PhD Linguistics (by Research Only)

Ruskin LibraryOver 100 people are currently studying with us on a full- or part-time basis for research degrees, at Lancaster or off-site. We also have over 30 members of research-active academic staff and several researchers attached to specific research projects, so there are plenty of people to share your research ideas and experiences with.

We offer maximum support to all postgraduate students via:

  • a postgraduate study skills course dedicated to Linguistics students
  • access to activities in our research centres
  • staff-student research groups, and
  • modules from across the department to add breadth to studies.

Our research is internationally renowned. In the Research Excellence Framework 2014 Linguistics was rated 3rd of 88 submissions for Research Power, joint 3rd for Research Environment and 7th for impact, with 4 out of 6 cases rated 4*.

Currently the Department hosts active research groups in areas such as critical discourse analysis, corpus linguistics, language and gender, language testing, literacy, pragmatics and stylistics, and second language acquisition. These involve postgraduate students and staff.

The University Library contains one of the best holdings in Linguistics in the country. There is phonetics laboratory and we also have our own specialist computer laboratories for teaching and research. We are also the home of the British National Corpus (BNC), a corpus of 100 million words of modern British English, which is used for research purposes.

The Department has a full-time postgraduate coordinator. A Doctoral Studies Committee oversees matters specifically to do with doctoral students and meets at least once a term. Research student representatives sit on this committee and consult the other students to make sure that anything they want to raise is discussed and that student views are adequately represented.

PhD Research Areas

We welcome applications from anyone who wishes to pursue an interest within the broad fields of English language and linguistics, human communication, applied linguistics, and related areas of study. We are a large department with interests in a wide variety of topics, for further information about our research areas please see the research pages.

Discourse Studies

  • (critical) studies of gender and sexuality
  • national identities
  • media interaction
  • metaphor
  • language and politics
  • language and migration
  • academic discourse

Language and Literacy in their Social Contexts

  • sociolinguistics (language variation, language contact, multilingualism)
  • literacy in everyday life, including online

Linguistic Theory and Language Description

  • corpus-based and construction grammar, phonology

Teaching, Learning and Assessment

  • language testing and diagnosis
  • task-based language learning
  • second language acquisition
  • learner language
  • intercultural communication

Methods of Language Research

  • corpora
  • new technologies
  • databases
  • ethnography
  • experiments
  • sociolinguistic surveys


What is the difference between an MPhil and a PhD?

A Lancaster PhD thesis normally takes around three years of full-time study (or five years part-time) to complete. It is our highest level of research degree, and to be successful you have to produce an original contribution to knowledge. PhD theses are normally 80,000 words long, with an absolute maximum limit of 100,000.

A Lancaster MPhil normally takes around two years full-time (or its part-time equivalent) to complete, and the maximum thesis length is 60,000 words. MPhil theses must demonstrate a strong and well-balanced critical faculty in discussing and/or applying the insights and methodologies of others to new areas or data. They are often original contributions to knowledge, but on a smaller scale when compared with the PhD thesis.

You will normally be admitted provisionally to the PhD degree. Then, if your work is proceeding satisfactorily, you are usually confirmed in your PhD status after a year or so. After your PhD status if confirmed, you continue to work on the same thesis, but at a higher level of expectation than before.

Key Facts

Director of Studies: Professor Alison Sealey

Programme length: part-time (60 months), full-time (36 months)

Audience: those who are interested in making a contribution to their research area of choice, and/or seek professional advancement by pursuing a PhD

Enquiries: Marjorie Wood

Deadline for applications: You should aim to have your complete application with us no later than 31st July for an October start and 31st October for a January start.

Entry Requirements


Usually an MA, with a good mark (e.g. at least 60%) on the dissertation

English language level (for applicants whose native language is not English)

IELTS: Our official requirement for IELTS is a score of at least 6.5 overall with at least 6.5 in the reading and writing elements and 6.0 in the listening and speaking elements.

PTE Academic: Pearson Test of English Academic scores of at least 62 overall (with at least 62 in the reading and writing elements and 55 in the listening and speaking elements). Please see Pearson PTE Academic pages for more information.

TOEFL iBT: with a score of at least 93 overall (with at least 24 in the reading and writing elements and 22 in the speaking and listening elements).

If applicants have taken any of these exams in the last two years we can accept their test scores; otherwise we ask that they take the exam again. If, however, they have done their undergraduate studies in Britain, the US or another English-medium educational system and have successfully completed their degree within the past two years they may not need to submit a test score.

See the university guidance on English Language Requirements for Undergraduate and Postgraduate Study


What our Students Say

Federica Formato, Graduated 2014
Thesis: Language use and Gender in the Italian Parliament

Federica FormatoThe PhD in the department of Linguistics and English Language has been the turning point in my academic career as well as in my life. The professional and personal support I received has been generous, full and solid. My supervisors enormously contributed to my academic growth, providing valuable and constructive feedback throughout the years.

During my PhD, I coordinated the research group in language, gender and sexuality (RiGLS) and attended stimulating research groups, guest seminars and events. I also taught seminars in The Language of Advertising: an invaluable help for my career!

The admin team has been fantastic and I am grateful for all the opportunities I was given; indeed, I obtained the Media Assistant Award to fund my studies and to develop marketable and transferable skills.

The department is extremely friendly and the PhD community extremely lively. I have been the Social Rep for two years and loved every single moment of it. I will never forget the times we met around the table in the bright breakout area, giving each other food ... for thought (or the karaoke sessions and the nights out)! These have been wonderful years!



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