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Detecting an Autobiographical Criminal: Investigating Gender Differences in Staged Suicide Notes

Gill, Kyle (2019) Detecting an Autobiographical Criminal: Investigating Gender Differences in Staged Suicide Notes. University of Derby. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

Suicide notes are valuable in assisting equivocal police investigations because they can provide access into the author’s mind. An abundance of research has already linguistically analysed genuine and simulated suicide notes and have identified significant differences between the two. However, this only provides limited assistance in discerning note authenticity. Suicidology research has not yet considered how authors can linguistically construct gender in order to disguise their own, which may underpin some equivocal cases. The present study endeavoured to explore linguistic gender construction in staged suicide notes by cross-referencing suicide, deception and gendered-language corpuses with participants’ self-produced staged suicide notes to determine whether authorship can be detected through language-use and contribute to evaluating suicide note veracity. Participants were student volunteers (n = 4: 2 males, 2 females), recruited from the University of Derby. A qualitative document-interview methodology was used to gain primary data and explore pragmatic meaning by thematically analysing participants’ staged suicide notes and interview transcripts in order to categorise linguistic themes and explore whether pre-existing mental representations can influence language-use. Societal stereotypes regarding suicide and gender were found and linguistic features remained largely consistent with previous research. Findings may improve equivocal suicide investigations.

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