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MSc Forensic Speech Science

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

Year of entry: 2023 (September)

Length

1 year full-time

Start date

September 2023 (semester dates)

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in the UK for the quality of our Linguistics research

according to the Times Higher Education’s ranking of the latest REF results (2021).

in the Russell Group for Linguistics academic support

according to the latest National Student Survey (2022).

in the UK for Linguistics

according to the latest QS World Rankings by subject (2022).

Forensic Speech Science (FSS) comprises various applications of phonetics, linguistics, acoustics, and speech technology to tackling problems in police work or providing evidence in legal cases.

Areas of FSS also overlap with those central to speech and recording technology, and to automatic speaker recognition as used to establish a person’s identity.

The MSc equips you with a comprehensive foundation in the aims, practices, and principles involved in this range of tasks. The learning experience integrates scholarly and professional contexts, and provides students with the opportunity to analyse real case data. Students also gain hands-on experience of the latest generation of automatic speaker recognition technology, made available through the Department’s partnership with leading speech technology companies.

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.

10th in the UK for Linguistics

QS World Rankings by Subject 2022

World-leading research

We’re ranked 1st in the UK for the quality of our research in Language and Linguistic Science - according to the Times Higher Education’s ranking of the latest REF results (2021).

Course content

You do not need a prior background in phonetics or linguistics to apply to this course, though the majority of applicants do come from these fields. The programme provides a two-part taught structure leading to a dissertation.

Semester 1 provides a general introduction to the field of FSS, and a grounding in key areas of phonetics and linguistics. Students with little or no background in these subjects take introductory modules; more advanced options are available for those with substantial experience.

In Semester 2 students progress to detailed phonetic and linguistic analysis of speech recordings, including applying techniques to forensic case data. Throughout the MSc, students also develop general research skills and conduct independent research for the final element of the programme, the dissertation.

Modules

Core modules

Semester One
Semester Two

Option modules

You will also study two option modules:

The options available to you in Semester 2 will be confirmed after you begin your course. For further information please get in touch.

Our modules may change to reflect the latest academic thinking and expertise of our staff.
Our course structures are changing in September 2023. Find out more about how this course may be affected.

Dissertation

You'll prepare and write a research dissertation over Semester 2 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 the nature and relevance of forensic questions and controversies.
  • Demonstrate an 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 2023/24

Study modeUK (home)International and EU
Full-time (1 year) £9,990£22,250

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

Fees information

UK (home) or international fees? The level of fee that you will be asked to pay depends on whether you're classed as a UK (home) or international student. Check your fee status.

Find out more information about tuition fees and how to pay them.

Funding information

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

We'll confirm more funding opportunities for students joining us in 2023/24 throughout the year.

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

Funding opportunities

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.

World-class faculty

The Department is part of York's Faculty of Arts and Humanities, ranked 40th in the 2020 Times Higher Education World University Rankings.

Links to industry

We have industrial partnerships with a number of leading developers of automatic speaker recognition systems, Nuance, Aculab, Phonexia, and Oxford Wave Research. Some of these systems are used for teaching purposes within the course

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.

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. Our Forensic Speech Science Lab houses specialist software for analysis of speech and audio recordings.

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

Successful completion of the MSc entails a solid and detailed grounding in forensic speech science, an introduction to the practical and technical skills to carry out forensic casework, and experience in conducting original research. Students develop confidence and critical skills, equipping them to exercise independent learning in future careers. The MSc provides excellent training for doctoral research as well as professional forensic speech analysis. It also enables students to develop transferrable skills to an advanced level suitable for entry into a range of professions including police work.

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

Typical offer
Undergraduate degree 2:1 or equivalent
Other international qualifications Equivalent qualifications from your country

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:

Minimum requirement
IELTS 7.0, minimum 6.5 in each component
C1 Advanced and C2 Proficiency 185, minimum 176 in each component
Duolingo 130, minimum 120 in all other components
LanguageCert SELT C1 with 33/50 in each component
LanguageCert IESOL C1 Expert: Pass with 25/50 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 English language test 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.

Apply for this course

Next steps

Contact us

Get in touch if you have any questions

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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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