Category Archives: Other

Analysis of the video “Voice-Recognition Elevator in Scotland”

We often hear people say that someone has “such a strong accent”, or complain that his or her accent is “difficult to understand”, or, vice- versa, compliment highlighting how it is “lovely”. Having an accent means uttering the words in a specific way, which is usually influenced by the geographic location or social features of the speaker (Crystal, 2008). It shouldn’t be confused with a dialect since accent doesn’t imply distinguishing features in grammar and vocabulary. In some cases, the same language speakers from different parts of the world may misunderstand each other because of those pronunciation peculiarities. Therefore, people appear to ascribe a particular way of speaking to this or that country or city. Such stereotype is reflected in the video which was selected for interpretation that shows the attempts of English speakers with a Scottish accent to imitate American and British accents.

The purpose of this analysis is to explore the beliefs that the manners of American and British accents imitations imply in the Youtube video “Burnistoun- Voice Recognition Elevator in Scotland”. Therefore, I used a qualitative approach. To achieve my goal, I examined how the speakers pronounced the word “eleven” when trying to say it in American and British style. That would explain the way they perceive American and British accents. Along with that, I decided to pay attention to the phrases they used in their conversation in order to understand their beliefs. I couldn’t leave out the comments since there were some which added up evidence to the pattern that I found from the video. So, I analyzed them too.

Aforementioned video is a sketch from a comedy sketch-show called “Burnistoun”. The incidence takes place in the elevator with an installed voice-recognition system. Two Scottish men are stuck in it because the system doesn’t recognize their accent. In order to get to the floor they were heading for, one by one they try to imitate American and British accents. However, their attempts fail (VideoFunStation, 2011).

I noticed several techniques that they used. When trying to imitate American and British accents for the word “eleven”, the men changed the way they pronounced the vowel sounds. In the beginning, they used their own, Scottish, accent and I heard it as [әlevn]. However, when their manner of speaking wasn’t identified, they decided to try American accent and pronounced the word as [ilәvn]. After seeing that it wasn’t working they used British accent and said [әlәvәn]. Along with that, every time when changing their accent, they had to repeat the word several times. While repeating the word, they tended to break it down into syllables, presumably, in order to be intelligible. Moreover, use of the body movements was spotted. The second speaker moved his shoulders forward when he was imitating British accent which, I think, was intended to support his British sounding. One of the commenters noticed it too, he/she pointed out that it is an imitation of not only pronunciation but also of the Londoners’ habit while speaking:

“I’m from London, and it cracks me up when he does the english accent…puts a bit of cockney shoulder into it lol. Classic sketch “(VideoFunStation, 2011).

In this way, the vowel sounds’ change, thorough pronunciation, and body language support were observed in the process of attempting to sound like an American or Englishman.

The manner of “speaking” with American or British accent reveals the perceptions of those characters regarding how they think American or English people sound like. Those beliefs are usually constructed by the society (Giles, 1970). However, in this case, there appears controversy between two Scottish men about how American and British English should sound. The attempt of the first one made the another to oppose him saying it didn’t sound like American at all. In his turn, the second gentleman tried to imitate British accent but ended up being criticized the same way. This might indicate that the representatives of the same community don’t necessarily share identical beliefs about this or that language variation.

Another thing that caught my attention is that American accent was used in the first instance. I believe starting from British accent would be more logical for Scottish people since England and Scotland are the parts of the same kingdom. So, in the end, I came up with two possible explanations. American accent might be considered to be more popular, therefore, more likely to be recognized by the voice-activated elevator. My second interpretation of this is that the voice itself spoke American English which was noticeable not only by its pronunciation but by the word “elevator”, which the voice used. According to the Oxford Dictionaries’ website (n.d.), “elevator” is the US variant for the UK’s “lift”. Thus, their choice of American English could be the attempt to comply with their “interlocutor”.

The video also presents the stance on Glaswegian accent as well:

– Voice-recognition technology? In a lift? In Scotland? You ever tried voice-recognition technology?

– No.

– They don’t do Scottish accents (VideoFunStation, 2011).

This fragment is taken from the beginning when they haven’t tried anything yet. The first speaker predicted that their voices wouldn’t be recognized. In my opinion, that was based not on his experience, in case of which, I believe, they wouldn’t even try Scottish accent, but on the awareness of the hierarchy of British and American accents, even in their own hometown.

Another message, which I got from this video, is that Scottish accent is difficult to understand. One of the commenters wrote:

“I don’t get it. When he says “eleven”, it sounds more like the way I say it than any other accent he tried. (I’m from Minnesota, US.) Half the things they said I had a hard time understanding, but “eleven” sounded exactly like how I say it. Or is that somehow the joke, that it can’t understand “eleven” because it’s a Scottish accent, even though it in truth sounds pretty much the same in almost every accent? I’m probably missing something basic here” (VideoFunStation, 2011).

This commenter assumes that the machine refuses to accept the command “because it’s a Scottish accent”, which I would interpret as something different, unintelligible to be specific, compared with American and British accents. Actually, Scottish commenters confirm it on the comment section:

“This is literally what would go on if this were real xD” (VideoFunStation, 2011).

“Seen it and its so true” (VideoFunStation, 2011).

“OMG, I can’t stop watching and crying with laughter at this clip. It’s so true! Bloody voice recognition technology never understands a Scottish accent. I have so many friends who would react in the same way these guys would if they were stuck in this lift, PMSL” (VideoFunStation, 2011).

“I’m living in Edinburgh and… yes, it may happen :D” (VideoFunStation, 2011).

“Haha this is so funny I’m from Scotland myself and it’s dead true tbh” (VideoFunStation, 2011).

Overall, the video shows the struggles of Scottish people when their accents are not understood by others. Unfortunately, technologies with such voice-recognition system are put to use for real. But the more disappointing thing is that people tend not to take into consideration language variations. In my opinion, such practices limit the rights and opportunities of the people who don’t speak the standard language. Therefore, referring to this sketch I would recommend addressing the requirements of all the speech community representatives in the society when creating the technologies which “facilitate people’s lives”. In case of impossibility to install all the varieties of the certain language, it would be eligible to leave the option of using the previous technique of utilizing that technology, that is, buttons in the situation with this elevator.

The analysis of the Youtube video “Burnistoun- Voice Recognition Elevator in Scotland” revealed that the stereotypes regarding the accents are not always formed by society as a whole, in some cases representatives of the same speech community perceive the other variations of their language differently; possible explanations for giving an advantage to the specific accent could be adaptation to the accent of the dialogue partner or hierarchy of the language variations. The scriptwriters and actors excellently showed the difficulties which the speakers of less “popular” language variations face in reality. Ignoring the existence of that diversity may lead to the reoccurrence of such unpleasant situation, however, this time, it might be not rehearsed and experienced by ordinary people.




Accent. (2008). In D. Crystal, Language library: A dictionary of linguistics and phonetics (6th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. Retrieved from

British and American terms. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Giles, H. (1970). Evaluative reactions to accents. Educational Review, 22 (3), 211-227. DOI: 10.1080/0013191700220301

VideoFunStation. (2011, September 7). Burnistoun- Voice Recognition Elevator in Scotland [Video File]. Retrieved from


Language Variation: Kazakh dialects


“Languages, like living species, evolve, grow, change, live, and die in relation to other languages and also in relation to their environment” (Hornberger, 2002, p. 33). So, with this word I want to emphasize that one language can be varying in different forms according to different places. The term language variety is also can be understood as a different interpretation of one language, which depends on social, regional or contextual patterns (Jaspers, 2010). Everybody has differences in the way of speaking, including pronunciation, grammar using structure, and vocabulary in one language in a particular place, and this variety of a language is called a dialect (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 2000).  I am going to analyze a videoclip of Kazakh famous singer Serik Ibragimov with the song “Kazakhpyz barimiz” which can be translated as “All of us are Kazakhs”,  where he clearly illustrates different dialects in different parts of Kazakhstan. According to Coupland (2007),  dialect can be characterized as a perspective of different experience, not just a variation and its styles can be described as a social action, which illustrates a local identity.

Serik Ibragimov in his song illustrates the most common Kazakh dialects such as Northern Kazakh, Southern Kazakh, Eastern Kazakh and Western Kazakh dialects. One of the founders of Kazakh linguistics Sarsen Amanzholov claims that these different types of dialects are determined according to territorial basis, not by tribal structures (Kazakh encyclopedia, 2015). These different dialects are closely related to each another, although it has some regional peculiarities. So, let us take a look at the interpretation of the song’s lyrics and determine some of the dialects there.

At the beginning of the song he claims that there are different language varieties and customs in every region of Kazakhstan ranging from Altai mountains to Atyrau region, from Esyl and Zhaiyk rivers to the shores of the Caspian Sea.
Then, in the first part of the song he added Southern dialect to the song. There are some words which is similar with some Uzbek words, or their pronunciation. It can be impact of Uzbek boundary close to South region of Kazakhstan.

Standard Kazakh language Southern dialect English translation
Ol zhakta Oyakta There, in that place
Erkin Beimaral Feeling free, comfortable
Kai zhakta Kayakta In any place, wherever
Tate Apshe Aunt
Aga Koke Uncle
Oibai! (interjection) Oliaa! Woo!

Then, he continued his song in the second part with presenting the Western Kazakh dialect, the place of the powerful Younger clan (zhuz) of Kazakh tribe, which has a specific pronunciation and vocabulary pattern:

Standard Kazakh language Western dialect English translation
Ne khabar? Ne khayar? What news?
Goi Goo Well (meaning smth.)
Sau bolshy Say bosh Good bye
Nemene? Ne zat? What?
Tynda Tyndashish Listen

In the next part, the singer switched to the Eastern dialect with the specific pronunciation of consonant ‘ch’ instead of ‘sh’. This may be an influence of the Great Silk way road which went through South-Eastern part of Kazakhstan to China and nomadic style of nations and people of that time may had an impact on pronunciation which remain till our time (Kazakh Encyclopedia, 2015).

Standard Kazakh language Eastern dialect English translation
Shygys Chygys The East
Shalkyp zhatkan Chalkyp Wide
Zhatkan Chatkan Laid,  situate

 And the singer in his final part of the song mentioned the Northern dialect with the specific pronunciation of some vowels in soft way. The Northern region is described in the song as cold place with strong windy weather, however the singer enjoys the place of extreme weather and warm people.

Standard Kazakh language Northern dialect English translation
Kulakh Kuliyakh Ears
Tymakh Tymiakh Hat

At the end of the song the singer mentioned all the parts of Kazakhstan, and he strongly believed that Kazakh language with its beautiful various dialects should not be divided into national or regional subgroups. As we can see from this song, there are several language variations, especially dialectical variation (Nordquist, 2017) of four different regions. It can be observed that these dialects were different by grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation in each region. The Kazakh language is rich and wide, and it has lots of variations throughout Kazakhstan.  I have noticed that some of them are extremely different from Standard Kazakh language, others are slightly different. Despite that fact, dialects might be recognized by many Kazakh people. Nevertheless there is an every hope that Kazakh young generation and people from different parts of Kazakhstan might understand each other and accept these dialects with high tolerance and respect. The author and the singer of this song have an explicit objective of ensuring that every Kazakh people or citizen have an access to live in peace and harmony, no matter what ethnicity or culture you belonged to,  wherever you are from, and what dialect you use in ordinary life.


Coupland, N. (2007) Style. Language Variation and Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge

University Press.

Ibragimov,S. (2017).  Kazakhpyz barimiz\ All of us are Kazakhs. Video retrieved from

Jaspers, J. (2010). Style and styling. In Hornberger, N. H., & McKay, S. L. Sociolinguistics and language education (pp. 177-204). Bristol: Multilingual Matters. Retrieved from

Nordquist, R. (2017). Linguistic Variation. Retrieved from

The American Heritage dictionary of the English language. (2000). Boston :Houghton Mifflin.

The Kazakh encyclopedia, (2015).  Dialekty kazakhskogo yazyka\ Dialects of Kazakh language. Retrieved from:

“YES” or “NO”?

More people fail from a gluttony of good activities than from being starved of them.

– Dharmesh Shah


HubSpot’s founder and angel investor* Dharmesh Shah writes blog articles on Despite most articles on this website are far from my field of interest, the article “Do Fewer Things, Better” written by Dharmesh Shah made me rethink my life rules and habits. Now, I feel I have to share it with you, guys.

Dharmesh Shah assures we have to learn to say “No” to things that have nothing to do with our life/ career goals. Saying “No”, as he claims, saves time and energy which can be used to improve ourselves in the way that will be beneficial for us. Hence, focusing leads to success. He didn’t invent something totally new. However, he experienced the aftermath of saying “Yes” to everyone and everything, he concluded he had to change something in his life, and he ascertained that this strategy works on his personal experience. He didn’t just share his story but gave tips accrued during many years of practice.

The tips are well-constructed and explained in simple words. More importantly, they are presented so interestingly that I followed suggested links to get a deeper understanding. Also, I liked how he used bold and italics to emphasize the keywords. Usually, when I read an article/ blog post I just look through it. But, here, his bold and italicized words and phrases were “screaming” and this helped me to focus on small but essential details of the main idea (for example, “But a few years ago, I decided to dramatically limit the time I spend directly helping entrepreneurs and the Boston ecosystem”).

Notwithstanding, the thing I was eager to know is how you know whether you should or shouldn’t say “Yes”. Shah writes: “Don’t favor what feels the most good.  Favor what does the most good“. It, actually, makes sense. But sometimes our emotions take control over our minds making it hard to think constructively. That’s why I find it extremely challenging but, surely, worth the effort. The thing I don’t fully agree with is that when you spend more time on something you prioritized and decided to say “Yes”, “you’re going to get better at it”. I know practice makes you perfect, but I believe the outcome depends on how well or effective that practice is done. So, I doubt this statement will be true every time.

Shah admits: “Everytime you say “yes” to something, you’re saying “no” to something else“. I think this might have two negative consequences. First, you say “No” to other possible opportunities, that is, you might limit yourself. Second, you say “No” and leave others struggling, shatter their dreams, aggravate their condition, that is, you might become heartless and selfish… Or I am just thinking too much and in the first case you learn from your mistakes, in the second one other people say “Yes” to what you rejected and everyone will be happy. Who knows?!

This strategy is applicable not for startups only. We can adhere to it whenever making a decision. As I said, understanding of what you really need might be challenging, but I want to give it a try.


Angel investor*- an individual who invests his or her own money in an entrepreneurial company (Entrepreneur Staff, n.d.)



Entrepreneur Staff. (n.d.). Angel Investor. Retrieved from

Ways of Unblocking a “Writing Block”

Remember those torturing periods when you cannot start writing an assignment, feeling embarrassed, hesitated and STUCK?! Sounds familiar? There was a post about procrastination and ways of battling it, but we should face another “academic demon” that wraps our effort in the start of doing assignments, and i.e. “writing block”. Its Russian equivalent sounds like “creativity crisis”, which precisely depicts the state of a student (or writer) as an inability to start or continue his writing work. Even if this phenomenon seems barely defeatable, any attempt is a chance to push it away. At least, there won’t be a solution without any effort.
Notably, it’s crucial to identify a reason for your writing block. They may be several at once: fear, perfectionism, devoid of ideas or loss of focus. When you are aware of a source of your writing block, there are more possible chances to find a solution for struggling with it.
Let me share my tips on how to overcome a writing block and end up with productive paperwork.

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First, take a break and focus on any physical activity. Sounds trite, but it works! Your mind needs a short-term getaway from a continuous overwork. My father always insisted on a systematic shuffle of mental activity with physical work and I do cleaning a house, gardening systematically along with doing my paperwork.

The second recommendation sounds similar to a previous one, although it is about looking for inspiration. Try to change your focus from your assignment because too much concentration causes a deficiency of diverse ideas or vice versa overload of ideas that enable mess in your mind. It is quite useful to draw your attention to those everyday activities, which you like doing on a regular basis, e.g. surfing social networks, watching favorite TV shows, reading a newspaper or visiting galleries (but do not be stuck there too!). There is also a chance of emergence of an answer for your questions from assignment or ideas for your writing work.

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Finally, become an illiterate, grammarian-free writer… for a while. The process of correcting mistakes through continuous editing your paragraphs and concentration on your stylistic errors results in a waste of much time. Ideas and your thoughts matter more than stylistically polished structures, so it is beneficial to start put your raw ideas first with a later proof check of your writing paper.

Hope, my tips on how to get over writing block will be useful for someone who deals with it. What are your suggestions and experiences in overcoming writing block?

7 Ways to Make a Conversation with Anyone (deconstruction)

Malavika Varadan, a radio presenter, claims it is easy to start a conversation with strangers in her TEDx Talks speech “7 Ways to Make a Conversation with Almost Anyone”. In general, I liked the way she presented, explained and engaged the audience. Nevertheless, I don’t think I will watch it again. Here is why. The intro is too long which might discourage the viewers from continuing to watch it. When she gets almost to the point, Ms. Varadan gives her background saying she’s been working as a radio presenter for nine years and every single show she talks with the broadcast listeners for 20 minutes. That is a good strategy to gain trust from the audience since this makes her seem to be experienced in making a conversation with strangers. The presenter encourages people to take a risk and talk to strangers, she assures there isn’t anything to be afraid of, there is nothing they are going to lose. “What’s the worst that can happen?”. Well, anything could happen! Everything might end up with kidnapping or even worse… So, I think she should be careful when claiming everything is going to be fine.

I would like to comment each tip given by Malavika Varadan.

  1. The first word flood gates

“Just start the conversation”. According to the presenter, starting the conversation might be a bit scary and difficult, but then everything will go smoothly. However, I am sure the hardest part of making a conversation is keeping that conversation going. Just imagine, you come up to someone and say “Hi!”, he/she: “Hi!”… The first step is taken so what? How is the conversation with someone who you don’t know anything about supposed to flow after the first word? It would be more helpful to advise on how the conversation could be continued.

  1. Skip the small talk

Instead of wasting time on How Are Yous and What’s Ups, Malavika Varadan suggests asking personal questions like “Where do your parents live?”. It would work with people whom you are familiar with but don’t talk too much or don’t know much about. However, in case of strangers things might go wrong. Personally, if someone came up and asked a personal question I would run away as fast as I could. Along with that, this tip may not work in some countries (for instance, in the UK) where asking personal questions is considered impolite.

  1. Find the me-toos

Ms. Varadan starts well when explaining her third point. I agree that common things bring people together and make the conversation interesting. But after listing out several examples of questions that could be used when trying to find those common topics to talk about, she says: “I don’t know, you’ll find something”. Intentionally or unintentionally the speaker makes everything look easy. However, I assume people who search for and watch such TEDx Talks are mostly those ones who are actually looking for more practical advice because they don’t find it as easy as it seems to the speaker. That’s why I would rather omit that statement or give more concrete advice.

  1. Pay a unique compliment

Here is the part I liked the most: “People will forget what you do, they’ll forget what you say, but they will never forget how you made them feel”. I feel she did well when supporting her claim with the story about the model with the immunity to the word “beautiful”. I saw her message clearly.

  1. Ask for an opinion and 6. Be present

She makes the eye contact with one of the audience members in order to prove that it helps to keep people present in the conversation. To my mind, it worked better than if she didn’t show it in practice. Next, Ms. Varadan imitates a person who pretends to listen when, actually, he does not. She acted it out perfectly; her tone, movements, everything represented that type of people accurately. Then, she adds: “I know you’ve been through this, I know I have”. It seems to me she is generalizing people and their relationships based on her own experience. There might be people who haven’t been through such situation. And she doesn’t take them into account.

7.Name, place, animal, thing

Lastly, Malavika Varadan advises to remember all the details about your partner and mention them in your conversation. “Be genuinely interested and automatically you kind of become an investor in their well-being; so they feel responsible to you to keep that conversation going”. These words make me feel like I’m being taught how to manipulate people. She could be more specific or cautious about the word choice.

The presenter sums everything up with an analogy. By comparing people to books she suggests to read the whole story instead of looking through the titles. That was a really proper closing. She gave the main point in that sentence, which was more convincing to me rather than the whole speech. In the end, she emphasizes she doesn’t enforce a choice and everything is up to the listeners. Frankly speaking, there were too many “trust mes” which make me think she tries to convince that she is totally right and everything will work for anyone.

Ms. Varadan held herself confidently, spoke clearly and used simple vocabulary, consequently, nothing caused any misunderstanding. However, sometimes, her laugh sounded artificial. I assume those times were when she tried to cover awkward silence after the jokes which nobody laughed at.

Overall, the speaker looks at the making conversation from her own perspective where everything is easy. She is a public and very attractive person. She is open and self-confident which is noticeable from the way she speaks. It might be easy for her. But she forgets about people who are shy or not confident enough to take those “simple” steps. What should they do? Moreover, she doesn’t take into account the second partner of the conversation. Conversation is a two-way process, isn’t it? What if that person is shy or simply doesn’t want to talk to us? Although she tried to depict possible life situations in order to demonstrate her tips in practice, she didn’t consider all the possible situations some of which might lead to embarrassing results that will probably discourage already shy people from speaking to strangers even more.

Moreover, there was nothing new in her tips. These are rather basic rules. The video is worth watching in order to remind yourself those basics; however, it would be more valuable if she came up with really working tips about avoiding those awkward moments when talking to strangers.

Where is my smartphone? Or Let’s turn it off for a while.


I usually take a bus. Once I came across to a group of students who were on an excursion with their teacher. The bus was full of school children using their smartphones. Well, actually the scenery is not surprising as it happens most of the time. One may think that this kind of harmless interest to smartphones may not hurt anyone. However, a frequent use of smartphones can cause smartphone addictions, especially school children who are easily attracted and influenced by new gadgets. As a consequence, it probably triggers some detrimental addictions like gambling and information overload that might negatively affect them mentally. What is more, some scientific terms, that describe certain cases, exist related to this “smartphone issue”.

Above all, let’s define what smartphone addiction means. According to the Gale Encyclopedia of Public Health (2013), addiction is a brain disease that is insistent to an irresistible desire to participate in activities, despite the harmful consequences. Therefore, smartphone addiction can be construed as a tempting impulse of overusing Internet, games or apps that have its negative side effects on people using it. By the way, how would you feel if you had forgotten your phone at home, left or lost it somewhere? Note that there is a scientific name for this kind of fear you might experience. The site “Technopedia” explains that “a fear exhibited in a human being when their cell phone is unable to perform the most basic of communication functionality that it is designed to provide is named as “nomophobia”. However, the other side of the coin has something to say. Remember any friend who is addicted to his or her phone. What is he/she doing? Is he or she constantly playing or surfing the Web? Your friend is just taking no notice of you! This kind of practice of ignoring someone’s company in order to pay attention to one’s cell phone or other devices is named as phubbing (The Washington post). So, who are you? Are you phubbing or pubbed? Or have you ever felt fear of losing your phone?

As previously mentioned, smartphone addiction can be expressed in various forms. Gambling addiction is one of the widespread and well-documented problems, the availability of Internet made it even more accessible. Some Japanese researchers disclosed that smartphone-addicted children don’t make friends with those who use it less (as cited in Dollahite & Haun, 2012). It seems that gambling is a disease of digital age. According to Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery, 80% of surveyed teenagers between 12-17 years say that they have gambled in the last 12 months. Whereas, 35% of them gamble at least once a week. Thus, students’ smartphone addiction can give rise to social, mental and academic problems as lowliness, depression and low academic performance at school.

Some students may say that they are not inclined to any sort of gambling as playing online games or so on. That definitely cannot be disclaimed. But, don’t they use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube or any other social media to post their photos and videos or check one’s messenger every hour. Isn’t it an addiction, then? Inveterate surfing the Internet, reviewing news, blogs, feeds can be responsible for the students’ low attentiveness which may lead to low academic achievements. The consequences of these kinds of overloaded information may be as harmful as it is. For instance, isolation, loss of real-world relationships, social life and hobbies, or even worth mental disorders.

Obviously, we cannot deny the importance of smartphones in our life. All those countless benefits it has in education and in other domains. However, an overuse of smartphones can negatively affect like medicine which can be a remedy or vice-versa. So, do you, (your children or students) lose track of time when using your (their) phone? If you answered “Yes”, then maybe it’s a right time to revise your attitudes towards smartphone use and its role in order to prevent lamentable consequences. And what would you do if one of your students unconsciously kept using his or her smartphones most of the time?


Birdwell, A. F. (2012). Technology and the Mind. In N. E. Dollahite & J. Haun (Eds.), Source work: Academic Writing from Sources (195). Location: Sherrise Roehr.

Nomophobia. Definition. Retrieved from

Sternberg, B. S., Willingham, E. J., Asenjo, B., Wells, K. R., Alic, M., & Nienstedt, A. (2013). Addiction. In Gale (Ed.), The Gale encyclopedia of public health. Farmington, MI: Gale. Retrieved from

Smith, M.A., Robinson, L., & Segal, J. (December 2017). Smartphone Addiction.
Trusted guide to mental & emotional health. Retrieved from

Seppälä, E. (13 October 2017). Are you ‘phubbing’ right now? What it is and why science says it’s bad for your relationships. Retrieved from

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Writing Contest Winners: Round One

The first round of our Spring 2018 writing contest series had only three submissions, but they were strong posts which provided critical reviews to two texts about Evidence-Based Policy Making (EBPM). The upside of the low number of posts is that all three contestants won a prize.

Please join us in congratulating the winners!
Third place: Gulzhaina Mussagali

Third Place

Second place: Sagida Serikbayeva

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First place: Mariya Ippolitova

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To learn how to submit a post for Round 2, click here.

Review of the article “The Relevance of Evidence-Based Policy Making (EBPM) in Public Management”


This blog post is the review of the article “The Relevance of Evidence-Based Policy Making (EBPM) in Public Management” by Joseph Tham. The blog post analyses the article’s structure, information is given in it, and content as well as it gives examples from the policy-making process in the Kazakhstani context in order to clarify the relevance of arguments given in the article.

Этот блог является обзором статьи «Актуальность разработки политики на основе фактических данных (EBPM) в общественном управлении» написанный Джозефа Тамом. В блоге анализируется структура статьи и содержание, а также приводятся примеры из процесса разработки политики в казахстанском контексте, чтобы прояснить значимость аргументов, приведенных в статье.

Бұл блог Джозеф Тэмам жазған «Мемлекеттік басқаруда EBPM-тың өзектілігі»  мақаласына шолу болып табылады. Блогта мақаланың құрылымы мен мазмұны талқыланған, сондай-ақ мақалада келтірілген дәлелдердің маңыздылығын түсіндіру үшін Қазақстан контекстіндегі саясатты әзірлеу үдерісінен мысалдар келтірілген.


The article “The Relevance of Evidence-Based Policy Making (EBPM) in Public Management” by Joseph Tham is the review of the usage of Evidence-Based Policy Making (EBPM) in policy-making process in three different countries including the USA, the UK, and Australia.  In general, the article analyzes the effectiveness of using EBPM, the implication for public management as well as various views towards it in these three countries.

Overall, the article is well-structured and easy to follow. It contains several chapters devoted to the particular theme. On the one hand, it makes it clear and structured but on the other hand, it looks like the simple list of ideas without analyses and synthesis.  For instance, the usage of EBPM in three countries is written separately in three paragraphs and it will be better to add one more paragraph in which the author analyzes the situation in these three countries by comparing and contrasting evidence and comes to the consensus.

One more idea for improving the article is connected with the last paragraph which is devoted to the situation in Kazakhstan. In the Kazakhstani context, EBPM is a new phenomenon and is not used widely in the policy-making process. Therefore, it is clear that there is the shortage of evidence related to the EBPM and as the result; the author wrote a short review by using available information. Moreover, the author gives some recommendations for the implementation of EBPM in Kazakhstani context. As it was mentioned above, it will be better to give a more practical recommendation based on the experiences mentioned above three countries highlighting strong and weak sides in the usage of EBPM in the policymaking.

As a part of governmental institutions, the education system is considered to be one of the important sectors which formulate the frameworks for all levels of society. Therefore, the usage of EBPM in the education system is important in order to make educational policies more effective and successful. Unfortunately, many policies in the education system fail because of the several reasons. One of the main reasons is connected with the shortage of evidence and the luck of pre-preparation in the implementation process. For example, in the Kazakhstani context, one of the reforms initiated by the MoES is e-learning project is criticized widely.  E-learning is a large-scale state project included in the State Program of Development of Education of the Republic of Kazakhstan for 2011 – 2020 years. Its main goal of the project is to ensure equal access for all participants in the educational process to the best educational resources and technologies. Initially, the implementation of E-learning in the education system was divided into two parts. The first part of the programme contains 2011- 2015. However, according to the statistics of the national website of e-learning in Kazakhstan, the first part of the project did not reach intended indicators and there was a mismatch between target numbers and real situation. In addition, Kenzhebayev and Dalayeva (2014) state that some teacher of schools where e-learning system was introduced faced with challenges such as double filling the documentation: the electronic journals and the school journals. From this example, it can be seen that the mistakes made at the beginning of the projects had an impact on the whole implementation process. Therefore, it is important also use EBPM in the policy-making process in the education system. Moreover, the analyses of situation before the implementation of the policy can help avoid possible challenges or show if it works or not.

In conclusion, overall, the article is clear and informative since it gives important information about EBPM in several contexts. However, these are some points which need further development such as the comparison and synthesis of situations in the different context and giving more practical recommendations and coming to one conclusion after the review of all contexts. In general, the problem raised in the article can be applied and is relevant to the education system too since the policy-making process in the education system also needs EBPM in order to make it more effective.





MoES, (2012). Concept of e-learning in Kazakhstan’s education system: the first results, its introduction into the education system. Retrieved from:

Кenzhebayev, G., Baidildina, S., Dalayeva, T. (2012). Problems of development of e-Learning content in historical education on the republic of Kazakhstan. International Perspectives on Education. BCES Conference Books. Vol.10. Retrieved from


Is Evidence Making a Policy?

Abstract: This post is a critical review of the article by Joseph Tham “The relevance of evidence-based policy making (EBPM) in public management” (2017) where I suggest some possible areas for improvement and include educational researchers’ position to EBPM approach.

Абстракт: Эта публикация представляет собой критический обзор статьи Джозефа Тама «Актуальность разработки политики на основе фактических данных в государственном управлении» (2017), где я предлагаю некоторые области для совершенствования и взгляд на данный подход со стороны исследователей образования.

Абстракт: Бұл басылым Джозеф Там жазған “Мемлекет басқармасындағы нақты мәліметтерге негізделген саясатты әзірлеудің өзектілігі” (2017) атты мақаланың сынап талдауы боп табылады. Осы жарияланымда мен жетілдіруді қажет ететін салаларды әрі берілген тәсілге білім саласының зерттеушілерінің көзқарасын ұсынамын.

“No one can doubt that basing your predictions about policy effectiveness on evidence is a good idea”

(Cartwright & Hardie, 2012, p.53)

The author reviews the ideas about evidence-based policy making in the US, the UK, and Australia; touches upon some challenges of its implementation and presents the implications for public management. At the end, he gives the quick overview of the situation in Kazakhstan. According to Tham (2017) despite the fact that EBPM has a substantial number of proponents among governors and policy makers in the number of countries, its slow effect and difficulty in identifying quality evidence undermine its credibility.

In the review, I argue that ideas lack analysis and connection between them. The author uses a variety of sources such as government reports, conference proceedings, books, presidential addresses, organization websites and others to support his ideas but the quotes fail to achieve their rhetorical purpose and convince the readers. Here is an excerpt from the text:

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has clear guidelines on
performance measurement, and outcome evaluation. In a 2011 document titled
Performance Measurement, the GAO says that outcome evaluation:

“assesses the extent to which a program achieves its outcome-
oriented objectives. It focuses on outputs and outcomes
(including unintended effects) to judge program effectiveness
but may also assess program process to understand how
outcomes are produced.”

The Brookings Institution, a private think-tank has issued a recent report that
calls on ‘Strengthening Results-focused Government.’:

“It would help strengthen Americans’ confidence that their
government is able to effectively and efficiently tackle the
challenges we face as a nation.” (Page 1, Feldman Strengthening
Results-focused government)

The ideas are just introduced but not discussed and consequently, the coherence is lacking. One idea jumps into another. As a reader, I am wondering how is the existence of efficiency measurements linked to Americans’ trust in their authorities? More analysis of the quotes would lead me to the better understanding of the author’s goal. The conclusion also does not bring the whole paper together and only characterizes the US case leaving the discussion about other countries, challenges, and recommendations without any attention. I would like to see how the cases are interdependent and how Kazakhstani case is different from them.

Which of the implications should be taken into account in the Kazakhstani context? In this part, I would like to compare Tham’s ideas about EBPM in public management with the use of evidence in the educational field on the example of State Program for Education Development. Tham (2017) states that with the “support of the demand for evidence,  and support for the generation of research evidence, EBPM will be strengthened and widely used [in Kazakhstan]” (Tham, 2017, p. 12). However, no parallels were drawn with existing literature on the situation in the US, the UK, and Australia.

Moreover, when it comes to policy-making in the educational field, Bridges and Watts (2009) report about “the failure of policy-makers to take research findings properly into account” (p. 37). Ironically, they cite a number of research studies from Australia, UK, and the US which demonstrate that even solid evidence plays a minor role in changing practitioners or policy-makers decisions (Bridges & Watts, 2009). So even if the research evidence is generated, it is simply ignored because it is problematic to identify what should be counted relevant evidence in a particular context. According to Kettl (2017), in the UK case, the evidence is “facts, figures, ideas, analysis and research” (as cited in Tham, p.8).  This kind of data is already required from the policy makers in Kazakhstan when developing a policy. For example, the State Program of Educational Development in the Republic of Kazakhstan for 2011-2020 (MoES, 2010), which is the foundational program for all the education initiatives, has a special section “Analysis of the current situation” where all the facts and figures on the progress of a program or necessity for its implementation are described. No state program can be developed without “the demand for evidence” (Tham, 2017, p.12). Policy makers rely on think-tanks, experts, commissions, media but “academic research on social issues, including education, sits at the bottom of the list of resources” (Bridges & Watts, 2009, p.37).

Evidence-based policy making is a complicated process because even the essential part of it – the evidence is hardly generalizable. What worked in Western countries may not necessarily work in Kazakhstan, and even the kind of relevant evidence varies from department to department. In this post, I used the article on evidence-based policy to look at some aspects of policy making in education. However, it would be easier to follow the author’s way of thinking if he commented more on the way he interprets some quotations and made more conclusions for the reader on their connection.


Bridges, D., & Watts, M. (2009). Educational research and policy: Epistemological considerations. In D. Bridges, P. Smeyers & R. Smith (Eds.), Evidence-based education policy (36-57). United Kingdom: Wiley-Blackwell

Cartwright, N.,& Hardie, J. (2012). Evidence-based policy: A practical guide to doing it better. NY: Oxford University Press

Tham, J. (2017). The relevance of evidence-based policy making (EBPM) in public management. Unpublished manuscript, the Academy of Public Administration under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Astana, Kazakhstan

Kettl, D. et al. 2017. No time to wait: building a public service for the 21 st century, National Academy of Public Administration.

MoES. (Ministry of Education and Science). (2010, December 7). State Program of Education Development in the Republic of Kazakhstan for 2011-2020. Retrieved from



Critical Review of the article “Evidence-Based Policy Making (EBPM) is wicked: a critical assessment from the periphery” by Joseph Tham


This article is a journey of thought, led by the author, introducing us to the concept of Evidence-Based Policy Making (EBPM). It is written in a style, which is original and unusual for academic writing. However, after the journey you are left with more questions that when you started.

Эта статья является путешествием мысли на которое вы приглашены автором, описывающим концепт политических решений, основывающихся на фактах. Стиль повествования оригинален и далёк от обычного академического письма. Но, в конце данного путешествия у вас остаётся больше вопросов чем до него.

Бұл мақала сізді ойлану саяхатына шақырып отыр, сізді шақырған ой-пікірлерімен, фактілерге негізделген саяси шешімдер тұжырымдамасын сипаттайды. Повесть стилі түпнұсқа және әдеттегі академиялық жазудан алыс. Бірақ, осы сапардың соңында бұрыннан гөрі көп сұрақтар туыңдайды.


A journey of thought

First Steps

The article is written as a description of the process through which the author went, and the same style would be appropriate for a critical review of the said article. As a starting point, imagine being exposed to a catchy title of an article, which instantly makes you want to read it. You start reading and discover that it is easy to read, almost conversational, yet gets a point across. You start to understand what the EBPM concept means. The “imagine it’s you” approach helps you to start a journey of “wickedness”. You enjoy that there are questions in the introduction, because they grab your attention and make you think about what lies ahead.

However, you may think that the introduction is lacking a pitch, which will make it more interesting for you, the actual reason behind the “why do I care” question. A description of possible positive outcomes of applying EBPM in Kazakhstan may have been helpful in relating to this article.

The Walking Tour

The main body starts with setting the context for the journey, the need for a proposal for the implementation of EBPM. You think that using a theoretical example to set the scene is a good way to introduce a topic to a reader who is not familiar with it. You like the style chosen, there are interesting metaphors used throughout the text, such as the “lamppost” (Tham, 2017, p. 7) which may illuminate knowledge. However, here you pause to think about the target audience of this article. If it is aimed at the policy makers and civil servants, it may be too informal, if it is aimed at the laymen – what is the point of imagining being an expert in the field?

You think about the mentioned theory-practice divide and relate the importance of this topic to policymaking and implementation of said policies in education. This is exemplified in the case of inclusive education, where the policies and evidence are in place, however the practice and implementation are lacking (Mahlo, 2013). And for Kazakhstan, in education and other sectors of policymaking there are developments in creating the empirical basis, but there is still a need to create better tools for measuring and evaluating the quality of policies to reach EBPM (OECD, 2014).

As another step of the journey, you notice the organisational pattern of the article, which divides it into different sections. But, as you continue reading, you start getting confused and feel like you are jumping from topic to topic, because the sections seem disconnected and do not always link together seamlessly. More linking and connections between topics wold have create a more cohesive experience of the text.

You feel that some points and ideas, while you start to grasp them overall, may really benefit from additional examples and explanation, such as the whole “wicked problems” (Tham, 2017, p. 5) concept, prominent in the name of the article, but brought up as a topic only by the 5th page.  Even systems approach cited as best for solving wicked problems may need to be based on scientific evidence, as the two concepts often go hand in hand: “evidence-based policy also aims to clarify the interrelationship between different risk factors and different types of measures. This brings us to the systems approach” (Filtness, 2016, p. 13). Another example is that author claims that it is “difficult for the proponents to recognize the role of politics?”, but gives no example of this difficulty, an example of which may have brought you closer to understanding of the ideas in the article.

The abundance of questions throughout the article makes you want to answer all of them, even though they may be rhetoric questions, yet the aim of the article does not seem to be a dialogue between the author and the readers. This creates the idea that creating several blog posts on this topic would allow for a more back-and-forth format and create platform for further discussion, which may have created a further purpose for the reader.

You Got Us Where You Needed, What Next?

You find it ironic, that he conflicting dilemma described in this work is that evidence based policy making needs more evidence to prove that it is worthwhile.

In the end of the journey, even though you may disagree with the conclusions, you sit there, realising that now you know more than you did before reading this work, making it a worthwhile contribution of your time. But there is a thought nagging at the back of your brain: “What next?”. Overall, I was left with the same feeling as after finishing watching the first season of Westworld, or if I were to put it in the words of the author: “there are so many questions, with few answers” (p. 7, 2017, Tham).



Filtness, A. J. (2016). The application of systems approach for road safety policy making Deliverable 8.1 of the H2020 project SafetyCube. Loughborough. Retrieved from

Mahlo, D. (2013). Theory and Practice Divide in the Implementation of the Inclusive Education Policy: Reflections through Freire and Bronfenbrenner’s Lenses. Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences MCSER Publishing, 4(13), 163–170.

OECD. (2014). OECD Public Governance Reviews Kazakhstan: Review of the Central Administration. OECD Publishing. Retrieved from

Tham, J. (2017). Evidence-Based Policy Making (EBPM) is wicked: a critical assessment from the periphery.