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MSc Forensic Speech Science

Learn how to apply linguistics, phonetics and acoustics to legal investigations and proceedings

Year of entry: 2020

Length

1 year full-time

Start date

September 2020 (term dates)

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Our MSc in Forensic Speech Science combines general linguistic-phonetic theory and method with extensive practical experience in analysis of forensic materials.

We have designed the MSc in conjunction with one of the world's leading forensic speech laboratories, JP French Associates and you'll have the opportunity to go on site and observe the working practices of the laboratory.

You'll learn about theoretical and methodological problems in performing forensic speech and audio analysis. You'll be able to apply your skills and knowledge to recorded materials from real criminal cases, as well as develop expert witness communication skills. The course also enables you to perform original research in speaker comparison and speech content analysis.

The MSc provides you with the necessary skills for further work in the forensic domain and related employment. It is also excellent preparation for a PhD in phonetics, sociolinguistics, language variation and change, or acoustics. 

Practical experience

Observe the working practices of the JP French laboratory, and institutions such as courts. Analyse recordings from real forensic cases, and use the latest generation of automatic speaker recognition software used in banking and law enforcement.

World-leading research

We are 2nd in the UK for world-leading linguistics research (Times Higher Education, REF 2014).

I am interested in comparing recordings in speaker comparison cases and to provide profiles of speakers. It is amazing to analyse speech in its minimal segments and to describe individual characteristics, like voice quality features. I really enjoy the forensic laboratory sessions in which we are working with real case recordings.
Katharina, MSc in Forensic Speech Science

Read more on what our students say about us.

Course content

In Term 1 you'll study a general introduction to linguistics (especially language variation), phonetics and acoustics, and will be introduced to forensic applications in those areas. 

In Term 2 you'll expand your knowledge and skills in speech analysis, and perform detailed work on a variety of recorded materials using a range of practical methods. You'll also attend forensics labs sessions which are not assessed.

In Term 3 you'll apply your knowledge and analytic skills to authentic forensic materials, with a focus on case work in speaker identification. You'll also go to the JP French Associates laboratory to shadow real life forensic work.

Across all terms you'll study a Research Training module. You'll complete the programme with a dissertation over Term 3 and the vacation. The programme is 180 credits overall.

The director of the JP French Associates laboratory Professor Peter French and other members of the firm will deliver some of the taught components and supervise some research projects.

Areas of the MSc overlap with those central to speech and recording technology and you'll have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience of the latest generation of automatic speaker recognition software used in banking and law enforcement, made available through the Department’s partnership with Nuance and Aculab

Modules

Term 1

If you have already studied the equivalent of one or two of these modules you may be able to replace them with Advanced Phonetics or Advanced Phonology.

Term 2

You'll take two of the following options:

If you have already studied the equivalent to these modules you may be able to replace one of them with Prosody of English.

Term 2-3

Term 3

Term 1-3

Please note, modules may change to reflect the latest academic thinking and expertise of our staff.

Dissertation

You'll prepare and write an 8,000 to 12,000-word dissertation (60 credits) over Term 3 and the vacation. This will be supervised by a member of staff. 

Recent topics for a dissertation have included:

  • Electronic voice disguise: witness anonymity
  • The phonetics of distress
  • The use of hesitation markers
  • The effects of ANC technology in mobile phones and effects of listener age on perceived guilt

More MA dissertation topics

The York approach

Every course at York is built on a distinctive set of learning outcomes. These will give you a clear understanding of what you will be able to accomplish at the end of the course and help you explain what you can offer employers. Our academics identify the knowledge, skills, and experiences you'll need upon graduation and then design the course to get you there.

Students who complete this course will be able to:

  • Approach with confidence intricate, complex and unfamiliar phonetic and linguistic phenomena, discern and analyse relevant patterns in real data sets, including forensic case data, and convey their significance effectively and with appropriate technical conventions.
  • Select and deploy appropriate qualitative and quantitative research methods acquired through the study of forensic speech science to gain a holistic and multifaceted, critical understanding of research in the field.
  • Propose creative and principled solutions to forensic problems, appealing to phonetic and linguistic theory where appropriate, and contribute them effectively to written reports.
  • Communicate clearly and effectively at an appropriate level for different audiences the nature and relevance of forensic questions and controversies.
  • Demonstrate an in-depth, systematic understanding of the role and responsibilities of the forensic speech scientist as an expert witness
  • Use specialist equipment and software for the purposes of recording and analysing speech, manage autonomously the use of this equipment with due respect to professional guidelines and best practice.
  • Create detailed and persuasive, academically and ethically informed, project proposals, and initiate, develop and complete a substantial independent research project.
  • Manage their own development as researchers and professionals, demonstrating the ability to reflect on their own practice and on feedback received, and seeking assistance where appropriate.

Fees and funding

Annual tuition fees for 2020/21

Study modeUK/EUInternational
Full-time (1 year) £8,040£18,240

Students on a Tier 4 Visa are not currently permitted to study part-time at York.

Fees information

UK/EU or international fees? The level of fee that you will be asked to pay depends on whether you're classed as a UK/EU or international student.

Funding information

Discover your funding options to help with tuition fees and living costs.

If you've successfully completed an undergraduate degree at York you could be eligible for a 10% Masters fee discount.

Home/EU students

International students

Studentships

The Department offers two studentships for students who have no other funding, each to the value of £3,500 towards course fees. All applicants will be considered automatically. Studentship applications are reviewed each year on 30th March. 

Funding specific to Language and Linguistic Science.

Living costs

You can use our living costs guide to help plan your budget. It covers additional costs that are not included in your tuition fee such as expenses for accommodation and study materials.

I am interested in looking at transcripts of recordings used as evidence in court. There are many debates as to who is the most qualified to transcribe a difficult recording and what is the best format for both capturing information and presenting to a jury, and I find it fascinating, especially considering how vital a transcript is during a court case.
Sophie, MSc in Forensic Speech Science

Read more on what our students say about us.

Teaching and assessment

You’ll work with world‐leading academics who’ll challenge you to think independently and excel in all that you do. Our approach to teaching will provide you with the knowledge, opportunities, and support you need to grow and succeed in a global workplace.

Teaching format

You'll be taught with a mixture of lectures, seminars, workshops and practical training. You'll have approximately three contact hours a week for each module. For some modules you’ll complete collaborative group work outside your classes. You’ll be set essential reading, and will complete weekly assigned exercises.

You’ll also spend approximately one hour a week in Term 1 on the Research Training module, which will then increase to two hours in Terms 2 and 3.

Facilities

All of our modules have Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) websites where all crucial materials — reading lists, handouts, discussion boards — are always accessible.

We have our own departmental e-Lab for the teaching and study time of our students. Here you will have access to a variety of resources, including specialist linguistics software, collections of text and speech, and online language-learning materials. 

Teaching location

You will be based in the Department of Language and Linguistic Science on Campus West. Most of your contact hours will be in Vanbrugh College, with some additional teaching on Campus West.

About our campus

Our beautiful green campus offers a student-friendly setting in which to live and study, within easy reach of the action in the city centre. It's easy to get around campus - everything is within walking or pedalling distance, or you can always use the fast and frequent bus service.

Assessment and feedback

You'll complete a variety of assessments, from lab reports, exams, presentations, transcriptions and analysis of speech samples, to case reports and 1,500 or 2,500 word essays. You'll also complete exercises and assignments which do not contribute to your final grade that will give you useful feedback on your progression.

Analysing a soundwave on a computer

Careers and skills

Our graduates have gone on to employment with police services and forensic laboratories, and have become academic researchers. This programme provides you with the requisite skills, understanding, and knowledge to work effectively and increase your employability in forensic domains as well as in related fields such as the police, emergency call services and security services. The MSc qualification will enable you to apply for membership of the International Association for Forensic Phonetics and Acoustics.

Career opportunities

  • Academic research
  • Computing and software development
  • Emergency services
  • Forensic speech laboratories
  • Police
  • Security services
  • Teaching

Transferable skills

  • Research design
  • The ability to read, use and present technical material
  • Data analysis using qualitative, quantitative and statistical methods
  • Graphic and statistical presentation of data
  • Writing professional reports
  • Communication skills in team work and small group work
  • Time management
  • Intercultural awareness

Entry requirements

Qualification Typical offer
Undergraduate degree 2:1 or equivalent

English language

If English isn't your first language you may need to provide evidence of your English language ability. We accept the following qualifications:

Qualification Minimum requirement
IELTS 7.0, minimum 6.5 in each component
PTE Academic 67, minimum 61 in each component
C1 Advanced and C2 Proficiency 185, minimum 176 in each component
TOEFL 96, minimum 23 in each component
Trinity ISE III Distinction in all component

For more information see our postgraduate English language requirements.

If you've not met our English language requirements

You may be eligible for one of our pre-sessional English language courses. These courses will provide you with the level of English needed to meet the conditions of your offer.

The length of course you need to take depends on your current IELTS scores and how much you need to improve to reach our English language requirements.

After you've accepted your offer to study at York, we'll confirm which pre-sessional course you should apply to via You@York.

Applying

You can apply and send all your documentation electronically through our online system. You don’t need to complete your application all at once: you can start it, save it and finish it later.

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Department of Language and Linguistic Science

Related courses

If you are new to the field or have only minimal prior background:

If you have considerable prior background we offer two specialist MA programmes:

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