writing under duress, etc. 
            1. Sources/Research that Relate to this area of application 
  • ransom notes, forgery, contract disputes, blackmail, suicide note analysis, journal entries examination, etc. 
  1. Impact – Authorship, intent, and patterns of behavior can be established through analysis of writing, social media activity, etc. 
  1. Spoken Word Analysis 
    1. Heavy on Discourse Theory and Analysis
      1. Deals with issues of linguistic bias, linguistic profiling, the need for cultural sensitivity, etc. 
      2. Presents itself in eyewitness accounts, interviews, testimony, etc.
      3. Brings to light the question of how linguistic bias is often counted over actual forensic linguistic application, and how it has contributed to wrongful incarceration, coerced false confessions, etc. 
  2. Digital Evidence Analysis 
    1. Ties back into written analysis in a way 
      1. Examining the digital interpersonal communication between individuals can discern knowledge, patterns, responsibility, etc. 
        1. Examination can also lead to uncovering rings of other involvement, can highlight deceptive linguistic tactics used to hide authorship/mimic the speech of others (ex. “Deep fakes”)
      2. Is a component of what connects forensic linguistics to corpus linguistics
    2. Computer-Based Forensic Linguistic Analysis 
      1. As algorithms become more refined and are employed by both scientists and those in the criminal justice system alike, how will this change the field and the outcomes of individuals?
  3. Enhanced Audio Evidence 
    1. Speaker Identification 
      1. In a recorded instance, such as a wiretap (see The Wire for reference or cases that involve 911 call analysis)
    2. Linguistic Profiling and Speech Pattern Recognition
  1. Other Instances of Forensic Linguistics 
    1. Police Interviews/Interrogations + Tactics
    2. Eyewitness Accounts
    3. Courtroom Testimonies + Jury Deliberation 
  2. Implications (Legal, Psychological, etc.)
  3. Gaps/Issues in the Field 
    1. Cultural Sensitivity 
    2. Police Training 
    3. Perception and Evaluation of Linguistic Evidence 
    4. Jury/Judicial Linguistic Bias
    5. Effect of Media Portrayal 
      1. Optional to pursue, but still important as the expectations set by TV or media portrayals of the field may yield real-life implications (CSI effect) 
  1. Corpus Linguistics 
    1. Overview/Genesis
    2. Connection to Digital Forensic Linguistics
    3. Connection to Trends in Eyewitness Accounts/Jury Deliberations
  2. Methodology/Analysis 
    1. Discourse Analysis 
    2. Protocol Analysis 

The Creative Side (If There is One and Time for It)

Why Is This Needed? What Will It Be?

With the scope of my project and everything outlined above, a research paper or a deeper delve into the field of forensic linguistics seems like what I’m aiming for, or would at least be the easiest route to travel, given the time constraints of these pesky little things called semesters. Yet, I find myself drawn to wanting to do both because as I am beginning to find, my brain really likes the word tandem (years of being a hockey fan, I suppose) and as such, even my thesis has to be a tandem project of both research and creativity. All the research I have done thus far would have been necessary for a creative piece, and even if it isn’t for this course, I know the opportunity to convert everything I know into a study or analysis is a possibility! (Also, I’m really considering forensic linguistics as a career path going forward, so it doesn’t hurt getting as familiar with it as I possibly can!) Plus, it’s a challenge for me! I get to play both time management and meeting academic deadlines and standards on expert mode, and I love that! 

As multifaceted as it is as a field, forensic linguistics also offers a wealth of creative writing ideas; it could be a screenplay or script for a TV show episode (which reminds me, I need to sit down and watch  NYPD Blue and find the paper that analyzes its use of forensic linguistics!), material for a podcast, a short story, a whole novel, an interactive story, or an e-lit piece. Currently, I am leaning towards incorporating some of the core elements of forensic linguistics that interest me and crafting a handful of short stories that detail just how much of a role forensic linguistics plays in different settings, as outlined above, while also highlighting the emerging and pressing issues of inequities and bias. I can change the cast of characters every time, and I can further delve into sub-categories of forensic work, such as forensic stenography or forensic audiology this way, without the messiness of trying to work these concepts into a research paper may entail. 

So, I guess to give you a quick recap: Yes, there is research that has occurred and remains ongoing, comprised of several areas of interest and key concepts. Simultaneously, there are plans to begin writing informed short stories that not only synthesize several aspects of the completed research but highlight important issues within the field and offer, in a fictitious setting, workarounds, and solutions. The latter is to be determined, depending on time constraints. 

Setting Goals For Progress

Where Is This Going?

I’m guessing that by now, the three songs from earlier have definitely run their course, so put on “Let’s Work Together” by Dwight Yoakam since that’s essentially the spirit both sides of this project happen to be taking on! 

It always comes back to research first, and it’s a matter of first clearing out everything on my digital library loan bookshelf. I have twenty-one days to comb through the four books I have checked out, and I plan to tackle this systemically. I will first take a look through the table of content, select two chapters from each, and proceed to first skim, and then read and annotate if it proves to be fruitful. Word Crimes is the one text I plan to read in its entirety for the emphasis it places on issues of equity, the fact that it is a leading contemporary text in the field, and for the personal enrichment it will bring. Following this, I will finish out the remaining podcasts in my queue with associated notes and then reload with podcasts around the topics of police interviewing training, false and coerced confessions, and corpus linguistics.

When it comes to the methods of analysis, I have a solid understanding and amount of sources to support my rationale for the particular methodologies and their application ready from my work in Dr. Nelson’s class, so this is not a priority at the moment.

I have already created a Google Drive folder with PDFs for the bulk of my sources in the form of articles and some newspaper articles and will continue tidying up and integrating my annotations for each article, as well as podcast episodes into this same folder, and create a separate space on my website to round out the idea of a “public literature review” or research project coming to life. In addition to this, I have a running bibliography page, all in APA 7 format, as that is what I am most comfortable with. (Also because my other courses are requiring it and it’s easier on my brain.) 

To achieve these goals, I am going to have to carve out at least two hours a day for thesis work, which I know I can do, though I’m not sure where I’m going to gain the two hours from just yet. I also plan to use my weekends for the part of my research that may or may not be necessary; the media portrayal of forensic linguistics. (It’s a reason to watch TV and think critically about it without being a “nerd” who “can’t stop thinking about school-related things.”)

On the creative side of things, there is going to be a synthesis of the completed research to discern points of interest, importance, and concern, and much more brainstorming must be done before any writing commences. I’m setting a deadline for two weeks from now for there to be a separate Google Drive folder created for the creative component that includes the following: a solid rationale for why this portion of my thesis is necessary, a graphic organizer for each component of forensic linguistics I hope to cover in my short stories, and a rough outline of the first story of what I hope is many. 

Allow Me to Reintroduce Myself 

For the first time last week, I had someone outside my circle of classmates, friends, and family ask me the questions I think everyone needs to revisit as their project and passion continues to grow: Why this topic, and what are you hoping to learn from it, or do with it? Why should other people even care about forensic linguistics? And in the sections below, I hope to explicate just that, if only briefly. 

Why Am I Interested in This? 

My interest in the topic was born, in part, out of my inherent interest in the CSI TV series and franchise, as it showed that there is so much more to the trial and prosecution of individuals than just arrests and trials, and there were several instances where the specific language was used in interviews that the characters knew would connect with the suspect or instances where handwriting, digital files, or audio were examined as evidence just as critical as a fingerprint. From that point forward, I knew that there was a way to utilize my love of language and ability to deconstruct and identify meanings, patterns, and intent for something monumental. 

The work that forensic linguistics entails can quite literally change the trajectory of someone’s life; admissions of guilt can be proven to be coerced or misinterpreted, intent in language can be reframed as innocence, and testimony can be shredded or bolstered. Behind each exchange of words, there is an intent, malicious or not, and there is an interpretation that deserves to be recognized and examined. 

Who Am I Doing This For?

First and foremost, I’m engaged in the field of forensic linguistics to bring justice to those who are denied; those with the dialects deemed “inferior” “unreliable” “uneducated” “twangy” or any other derogatory term. There’s a correlation between those who are denied justice and those who are told that their language is a damning factor for them. I do this for those who have proven that they have intentions to harm others, who have established those patterns, and to bring them to justice as well. 

What Do I Hope To Accomplish With This Work?

The primary goal of my research is to give myself a strong foundation in the history, practice, and implications of the field to ensure that I can indeed apply and critique my skills. I also hope to illustrate the radiating impact of the field to others and pass along the same level of concern and awareness, whether it is through teaching or being a subject-matter expert.

How Are My Analytics Looking? 

If you’re still here after everything else, thank you! You deserve some fresh music, and since we are on such a journey, it’s only fitting that we listen to “Young Turks” by Rod Stewart. I used analytics because I’m not only a sucker for sports analogies, but I think this post has cleared up a lot of questions about what I’m doing, how I’m facilitating it, and the intentions going into, going through, and hopefully coming out of this project, which is similar to analytics that show the trajectory of a player’s season or career. To tie it all together and back to hockey, I guess I’m in the phase of both my thesis progression and my life where high-danger chances are being presented to me left and right or I’m consistently finding myself on the powerplay, and I just need to find the momentum to convert! 

Regardless, I’m going to cap it here for now (or at least here for this blog post for this week), and with our young hearts being free, I will see you all on the other side! 

Progress

It’s a good thing that the literature review is a living document which can evolve and be edited as often as needed right up until I turn it in. The more articles I read, the more fascinated I become about the Chinese immigrant experience. I started my research focusing on the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, but then discovered that I needed to go back further to uncover more details about the beginnings of racism against the Chinese. I then looked for articles about the building of the Transcontinental Railroad in California, but then discovered that that still wasn’t far back enough. I had to go back to the gold rush of the late 1840s. That’s when it really all began. However, not quite because then I had to delve into what conditions were like in China to make all these young men so willing to leave their families and the comforts of home for the wild west of America. I started reading about the Taiping Civil War which then led further back to Sun Yat Sen and Chiang Kai-Shek. Although it was all so engrossing, I realized that I need to set boundaries for my research or I could keep going off on endless tangents. 

In our last class, Dr. Zamora said that through all this research it will soon become clear what matters most to me and when I figure this out, I will be able to develop a specific line of inquiry.  This is exciting and anxiety producing too because I know what I want to focus on, but going back to Dr. Nelson’s class (I wish I could stop doing this!), I really feel like I need the research question to propel me forward. What am I trying to prove in my thesis? What gap in knowledge am I trying to fill? Do I even need a research question, given that this is a non-traditional thesis? I’ve got it in my head that the research question is the foundation of the thesis and if I can’t nail it then my thesis will never come together.

I have a lot of articles but need to really start working on how to put them all together. It’s like a big puzzle. I have so many pieces, maybe too many still, and need to keep shedding things that are not helpful. I hope I don’t sound confused. I really do understand what I’m doing and see a path through all this. I’m still in the beginning stages of my thesis. I just need to be patient and let things fall into place.

WHen life throws you lemons…

What a week! You never really know what role you play in a family emergency until the emergency hits and everyone is hysterical. Then you have to make a split second decision of are you going to choose hysteria or are you going to be the calm one to figure out a solution. Ironically me being the youngest I had no other choice besides being the calm one. Without going into deep detail because I truly don’t want this to be the topic of conversation during class. My family just needs prayers! With every negative situation I try to see an opportunity. I have been spending my time as a visitor in the hospital, and I purposely bring my laptop to continue to get the job done. In this case the job is school. My job job has been great with not bothering me during this time, but I think I will be good to work remotely starting tomorrow (Monday) as I anticipate remaining as a visitor in the hospital for the rest of this week. 

Last week I decided to go to class to get a break from the hospital to hopefully get my mind off of the reality that is in real time. I have to admit I wasn’t really able to fully focus but I did get some organizing with marking up my already written work with my thesis. I am also so happy I came and was a part of voting YES to dedicating half of the class just to write. Man on man do I need that writing time! With that now my plan is to write extensively  ( which I have been doing while in the hospital ) and during class I will be editing. That gives me 10 writing days and 2 editing days. That makes me feel good about completing my goal of having 5-6 chapters completed by Nov 1st. 

It’s safe to say more than 2 hours of writing, with breaks of course daily ( besides Saturday) and then during class I will have printed copies to make edits. Currently I have 6 men ( chapters) That I will be working on for the remainder of October. Writing and editing. 6 sounds like a lot but I will still be comfortable if only 5 are complete as well. Each week I have been feeling better about my plan and progress, but today I feel GOOD about where my thesis is at and where it is headed. 

I do want to be transparent and say my stress is literally through the roof currently. If I seem unusually quiet or to myself, please don’t take it personally. I am pushing through the best way I know how.

A Cacophony of Emotions

I’m happy to have had the wonderful feedback from my peers last night, but for some reason I left that class emotionally shut-down. I don’t know where that came from, but on the way back to my place I’ve experienced a cycle of grief, satisfaction, anger, lonely, energetic and aloof. It’s not necessarily with the project itself or the feedback, I think it’s because of what the project represents and my dissatisfaction that I can do it better.

I don’t want to see it as a tribute to my lost loved ones, though in theory it was a major driving force of me getting it to it’s current state. I’m not sure, I think perhaps the grieving whiplash is starting to kick in, and I’m not exactly sure where it might take me. Apologies in advance, but I might be more distant and cold in the coming weeks. I take responsibility for my reactions and expressions, but I’m really in a bizarre state right now. Why can’t I be better?

Going back into my project, it feels great knowing that the main feeling I wanted invoke was discovered by my audience. It makes me think that the work put into it meant something after all. It’s interesting to note that most of what I had to cut and scrap was what everyone thought would enforce my ideas better, so I’ll be sure to work on that as best as I can. I’m also privy to the idea of rewriting some phrases in a more poetry-like form to create a more dynamic narrative. It’s something I need to look into without sacrificing narrative. I’m not 100% sure about having the story be present in its entirety somewhere, as the story only works if someone follows along with the narrator as they navigate, it might sacrifice what I’m aiming for. I’ll see.

For now, aside from a few tweaks and additions, my main focus will now be on the literary review. That’s not to say I’ll stop working on the project entirely, it’s just that I will now shape focus while the other gets revisions. It’s how I got to this point with the project so I’m just shifting. I’ll see how much I need to do.

For now I’ll get back to working on what needs to be done. I’m not really one for explaining everything in detail because I like my works to speak for themselves. I’ll periodically update but my path now will probably be the same. I can’t wait to go on a long leave when all this is over.

A Piece of Cake in the Storm

I don’t feel like there’s much for me to write this week. The story is working as it’s going along, even though I haven’t gotten much done. Having a segment of time in class designated for writing our thesis will be such a great help. I am not even working full-time, but one of my other classes is very demanding in terms of its work and there’s always some presentation due. It’s not allowing me to give the time I want to give to it. And it somewhat disappoints me because I know I can do so much better. But I guess that’s what makes the thesis journey so interesting. Last year, when I started graduate school online, I really felt like it was a piece of cake. Okay, well maybe not so much a piece of cake, but easy to handle. And why? Because honestly speaking, I used to get all my homework done well in advance as a result of working on it during class :/ I know that’s not really the best thing to do, but believe me, I was multitasking. If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t have been able to participate in conversations the way I had. But this year, I really feel like I am completing my last year of education. It feels like it’s so much. All these assignments just coming at me left and right and now I have to make time to complete it, separate from having class. No complaints though, I would rather be on campus than have online classes.

Each week, it seems more and more obvious that it’s not just me who feels weird about living this new normal. All ages, all professions are experiencing the same thing. But why? Personally, I feel because everyone has basically peaked their tolerance of mental exhaustion. Although we were living like this for many years, that kind of lifestyle was normal. No masks, no fear and most of all, no CO-VID. But when life changed in March 2020, nobody was really relaxing at home. Being in a lockdown was mental and emotional stress. No one could step out freely or meet someone without worrying about either dying themselves or being the cause for someone else’s death. It wasn’t a vacation. Then, after a year and a half of living life on the edge, vaccines helped people attempt to start living life normally. Socializing, meeting friends, going to college, working, etc. Most people thought going back in time would be relaxing, but even that didn’t work. Having to adapt to another new normal before adapting to the previous new normal left no time for this unfamiliar way of living to sink in. Result? Rage, frustration, the need to detox and the temptation to explode. Everyone has just been pushing themselves to the limit. A human’s ability to feel, think and do so much is finite. We will break eventually if it is not realized and confronted. So it’s okay, just take a step back and breathe. If we made it this far, with time, maybe we will get back to our lives pre-COVID. Although I myself don’t know what that felt like anymore.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

In terms of my thesis, like I started off with, things are going okay. Not great, not bad but decent. I have actually been at a block because I have been debating whether or not to change the POV in my story. I had originally started with third person because I was intending on telling the story by sharing what Sarah, Ehsan and Jacob were going to go through. But Maura had suggested that as a reader, she would rather like to read a story from first person perspective and find out things as the character is finding out, especially with this type of story. I was in a dilemma; it might not sound that serious, but believe me, for a writer, it definitely is. So, I started writing first person side-by-side of whatever I had written so far in third person. I read both to myself and felt in my opinion, that first person was the winner. You will understand more when I share this with you all during my presentation in a couple of weeks. I am handwriting my story right now, not typing. Because I feel for me personally, there’s more of a flow and less writers block when I write by hand. Once I have a good amount done, I will start typing it. For the most part, the I was stirring up a storm for me. Should I write from the “I” perspective or someone else? Changing it to first person now would even add more meaning to my title. Isaac (the son) will not be the only I of the storm…it will be the “I” in the story itself, the POV it’s being told from. It’s her storm, her life, and her “I” that started the story in the first place. Whatever it is, I should try to remember how it feels to do something as if it’s a piece of cake and lessen my worry, while deciding what storm to brew for Sarah.

Hmmm it’s funny. I started off saying there’s not much for me to write about, but I still wrote 3 paragraphs. I didn’t lie though, it was just an assumption 🙂

Does Anything Still Move You Since You’re Educated Now?

A Skippable Part: Just Me Letting Things Out and Having an Identity Crisis

If there’s one thing I’ve learned throughout my time in this program, what’s happening outside of the classroom is just as integral to someone’s learning as what’s going on inside. I want to start out this post by sharing just a little bit about what I’m looking forward to beyond my academic pursuits and why it means so much to me. (And it does come full circle because in a way this is what gives me hope and keeps me going!) 

I’d be shocked if no one knew already, but for those of you who don’t, I am a huge New Jersey Devils fan (17 years this season!) and can’t wait to see them return to action this Saturday! There’s nothing like having a fresh reset every season; it’s a new roster, a chance to win the Stanley Cup, and for fans, there’s this palpable excitement in the air that makes you want to go out and express that in everything you do. There’s this wonder that never ceases to find me every season; you have both experience and a blank slate, so you are starting fresh, but not from scratch. This season it all dovetails into the beauty of hockey being back on ESPN, with some games on ABC, and the iconic theme I haven’t heard since the last Devils’ cup win preluding every matchup. All of this is the stuff that keeps me going because in a way, getting to wrap up this thesis and start living life a little faster as I figure out who I want to be, and what I want to do is my version of the Stanley Cup, and as an entity, whether I’m Sun the student, Sun the professional, or Sun the human, I am my own dynasty team.

Hockey season and the excitement it brings has always been one of the most reliable sources of joy in my life. Growing up, it was something that was entirely mine; my brother didn’t care for it, I didn’t inherit my interest for it or the team I root for from my Dad, and I knew my mother was just happy to see I was staying out of trouble and at least sitting in one spot. It was also the thing that kept me going as my grandmother progressively got sicker before passing; my parents had spent so much time looking after her, that sometimes it was the color commentators that became a familiar company in the home. I remember being mystified first by the team name, and then by the actual action, and as someone with a library card does, checking out every book to exist on the topic of “hockey” that I could find, from biographies to histories to “how to play” guides. Tears were shed when I discovered the Miracle on Ice and watched the film adaption that came out the same year. (And yes, I rewatch it every year on the anniversary of the Miracle on Ice.) Herb Brooks’ speech and the exclamation of “Do You Believe in Miracles? YES!” has gotten me through all my tough moments. 

I’m also amped up and relived, in a sense, that I’ve held onto my passion for the Devils’, the Riveters, and the Mets for so long because as I came to realize this past weekend, there are times where I get so consumed with school and future aspirations that it seems like there’s no room to still be a person, let alone myself. There’s always an illusion of silliness or immaturity attached to being so forthcoming about things you love beyond your career trajectory, and I hope that I can erase that sort of insecurity for anyone who stumbles onto my work, the way figures leading the good fight for equity, diversity, and acceptance in hockey like Renee Hess and Saroya Tinker have for me over the years. So, whether you’re feeling annoyed or misty-eyed with my vulnerability, tune in to “Howl” by the Gaslight Anthem, and let’s get on with the thesis show! 

Thesis Progress 

Research is continuing to be my primary focus, and I have to say, it’s reaching my favorite stage of a smooth, input-output reaction. My targeted searches, and my willingness to integrate sources beyond just academic articles, such as podcasts, documentaries, and true-to-life newspaper articles have eased plenty of the burden and are far more fruitful for demonstrating usage of forensic linguistics over simply the theory and history of the field. The podcasts I have listened to fluctuate from having linguistics as the focus to being  

Some of the podcasts I have listened to if you want to follow along are En Clair, Morbid, and Vocal Fries, which all delve into forensic linguistics, eyewitness testimony, and even the process of how juries evaluate linguistic evidence. (Of course, this means Speak of the Devils is on the backburner, but I’ll somehow live.) I also have a smattering of singular episodes and series that I will eventually pull off the backlog, so stay tuned!

In terms of written sources, I have found more newspaper articles that are, once again, dealing indirectly with the application of forensic linguistics as they mention “eyewitness testimony” “extensive interviewing” etc. I have plans this weekend, (post-Devils game of course!), to sift through any and all public legal documents with real-life cases that involve forensic linguistics.

To give you a case of how forensic linguistics can be enacted in one form, through the examination of written language, let’s put on “Come As You Are” and briefly delve now into the case of Kurt Cobain’s suicide note. (It’s a skeletal version of an article review.) 

A Look Into the Process of Forensic Linguistics – Written Evidence Analysis 

(Article Title: “Kurt Cobain’s Suicide Note Case: Forensic Linguistic Profiling Analysis” by Eva T. S. Sudjana, Nurul Fitri)

Case Background 

Kurt Cobain, front-man of the grunge band Nirvana and often regarded as the most prominent figure of the grunge music movement of the 1990s, passed away after committing suicide on April 5, 1994, via a gunshot wound to the head, with his body remaining undiscovered for three days in his home’s garage. This event came after months of turmoil, where Cobain had displayed increasingly erratic behavior and troubling language, such as locking himself into rooms to avoid interactions with others and speaking of suicidal ideations. Following his death, his widow, Courtney Love, spoke publicly to his fans and read portions of his suicide note. 

Excerpts read from the note included phrases such as:

“Speaking from the tongue of an experienced simpleton who obviously would rather be an emasculated, infantile complain-ee. This note should be pretty easy to understand… I appreciate the fact that I and we have affected and entertained a lot of people. It must be one of those narcissists who only appreciate things when they’re gone… Frances and Courtney, I’ll be at your alter. Please keep going Courtney, for Frances. For her life, which will be so much happier without me… “I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU!”

This sparked the theory that perhaps it was not suicide, but his tumultuous relationship with Courtney Love that had led, to murder, not suicide, and the forging of the note left behind. 

Evidence Introduced 

As previously stated, the linguistic evidence introduced in this particular case was the suicide note left behind by Cobain. Through a form of discourse analysis, the process to determine whether the note was authentically written by him entailed assessing the content, the structure, motivation, and ultimately this process served to prove whether the note was doctored or authentically written by Cobain. 

Analysis 

The authors of this article perform their own analysis of Cobain’s suicide note, first by deconstructing the semantics, or literal meanings of phrases from the excerpts available to the public. It is discerned that there is content that is characteristic of Cobain’s writing and concerns, such as the note being addressed to “Boddah,” an imaginary friend from his childhood. Next, the authors move into the question of explicating intent, and uncovering whether there was any hesitation, any mention of prior warning signs that this tragedy would occur, and if there are patterns in the writing that can be seen as ambiguous or possibly signs of hesitation. Particular phrases, such as “I haven’t felt the excitement for several years,” serve as proof that the thoughts and intent have existed for a lengthy period of time. 

Furthermore, there are several instances of the text that refer to both his fans and his interpersonal circle as individuals who would be impacted by his death, suggesting that he was aware of the lasting effects of his actions.  

Ultimate Conclusion 

Ultimately, the authors agreed with the official report that Cobain indeed authored the suicide note. 

A Callback

After I found this article and a host of others, I did some surface-level imposter research, also known as opening Google Scholar and not using targeted or truncated searches, and discovered that in much of the United States, sometimes as a principal and sometimes as a standard, in instances of suicide where there is a note, voice memo, or some form of posthumous communication left behind, it is a legal requirement for it to be examined by a language expert, which means that yes, suicide note analysis specifically is a niche within forensic linguistics. 

Content like this is never easy to read and is even more difficult to digest. If you or someone else is ever struggling with suicidal ideations or intentions, firstly, please know that you are not alone, and you are not only valued by, but essential to those in your life, and resources are available to you, such as the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, available 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK.

Despite all the darkness, I can see how this subspecialty is a necessity. In many instances, this sort of analysis can provide family and loved ones with a sense of closure. I leave you with all of this and the hopeful sound of your surroundings!

The In-between

It seems as if a few of my classmates and I are in the same boat. Something about returning to an in-person lifestyle does not seem “normal.” I have been struggling mentally and I am not too sure of the reason. My last blog post showed that I was making progress towards my thesis in regards to beginning my research, but this past week was not a good one. I am always one to stay on top of my tasks and if need by will stay up to ensure everything is completed. Lately, I have not had the motivation to do anything. There are days at work that are exhausting leaving me to shower and sleep the night away only to still wake up exhausted. It’s funny (not really) because the other day I caught myself in bed realizing that I hadn’t eaten dinner. I then proceeded to turn off the light and go to sleep skipping dinner. I definitely relate to Diana when speaking about the laundry build-up. I am at the point where if I still have clean clothes to wear… I’m wearing them until having nothing to wear, but laundry is on my to-do list for this weekend! Speaking of the weekends, I thought last weekend was going to be productive but I was on call and was running sound assisting. This weekend I have to attend Kean’s Homecoming tailgate on Saturday from 12 PM- 4 PM therefore I am looking to get some thesis work completed Friday night. What I envision is doing loads of laundry, cleaning, putting on my diffuser and some music, and getting to work. I would like to continue to dive into researching more about the difference of generations regarding work-life balance as t