Category Archives: Supervision

So you want to do a PhD?

Doing a PhD is not just about earning a title and in this post I intend to highlight some of the issues one must consider before they decide to do their PhD. First, and foremost, deciding to do a PhD does not develop overnight and is instead shaped by your character and career ambitions. One needs to be systematically organised and that means knowing what you want to do from day one. I, for instance, always knew that I wanted to become an academician and I was career oriented, so it just developed  naturally. Let me highlight again the essence is ‘planning’ as you cannot afford loosing time in such a competitive arena. If you know what you want to study and you have long thought out your topic you have a high chance of applying for the right institution, connecting with the appropriate supervisor(s), and even securing yourself with a scholarship; as one needs to apply way in advance for such opportunities. If you apply for a PhD and have no idea of what you want to specialise in I would then suggest you think twice about your decision. After all you will be living with your topic for a solid three or four years and so must bond with it.

So here comes my tips:

1) First know your long-term career goals

2) When choosing an institution don’t just go for its name (not that I am underrating its importance)! Your supervisors’ name is also important!

3) A successful PhD candidate is someone who is an autonomous learner and does not expect their supervisor to spoon feed them with a topic. After all the trick is to know what ‘you’ want to do and THEN find a supervisor who specialises in what you want to do, and not vice versa. This is how the chemistry should work. Your ideas might not always necessarily be spot on, but still should have a vague idea, so your supervisor can guide you in narrowing down your ideas.

4) When choosing your topic consider the following:

a) Originality: this is valid both for your topic AND research tools. Do something innovative so you not only have sound content knowledge in a particular area that everyone is not familiar with, but also possess a wide range of quantitative and qualitative research skills! If you end up using the same old tools everyone else used you have little to contribute to your field. I was for instance the first researcher who examined the acquisition of English onset clusters by Turkish learners of English and also for the first time examined Turkish L2 learners as young as 4 years of age. I was not only looking at the end state of acquisition, but also the developmental paths, which was a new approach in L2 acquisition. To top it up I also used Optimality-Theory as my analytical framework, which had also not been widely used in the analysis of Turkish learners of English.

b) Scope: once your ideas start rolling you will be very tempted to juggle your ideas all at once, but the trick is to narrow its scope as much as possible. Afterall you can not examine each variable all at once and more variable means more literature review, and that would be too much on your plate. You can instead mention your remaining ideas under the title ‘limitations’ or ‘areas for further research’

c)  Job market: Aha this is not a widely discussed topic for a reason I really don’t know, when in actual fact it is the crux of the matter. In an ideal world, employers do not only search for qualifications, but also seek someone who is forward-thinking, creative, active, productive, flexible and a good problem solver. Therefore employers in principle look for someone who stands out and ‘different’ from the rest, and that goes to show you why it’s important that your PhD is original in several dimensions. Your master piece should not only fill a research gap, but you as an individual should also be able to cater for immediate learning needs. A quick glance at the job advertisements in your field could also indicate the current human capital needs. At present, for instance, there is a huge demand for scholars specialising in some of the following areas: cognitive linguistics, computational linguistics, NLP, language assessment, instructional technology and SLA; and this is reflected in reputable websites such as linguistlist or

Before I wrap up my post I will also attempt to provide a brief answer to what you should do ‘during’ your PhD and ‘after’ your PhD.

If you want to stand out and secure a job after graduation you have to disseminate your work during your PhD. Aim to publish at least two or three articles and present at least three conference papers. Be as selective as possible as to where you publish and present your papers. Never underestimate yourself! If you don’t pick up this habit as early as this stage believe me the rest will  never come and never say ‘later’ as you will be equally or even more busy when you start teaching full-time.

So what should you do ‘after’ your PhD? This might seem contradictory to what I said previous to this, but the actual truth is that after you graduate and manage to maybe publish one or two more papers from your PhD you will then have to move on. What I mean by that is that you have to learn to eventually ‘detach’ yourself from your PhD and explore new ideas; remember learning is an ongoing process!  If you want to climb up the professional ladder you need to be able to prove that you can branch out. You will be judged on this basis and your PhD is just the starting point, since what you produced ‘after’ your PhD is more important, especially for associate professorship.This goes to show you why everything is not just a title! You either publish or you perish! In order to do this one must continuously generate research questions by keeping up to date with the latest advancements and collaborating. Last, but not least,  you must do whatever you do from the bottom of your heart! This I think sums it all up.

Best wishes!


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Recommendation Letters

I would like to inform all my former or present students that I am happy to provide recommendation letters, given that you adhere to the following guidelines:

– Random requests such as ‘can you provide me a reference’ is a very broad question and my automatic question would be ‘yes’, but you need to provide more specific details. For example, if you want to just add my name on your CV or application form please get my consent, and if that’s what you are asking for please state. Otherwise, if you request a specific recommendation letter please provide me the following details at least 2 weeks in advance:

1) The exact title of the programme you will be applying to and the name of the institution

2)  the exact job title you will be applying to and the name of the institution

3) the exact addressee and contact details (e.g. e-mail address)

4) specify by when the reference is required (remember you need to inform me 2 weeks prior the deadline, otherwise I am unable to prepare a recommendation letter).

Good luck!

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Unified Style Guide for Journals


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Social networking- a must for publishing

Meeting the Editors

Interviewing Illustration Careers

By David Brooks

Last month at the annual conference for my field in history, I skipped nearly every session. As usual, the conference catalog made most sessions sound intriguing, if not cutting edge. Many of the big names in the field were in attendance, sharing podium time with a cadre of up-and-comers, including a healthy handful of graduate students.

Up and down the hallways of the swank conference hotel, I overheard plenty of excited (and caffeine-fueled) chatter about the papers being presented. The energy was infectious, yet I resisted the draw of the main attraction. I had decided on my inbound flight that I didn’t want to hear about new scholarship. I was in the middle of doing research for my dissertation and in the early stages of writing it, so I wanted to maintain my selfish little thought bubble.

Thinking about all of that on the plane led me to a single question I wanted answered at the conference: How can graduate students capitalize on the chance to meet the people behind the books—the editors? [read more]

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In British Universities a ‘viva’ refers to a PhD exam, contrary in the US this is referred to as ‘defense’. Either way, an ideal PhD student should be able to verbalize their thoughts freely and hence you have an oral exam. Another reason being is to check that you are the architect of the master piece.

 During a viva I recommend a student follows some of the following tips  (some but not all):

1) Don’t ever apologize for not knowing the answer of a question put forward to you by your examiner. This is very unprofessional and so why not just bluntly say you do not know the answer of the question and justify your reasoning; maybe you were not working closely in that framework?

2) Don’t avoid spelling out your qualities or research contributions. What better time could there be than this, but don’t lose the plot and start acting as know-it-all, unless you can really stand on your feet.

3) Don’t ever say explicitly that you are very nervous (NOT ‘excited’ as that has a positive connotation!)- try to be relaxed and as professional as possible.

4) Be able to internalize certain terminology or findings with wider concepts.

I’ve attached a file with some more tips…Viva

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Research Proposal Outline


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For my current and prospective graduate students

I am happy to supervise MA and PhD students in the following areas:

1) SECOND LANGUAGE ACQUISITION- L1/L2/L3 phonetics, phonology, speech perception, syntax, sociolinguistics, vocabulary, reading, pragmatics.

2) DESCRIPTIVE & THEORETICAL LINGUISTICS: Language Typology, Turkish Languages, articulatory & auditory phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, pragmatics and psycholinguistics.  Those interested in working within an Optimality Theoretic framework for all linguistic domains are also welcome.

3) SECOND LANGUAGE PEDAGOGY-  Teacher Education, L2 input and instruction, strategies, comparative education,  special education, and all other research which aims to bridge linguistic theory to practice and analyse language
teaching from a cognitive, linguistic, social, and/or pedagogical context.

4) SOCIOLINGUISTICS- Language contact, bilingual education, language change, bilingualism, language attrition, language planning and policy, discourse analysis, pragmatics, multiculturalism, third culture kids (TCK).

Advisor to the Following M.A. Dissertation & Ph.D./EdD Theses

Kenan, Dikilitaş. The Impact of in-service Teacher training: A Case Study of Four Novice Teachers’ Beliefs and Classroom Practices. Unpublished PhD thesis in English Language Education, Yeditepe University, 2013.

Mohammed Samimi. A Linguistic Ethnographic Analysis of Bilingual Arabic-English speaking undergraduate students’ literacy practices. EdD thesis in TESOL, The British University in Dubai (in progress).

Amr Alzarka. The Pronunciation Errors of L1 Arabic Learners of L2 English: The Role of Modern Standard Arabic and Vernacular Dialects. Unpublished MEd dissertation in TESOL, The British University in Dubai, 2013.

La Trinidad Mina Mangmang. Perceptions towards the use of a self-access centre in a university in Northern Thailand. Unpublished MEd dissertation in TESOL, The British University in Dubai, 2013.

Mahmoud Nafa. A Brain Based Approach for Teaching English Language Vocabulary to ESL Learners: An Investigation Based on Arabic-speaking Learners. Unpublished MEd dissertation in TESOL, The British University in Dubai, 2013.

Tamer Ahmed Ibrahim. The effects of “pre-” and “within-task” planning on L2 written accuracy: A longitudinal Study in the context of ADEC’s English Continuous Rich Tasks (ECART). Unpublished MEd dissertation in TESOL, The British University in Dubai, 2013.

Hande Koyuncuoĝlu Using Skype in Measuring Language Attrition: A Case Study of a Child. Unpublished MEd dissertation in English Language Education, Yeditepe University, 2011.

Buket Kömürcü. Assessment of Auditory Speech Perceptual Skills by Young Turkish L2 Learners of English: Perceptual Assimilation Model. Unpublished MEd dissertation in English Language Education. Yeditepe University, 2010.

Seray Ayşe Uzel. A Comparative Study of the Turkish (L1) and English (L2) Reading Strategies of Turkish Freshman Students. Unpublished MEd dissertation in English Language Education, Yeditepe University, 2010.

Uğur Dinçer. Turkish Young Learners’ Perceptions of Communicative vs. Non-Communicative Activities in their EFL Classroom. Unpublished MEd dissertation in English Language Education, Yeditepe University, 2009.

Jonathan Beard. The Native Myth?: An investigation into Turkish students perceptions of native and non-native speaker English language teachers. Unpublished MEd dissertation in English Language Education, Yeditepe University, 2009.

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