Kate Hunter

Kate Hunter, BA in French and Linguistics, took part in Sheffield Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE). She examined English speakers' perceptions of foreign accents in film, and presented her findings at the Houses of Parliament.

Can you tell us a little bit about the project?

I spent six weeks over the summer developing and carrying out a research project with the help of my supervisor, Jane Hodson. The research looked into English speakers’ perceptions of foreign accents in film.

People were invited to watch a series of clips showing different animated characters from a film dubbed (unknown to them) with the accents mentioned.

They were asked to rate the characters on several characteristics including intelligence and trustworthiness and then to discuss their answers, providing justifications 

What inspired you to get involved?

I was unsure if I wanted to do a dissertation as I wasn’t confident about the research aspect of it, so gaining experience of conducting an experiment really appealed to me. I wanted something that would set me apart from other graduates too, and being able to gain hands-on experience in research is rare for an undergraduate.

The freedom of the project was also appealing, as you spend most of your university life researching topics which have been assigned to you. With the SURE project, I was able to pick any topic I liked which was a novelty.

How did you find the experience?

On the whole, it was a really invaluable experience. Like most research, there were days when everything seemed to be going wrong and six weeks didn’t feel like enough time to get everything done. But then there were also days when you had a breakthrough and that was so rewarding.

It was really enjoyable working alongside an academic who is genuinely interested in a similar area of your subject to you, and being able to develop and bounce ideas off one another was a fantastic opportunity.

You presented your findings at the Houses of Parliament. Can you tell us a little more about that?

Presenting at the Houses of Parliament really solidified the work that I had done and proved how worthwhile it had been. It was a nerve-wracking and surreal experience, not only to be actually in Westminster but also the fact that my work had been chosen amongst so many other really impressive projects.

The competition was tough, but it was great to see how genuinely interested other undergraduates were in such a wide range of subjects and topics, and how confidently people spoke about their research.

I had a lot of interest in my work and got to talk to a real variety of people. It was a real pleasure to be able to share with them what I had found out and get such positive responses.

It was really enjoyable working alongside an academic who is genuinely interested in a similar area of your subject to you, and being able to develop and bounce ideas off one another was a fantastic opportunity.

Kate Hunter

How do you think the experience has helped you?

The project helped me become more resilient – I encountered several setbacks but learnt not to let them halt my progress. You just have to pick yourself up and carry on and I realise that is the nature of research.

I became much better at problem solving, and this has been particularly useful whilst carrying out research for my dissertation – I’ve definitely been a lot cooler headed!

There are also practical benefits, for example, the ability to write an application asking for a grant or funding. You have to be persuasive which requires a lot of confidence. All of these skills will certainly come in handy, whether in the working world or to help me with applications for further education.

Do you have anything to add on your time and experiences while studying at Sheffield?

I cannot recommend the SURE project enough, the skills it encourages are useful in all walks of life. The execution of the scheme and the support provided by the team at 301 is flawless, which makes it an even more enjoyable initiative to get involved with.

As for Sheffield as a place to live or study, it has been unbeatable and I can’t imagine having done it anywhere else. You’re made to feel so welcome and there are so many different things to get involved with on offer here.

I’m not going to sugar-coat it and say it’s easy and all fun and games because it’s not, but it’s like anything – you get out of it what you put in. I’m certainly happy with what I’ll take away from my time here and I will really miss being a part of such a great institution.

SURE offers The University of Sheffield's undergraduate students an opportunity to become directly involved in the research activity of the University, take part in "real life" research projects in subject areas that are of special interest, and experience what it's like to work in partnership with academic staff or collaboratively in a research group.


Study at Sheffield