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Lynsey O’Rourke joined Oxford Brookes as a research student in 2014. Her thesis title is ‘Investigating the impact of spellcheck on writing for students with and without dyslexia’.
Lynsey O’Rourke joined Oxford Brookes as a research student in 2014. Her
thesis title is ‘Investigating the impact of spellcheck on writing for
students with and without dyslexia’. Her PhD is being supervised by Prof. Vince
Connelly, Prof. Anna Barnett and Dr. Olivia Afonso.
Where are you from?
I am from Cornwall. I moved to Oxford in 2010 when I started my
undergraduate degree in Psychology with Education Studies at Oxford Brookes.
What were you doing before?
In the year between completing my BSc and starting my PhD, I worked as a
research assistant for my undergraduate dissertation supervisor, Vince Connelly.
This involved working with digital samples of handwriting from children with
and without Specific Language Impairment. During that year, we also
published my undergraduate dissertation.
What attracted you to Oxford Brookes University to
conduct your research?
I was working as a research assistant, when the studentship became
available. I was really keen to work with Vince and Anna (and Olivia when she
joined Brookes a year later).
How easy did you find it to settle into the
Because I was working as a research assistant, I was already a part of
the research environment and felt like I belonged.
What do you think about the support and resources
available to research students?
The members of the psychology department, including other PhD students,
have been the biggest source of support throughout this PhD.
There are a few seminar series in our department, which are a good
resource. We have a couple seminars each week with internal and external
speakers, and they are great for learning about current research. There are
also smaller group meetings for members of the department with shared research
interests. For example one of my supervisors, Olivia, organises regular meetings
for staff interested in writing and language as well as broader development. During
these meetings we discuss ideas, provide practical support and problem solve.
We also discuss more general issues coming up in current research. A
number of staff in the department conduct high quality research into the
typical and atypical development of language and of movement and so they offer
a great source of expertise for someone conducting writing research.
Tell us about your research.
I have conducted a number of studies to investigate the impact of
spellcheck on writing for university students with and without dyslexia. It is
typically assumed that spellcheck provides a positive boost to the writing
process during word processing, particularly for those who struggle with
spelling such as those with dyslexia. I conducted a questionnaire study in
which writers reported that the automatic underlining of spellcheck actually
interrupts writing and disrupts the train of thought. I followed up on this
finding by conducting further studies measuring aspects of text and monitoring
typing behaviour. Findings from these studies also suggest that the automatic
underlining function of spellcheck disrupts writing. This appears to be
especially true for students with dyslexia.
Results of completed studies have
been presented at various conferences.
See my student profile page for
more details. /templates/pages/staff.aspx?uid=p0042739
What do you enjoy about being a research student?
There are a lot of ups and downs to being a PhD student. For me, the ups
are part of working in research and the downs are largely due to the student
lifestyle. Striking a healthy work-life balance can be challenging as
student. There is so much work to do and a lot of pressure to do it quickly.
The positives of the PhD come from working in research. Carrying out
your own research is like nothing else. You can submerge yourself in answering
the questions that no one else has, sometimes questions that no one else has really
asked. The hard slogs are eventually rewarded with ‘ah-ha!’ moments, where you
pull together bits of information and create a new piece of knowledge. It is
exciting to contribute a new (small) piece of knowledge to the world.
How has the Santander scholarship helped your
research project and progression of your research degree programme?
The recent Santander scholarship has helped me by paying the university
fees for one year, which has largely been spent writing my thesis. The
financial support has allowed me to devote more time to writing.
Tell us about training and
other opportunities offered at Oxford Brookes.
The PhD itself is training to be a researcher. As
well as gaining experience with carrying out, writing up and presenting
research, we also experience application processes and learn to make the most
of opportunities as they come along. For example, as PhD students, many of us
apply for sums of money, which is a learning experience in itself. I have been
lucky enough to receive funding from Oxford Brookes University, Santander and
from the European Literacy Network. This has funded my studies, attendance at
relevant conferences and at specific training courses.
Attending conferences and training courses opens up
further opportunities. For example, following an eye tracking training course,
I invited one of the specialists to speak at a training day that I organised here
at Brookes. Following this, we set up the eye tracking lab in the Psychology Department,
available for the use of students and staff.
Early on in the PhD I gained an Associate Teaching
qualification and then throughout the following years I gained valuable experience
teaching in various undergraduate modules.
What are your future plans?
I would love to continue working in research. I enjoy being part of a
research team. If funding allows it, I hope to continue with research into
writing, I’d like to contribute to the development of better practical support
for struggling learners. However I would also enjoy learning about new fields
of study and I am interested in continuing with teaching.