Freelance opportunities

Can you help us make our unrivalled online Scots language resources more accessible?
**Knowledge of Scots not necessary**

We have two opportunities at present. Each is described below.

Terms: Freelance contract
Starting date: Negotiable
Fee: Negotiable

About us

Scottish Language Dictionaries is a publicly-funded Scottish charity. As the nation’s authority on Scots, we have been compiling the lexicographic record for more than ninety years. Our dictionary publications—in print, online, and as mobile applications—provide a unique record of the language, history, culture, and traditions of Scots-speaking peoples.
Our online Dictionary of the Scots Language (DSL) makes available two lexical datasets, compiled during the twentieth century and originally published in print. DSL, first published online in 2004 and supplemented in 2005, now contains more than 75,000 entries and 755,000 illustrative quotations from more than 6,000 source texts dating from the twelfth to the twenty-first century. We are continually adapting DSL’s original print-based structure and appearance to better meet the requirements of today’s online audience. For many years we have done this through our own in-house editing software but we are currently moving to a professional platform (DPS) so we can work more efficiently and effectively.

Opportunity 1: Quotation Dates

It’s currently not possible to search DSL by quotation dates – something many of our users would like to do. We need to fix this! So we are looking for someone to:
1. Devise procedures for adding missing dates to DSL quotations. This will involve:
a. Liaising with the in-house editorial team to explore options and agree solutions for dating quotations which cannot be dated by reference to their source texts. We’ll be looking for automated procedures wherever possible, with manual solutions as a fall-back.
b. Planning and delivering the addition of as many dates as possible with appropriate quality control mechanisms and documented procedures.
2. Recommend a practicable and useful search-by-date function, taking account of the full range of dating formats, for implementation by our Website and Database Manager.

The challenges

• 42% of DSL quotations are undated.
• Although a large proportion of the undated quotations can be dated by reference to their source texts, it is likely that a significant proportion can’t be.
• Quotation dates are expressed in multiple ways, reflecting different degrees of certainty e.g. 1650, 1650-, 1650-60, 1650-1850, a1650, c1650, 16.., ?a1650, a1650-1850.

Opportunity 2: Part-of-speech simplification

We need to simplify DSL’s overly-complex part-of-speech labelling system to make DSL entries easier to understand and to enable DSL users to search by part-of-speech. We are looking for someone to:
1. Devise, recommend, and get approval for a master-set of part-of-speech labels to fit the content and meet the needs of users.
2. Plan and deliver the part-of-speech label simplification and conversion process with appropriate quality control mechanisms and documented procedures.
3. Derive an automated method for adding part-of-speech information where it’s missing, with a manual solution as a fall-back.

The challenges

• Inconsistency in where part-of-speech information appears – sometimes it’s in the XML, sometimes in the metadata, sometimes in both (where it may or may not match).
• Inconsistency in how parts-of-speech are labelled – the same part-of-speech category can be labelled in multiple ways.
• Over-complexity – words belonging to two or more part-of-speech categories appear with a single, complex part-of-speech label.

Both posts require:

• Enthusiasm for our mission
• An understanding of structured data and experience of working in XML
• A tech-savvy attitude to problem-solving
• A can-do approach to squeezing the most out of a new editing system
• The ability to communicate your plans and solutions clearly and persuasively to non-tech colleagues
• For project 2, you must also have part-of-speech knowledge

You don’t need to:

• Know Scots
• Be a lexicographer

Other information

• DSL data has not yet transferred to the new editing platform – we hope to complete this by January 2021.
• You’ll report to our Managing Editor and liaise with our Website and Database Manager.
• You may also be required to liaise with colleagues in the DPS supplier team, who are assisting us with certain data restructuring tasks.

Notes of interest

Please send a short statement of why you’re right for this opportunity, along with dates you’d be available to by 5pm on Wednesday 18 November 2020. Long-listed applicants will be contacted by 27 November 2020 and invited to submit a proposal consisting of a preliminary project plan and fee quotation. There will be an opportunity to ask us questions to help you develop your outline proposal. Shortlisted candidates will be notified by 7 January 2021 and invited to a video chat during the week beginning 19 January 2021. We hope to make our final selection by 22 January 2021.

If you require further information at any stage, please contact our Managing Editor, Pauline Graham, at

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