This article investigates some of the ways in which a corpus analysis of Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine is informing the development of pedagogical materials for use on an EMP (English for Medical Purposes) course at Hiroshima University. The course, designed for third-year students, has evolved from an ongoing interaction between corpus analysis, word lists, and materials development. Corpora and teaching materials have been built in parallel, with materials evolving on the basis of an increasing understanding of the medical field and students’ needs. A specialized word list (the Medical Word List) has been compiled to aid students in their learning of medical terms (Fraser, Davies, & Tatsukawa, 2015).
In background research interviews, senior members of the medical faculty placed a strong emphasis on anatomy for students at the early stages of their studies, leading to the construction of a corpus based on Gray’s Anatomy for Students (2nd edition; 2009). This corpus has successfully been used to identify the most frequently occurring anatomy terms, and as a resource for creating and checking teaching materials (Fraser, Davies, & Tatsukawa, 2014). The medical faculty also suggested that we focus on common diseases and symptoms, and another well-established reference was chosen for subsequent analysis: Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine (18th edition; 2012).
In this paper, we document the creation of lists of the most useful terms and expressions in internal medicine based on their frequency of occurrence and range across the different sections of the textbook. We also examine the characteristics of these items and the particular contexts in which they occur. Our findings have implications for EMP materials development, and examples are given here of how the corpus is being used to monitor and amend each unit of medical materials. In the initial creation of medical discourse, important terms and text-structuring phrases will inevitably be overlooked or used inappropriately by materials writers lacking expert knowledge of the field; corpus analysis is making it possible to check for such omissions and discrepancies, allowing us to improve accuracy and increase the number of key terms embedded in each unit of the materials.