The key concepts set out so far in this book are the product of many discussions by many researchers in sociolinguistics. Some of these professional studies are represented in Section D. Students setting out to investigate language and society use the published work and concepts to structure their own explorations, and to provide a disciplined framework within which to conduct and present their study. In this section, I will outline the work of my own recent undergraduate students in sociolinguistics. The intention in doing this is to encourage you, if you are new to the area, to have confidence in your own skills and thinking.
Each study is linked to the corresponding numbered area in Section A. The students who conducted each study also read theoretical work and case studies in their area of investigation. In contextualising their work for this book, I have added my own comments, and each section has a set of references to further reading. Some of the data for your own analysis in Section C also comes from fieldwork studies collected by my students.
The most successful studies tend to be those that are done by students with a direct interest in the area of investigation. This can arise in two different ways: theory-driven or data-driven.
In the former case, students are introduced to key ideas and debates within an area, and are led to further reading of published material. As they read and engage with the subject, I encourage them to ‘read with a pencil’, to think critically about their reading. A useful way of doing this is to assume a sceptical attitude towards every claim made in a book or article, unless direct evidence or reasoning is provided. Students are encouraged to examine closely every detail of the presentation, and also to think in general about what theoretical assumptions and positions underpin the writing. Often, what might at first glance appear to be minor details of difference between different studies can turn out to be examples where the writer ‘buys into’ a set of associated frameworks and positions that are highly contentious. Encouraging students to seek out these frameworks and discuss them directly is often a successful way of getting them to the heart of a discussion, and to engage seriously with the research. Theory-driven work is often the only practical way a British-based student can