LINGUIST List 13.2882

Thu Nov 7 2002

Sum: Field Linguist Survey

Editor for this issue: Steve Moran <>


  1. Doug Whalen, Summary: Field Ling Dissertation Survey

Message 1: Summary: Field Ling Dissertation Survey

Date: Tue, 5 Nov 2002 14:41:33 -0500
From: Doug Whalen <>
Subject: Summary: Field Ling Dissertation Survey

Dear Listers,
A month ago, we posted a survey on the experience of students and 
professors in incorporating field work into dissertation work 
(Linguist 13.2510). We would like to thank Steve Moran of the 
Linguist List for doing the programming on this survey--the mechanics 
worked quite well. (Thanks also to eagle-eyed respondents who found 
the one spot that didn't work so well--it is now fixed.) We have now 
received 81 responses, 31 from professors and 50 from students. They 
were studying or teaching in the following countries:

Professors: USA (16), Germany (2), Japan (2), Malaysia (2), Albania, 
Australia, France, Iceland, Poland, Sweden, Tunisia, the UK and not 

Students: USA (23), Canada (4), the UK (4), Australia (3), 
Afghanistan (2), Germany (2), India (2), Iran (2), Argentina, 
Denmark, Fiji, Finland, France, Greece, Mexico, and Portugal.

For the students, we were interested in finding out whether they 
planned to do field work in their dissertations (86% said yes), and 
whether they had ever had a field work dissertation turned down (12% 
said yes, and another 4% had changed topics or advisors even though 
they ended up with a field work dissertation). There were problems 
that were not evident in those answers, as with the student who 
wrote, "It was not turned down, yet you can not imagine what I went 
through to get it finished." Another said, "I might have liked to do 
field work but doubted I would get the money for it." Some 
persevered despite lack of support from their advisors.

For the professors, we were interested in whether they did field work 
themselves and, if not, whether they had turned down proposals 
including field work. 68% did field work of their own, and all but 
one of them was directing field work dissertations. Half of those 
not doing field work themselves were directing field work 
dissertations. One thing that appeared in the survey even though we 
had not anticipated it was that 42% of those professors who did field 
work still turned down proposals which included field work. We were 
trying to ask for just those proposals that were turned down 
specifically because they contained field work; the way we asked it 
was somewhat more ambiguous than that so that these numbers might 
have included proposals that were turned down because they were 
inadequate proposals that happened to include field work.

We also asked whether those who did not do field work would be 
interested in attending a workshop designed to put them in a position 
to oversee field work dissertations. 70% said that they were. 
Surprisingly (to us), almost half of those who already did field work 
were also interested, hoping to hear what was the latest in such 
topics as phonetic analysis, survey techniques, and lexicography.

Because our survey was about field work, it was mostly taken by those 
doing field work. This led to the apparent conclusion that most 
linguists are doing (or at least advising) field work. We believe 
that this is incorrect, but it would take a less self-selective 
survey to show that. Nonetheless, it does appear that having a 
workshop for improving advising skills for field dissertations would 
be useful.

If you would like to take the survey, we are still collecting 
responses. It can be found at: 

If there are enough responses, we will post a further summary.

Dafydd Gibbon
Doug Whalen
Doug Whalen (
Haskins Laboratories
270 Crown St.
New Haven, CT 06511
203-865-6163, ext. 234
FAX: 203-865-8963
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