May 19, 2024  
2021-2022 Graduate Catalog 
2021-2022 Graduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Applied Linguistics, Ph.D.

Return to: 3110 Department of Applied Linguistics and English as a Second Language  

The Department offers a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in applied linguistics in response to societal needs for advancing language education and conducting language-related research. The PhD program prepares future researchers, industry specialists, and professors by providing a thorough grounding in theory and practice related to language teaching, learning, and use, as well as the analysis of language. PhD students may focus on a range of topics within various subdisciplines of Applied Linguistics, including second language (L2) acquisition, L2 writing, sociolinguistics, language assessment, computational linguistics, corpus linguistics, and educational technology.

Admission to the Ph.D. Program

Requirements for admission include (1) a master’s degree in applied linguistics or a related field, (2) teaching experience in a second or foreign language, and (3) GRE scores appropriate for doctoral level work. Non-native speakers of English must submit TOEFL scores of at least 600 on the paper-based test or 250 on the computer-based test and a score of at least 5 on the Test of Written English or the TOEFL Writing Test, or if the Internet-based TOEFL is taken, a composite score of 97 and writing score of 22 and speaking score of 24 are required. At the master’s level, successful Ph.D. applicants would have had at least a GPA of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale with the strength of the M.A. program taken into consideration. Students who demonstrate prior experience with adult language learners and/or English for Academic Purposes will be preferred. In addition, students who demonstrate research potential based on an M.A. thesis or research papers submitted as part of the application process will be preferred. New students will be admitted only in the fall semester.

Applicants must submit the following materials:

  1. Completed graduate program application form;
  2. Two copies of official transcripts from all colleges attended;
  3. Official verbal, qualitative and analytic scores on the GRE and, if applicable, official scores on the TOEFL or IELTS;
  4. Three letters from academic references;
  5. Sample of academic writing (published or unpublished);
  6. Statement of professional and academic goals that includes a response to the following: Why are you seeking a Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics (specifically in the Department of Applied Linguistics and ESL at Georgia State University)? What are your research interests? With what faculty member are you interested in studying?
  7. Current C.V.

Degree Requirements

The Ph.D. program in applied linguistics consists of five main components and requirements:

  1. Required and elective coursework, with a GPA of 3.5 or higher
  2. Language requirement
  3. Qualifying paper
  4. Comprehensive exams
  5. Dissertation


In the first two years of doctoral study, students will take three required core courses (9 semester hours) in conjunction with an additional 21 semester hours of coursework and at least 21 semester hours of dissertation credit. For students whose M.A. is not in Applied Linguistics, check the website for prerequisite courses.

The courses in the program over three content areas include the following:

  • Area I: Research Methods
  • Area II: Language Analysis and Use
  • Area III: Language Learning and Teaching

The required core courses fall in Areas I and II and are the following:

Additionally, all PhD students must have taken a course comparable to AL 8550 - Second Language Evaluation and Assessment  either at the MA level or while in the PhD program in AL/ESL. If it is taken during the PhD program, it counts as 3 of the 6 hours that can be taken in courses that are aimed at both MA and PhD students (see below).

Area II

*Students are required to fulfill breadth and depth requirements in linguistic theory. The preferred way to do this is by taking both versions of AL 8970 . However, students may be exempted from one of the AL 8970  courses if they have taken AL 8240 - General Linguistics  or an equivalent course from another institution. (General Linguistics itself does not count toward the 30-hour requirement.) Those who wish to teach Introduction to Linguistics need to have taken both Linguistic Theory courses.

Language Requirement

Teacher-scholars who work in the field of applied linguistics need to experience second language study and use. This experience may take different forms.

  • Successful completion (a grade of “B” or higher) in a minimum of four semesters of university language study, or
  • A minimum of one year living in a country where English is not the primary language and learning and using a language of the country, or
  • The acquisition of additional language(s) as a child or adult.

Students whose language study does not fit one of these three categories are required to successfully complete four semesters of language study or an intensive program that covers at least four semesters of work.

Graduate Assistants

Graduate assistants are required to enroll for a minimum of 12 credit hours each for the fall/spring semesters and 9 credit hours for the summer semester. These credit hours will consist of courses required for the prescribed program of study, as well as additional hours of APL 8920, 8930, 8940, 8950, and 9900.

Qualifying Exam

The purpose of the Qualifying Exam is for the PhD student to demonstrate theory and content knowledge, research and methodology competence, and communication skills, as well as to develop a plan of study. It consists of a Qualifying Paper and a meeting with a faculty committee (the “exam” proper).

The Qualifying Paper is an empirical paper that is completed in a course during their first year in the program. The goals of the meeting with the faculty are to discuss the paper and to advise the student on a plan for the rest of their program.

Comprehensive Examination

After students complete their coursework, they take comprehensive exams. Students receive three topics and have two weeks to write responses to all three. The questions will require the student to address issues in theory, research methodology, research topics of importance in the field, and/or topics related to the student’s intended dissertation research. At least one of the topics will require consideration of issues that overlap the boundaries between language, cognition & communication and language teaching & language teacher development.


When students have passed their comprehensive exams, they officially begin work on their dissertation. The dissertation process consists of three stages: a proposal, research and writing, and an oral defense.