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); Technology & Language; Research Methods; Seminars; 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: These courses are typically considered as background for the degree, but students who have not studied any one of these subjects or want to update their knowledge can take the needed courses in our program.

  • 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 512 Second Language Acquisition
  • ENGL/LING 516 Methods of Formal Linguistic Analysis (Introduces programming for linguistics)
  • ENGL/LING 519 Second Language Assessment

Technology & Language (12 credits): These courses develop skills in the use of technologies for language teaching, assessment and analysis.

  • ENGL/LING 510 Introduction to Computers in Applied Linguistics
  • ENGL/LING 530 Technology and Oral Language
  • ENGL/LING 520 Computational Analysis of English
  • ENGL/LING 537 Corpus Approaches to Grammatical Analysis

Research Methods (12 credits): These courses teach students methods to draw from in designing their own applied linguistics and technology research.

  • ENGL/LING 527 Discourse Analysis
  • ENGL/LING 623 Research Methods in Applied Linguistics
  • Quantitative research methods
  • Qualitative research methods

Seminars in Applied Linguistics (12 Credits): ENGL/LING 630 Seminars in Technology and Applied Linguistics on topics in technology and language learning, assessment and analysis must be taken 4 times to fulfill this requirement. Specific topics vary, but seminars typically include the following:

  • Development of Language Assessments
  • Validation of Language Assessments
  • Quantitative Methods for Applied Linguistics
  • Psychometric Methods for Language Testing
  • Advanced Pronunciation Seminar
  • Automated Writing Evaluation
  • Evaluation of Technology for Language Learning
  • Corpus Linguistics Research Methods
  • Corpus Linguistics for Teaching and Assessment

Electives (18 credits): A coherent group of courses that students have selected and that have been approved by the faculty includes the following courses offered in three areas: (1) Linguistic Analysis; (2) Language Pedagogy; and (3) Language Assessment.

  • ENGL 500 Proseminar: Teaching Multimodal Composition (required if teaching ISUCom Foundation Courses)
  • ENGL/LING 514 Sociolinguistics
  • ENGL/LING 515 Statistical Natural Language Processing
  • ENGL/LING 524 Literacy: Issues and Methods for Nonnative Speakers of English
  • ENGL/LING 525 Methods in Teaching Listening and Speaking Skills to Nonnative Speakers of English
  • ENGL/LING 526 Computer-Assisted Language Learning
  • ENGL/LING 528 English for Specific Purposes
  • ENGL/LING 626 Computer-Assisted Language Testing
  • ENGL/LING 630 Seminars in Technology and Applied Linguistics (must be beyond the 4 courses/ 12 credits required in the Seminars in Applied Linguistics category above)
  • ENGL/LING 688 Practicum in Technology and Applied Linguistics

Electives may also be selected from the applied linguistics seminars and from other disciplines including anthropology, computer science, education, English, psychology, rhetoric, statistics, and world languages.

Students are encouraged to consult with their 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)