Dr Winnie Chor Oi-wan
Assistant Professor,
School of Arts and Social Sciences

Iron Sharpens Iron: the Importance of Building a Personal Research Network - An Interview with Dr Winnie Chor Oi-wan

The Open University of Hong Kong (OUHK) is a community where many young scholars launch their careers. Besides a solid teaching record, research is also critical for professional advancement. Dr Winnie Chor, Assistant Professor in the School of Arts and Social Sciences, joined the University after her post-doctoral fellowship at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s Department of English, where she organized and participated in a series of workshops on stance phenomena in Asian languages. She has also been active in conferences and seminars locally and internationally. The Research Bulletin is very happy to have chatted with Dr Chor, who shared her experience of building a network of fellow researchers and how this helped her to formulate her current research topic.

‘My current research no longer has much to do with my PhD dissertation’, said Dr Chor, ‘as I have met a good many like-minded scholars in other fields along the way. As a result, I am often inspired by them and go to them to talk about new research ideas in emerging fields’. Her research proposal — entitled ‘Epistemic modulation and speaker attitude in Cantonese: a discourse-pragmatic perspective’ — has been awarded a grant by the Research Grants Council’s Faculty Development Scheme to investigate how speakers can make use of various linguistics resources, including grammatical strategies, to express their epistemic stance and attitude (i.e. how speakers convey their value judgments, personal feelings and degree of commitment in a given context). From this functional perspective, Dr Chor’s project also examines how these different strategies have come about from a diachronic perspective. Although her project studies only spoken Cantonese, it will have far-ranging implications for similar studies of other languages, cross-cultural communication and sociolinguistics.

Academic staff interactions contribute to an environment that is conducive to research. Nonetheless, a number of factors can hamper interactions among colleagues. For instance, it is sometimes a luxury to meet with other colleagues day in and day out as faculty members have very different class schedule according to which they perform teaching, mentoring and administrative duties. In some Schools, faculty offices are scattered around different buildings, which makes casual meeting and chatting with colleagues about research ideas all the more inconvenient. The small size of the OUHK community, however, does not necessarily prevent them from building a meaningful network of scholars and exchanging research ideas with people in their fields. Dr Chor finds it very beneficial to attend conferences to meet with other researchers regularly. Drawing on her experience, she underscored the importance of immersing oneself in a research milieu and taking advantage of other research projects one comes across. ‘My research thinking and interest definitely grew a lot when I was a post-doctoral fellow’, she recalled. As she found herself in a Department of English with a strong research standing in discourse analysis, ‘I was able to develop my previous works on grammaticalization a bit further, and now look at the phenomenon at a different level and from a fresh perspective’.

When asked to give some words of encouragement to fellow colleagues, Dr Chor hoped that they will not be daunted by unsuccessful application. If an application is unsuccessful the first time, she encourages the principal investigator(s) to revise and resubmit it in the next round. Perseverance will often pay off in the end as a good proposal will eventually be recognized and validated by reviewers. The Research Bulletin wishes Dr Chor the best of luck in completing her study on the Cantonese language, and hopes her experience will inspire other colleagues to grow professionally.



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