Posted in programming

Quick tip for R: How to save your dataset in a native R format for future work

This is a note to self more than anything else, but maybe someone learning R out there finds it useful, too.

I lost some time recently because I kept running R results and only saved them as plots and csvs. As I’m on a budget Macbook with limited memory I can’t keep many results loaded in R (it all stays in memory). Now if I want to go back and change a plot, for example to make it prettier in terms of its dimensions or to add a title or even to filter the data that goes into a subplot… I’ll have to rerun the results.

Saving the results in a csv file is good for future reference, but won’t help with the issue that we can’t easily (?)  recreate the results from it. It seems far easier to save the actual R data in an R format.

In fact, my ‘statistics and programming colleague’ has been providing such R files in the ‘RDS format’ for our project to save my time of running them, but giving me the chance to select my own subsets for plots. I’m a bit gutted that I didn’t realise the potential of this function for my own work until today. (I am having to rerun the results in order to create nicer plots; but then it’s also better for archiving the results in an R format than only in csv, I suppose, because things do change or I might find mistakes in my methodology later…).

In order to create an RDS file you have to use this function (from the R documentation; for me its usually sufficient to simply name the object the file path):

saveRDS(object, file = "", ascii = FALSE, version = NULL,
        compress = TRUE, refhook = NULL)

For the technical details you can refer to the R documentation linked above or this post that explains the difference between ‘saveRDS()’ and ‘save()’ in more detail. In a nutshell, ‘save()’ apparently saves the object with its name. So, if my original results were called ‘results’ and meanwhile I had created another object called ‘results’ I’d have a problem when I loaded the saved version. With ‘saveRDS()’ we don’t have this problem.

Hopefully, this post can be of use to some of you (obviously check what’s most helpful for your work). I’ll start saving all my important R results in this format 🙂

Posted in corpus linguistics, techy

On analysing concordance lines

I start this post by giving a very quick introduction to concordances. If you are already an experienced corpus linguist, you can skip to the final section on categorising concordance lines. I am curious about your own practices for analysing concordance lines: do you print them out and highlight the different patterns? Or do you annotate the lines electronically, using a concordancer or a spreadsheet? Is there any other option that hasn’t occurred to me yet?

The basic display format in corpus linguistics

In the past year or so I was pre-occupied with relatively abstract, ‘big picture’-style analyses of my corpus (basically key key word and collocation analysis), but now I have come across a theme for which a smaller-scale, qualitative analysis is more appropriate. (Once I’ve wrapped it all up, I hope to share some insights. Or you may have to wait for my thesis to get done …).

For me as a corpus linguist, the go-to tool for any qualitative investigation  is the concordancer. As the name suggests, it produces concordances. A concordance is the basic display format in corpus linguistics that lists snippets of the text, illustrating the use of a particular word or phrase in a corpus. Concordance analysis has brought the discipline a long way, especially when Sinclair developed very systematic ways of analysing concordance lines for making dictionaries. (Sinclair’s guidelines are recorded in his book Reading Concordances; it’s a shame that Google Books has no preview …).

Consider this quote from Martin Wynne’s (2008, online) handbook chapter on concordancing:

For many linguists, searching and concordancing is what they mean by “doing corpus linguistics”.

The way we read concordance lines is quite different from the way we read a text. This  vertical reading may take some time getting used to. Here’s an example, concordance lines  for language on WebCorp:


You can also use WebCorp to produce concordance lines from the web; or you can access corpora that are available online with integrated concordance functionality, such as the BNCweb or the  BYU corpora. (If you want to run concordances on specialised subcorpora on the BYU interface, you might be interested in the slides and the handout from my session at the University of Birmingham Summer School in Corpus Linguistics this year).

Of course, we often want to use corpus linguistic tools on materials that haven’t been made widely available, because it is often necessary to prepare a corpus from scratch for a particular research question. To create concordances for your own texts you using concordancers like AntConc and WordSmith Tools (which you could buy if your institution doesn’t  have a license).

What are your personal preferences for analysing concordance lines?

Concordance analysis is all about viewing a word (or phrase) in its co-text to identify any patterns in the way it is used. It’s often helpful to resort the concordance lines. Concordance tools usually let you resort based on the surrounding words (in positions 1-5 or more on the left and right).


According to Martin Wynne (2008, online),

[t]his type of manual annotation of concordance lines is often done on concordance printouts with a pen. Software which allows the annotation to be done on the electronic concordance data makes it possible to sort on the basis of the annotations, and to thin the concordance to leave only those lines with or without a certain manual categorisation.

Personally, I usually start with a print out of the simple concordance lines. Then, once I have identified some simple categories I often move on to an Excel spreadsheet. I like being able to add columns for categories (I should just not overdo it, like in the photo…). Moreover, in some versions of Excel, it is possible to select and change the font of particular words in the same cell (seems to work on Excel for Mac but not for Windows). That way, I can highlight the word or phrase which prompts the category for the concordance line. It is also possible to assign a concordance to particular categories.


wst_set_coloursSome concordancers provide functionality for categorizing concordance lines. In WordSmith Tools it is possible to assign categories (‘sets’). I have only recently tried this function and I’m quite impressed with the range of colours that are available, which you can see in the screenshot on the left. More information is available from the manual. BNCweb also provides a (simple) categorisation function with up to 6 categories. In the example from the screenshot below we would distinguish between can as the modal verb and can as the container for a drink. Of course, the modal is much more frequent (in general language usage, not in a text about coke cans…). Therefore all the example concordance lines represent the modal usage.


I am curious about these features and in how far people use them. If you don’t use these functions, how else do you categorise concordance lines? Do you do it manually, after printing out? In practice, how often do you analyse concordance lines? Are they quite important in your research or do you focus on more quantitative aspects, checking concordance lines when necessary?

Further reading

Sinclair, J. (2003). Reading Concordances: An Introduction. Harlow: Pearson/Longman.
Wynne, M. (2008). Searching and concordancing. In A. Lüdeling & M. Kytö (Eds.), Corpus Linguistics: An International Handbook (Vol. 1, pp. 706–737). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. [pre-publication draft available online]
Posted in Conferences/events

Surveillance and religion workshop

This week I had the opportunity to join the first workshop of the Surveillance & Religion Network, organised by Eric Stoddart of the University of St. Andrews and Susanne Wigorts Yngvesson of Stockholm School of Theology. The ‘Surveillance, Religion, and Security – Workshop One’ took place in Birmingham from 17-19 October and was the first of several events for which the organisers secured funding from the AHRC.

My PhD research broadly deals with two areas: corpus linguistic methods (how can we identify patterns of meaning in a discourse?) and their application to surveillance discourse (how is the concept of surveillance discussed in different domains of public discourse?). In the first two years of my PhD I spent most time focusing on the methodological concerns. How do I collect relevant texts? How do I need to process these texts? What corpus linguistic methods are out there? How have other researchers applied and developed them? Which methods are most suitable for my project? As I was dealing with these questions I mainly talked to other linguists.

However, I haven’t engaged much with the other relevant group. So, when I saw the CfP for the first workshop from the Surveillance & Religion Network, I considered this a good chance to initiate some dialogue with surveillance studies scholars. They, I thought, would be more interested in the theme rather than the method and would therefore be able to give me more feedback with that regard.

This photo of the refreshments provided at the workshop, in my view, is a good representation of the atmosphere throughout the event: friendly and familiar (the cookies were actually really good!)

Once the event had started, I was happy to discover that my nervousness to attend the event as a linguist was unnecessary. The atmosphere at the workshop was very friendly indeed. Attendees came from very mixed backgrounds: academics (sociology, theology, education, archaeology, linguistics), practicing clerics and even police.

We thus had an insightful programme full of different perspectives on surveillance. My personal highlight was the public lecture by Professor David Lyon, the director of the Surveillance Studies Centre at Queens University, Canada. The lecture was entitled ‘Why surveillance is a religious issue’.

Professor Lyon emphasised one point that was also voiced throughout other sessions in the programme: the increasing ‘surveillance culture’ promotes a climate of suspicion which can only be overcome through a promotion of trust. In Lyon’s view, while surveillance practices can reinforce the marginality of minorities, religious institutions are in a position that allows them to promote trust and hope. Lyon was particularly keen on promoting the idea that we should not give up on our agency, which, as he argues, is in line with the teachings of Abrahamic religions. Indeed, there are small steps we can all take in promoting trust by, for example, campaigning for less surveillance at our workplaces or encouraging our software-developing friends to collect less consumer data. The public lecture was recorded and the audio will be made available soon. (I will post the link here once it is live.)

I have just given the example from David Lyon here, but throughout the workshop we also heard about many ways in which religion and surveillance can be related. For instance, the metaphor of the ‘divine gaze’: how God, in Abrahamic religions, watches over the people. My own contribution was, obviously, linguistic in nature. I presented work related to my PhD thesis: a corpus linguistic analysis of religious themes in surveillance discourse in the academic journal Surveillance & Society and in a collection of blogs. I enjoyed meeting this group of scholars and practitioners who share an interest in surveillance and its social consequences. They also reassured me that my research is of interest for them, as there is not much dialogue between surveillance studies and linguistics.

If you are curious about the relationship between surveillance and religion in particular, you might be interested in the next event by the Surveillance & Religion Network. The ‘Religions Consuming Surveillance – Workshop Two‘ is taking place from March 20 – 22 in Edinburgh and the deadline for the CfP is 15 December. Should you have any experiences related to the theme of surveillance & religion or interdisciplinary encounters, I’d be curious to hear about these in the comments!

Update 26 October: I just found another blog post about Professor Lyon’s public lecture by the organiser of the Open Rights Group Birmingham, Francis Clarke. His attendance (and participation in the question session) is a good example of how academics and public groups, particularly activists, can engage with one another.

Posted in academia, Conferences/events

University of Birmingham Corpus Linguistics Summer School

This week (20 – 24 June 2016) a corpus linguistics summer school took place at the University of Birmingham Centre for Corpus Research. I was fortunate to be involved in the event.
The schedule was tight, but it seems to have been well worth it, as these tweets from participants suggest:
The full virtual Twitter conversation from throughout the week can be found under the hashtag #ccrss16.
Topics ranged from multiple facets of corpus statistics and their applications in R to Sinclairian lexical items, corpus stylistics and translation studies, specialised corpora and an introduction to Python for corpus linguists. The workshops and talks were held by Johan de Joode, Stefan Evert, Chris Fallaize, Matt Gee, Stefan Th. Gries, Nicholas Groom, Susan Hunston, Andrew Kehoe, Michaela Mahlberg, Lorenzo Mastropierro, Florent Perek, Simon Preston, Pablo Ruano, Adam Schembri, Paul Thompson and I. While most of us are based at UoB, it was great to have colleagues from other institutions and even from abroad join us to share their expertise.
My own session was inspired by a talk from Mark Davies at the ICAME 37 conference (Chinese University of Hong Kong, May 2016), where he demoed the new ‘virtual corpus’ feature on the BYU corpus interface.[Click on the links for the PDF versions of my presentations slides and the handout of my session].
Personally I enjoyed this week of intense exposure to different aspects of corpus linguistics. Full-week events like conferences and summer schools can be quite draining as you have to be ‘always on’, responding to new contents and people. However, the learning hopefully makes up for that.
Posted in academia, academic writing, PhD

The joy of moving on to the next chapter

I’m very happy to share the news about moving on from my first analysis chapter (Chapter 4 in the thesis).  On January 31  I was already sharing my frustration about writing this chapter and now, exactly two months later, I finally have a full draft. Actually, I’ve been sitting on this draft for a while with only a few paragraphs that needed reworking or were still in the shape of bullet points. In the mean time the text has been part of various different documents/files. The screenshot here displays the metadata of the current file. I know it’s at ~ 17,000 words too long for the final chapter. Now this number includes tables that I might shorten/delete/move to the appendix in the final thesis. The document also has a rather long background and methodological section which I might have to move to the background and methodology chapters of my thesis at a later stage.

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 16.11.28.png

For now, though, I’m just really happy that I was psychologically able to call it a ‘full draft’. This means I sent it to a friend today who will have a look at it and give me some comments. She’s also a linguist, but works in a different subfield. I need some distancing from this text and – as I’ve been feeling quite insecure – either some confirmation that it is an okay text or some advice on what is needed to clarify things a bit. I won’t go back to this until late April or early May, though.

I think that having worked on this chapter or preparatory stages for it since September has been too long of an intense period of thinking about this particular aspect of my PhD. My supervisor has been urging me to move on and today I finally felt ready to let it go. I know that it’s nowhere near the shape that I need it in for my final thesis. Some references aren’t probably as relevant as I first thought and others are lacking. The argumentation may not be clear enough. But I am moving on to the next stage of my analysis where I’m applying the same method to a different dataset. I am sure this will also give me more ideas for the analysis of the first corpus.

Best of all, I can feel some enthusiasm again! Have you felt tired about any of your chapters? Did it help to move on to something new and return to the work after a couple of weeks? Or have you found it most useful to fully finish one chapter/study before starting something else?

Posted in academic writing, PhD, Uncategorized

Little cartoon sharing at the end of the leap day (just for fun)

Everyone loves phdcomics, right? They even get included in Grad School workshop presentations…

Lately I’ve come to admire another source of grad student/ academic comments though: Have a look at A Prolific Source by Belle Kim, will you? I think you might enjoy it 🙂

Belle Kim’s cartoons are just lovely and they often strike a chord with me. I also like her approach that drawing can help you stay sane. It made me want to start, too. Now here is a very poor first draft. (I HAVE drawn other stuff recently but it’s too cute and non-academic; Chinese-style stickers from WeChat… and I have also jumped on that colouring book bandwagon). Anyway, not trying to do anything professional here, hence also just a cellphone picture, no scan. A really quick drawing to share an anecdote from the end of my leap day.


[By the way, it’s March now! oO *ahhhhhh* *heeeeeelp*)


Posted in academic writing

Leap day = thesis day?!

It’s Monday morning and I should be full of joy about the opportunities ahead. Not only is a new week starting, but today is leap day – what a rare chance to have a leap day during the PhD! (Is it?) Somehow all I want to do is crawl to bed though.

BUT I saw a tweet just now saying “What Leap day means for me: an extra day of thesis writing.. ” (by @A_GowardBrown). I liked that attitude and that got me thinking that I ought to be more positive! After all, the sun is shining here in the English Midlands, I don’t have any appointments or teaching commitments today and I don’t need to sit on a train for hours. All of these rather rare events coming together seem to make this leap day really special with an extra few hours for me to get that chapter draft fixed.

By the way, I wish I knew how to add the tweet here looking like properly embedded, like a clickable screenshot. Does anyone know?

I don’t have energy for checking now – and it would only be procrastination anyway. So what I’ll try to do is to pretend I’m attending one of the lovely ‘Shut Up & Work’ events at my Grad School’s PGRHub, with a self-enforced schedule and tasks for every working session and plenty of breaks with biscuits and coffee. Perhaps I can move the afternoon session to a cafe.

Happy Shut Up and Working 😉


Posted in academia, academic writing

Flying (and floating) like a kite


Just a some quick sharing today. First of all I’d like to thank everyone who read and commented on yesterday’s post on my feelings related to writing the first analysis chapter. It really feels great to hear back from people who have been through this already or are going through the same sort of thing.

So far I still feel a bit lost – and today some other annoying bits like problems with technology and bureaucracy were added to my plate. It doesn’t help, either, that I’ve some other deadline coming up … in theory it’s all very exciting only right now it doesn’t seem to be working quite ideally just yet. But I’ll try to hang in there and follow everyone’s advice to just try and get something ‘down’.

For now I just wanted to share this silly little drawing. I mentioned this simile to a friend recently (who is also a PhD student) and we got some fun out of it. We sometimes really feel like we’re flying (or floating) in the wind, sometimes way too far into one direction (or so it seems). Then at some point our supervisors may try to pull us back. At the moment I can feel lots of forces pulling on my line. But I do hope that something will pull me back to more familiar heights or grounds so that I’ll feel more comfortable soon. If you can relate, I hope you’ll feel that soon as well. Or perhaps you’ve already gotten into this kite thing – in that case happy flying :)!!!

Posted in academic writing

Trying to write my 1st analysis chapter

There’s been silence from me since November. What has happened in the meantime? Somehow time has been disappearing ever since the academic year started in September, because I started teaching. Not only did I start teaching for the first time, it is also a subject outside my area of expertise. As a result I have been on a steep learning curve both in terms of pedagogy and the subject matter.

Now of course I’m also supposed to be doing my PhD at the same time. I have finished the data collection for my corpus in October. My supervisor has been very keen for me to start writing the actual chapter about the analysis of this corpus. At times I have felt a bit under pressure because I’m afraid that if I’m doing this too quickly I will make mistakes. And I have experienced several times that with corpus linguistics it is very easy to make such ‘mistakes’: not necessarily in terms of really doing something outright wrong but simply ticking (or forgetting to tick) a certain setting option that then makes the results either somewhat wrong, illogical, or at least not ideal. The problem is that often the initial list output from a corpus tool is followed by a considerable amount of manual work (categorisation, interpretation) so that it’s really rather disheartening when you have to redo the list and all subsequent steps.

Apart from all the technical considerations, one of the scariest issues has been this thought: “I have no idea how to write a chapter”. I started my PhD right after the MA, which I had done right after my BA. So I have the experience of 4 years of intense term paper writing. Yet, term papers seem so different. I loved them, actually. Yes, when I had 4 MA term paper deadlines on the same day, the psychological pressure was simply awful (and it happened to me twice – once in each semester). Yet, this shortage of time and the lecturers’ advice to “keep it manageable” was enough to help me refine my thoughts, my structure, my bullet points for each section and the term papers somehow wrote themselves. The PhD is so different. Obviously I wrote a proposal before I even started it (i.e. during the MA!) and I basically spent the first year reading and drafting a tentative literature review and methodology. Now that I am 1.5 years in it seems like I can toss much of that right into the bin… why is that?? But yes of course everyone tells you that. The whole project will shape itself as you proceed and your thoughts will get refined and all that.

Writing BA and MA term papers seems to have been a straightforward process. Either there was a set task and I knew what to do/ look for and therefore what literature to review (at least the literature mentioned in class plus 5-10 articles related to the topic found on Google Scholar or in the library catalogue; often there wasn’t space for a literature review of more than a page anyway). Of course there were moments of desperation. Being somewhat of a perfectionist I did many overnight term paper writing or proofreading sessions, often in the company of classmates in a departmental computer room or a 24-hr library section with lots of chocolate and soft drinks. Nevertheless, there was always this wonderful idea of further examination being “beyond the scope of this paper”. And this scope had been neatly defined in discussion with my lecturer.

For the PhD, then… I am often confused about the scope. Everything shifts and floats and new ideas come up or get rejected. The thought of “writing up” makes me feel really dizzy. Of course I have the lit review and methodology drafts from year one and lots of drafts of what I have been doing in year 2, but I know very well that EVERYTHING WILL HAVE TO BE REWRITTEN. OMG OMG OMG!

Phew… I tried overcoming the little panic attacks that I had when thinking of the transition of term paper to PhD chapter by asking my supervisor very practical questions along the following lines:

  • Do I need to put lit review bits into the chapter as I’m drafting it now? How do I know which bits need to be moved to the ‘lit review chapter’ (which will have another name) and which stay in the chapter?
  • [Same for the methodology]: Do I add methodological details into the chapter?

I’m also struggling with the structure of the actual results etc… but anyway, regarding the literature and methodology bits, she basically told me to add the critical bits to the chapter for now and once I rewrite or put together the whole thesis I will find the balance. She actually suggested that it would be neat to have one general methodology chapter that is followed up by a more detailed short methodology section in each analysis chapter relevant to the local discussion there.

I have been writing so many drafts of my current analysis… they all seem to end up like a report rather then a chapter. So she told me to stop trying to find out other things or change the method again but rather add some interpretation and theoretical implications in relation to my research field. This is what I have to do now.


In the meantime I have also referred to one of my favourite procrastination strategies: reading about writing. I have come across two great books for that recently (which you may know already), Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day (Joan Bolker) and On Writing (Stephen King). The first one has a title that first sounds a bit ‘cheap’ but I was really positively surprised by the book and it’s so far my favourite PhD guide. In fact, I finished it in four nights. King’s book is of course pitched at writers of fiction. (This was also interesting as I’m involved in teaching a stylistics module). Both books are very easy to read and suggest many interesting writing strategies.

Do you know of any other good books? And what are your strategies for writing a chapter? Sorry for writing such a long post – I needed to let these words out.


Posted in techy

A practical one: Steps for installing WordSmith Tools on a Mac

I wrote this post 1.5 months ago, in late September 2015. Now that some time has passed and I have played around with WordSmith and Windows on my Mac I think I’m ready to post it.


I have decided to put something relatively practical down today – compared to my previous posts, which were more generally about feelings related to the PhD. I’m about to start the 2nd year of my PhD (until 1 October I like to take advantage of the ‘1st year status’, though) and therefore things must get more practical. There’s still reason to talk about feelings, the nature of academia and a PhD. Yet, at the moment my feelings are actually somewhat dominated by the need to get something practical done. In corpus linguistics practical tasks often have a technical aspect.

My kitschy mac decoration; sorry for the imprecise application!

In early 2013 at the beginning of my final BA semester I bought a Macbook, because … my relatively cheap Asus laptop had badly crashed twice, requiring a new hard disk (ok, I poured coffee over it…), was generally getting slow and had some pink and turquoise stripes on the display. At that point I was mainly thinking about my final year project which I would have to submit in May. Then I didn’t realise that the area of corpus linguistics, which I had already studied in a BA module, would also become the major focus of my MA and my PhD and that a Macbook might not be the greatest choice for that. [Please feel free to criticise this idea].

The reason that having a Mac is tricky for corpus linguistics is that one of the most popular software packages, WordSmith Tools (WS), does not natively run on a Mac. There are many other options, specifically the freeware AntConc which runs on basically any operating system. [I recently learned about a new tool called corpkit which so far seems a Mac/Linux exclusive though!] Many corpora are also accessible from the web – such as the COCA, the BNC, … If you want to build your own corpus, however, you likely need to have a tool on your own computer (unless you can convince the developers of a system like CQPweb to host it for you). Of course there are more techy options like using programming environments such as R or Python for corpus linguistic analysis. Because of some of the functions available in WS and the fact that my undergraduate and postgraduate corpus linguistics modules were based on this software I still like to use it for some tasks.

Since I had regular access to a campus-based Windows desktop in the first year of the PhD I avoided the issue of installing WS on my mac. Now I might need to do more work from my home office so that the question has popped up. I had heard that you need to install Windows in a virtual environment on your Mac by installing either Parallels or VMware. Each of them costs approximately £70, I believe, add that to the cost of a Windows licence and the effort of installing it all and I wasn’t too excited. Now that I did some research I learned about Oracle’s Virtualbox, and it seems to work as well, but is free. Disclaimer: I don’t know what the potential disadvantages are in installing WS via the free Virtualbox rather than a paid-for virtual environment! (Anyone?) Once I also tried circumventing the step of installing the Windows OS by using the tool WineBottler which allows you to pretend to your Mac that the Windows programme you want to use is actually in a Mac format. This wasn’t successful in my attempt to use WS and there wasn’t support available for this case, probably because corpus tools are not very widely used in comparison to other software (I suppose only linguists, other academics, and some language teacher know about them…).

So here are the steps that I followed for installing WS in a Virtualbox on my Mac:

  1. Download Virtualbox (Oracle, available for free) + its extension pack (this allows you to have shared folders between your Mac and virtual OS, I think – see this video at 22.30 for a guideline of setting up a shared folder)
  2. Install Virtualbox + extension pack
  3. Buy a Windows license (I decided for Windows 7, because that’s the last one I’m familiar with) from a software website & download the operating system (iso file) from there – I found the German site, but I’m sure there are English options available
  4. Install Windows inside a new virtual machine in the Virtualbox. I basically followed the directions in video 1 and video 2. (I settled on 2GB RAM because I have 4GB; 2 CPU because I have 4 and 20GB dynamically allocated space).
    The option of setting up shared folders to access the same files from the mac OS and the new Windows OS are explained in video 3 (minute…)
  5. Install the latest version of WS from the Mike Scott’s website  – you will need to have a valid license key, which you can purchase from the same site (but if you are a research student it might be worth checking with your university whether they can provide you with one)

The software runs a bit more hesitant than on my previous university PC, but it does show results. How are people’s experiences with Parallels/VMware? For those, do you also need to allocate a certain percentage of your macbook’s RAM. CPU and storage for the virtual machine? How much?


November update:

Having used WS on my Mac multiple times now over the course of 1.5 months I’d say it works alright. I can open files and also create keyword lists or concordances without major problems. However, I always have to be careful that I don’t select items or click on buttons too quickly. For example, when I ‘choose texts’ for one of the tools it’s dangerous to hold down the shift key and the downward arrow – usually this makes the whole application freeze and I have to kill it. It’s also worth noting that it’s better not to have too many other programmes running at the same time (also on the Mac OS). This might be a problem of my own computer, though. It’s been bought on a student budget and therefore is one of the slowest Macbook options from 2012.

One issue that came up regarding Windows is that I forgot to activate it at the beginning (although I had a key! – it didn’t force me too, though…). So last week the Windows screen turned black and I got all blamed and shamed by the operating system (this copy is not genuine!). Unfortunately when I tried activating it this didn’t work – the system said I was trying to use a key for the wrong computer. I think this is probably due to confusion caused by the virtual environment. After many stressful attempts at getting through the Microsoft UK customer service hotline I finally got to talk to a human (!) customer service operator who helped me to manually activate my Windows 7…