Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics and Technology


Our PhD program in Applied Linguistics and Technology was developed to meet the needs of our rapidly changing profession in which computer technology has become integral to our work. We offer courses that allow students to learn new technology skills and use those skills to address important issues in the field. Students in our program can take courses on technology in language learning, language assessment, and analysis of language using computational and corpus linguistic methods.


The curriculum was designed to provide the foundational knowledge in applied linguistics and technology as well as advanced courses where you will learn research methods for transforming your ideas into research and practice that can contribute to the new era of English language learning and assessment. It consists of the following types of coursework: Pre-/Co-requisites (required prior to taking other classes); Core courses; Technology and Language; Research Methods; Seminars in Applied Linguistics; Electives; and Dissertation Research. The program consists of 72 credits.

Students are welcome to transfer in relevant courses from their MA degree. Depending on the number of courses transferred in, students typically finish their coursework in 2.5 to 3 years and completion of the degree is expected in no more than five years.


Prerequisites for new students: a Master’s degree from an accredited institution.

Prerequisites/Co-requisite coursework: students must document previous coursework that meets pre/co-requisites by submitting a Pre-requisite Equivalency Petition signed by their assigned program adviser or major professor. Students who have not completed the prerequisites upon entry into the program must complete them as soon as possible after admission.

  • A course in descriptive English Grammar (ENGL/LING 220 or test-out)
  • An introductory course in linguistics or applied linguistics (ENGL/LING 219 or 511 or equivalent)
  • ENGL/LING 510 Introduction to Computers in Applied Linguistics

Core Courses (9 credits):

  • ENGL/LING 512 Second Language Acquisition
  • ENGL/LING 519 Second Language Assessment
  • ENGL/LING 537 Corpus Approaches to Grammatical Analysis

Technology and Language (12 credits): 

  • ENGL/LING 516 Methods of Formal Linguistic Analysis (Introduces programming for linguistics)
  • ENGL/LING 517X Corpus Linguistics
  • ENGL/LING 520 Computational Analysis of English
  • ENGL/LING 530 Technology and Oral Language

Research Methods (12 credits): 

  • ENGL/LING 527 Discourse Analysis
  • ENGL/LING 623A Quantitative Research Methods in Applied Linguistics
  • ENGL/LING 623B Qualitative Research Methods in Applied Linguistics

Seminars in Applied Linguistics (12 Credits):

Applied linguistics seminars are offered to meet students’ research needs in their area of interest. Seminars currently planned cover a range of topics from corpus and computational linguistics to pedagogy to assessment. Specifically, seminars currently planned on language analysis include:

  • Corpus linguistics
  • Computational linguistics
  • Systemic functional linguistics

Seminars on pedagogy include:

  • Research on the teaching of pronunciation
  • Automated feedback generation in the teaching of writing
  • Corpus linguistics for language learning
  • Linking second language acquisition with technology and language learning
  • Research methods for the evaluation of technology for language teaching

Seminars on language assessment include:

  • Developing language tests
  • Validation research in language testing
  • Advanced quantitative methods in language testing

You must take this course four times (12 credits) to fulfill this requirement.

Electives (12 credits): 

Electives in Applied Linguistics and Technology constitute a coherent group of courses that you have selected and that have been approved by the faculty. Examples of courses that can be applied to electives are Engl 500 Teaching Multimodal Composition, Engl/Ling 514 (Sociolinguistics), Engl/Ling 525 (Methods in Teaching Listening and Speaking to NNS), Engl/Ling 528 (English for Specific Purposes), 515 (Statistical Natural Language Processing), and applied linguistics seminars beyond the four courses (12 credits) that are required. Electives may also be selected from other disciplines, including anthropology, computer science, education, English, psychology, rhetoric, statistics, and world languages.

You are encouraged to consult with your assigned program adviser about ideas for designing your individual program. You may transfer in elective credits only if they provide a strong complement to the other courses in your program of study.

Dissertation (18 credits):

The dissertation reports original, empirical research undertaken by the student in consultation with the major professor and program of study committee. Research topics are chosen by students with advice from faculty during the course of studies. Topics are developed and refined by learning in courses.

Assessment of Progress toward Degree

Assessment is at three points: a portfolio assessment, written and oral preliminary examinations, and a final oral examination.

In early April of each year, all PhD students submit an Annual Review form to report on their progress, plans/goals, and any concerns. This form as well as other important forms such as the Language Requirement Form and the Degree Planning Sheet can be found on the English Department Form’s page.

Foreign Language Requirement

Given the international and intercultural nature of applied linguistics, holders of doctorates in the field should have personal experience learning a second language and be able to conduct some research or teaching activities in a language other than English. Students may, however, vary with respect to the focus they want to give to oral or written skills. All students are required to submit a Language Requirement Form indicating how this requirement is to be met from the following options to receive acknowledgement on your official academic record that this requirement has been met.

Students who are native speakers of English can satisfy the language requirement by

  1. passing an oral examination in a foreign language, conducted under the supervision of the student’s POS committee, that ensures the student demonstrates language ability at the Advanced Level of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages proficiency scale or
  2. passing a reading/translation test, translating published work in applied linguistics from a foreign language into English or
  3. completing three years (or the equivalent) of college-level study in a single foreign language with grades of B or higher

Nonnative speakers of English from countries where English is not the medium of instruction do not need to satisfy one of the above criteria. The TOEFL/ IELTS/ PTE score submitted for admission and the ability to do doctoral-level work in English is considered evidence of a student’s ability to use a second language for their scholarly activities.

However, to satisfy Iowa State University Graduate College language requirements, all nonnative speakers of English must pass the English Placement Test (EPT) as a graduate student or qualify for one of the EPT exemptions; if students fail the EPT, they will be required to take English classes.

Information for Applicants

PhD applicants must have completed a Master’s degree prior to their first semester in the program. Minimum scores for PhD applicants who are nonnative speakers of  English: 111 TOEFL iBT/ 640 TOEFL PBT/ 8.0 IELTS/ 79 PTE.

Financial Aid

The majority of our doctoral students are funded through teaching assistantships, which provide a full tuition waiver, stipend with the opportunity to teach courses, and health insurance benefits. Research assistantships fund some students as well. These become available when faculty are awarded research grants, and they are typically assigned on the basis of students’ expertise in contributing to a particular project after they have had at least one year of courses. Applications for financial aid are part of the graduate admission application process.

Application Process

The only way to be considered for admission to the doctoral program is to complete an application according to the instructions provided. Before you apply for admission to the program read the detailed information on the PhD in Applied Linguistics and Technology (ALT) section of the English Department Graduate Program of Study Manual.

Application Deadline: January 5 (Fall entry only) with applications accepted and evaluated beginning October 15. Early applications are encouraged.