Irish Research Council special award winners at the 2019 BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition

Posted: 18 February, 2019

Liz-Anne Worrall, Assistant Director at the Irish Research Council; Kate Bagnall and Bobbi Beattie from The Kings Hospital School.

We have asked Kate Bagnall and Bobbi Beattie, students at The King’s Hospital School in Dublin, to contribute a piece discussing their recent Irish Research Council award at the 2019 BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition. Their project was entitled ‘Using statistics to investigate changing use of language in Irish Primary students’ writing after 80 Years’. 

Our idea for this project came from folklore stories written in 1937 by Kate’s great grand-aunt, Julia Clancy. These stories became available online on Dú, a project to digitise the Irish National Folklore Collection. The language and words we use tell us a lot about our society, our social interactions and what is important in our lives. As time goes on and the population changes, so do the components of language. We set out to use maths and statistics to look for patterns and word usage in the writings of primary school children in the late 1930s and compare them to the data in similar pieces of writing we have collected from schoolchildren in the same geographical location (Kentstown, Co. Meath) in 2018.

We put a lot of work into researching our project. We transcribed over 180 pages of folklore texts from Dúchas and learned a great deal by reading many articles. We searched for interesting patterns in the words used, and not used, by past and present pupils. For instance, we discovered that people tend to write about their own gender and that many natural words, such as magpie and acorn, have been removed from the Junior Oxford Dictionary. We used this research to help us analyse and display our own data.

There are immense benefits of independent research for students in Ireland. Carrying out such research can help students find out more about the social history of Ireland which leads to a deeper understanding of Irish literature, culture and customs. Independent research means we can explore more than the topics we need to study for our exams and more of the subjects that interest us.

It was an incredible feeling to be awarded the Irish Research Council award. It meant that our hard work and research were recognised. We really enjoyed the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition and the opportunity to meet all the scientists who attended. In the future, we would like to go to university and continue to research interesting topics.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in our guest blogs are the author’s own, and do not reflect the opinions of the Irish Research Council or any employee thereof.