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    Applied Linguistics

    School of English, Faculty of Arts and Humanities

    Share your love of language with some of the most enthusiastic experts in the world. Whether your interest in language and language teaching is professional or academic, this MA provides you with advanced training in the theory and techniques of applied linguistics.

    Course description

    This course provides essential academic and professional training in the systematic study of language education, language learning and language teaching. The degree is ideal for:

    • experienced language teachers and language-related professionals wishing to further develop their careers by deepening their knowledge and skills in applied language research
    • scholars interested in applied language and linguistic research
    • those looking to develop their knowledge and skills at an advanced level before progressing to doctoral research

    Taught by our leading experts in applied linguistics, you'll also learn from our academics who have expertise in related disciplines including sociolinguistics, critical discourse analysis and corpus linguistics, and in the field of TESOL. We have particular expertise in academic writing, English for Specific Purposes (ESP), materials design and testing.

    As part of this degree you have the option to take our TESOL-specialist pathway, focusing on various aspects of the theory and practice of language teaching. By selecting from the modules listed in the MA Applied Linguistics with TESOL pathway tab below, you'll be awarded an MA in Applied Linguistics with TESOL.

    The MA in Applied Linguistics is one of three linguistics MAs offered in the School of English.

    • If you aspire to a career in TESOL or are looking for British Council-accredited teacher training in authentic TESOL classrooms, alongside rigorous, theory-driven training in how to teach language skills and systems then you may be interested in our MA TESOL course
    • If you're seeking to deepen your knowledge of language and linguistic theory and looking for rigorous training in linguistic research applicable to a range of fields including social, historical, theoretical, and literary linguistics, then you may be interested in our MA Language and Linguistics


    The taught component of the MA is designed to develop your understanding of key theoretical and practical approaches to the study of Applied Linguistics. You will take core modules designed to immerse you in current international scholarship in Applied Linguistic research and provide training in advanced level research skills before you start your own research project.

    Optional modules allow you to explore particular areas of the study of linguistics in closer detail, allowing you to tailor your degree to your specific interests or career ambitions. You can also take part in an optional work placement. 

    The dissertation provides the opportunity for you to further develop your skills and apply your linguistics knowledge to an independent research project.

    A selection of modules is available each year - some examples are below. There may be changes before you start your course. From May of the year of entry, formal programme regulations will be available in our Programme Regulations Finder.

    Core modules:

    Current Issues in Applied Linguistics

    Current Issues in Applied Linguistics' offers students an opportunity to reflect upon, and debate, contemporary questions related to language research and language education.

    The module is designed to stimulate critical thought, ask questions, advance opinions, and generally scratch our heads over some of the knottier problems in language and social life. The aim will be to explore critical current issues and social problems through the lens of language. The module seeks to introduce students to the diversity of research in Applied Linguistics, while representing the expertise of the scholars who will teach them on their degree programme. Topics will vary from year to year, covering diverse fields like language awareness, language acquisition, critical linguistics, language norms, 'correctness' and normativity, interculturality, linguistic imperialism and the global business of TESOL.

    15 credits
    Research Methods

    The course provides a practical introduction to how empirical research in applied linguistics is designed and executed. It also introduces basic statistical concepts and methods. The overall aim is to equip students with the knowledge and skills to evaluate published research and to undertake small-scale research projects. Among the topics covered are: the formulation of research questions and hypotheses, types of research design, data-gathering instruments (e.g. questionnaires), basic statistics, and the use of corpora in language research.

    15 credits
    Research Dissertation Practice

    This module will provide you with support to embark on your dissertation. Its aims are to support you with each aspect of the dissertation process, provide you with opportunities to discuss your research in progress with your peers and academic staff, enable you to understand what comprises excellent research in linguistics, scaffold the process of conducting a research dissertation, and to ensure that you are aware of the need to conduct ethical research projects. You will have the opportunity to discuss the structure of each of the main chapters in your dissertation, and to see examples of each chapter from previous well-written dissertations.

    15 credits

    This module enables students to pursue an extended independent research project in an area of language and linguistic research, broadly defined. With the guidance of an academic supervisor, and the module convenor if appropriate, students will formulate an appropriate research question based on the 1000-word research proposal submitted as part of their assessment for the  Research Dissertation Practice module. Students will then work with their supervisor who will help them establish a workable research schedule and provide advice and feedback in up to four one-to-one meetings. The project will be written up as a 12,000-15,000-word dissertation during the summer months.

    60 credits

    Optional modules:

    Teaching Vocabulary, Grammar, and Discourse

    This module is aimed at students who are interested in the acquisition, learning and teaching of vocabulary, grammar and discourse in second languages. Throughout this module, students will be introduced to some of the principal theories, concepts, descriptive categories, and methodologies which are central to the teaching of English vocabulary, grammar, and discourse. Taking a predominantly functional approach to language description, students will be familiarised with some of the key ways in which the lexico-grammar functions as a resource for creating meaning in use, and the implications for teaching the language systems with a functional and communicative purpose. Working practically with authentic spoken and written language data and language teaching materials, the module will encourage students to critically reflect on their prior experiences as learners and, where appropriate, teachers of English. Throughout the module, we will be drawing on the principles derived from second language acquisition research that inform effective teaching practice of vocabulary, grammar and discourse. The module aims to help you uncover your individual beliefs about the learning and teaching of vocabulary, grammar and discourse, and guide you to critically explore a variety of teaching principles, methods and techniques. Overall, this course has three main objectives: - Familiarise yourself with the current knowledge and developments on the learning and teaching of vocabulary, grammar and discourse (i.e. language systems) in second languages - Help you develop the necessary background knowledge to understand and critically examine the ways in which the language systems function and are taught in second languages - Prepare you to be able to evaluate, select and apply the teaching principles, techniques and methods that are most appropriate for the instruction of language systems in different educational contexts.

    15 credits
    Introduction to Linguistic Theory

    This module aims to develop a secure foundation in linguistic concepts and techniques, and trains you in how to apply them to language problems. The course examines how language is structured and processed, building upon preliminary training in some or all of the core modules of language at undergraduate level: sounds (phonetics, phonology), word structure (morphology), sentence structure (syntax), and meaning (semantics, pragmatics). The module will train you to describe and rigorously analyse language data (English and others) within theoretical frameworks. Students will be instructed in (1) foundational theories and concepts in linguistic theory, (2) the diverse, cross-linguistic evidence that motivates these approaches, treating all languages with equality, (3) the analytical techniques required to apply these theories to language data, and (4) the relevance of linguistic theories for wider applied, theoretical, and practical language study.

    15 credits
    Teaching Listening and Speaking

    This module will equip you with the theoretical knowledge and practical skills needed to support the development of second language learners' listening and speaking skills. You will be introduced to different approaches to learning and teaching listening and speaking in a range of TESOL contexts and consider how to make principled pedagogical decisions, informed by underpinning theory and research. In addition, you will develop your ability to select, adapt or create appropriate listening and speaking materials relevant to learner needs and evaluate procedures and techniques for assessing and developing second language listening and speaking skills.

    15 credits
    Topics in Linguistic Theory

    This module explores how language is structured, by exploring central topics in linguistic theory, which may include Phonology, Syntax, Semantics, Language Acquisition (L1/L2), Psycholinguistics, and related disciplines. You will build upon the concepts and techniques investigated in previous training in these areas, and will have the opportunity to examine (1) theories and concepts in linguistic theory, (2) the linguistic evidence from a diverse array of languages that informs these approaches, (3) the analytical techniques required to apply these theories to cross-linguistic language data, and (4) the relevance of such theoretical models for wider applied, theoretical, and practical language study. The module will develop students' abilities to use analytical tools in linguistic theory, rigorously interpret language data within theoretical frameworks, and evaluate these frameworks.

    15 credits
    Language and interaction

    The natural home of spoken language is everyday interaction. In this module, you will engage with contemporary frameworks and techniques for analysing spoken interaction, including everyday conversation and interaction in formal settings. You will: (i) learn about the principles which underpin those analytic frameworks, (ii) explore some of the findings which have arisen from the application of those analytic frameworks, and (iii) gain first-hand experience of working within those analytic frameworks in the analysis of recordings and transcriptions of everyday interactions.

    15 credits
    Advances in TESOL

    This module will familiarise you with cutting-edge research in the teaching of English to speakers of other languages (TESOL). In particular, aligning with the research interests and publications of the module convenors, it will focus on current research on vocabulary studies, English for specific purposes, and academic writing and academic literacy.

    15 credits
    Teaching Reading and Writing

    This module will familiarise you with the theory and practice of how to teach reading and writing in TESOL contexts. For the Teaching Reading part of the module, you will study the main approaches to teaching second language reading in the English language classroom; how you can develop learners' intensive and extensive reading abilities; how reading can be assessed; and how popular TESOL textbooks teach reading. For the Teaching Writing part of the module, you will study the main approaches to teaching second language writing; how writing can be corrected; whether correcting writing works; how writing can be assessed, and how popular TESOL textbooks teach writing. You will practice designing and assessing reading activities; and practice correcting and assessing writing.

    15 credits
    Historical Linguistics: Texts and Theories

    The primary aim of this module is to bring primary data in historical linguistics (texts) into direct contact with theories of their interpretation in the context of seminar-style discussion in class. You will encounter historical texts (in transcript and facsimile) and gain skills in interpreting them in ways that speak to questions both specific and more general to the field of historical linguistics. Topics may include aspects of manuscript production and reception (for example, punctuation), language contact, morpho-syntax, sound change, pragmatics, and sociolinguistics.

    15 credits
    Language and public life

    Language mediates all aspects of our lives. It helps shape our social identity, relations with others, and the institutions we engage with. It can be an instrument of power and of community. This module will introduce you to current research which explores how language mediates public life and is an object of discussion within it. You will be introduced to a range of analytical frameworks for exploring the role of language as an instrument of social power, identity, and control. The module will explore these questions by critically analysing how language is used in a range of social settings within public life and will also draw on current techniques for investigating how language is debated, discussed, and monitored in public life. It will do so by looking at a range of social settings in which language is used and discussed (for instance, education, the media, politics and policy). You will: (i) learn about the principles which underpin the analytical frameworks used, (ii) discuss the findings and implications of research which has used those frameworks, (iii) gain hands-on experience of working with some of those frameworks, by working with samples of data gathered from contemporary social contexts. Data will be provided for you to analyse, though there may be the opportunity for you to work with your own data where appropriate.

    15 credits
    Style in Literature and Discourse - Tools and Techniques

    This module explores various approaches to the investigation of style, making reference both to literary texts and to other kinds of discourse. It introduces a range of tools that we can use to analyse style in a detailed and systematic way. These include techniques for the investigation of grammar, linguistic patterning, point of view, speech and thought representation, modality, and metaphor. In this sense, the module provides a foundational account of stylistic analysis suitable for those who have not experienced it before. However, the module extends its exploration of stylistics further than is usual in undergraduate modules, engaging with the theory that lies behind the practical tools that we are covering as well as extending, problematizing, and complicating our view of what the term 'style' actually means. In this sense, the module will also be suitable for you if you have some experience of studying stylistics at undergraduate level and now wish to develop your knowledge of the field. By the end of the module, you should be able to produce sophisticated stylistic analyses of particular pieces of text and discourse while also showing a critical awareness of the intellectual context of your work and the theoretical ideas underpinning it.

    30 credits
    Style in Literature and Discourse - Approaches to Research

    This module considers what is involved in developing a research project in the field of stylistics. Rather than concentrating on the specific analytical tools that are typically used to explore the style of texts and discourse, it focuses on the larger questions that researchers ask about matters of style and the methods that they use to answer those questions. The module will include discussion of research in areas such as Corpus Stylistics, Cognitive Stylistics, Historical Stylistics, Multimodal Stylistics, Eco-Stylistics and the Stylistics of Drama. In each case we shall look at examples of research in the area, consider what kinds of research questions shape it, examine the methods devised to answer those questions, and explore the ways in which new research establishes its relationship with what is happening more broadly in the field. The module will offer a thorough account of both the practice and theory of stylistic research, the assessment requiring that students develop plans for research projects in two different areas of the field and carry out a small-scale pilot study for each.

    30 credits
    Language and Linguistics seminar

    Linguistics is a broad discipline that encompasses a wide range of approaches to the study of how language works, how it is used, and what it means. This module aims to introduce you to the breadth of linguistic study as conducted by the scholars who will teach you on your degree programme. The module further aims to help you become independent and critical learners able to discuss areas of linguistic research with confidence in both written and spoken modes.

    15 credits
    Practitioner Research and Development

    This module aims to provide you with English language teacher skills and knowledge in the areas of practitioner research methods and techniques as well as theories and frameworks for teacher professional development. Over the course of this module, you will engage in reflective practice on your own teaching and learning experiences through engagement with current practice and literature. You will have to evidence your knowledge through critical analysis of a range of approaches to research and development skills that will aid your future teaching profession and help you plan for your educational career.

    15 credits
    Materials and Course Design

    This module will familiarise you with the theory and practice of TESOL course design and language teaching. You will look at different scholarly approaches to the design of language teaching curricula, materials, and tests, evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of these approaches, and their usefulness in various TESOL situations in diverse secondary and tertiary education contexts. The module will provide you with the opportunity to practise designing language courses and language teaching materials. The module therefore will provide you with an essential theoretical and practical foundation to design TESOL language courses and teaching materials, and to critically assess existing examples of each and their appropriateness in various learning contexts.

    15 credits
    Work Placement with Research Project

    This module provides you with the experience of working with an external organisation (for example, a library, gallery, theatre, school) and undertaking a short research project related to that organisation. You will choose a placement from those offered at the start of the academic year and will work on a defined project agreed between the academic co-ordinator and the partner institution. Alongside this project, you will undertake a programme of related reading and research directed by the academic co-ordinator. The module has three aims: (1) to enable you to develop your discipline-specific vocational skills (2) to enable you to gain practical research skills through undertaking research related to your project (3) to promote reflection on the relationship between academic research and external organisations.

    30 credits

    The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.

    Open days

    An open day gives you the best opportunity to hear first-hand from our current students and staff about our courses.

    You may also be able to pre-book a department visit as part of a campus tour.Open days and campus tours


    • 1 year full-time
    • 2 years part-time


    You’ll be taught by a dedicated and enthusiastic team of experts. Our internationally recognised research feeds straight into our teaching, with students sometimes taking a hands-on role in our research activities.

    The staff are leading figures in their fields, in many cases having written the books and papers you will be studying: Kook-Hee Gil (Second Language Acquisition), Nigel Harwood (TESOL Materials), Jane Mulderrig (Critical Discourse Analysis), Valerie Hobbs (English for Specific Purposes) and Beatriz González Fernández (Vocabulary).

    We also have expertise in related disciplines including sociolinguistics, corpus linguistics, and in the field of TESOL. We have particular expertise in academic writing, materials design and testing. 

    You’ll spend about eight hours a week in lectures, seminars and workshops. And there are chances to take part in classroom-based research projects in the UK and overseas.


    Assessment depends on the module, but includes essay assignments and classroom coursework tasks.

    You'll write your dissertation (MA only) over the summer. If you don’t complete the dissertation you’ll be awarded a diploma.

    Your career

    Our graduates have expert-led training in a range of applied linguistic research and research skills in preparation for advanced careers in language and language teaching all over the world. They also work in business, publishing, translation and interpreting.

    The skills gained on this degree programme are designed to enhance the careers of experienced language teachers and language-related professionals including those involved in curriculum development, translation and interpreting, and forensic and clinical work involving language by deepening their theoretical knowledge and skills in applied language research.

    We also offer support for students planning to progress to PhD study following their MA degree.

    Your career - the School of English


    School of English

    We're a research-intensive school with an international perspective on English studies. Students can specialise in their chosen subject, while taking modules from other programmes, forging interdisciplinary connections. We encourage you to get involved and to apply your academic learning, working in partnership with external organisations both within the city of Sheffield and beyond.

    Our staff are researchers, critics, and writers. They're also passionate, dedicated teachers who work tirelessly to ensure their students are inspired.

    We keep seminar groups small because we believe that's the best way to stimulate discussion and debate. Our modules use a range of innovative assessments and can include designing websites, writing blog posts, and working with publishing software, in addition to writing essays and delivering presentations.

    We're committed to providing you with the pastoral support you need in order to thrive on your degree. You'll be assigned a personal tutor with whom you'll have regular meetings. You're welcome to see any of our academic staff in their regular student consultations if there's anything you want to ask.


    Our students get to make the most of the University's facilities across campus. Explore some of the teaching, library and social spaces you'll be able to visit as an arts and humanities student.

    Entry requirements

    Minimum 2:1 undergraduate honours degree in English or a related subject.

    We also consider a wide range of international qualifications:

    Entry requirements for international students

    Overall IELTS score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component, or equivalent.

    Pathway programme for international students

    If you're an international student who does not meet the entry requirements for this course, you have the opportunity to apply for a pre-masters programme in Business, Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Sheffield International College. This course is designed to develop your English language and academic skills. Upon successful completion, you can progress to degree level study at the University of Sheffield.

    If you have any questions about entry requirements, please contact the department.

    Fees and funding


    There are a number of studentships and fee bursaries available, funded by either the University or the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Deadlines for funding applications are usually in winter/early spring. 


    You can apply now using our Postgraduate Online Application Form. It's a quick and easy process.

    Apply now


    +44 114 222 0220

    Any supervisors and research areas listed are indicative and may change before the start of the course.

    Our student protection plan

    Recognition of professional qualifications: from 1 January 2021, in order to have any UK professional qualifications recognised for work in an EU country across a number of regulated and other professions you need to apply to the host country for recognition. Read information from the UK government and the EU Regulated Professions Database.