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Postgraduate study in DTAL

Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics


PhD in Theoretical and Applied Linguistics

Course code: MLAL212

The nature of the PhD degree

In British universities the PhD ('Doctorate of Philosophy') is traditionally awarded solely on the basis of a dissertation, a substantial piece of writing which reports original research into a closely defined area of enquiry. Candidates for the PhD in Cambridge are guided by a Supervisor, though they will normally also discuss their work with a number of other experts in their field. The nature of the work depends on topic. Within linguistics, some PhD students may do most of their work in libraries, or spend part of their time collecting and analysing data, or carry out experiments in the phonetics laboratory or psycholinguistics laboratory. The dissertation must make a significant contribution to learning, for example through the discovery of new knowledge, the connection of previously unrelated facts, the development of new theory or the revision of older views. The completion of a PhD dissertation is standardly expected to take three years, and most funding for PhD students is based on this assumption.

PhD topics and supervisors

Students registered for the PhD in the Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics will normally have one of the staff of the Department as Supervisor, though sometimes specialists outside the Department will fulfil this role.

Prospective applicants can get an idea of the range of topics which can be supervised from the description of staff research interests, the list of members of the Faculty, and from the topics of current PhD students; but, since by definition doctoral research must be original, they should not hesitate to discuss with the Department ideas within or across areas of Linguistics which are not explicitly represented in these places.

Applications must be accompanied by a research proposal of approximately 500 to 1000 words. This should outline a topic of research which the applicant has chosen, and the method for investigating it. Applicants are advised to discuss their proposal informally with the Department before submitting it. The research proposal will form the basis of a PhD student's research, but naturally may be modified as the research proceeds.