Applied Linguistics by Web-based Distance Learning MA


Fact file

Qualification name:Applied Linguistics by Web-based Distance Learning
Duration:2-4 years part-time
Entry requirements:2.1 (Upper 2nd class hons degree or international equivalent)
IELTS:7.0 (no less than 6.0 in any element)
Start date:September and February
Campus:University Park

Course Overview

The School of English at Nottingham has long been at the forefront of research and teaching in the area of applied linguistics.

This web-based MA provides an exciting opportunity to work with several leading world figures and to investigate English language in applied contexts.

You will be introduced to the key ideas and concepts in applied linguistics and provided with thorough training in relevant research methods. This MA is particularly suitable if you wish to pursue a PhD programme after completion of the MA.

The principle of language study that we have established at Nottingham combines theoretical and ideological dimensions with practical applications; we aim to be rigorous and principled while offering an approach to language study that is fundamentally humane.

The MA has intakes in September and February.

Key facts

  • The MA courses by web-based distance learning build on the international reputation of the School of English at Nottingham as one of the foremost centres for English Language research in the world.
  • We are ranked 7th for English in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2015, in the world top 50 for English Literature, Language and Linguistics (QS World University Rankings 2014) and 9th in the UK for 'research power' (REF 2014)
  • The course is taught using a course tool software called Moodle. It is also supported by extensive online resources, course materials and teaching.
  • The programme offers an excellent route towards pursuing a PhD.
  • This MA is convened in the Centre for Research in Applied Linguistics and is among the most popular postgraduate courses of its kind in the UK.
  • As well as completing this course at a pace that suits you and your other commitments, you have the flexibility to study towards a Postgraduate Certificate (60 credits), Postgraduate Diploma (120 credits) or an MA (180 credits, including dissertation). Please note that if you wish to study for a Postgraduate Certificate or Postgraduate Diploma you still need to apply for the full MA; you would then elect to leave the course with the alternative award (in Modern English Language) once studying.
  • The MA Applied Linguistics is also available as an on-site taught full- or part-time course within the University.

Course Details

The web-based MA in Applied Linguistics explores the role of language in human affairs using a variety of approaches, ranging from discourse analysis to corpus linguistics. With a particular focus on research methodology, this programme offers an opportunity for investigating language and communication from an interdisciplinary angle.

You will be taught using the latest advances in online teaching methods and electronic resources.

Typical modules on this course include topics such as:

  • Descriptive Linguistic Analysis
  • Discourse Analysis
  • World Englishes
  • Psycholinguistics
  • Research Methods in Applied Linguistics
  • Syllabus Design and Methodology
  • Corpus Analysis
  • Health Communication
  • Grammar in the Classroom
  • Intercultural Communication 

Please note that all module details are subject to change.

Towards the end of your studies, you will complete a supervised dissertation. This is a major piece of advanced independent research, which you will undertake with the supervision of a specialist in your chosen area. We will provide you with advice and guidance while you select and refine your area of study, and offer close supervision and support as you complete your research and your MA.

This course is only available on a part-time basis over 24 to 48 months.

The MA begins with a preparation in Descriptive Linguistic Analysis (30 credits). This is a module in the advanced description of English, and includes a significant component in linguistic research methodology. The module has to be passed to progress in the programme. You then choose a further 90 credits in optional modules. Course materials and teaching for this course are available over the Internet.

All taught modules are assessed by written work of around 3,000 words or equivalent (for a 15-credit module). Tutors provide feedback on practice exercises as preparation, and detailed comments on assignments.

The dissertation module is assessed by written work of 14,000 words.

You must take at least two-thirds (120 credits) of your course including your dissertation in an area of Applied Linguistics.

You will have access to many online resources, as well as your own personal tutor for each module that you take. Particular features of the programme include:

  • a theoretical grounding in research methodology and linguistic description
  • one-to-one tuition with expert members of staff
  • innovative and engaging teaching methods
  • access to many online resources
  • great flexibility in course content, optionality, and changes in direction.

All MA students in the School of English join a lively and thriving postgraduate community. As such, you will be invited to attend a voluntary `Summer School` each year, giving you a chance to meet other students in the School face-to-face.

Details of course fees and other costs are available on the School web pages. Further information about the structure of the course can be found in the student handbook.


The modules we offer are inspired by the research interests of our staff and as a result, may change from year to year. The following list is therefore representative but should give you a flavour of the modules we offer.

Descriptive Linguistic Analysis (30 credits)

This module is a core course in language and linguistics. It introduces and then develops the key terms, theories, frameworks, ideological approaches and methodologies required in linguistic study and research. It includes a substantial research methods component. It also invites and encourages critical evaluation, reflection and response to linguistic thinking and analysis


World Englishes 1 (15 credits) 

The module will examine the geographical, historical and social development of the English language in contexts largely but not exclusively outside the traitional boundaries of Great Britain and the United States. This will involve an examination of English and Englishes, language development, nativisation and acculturation in different contexts and areas such as Africa, the Caribbean and North America; literary, social, political and ideological aspects of the phenomenon will be examined.

Discourse Analysis 1 (15 credits) 

The module looks at various approaches to the study of spoken language. These include structural models based on the work of the Birmingham discourse analysts, as well as more sociolinguistically inspired approaches to conversation analysis and recent developments in spoken corpus linguistics. Each learning unit takes a different kind of discourse and progressively builds up a classification of discourse types or genres. Real spoken data are used throughout, for exemplification and practical analysis tasks. Both quantitative (corpus-based) and qualitative approaches to analysis are covered, and the implications for language pedagogy and other branches of applied linguistics (e.g.applications in other professional contexts) are considered.


Discourse Analysis 2 (15 credits) 

The module develops approaches to the study of spoken language, building on structural models based on the wor k of the Birmingham discourse analysts, as well as more sociolinguistically inspired approaches to conversaation analysis and recent developments in spoken corpus linguistics. Each learning unit takes a different kind of discourse and progressively builds up a further classification of discourse types or genres. Real spoken data are used throughout, for exemplification and practical analysis tasks. Both quantitative (corpus-based) and qualitative approaches to analysis are covered, and the implications for language pedagogy and other branches of applied linguistics (e.g. applications in other professional cntexts) are considered in greater depth. 


Vocabulary: Teaching and Learning (15 credits) 

The module will provide a broad overview of vocabulary studies, including description of how vocabulary is used, exploration of the processes of vocabulary acquisition, and discussions of current best practice in teaching pedagogy. Specific issues covered include: what it means to 'know a word'; how many and which words need to be taught; explicit vs. incidental learning of vocabulary and reading; vocabulary learning strategies; and testing vocabulary.


Intercultural Communication (15 credits) 

This module will explore the use of language in interactions between speakers of different cultural and linguistic backgrounds from three different perspectives: Description, Development, and Assessment. With a growing proportion of interactions in the world today taking place between people of diverse cultural backgrounds, it is important to identify and describe language use which may lead to misunderstanding and communicative breakdown. This module will look at ways in which language barriers might be overcome in such interactions, and at the key factors in this process. We will examine intercultural interactions in a variety of contexts, e.g. business and other professional encounters, the language of the media, the foreign language classroom, etc.


Language and Gender 1 (15 credits)

The module will explore the relationship between language and gender in spoken interaction and written texts, drawing on key approaches in the areas of discourse analysis, sociolinguistics and pragmatics. The extent to which gender affects the language we produce when interacting with one another in a variety of contexts will be focused on, along with the issue of sexism in language use. Various theoretical paradigms that have been presented to explain language and gender differences will be critically examined, along with gender ideologies which operate in society. Students will be encouraged to combine theoretical thinking with hands-on analyses of data from authentic examples of spoken interaction and from a variety of publications including the popular media. The practical consequences of the discipline in terms of how findings can have a political impact on wider society are also discussed. 


Language and Gender 2 (15 credits)

The module will build on the theoretical and critical knowledge gained in Language and Gender 1, in order to develop practical methodological and analytical skills in a range of discourse situations. These will include issues of language and gender in an educational and pedagogic context, in the cyberspace, in the media, in medical settings and the courtroom. With further reference to current work in the field, students will apply their knowledge of discourse analytic, sociolinguistic and pragmatic approaches to examining the inter-relations between language, gender and society. 


Psycholinguistics 1 (15 credits)

This module considers three fundamental and interrelated questions about psycholinguistics: 1. acquisition, or how language is acquired; 2. comprehension, or how words, sentences, and discourse are understood; and 3. production, or how words, sentences, and conversations are produced. Potential topics include, but are not limited to: lexical influences on sentence comprehension and production; first and second language acquisition; reading; language disorders (e.g., dyslexia, aphasia). 


Psycholinguistics 2 (15 credits)

This module further examines psycholinguistics in the areas of: 1. acquisition, or how language is acquired; 2. comprehension, or how words, sentences, and discourse are understood; and 3. production, or how words, sentences, and conversations are produced. Potential topics include, but are not limited to: lexical influences on sentence comprehension and production; first and second language acquisition; reading; language disorders (e.g., dyslexia, aphasia). 


Research Methods in Applied Linguistics (15 credits)

The module looks at various approaches of collecting and processing data using both qualitative and quantitative methods of investigation. With a focus on the area of applied linguistics, students will be introduced to the process of hypothesis formulation and testing, issues of interpretation, evaluation and replicability of data and of research results, questionnaire and interview design, data gathering and recording, statistical description and analysis. 


Syllabus Design and Methodology 1 (15 credits)

The module will examine the theory and practice of syllabus design. The emphasis is on developing practical strategies and thinking in order to design and teach ELT programmes to meet the needs of specific learners in a specified teaching context. The module explores the relationship between syllabus design and methodology, before going on to a critical appraisal of developments in ELT methodology. This includes the humanistic, social-constructivist and lexical approaches, and communicative methodology. Issues relating to the learner-centred syllabus are also be explored.


Syllabus Design and Methodology 2 (15 credits)

The module will further examine the theory and practice of syllabus design, building on the knowledge and skills developed in the first module. The emphasis in this advanced course is on developing practical strategies and thinking in relation to a wider range of classroom situations. The student's own teaching environment and context will inform the area of study, and further critical positions are explored.

Grammar in the Classroom (15 credits)

This module examines the role of grammar in language teaching. In the traditional language classroom, the study of grammar has often been seen as synonymous with the study of language itself. Grammar-translation was widely used as a method until the 60s, and learners were given little opportunity to use language meaningfully. In the 70s, audio-visual approaches were in vogue. Students were encouraged to practise language actively, but the syllabus was still often grammatical, and rote-learning was encouraged. In the 1980s, there was a move towards more communicative methodologies, and, as a result, explicit grammar teaching was treated to some extent as an outdated methodology. The pendulum has swung back, and there is now general acceptance that grammar teaching has an important role to play in classroom language learning.


Research Methods: Corpus Linguistics (15 credits)

Corpus linguistics provides methods for the study of collections of electronic texts (written texts, including literary texts, material from the internet, transcripts of spoken language, etc.). This module introduces fundamental corpus methods that include retrieving and interpreting word frequency information, studying patterns of words in the form of concordances, and analysing key words. The module will explain basic concepts and illustrate methods through case studies. Through exercises students will have the opportunity to use corpus tools and practice the analysis of data. Students are encouraged to reflect on the applicability of a range of methods to their own areas of interest (e.g. literary linguistics, discourse analysis, ELT, etc.). For the assessment, students will complete a small-scale corpus project. This project can function to test ideas that might be further developed in the dissertation.

Investigating Health Communication (30 credits)

This module is intended to introduce students to the rapidly expanding field of health communication. The module focuses on two key areas in the field: narratives of healthcare and healthcare documentation. It will equip students with a high level knowledge of narrative and documentation theory and explore how much of what takes place in healthcare exchanges is governed by the kinds of narratives and documents that are used. Students will also develop and practice skills in identifying and analysing narratives of, and documents relating to, patients, professionals and policy makers. Students will understand how knowledge of healthcare texts can be used to enhance therapeutic interventions and practices across a range of healthcare disciplines. Students will appreciate how healthcare environments, structures and practices are informed by broader, macro-level organisational narratives and policies. 



Further information about the above modules can be found in the Module Catalogue.


UK/EU Students

Please note that distance learning students are charged a standard fee with no differentiation between UK/EU and international students. Fees are paid on a module by module basis.

The majority of postgraduate students in the UK fund their own studies, often from a package made up of personal savings, parental loans or contributions, bank loans and support from a trust or charity.

Every year, a number of students are successful in the AHRC, ESRC or other competitions for funding. The School also provides a number of bursaries and scholarships for MA students.

Below you will find a link to the latest information about the main sources of funding open to postgraduate students who wish to study in the School:

Funding for taught postgraduate students

The Graduate School website at The University of Nottingham provides more information on internal and external sources of postgraduate funding.

International and EU students

The University of Nottingham offers a range of masters scholarships for international and EU students from a wide variety of countries and areas of study.

Applicants must receive an offer of study before applying for our scholarships. Applications for 2016 entry scholarships will open in late 2015. Please note the closing dates of any scholarships you are interested in and make sure you submit your masters course application in good time so that you have the opportunity to apply for them.

The International Office also provides information and advice for international and EU students on financing your degree, living costs, external sources of funding and working during your studies.

Find out more on our scholarships, fees and finance webpages for international applicants.


Our postgraduate students move into an extraordinarily wide range of careers following their time in the School.

According to The Times, “English graduates have almost any career path open to them ... All of the big graduate recruiters look for communication skills.” (Clare Dight, ‘Degree Doctor…English’, The Times, 6 April 2006).

Conducting postgraduate work in the School of English Studies fosters many vital skills and may give you a head start in the job market. Studying at this level allows you to develop qualities of self-discipline and self-motivation that are essential to employment in a wide range of different fields.

We will help you develop your ability to research and process a large amount of information quickly, and to present the results of your research in an articulate and effective way.

A postgraduate degree in English Studies from an institution like The University of Nottingham shows potential employers that you are an intelligent, hard-working individual who is bright and flexible enough to undertake any form of specific career training.

Our applicants are among the best in the country, and employers expect the best from our graduates.

Average starting salary

According to independent research, Nottingham is consistently named as one of the most targeted universities by Britain’s leading graduate employers* and over 2,000 employers approach the University every year with a view to recruiting our students. Consequently – and owing to our reputation for excellence – more than 94% of postgraduates from the Faculty of Arts enter employment, voluntary work or further study during the first six months after graduation**.

* The Graduate Market in 2013, 2014 and 2015, High Fliers Research.

** Data is taken from known destinations of the 2013/14 leaving cohort of Nottingham home/EU postgraduates who studied full-time.


Career Prospects and Employability

The acquisition of a masters degree demonstrates a high level of knowledge in a specific field . Whether you are using it to enhance your employability, as preparation for further academic research or as a means of vocational training, you may benefit from careers advice as to how you can use your new found skills to their full potential. 

Our Careers and Employability Service will help you do this, working with you to explore your options and inviting you to attend recruitment events where you can meet potential employers, as well as suggesting further development opportunities, such as relevant work experience placements and skills workshops. 

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