Professor Grant's main research interests are within the area of forensic linguistics. He has particular interest and expertise in forensic authorship analysis focusing on short form messages such as SMS text messages, Twitter posts and Internet Relay Chat. His recent publications have focussed on online sexual abuse conversations.
Grant has also published broadly across forensic linguistics including work the linguistics of the police interview, the analysis of threatening communication and the pragmatics of non-verbal consent in rape cases.
Professor Grant is one of the world’s most experienced forensic linguistic practitioners and his case work has involved the analysis of abusive and threatening communications in many different contexts including investigations into sexual assault, stalking, murder and terrorism. In 2019, he was awarded an NCA Commendation for his part in the investigation that led to the arrest and successful prosecution of Matthew Falder. He has provided evidence for both prosecution and defence in criminal cases, in commercialarbitration disputes and in civil cases involving discipline and dismissal of staff and copyright infringement and plagiarism. Grant has assisted in designing and presenting police media appeals such as for the BBC Crimewatch programme.
He has significant experience of working with press, TV and radio and his work has appeared in newspaper and magazine feature articles, on the BBC 1 OneShow and on the BBC Radio 4 Programme Word of Mouth. Professor Grant regularly speaks to wider adult and schools audiences at events such as Café Scientifique and the British Festival of Science.
Areas of Expertise (5)
Forensic Authorship Analysis
Online Sexual Abuse Conversations
Joseph Lister Award
University of Birmingham: PhD 2005
University of Birmingham: MSc, Cognitive Science 1992
University of Birmingham: BA, Philosophy 1991
Media Appearances (1)
The Linguist Who Helps Police Catch Child Predators
The Atlantic online
At a digital-forensics conference in 2011, British police asked Tim Grant if he could help undercover agents pose as young girls online. Grant, the director of Aston University’s Center for Forensic Linguistics, had just given a talk on how to identify the author of online messages by parsing their language. An officer in a regional organized-crime unit came up to him, he says, and told him there was a case the police wanted help with.
Operation Heron -Latent topic changes in an abusive letter seriesCorpora
2021 The paper presents a two-part forensic linguistic analysis of an historic collection of abuse letters, sent to individuals in the public eye and individuals' private homes between 2007-2009. We employ the technique of structural topic modelling (STM) to identify distinctions in the core topics of the letters, gauging the value of this relatively underused methodology in forensic linguistics. Four key topics were identified in the letters, Politics A and B, Healthcare, and Immigration, and their coherence, correlation and shifts in topic evaluated. Following the STM, a qualitative corpus linguistic analysis was undertaken, coding concordance lines according to topic, with the reliability between coders tested. This coding demonstrated that various connected statements within the same topic tend to gain or lose prevalence over time, and ultimately confirmed the consistency of content within the four topics identified through STM throughout the letter series. The discussion and conclusions to the paper reflect on the findings as well as considering the utility of these methodologies for linguistics and forensic linguistics in particular. The study demonstrates real value in revisiting a forensic linguistic dataset such as this to test and develop methodologies for the field. Content: Readers are advised that the letters analysed contain offensive language and that the [...]
Assuming Identities Online: How Linguistics Is Helping the Policing of Online Grooming and the Distribution of Abusive ImagesRethinking Cybercrime, Critical Debates
2020 In this chapter we seek to elucidate the potential of linguistic analysis in the undercover pursuit of criminals online. We examine the relationship between language and online identity performance and address the question of what linguistic analysis is necessary and sufficient to describe an online linguistic persona to the extent it could be successfully assumed by another individual. We compare the performance of trainee undercover officers (UCOs) at online impersonation of a specific individual before receiving any linguistic training to their performance after such input. We also report on a series of experiments in which participants engaged with each other over Instant Messaging (IM), before an impersonation situation was engineered. Information was collected about what level of accuracy and confidence individuals can detect the substitution of one interlocutor with another, what linguistic criteria give rise to such suspicions, and how individuals prepare for impersonation tasks. We also draw on other data sets including from police training and operational settings where identity disguise is employed online in the context of investigations into child grooming and the distribution of abusive images.
Language and Online Identities: The Undercover Policing of Internet Sexual CrimeOnline Grooming and Sexual Crime