Communicating COVID: Messages from the Downing Street Briefings

Communicating COVID: Messages from the Downing Street Briefings

Eligibility: UK/EU graduates with the required entry requirements

Funding details: Bursary plus tuition fees (UK/EU)

Duration: Full-Time – between three and three and a half years fixed term

Application deadline: 7th October 2020

Interview date: Friday 20th November 2020

Start date: January 2021

For further details contact Professor Sheena Gardner


Coventry University is inviting applications from suitably-qualified graduates for a fully-funded PhD studentship within the Centre for Arts, Memory and Communities.


Applications are invited from linguists keen to understand how messages about the COVID-19 pandemic have been conveyed through scientific papers, political statements, the Downing Street Briefings and reports in a range of journalistic and online sources.

The aim of the project is to determine how messages, such as advice to the public from politicians and medical experts, are shaped for different audiences in different contexts - in written papers, in spoken monologue and dialogue, and online. A multimodal corpus will be developed and made available for ongoing research on these historic discourses. A series of discourse analyses will be conducted. Findings will be shared with academics and professionals concerned with political and medical/public health communication.

The supervisory team includes Professor Sheena Gardner and Dr Benet Vincent of CAMC at Coventry University.


This is a fully-funded PhD studentship, including:

  • Full tuition fees
  • Stipend/bursary


Training and development

The successful candidate will receive comprehensive research training including technical, personal and professional skills.

All researchers at Coventry University (from PhD to Professor) are part of the Doctoral College and Centre for Research Capability and Development, which provides support with high-quality training and career development activities.

Entry requirements

  • A minimum of a 2:1 first degree in a relevant discipline/subject area with a minimum 60% mark in the project element or equivalent with a minimum 60% overall module average.
  • the potential to engage in innovative research and to complete the PhD within a 3.5 years
  • a minimum of English language proficiency (IELTS overall minimum score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component)

Additional Requirements

The successful applicant will be familiar with corpus linguistics and with approaches to discourse analysis. They will be aware of ways in which corpus research can complement discourse analysis. They should be able to demonstrate an aptitude for corpus development, an understanding of issues in corpus design, and an interest in the analysis of political discourse, such as the Downing Street Briefings. Experience with multimodal corpora, and with how messages ‘change’ to reflect different social contexts would be particularly valuable, as would a working knowledge of Systemic Functional Linguistics, and a background in journalism or medical communication.

How to apply

To find out more about the project, please contact either Professor Sheena Gardner or Dr Benet Vincent.

All applications require full supporting documentation, a covering letter, plus an up to 2000-word statement showing how the applicant’s expertise and interests are relevant to the project.

Apply to Coventry University