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Working Title of PhD: ‘Stealing Stories?’: Investigating Language, Narrative, and Power in the Contemporary Criminal Courts

Year commenced PhD study: 2019 Institution/Organisation: University of Edinburgh

Funding Source (if any) Economic and Social Research Council

Full or part-time: Full-time

PhD Supervisors: Dr Fiona Jamieson, Dr Steve Kirkwood, Dr Richard Sparks

Synopsis of PhD:

Language is the currency through which the business of the criminal court takes place: e.g. witnesses take oaths, legal counsel tell stories, judges issue verbal and written sentences, etc. But the way language is used in the courts is necessarily different from how individuals are used to experiencing it. Lack of awareness about these altered rules may result in poor experiences of court.

How are narratives constructed, deconstructed, and reconstructed in interaction between legal professionals and lay participants? What rhetorical strategies are used and to what purpose? And how are the rights to narrate knowledge negotiated among different parties?

The project will involve, in the first instance, and ethnography of courtroom proceedings. Recordings of proceedings will be accessed and transcribed for analysis. Secondary data in the form of trial transcripts will also be used. Analysis of data will draw on traditions of conversation analysis, content analysis, and narrative analysis.

Through my research, I wish to better understand the relationships between language, narrative, and legal power in the criminal courts and to make some suggestions about how to improve courtroom experiences for lay participants in terms of storytelling.




University of Edinburgh


School of Law
University of Edinburgh
Old College, South Bridge

Research Themes

Courts and Sentencing

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