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 last Research Assessment Exercise (2008) 85% of our research was internationally recognised and 20% classified as world leading. 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 secretary. 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

Entry requirements:

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

We expect students who are non-native speakers of English, and who do not have an MA from an English-medium University, to have an IELTS 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. Certificates need to be valid on the date you start your PhD programme. This may mean that even though your certificate is valid at the time you apply, you may need to take the test again before you take up your place. IELTS certificates are only valid for two years.

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.


What our Students Say

Derek Bousfield Derek Bousfield has completed a PhD in the pragmatics field of linguistics

"From the moment I started the MA I decided to pull out all the stops and go as far as I could, hence the PhD. I was applying for research funding for my PhD at the same time as trying to crystallise my ideas for my MA dissertation - it was quite challenging but with the support of the department I managed to get ESRC funding for the duration of the PhD. With ESRC funding there is also a Research Training Support element which enables financial support for activities contributing to research training and development. The financial support has enabled me to present a research paper at an international symposium in Thailand. The support structures within the department are excellent. They are geared towards your individual needs and requirements, which complements the already good support system that I had experienced as an undergraduate student. It is very much an informal, open and encouraging environment. You can express your ideas safely and get good, honest, critical feedback."


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