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Course overview

Working alongside our expert staff, you will investigate how English language is applied in real-life contexts. You will have the option of studying modules in sociolinguistics, discourse analysis, stylistics, first and second language acquisition, and teaching English as a foreign language.

We will introduce the key ideas and concepts in applied linguistics, training you in relevant research methods including quantitative and qualitative approaches. You will also have access to training, software and resources for conducting corpus-assisted studies of language in use.

The key features of this course include:

  • A theoretical grounding in, and practical experience of, varied research methodologies
  • Teaching informed by active research
  • Flexibility in course content through optional modules. Areas include: sociolinguistics, corpus linguistics, literary linguistics, psycholinguistics, English language teaching

Why choose this course?

Ranked 9th

in the UK by 'research power'

Research Excellence Framework 2014

Want flexible study?

specialise in one of ten areas on our MA Applied English Distance Learning Programme

Top 100 University

Ranked in the top 100 Universities

QS World University rankings 2021

Get involved

and attend research events with the Centre for Research in Applied Linguistics (CRAL)

Course content

Pre-arrival reading lists will be sent out with registration information before you join your course, where available.

The total credits for this course are 180.

Part time students

Part time students will typically take three modules each academic year. You can take one in the autumn term and two in spring, or vice versa, depending on your preference and module choice.

The dissertation will take place over the final summer of your studies. 

All classes take place during weekdays.


During the autumn term, you will take the following 20-credit compulsory module:

Advanced Research Methods in Applied Linguistics: Quantitative and Qualitative Methods

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, qualitative data analysis and interpretation.

The above is a sample of the typical modules we offer but is not intended to be construed and/or relied upon as a definitive list of the modules that will be available in any given year. Modules (including methods of assessment) may change or be updated, or modules may be cancelled, over the duration of the course due to a number of reasons such as curriculum developments or staffing changes. Please refer to the module catalogue for information on available modules. This content was last updated on Wednesday 18 November 2020.

You choose five 20-credit optional modules from the below list:

Consciousness in Fiction

The module will explore in depth techniques for the presentation of consciousness in novels and other fictional texts. Students will learn about the linguistic indices associated with the point of view of characters and the various modes available to a writer for the presentation of characters’ thoughts and perceptions. Alongside detailed examinations of narrative texts which portray consciousness, students will also study different theories put forward to explain the nature of writing consciousness in texts. Our stylistic analyses of fictional minds will also aim to account for historical changes in the techniques used for consciousness presentation.

Psychology of Language

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
  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).

Second Language Acquisition

Arguably the most important subdiscipline for the understanding of language teaching is SLA; therefore, this module will focus on this area to ensure that students have a sound understanding of how language is learned.

English Vocabulary: Teaching and Learning

This module covers the various aspects of knowledge that are required to fluently use a word: meaning, written form, spoken form, grammatical properties, frequency, register, collocation, and association. Practical aspects of teaching vocabulary will also be covered, including vocabulary teaching activities, vocabulary learning strategies, vocabulary testing and the use of corpora.

Business and Organisational Communication

The module investigates the multidisciplinary subject of business and organisational communication. It covers a wide range of quantitative and qualitative approaches, examining how individuals and groups use spoken, written and digital forms of communication to get work achieved successfully. The range of methodologies and analytical frameworks for interrogating business and organisational communication include: conversation analysis, corpus linguistics, critical discourse analysis, pragmatics and speech act theory and ethnography. The module also highlights contemporary issues emerging from the field, exploring, for instance, the influence of context, new multi-media technologies and globalisation on communication in commercial domains and organisational environments. The module emphasises how the findings of communicative research can be practically applied in teaching and training materials and in consultancy work.

Language, Gender and Sexuality

The course will explore the relationship between language and gender in spoken interaction and written texts, drawing on key approaches in the areas of discourse analysis and interactional sociolinguistics. Students will focus on the ways in which: gender and sexuality affect the language we produce when interacting with one another in a variety of contexts; the critical analysis of how individuals and groups of people are represented in the media, in ways related to their gender and/or sexual identities; issues of sexist and discriminatory language towards LGBT people. Various theoretical paradigms that have been presented to explain the relationships between language, gender and sexuality will be critically examined, along with ideologies associated with gender and sexuality that operate in society and influence discourse. Students will be encouraged to combine theoretical thinking with hands-on analysis 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 term of how findings can have a political impact on wider society will also be discussed.

Cognition and Literature

This module represents a course in cognitive poetics. It draws on insights developed in cognitive science, especially in psychology and linguistics, in order to develop an understanding of the processes involved in literary reading. The module also develops skills in stylistics and critical theory.

Group Dynamics and Motivation in the Language Classroom

This module offers an introduction to the main psychological factors and processes that determine the way students learn foreign languages within an institutional (classroom) context. The focus will be on two key issues that have a considerable practical significance: (a) language learning motivation and (b) the internal dynamics of the learner group that can either enhance or hinder the individual members' learning achievement. Key topics to be discussed will include the components of L2 motivation; strategies to increase student motivation; structural and developmental characteristics of the 'good' learner group; group building techniques; effective leadership roles; cooperative language learning.

Intercultural Communication

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 language classroom, etc.

Sociolinguistics of Work

This module is intended to familiarise students with theories and applications of discourse-based sociolinguistics in relation to the context of work. It will cover a range of sociolinguistic, workplace topics, including a focus upon the following:

  • workplace cultures
  • language and identity, including power, ethnicity, age
  • miscommunication
  • intercultural communication
  • critical discourse anaylsis and multimodal critical discourse analysis
  • interactional sociolinguistics

The module will emphasise the crucial relationship between power and communication in the workplace, and demonstrate how recourse to discourse-inflected sociolinguistic analysis can illuminate and enhance communication in a range of workplaces and institutional settings.

Research Methods: Corpus Linguistics

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 and key semantic domains. The module will explain these concepts and illustrate methods through case studies, with an emphasis on the use of corpus methods for the purposes of discourse analysis. Through hands-on sessions students will actively practise using corpus analysis software and several online interfaces. Throughout the module, students are encouraged to reflect on the applicability of a range of methods to their own areas of interest (e.g. literary linguistics, critical discourse analysis, ELT, etc.).

For the assessment, students will complete a small-scale corpus project on a topic of their own choosing (in consultation with the module convenor). This project can function to test ideas that might be further developed during the dissertation.

Language Teaching: Speaking and Listening

The main focus of this module is an exploration of methods for teaching L2 speaking and listening, as rooted in instructed EFL and ESL classroom environments. Participants will consider various aspects related to teaching L2 speaking and listening, including spoken grammar, fluency, pronunciation, strategies and input. Module content will draw on relevant bodies of research which inform approaches to teaching, and will relate this to a practical critique of L2 textbooks, materials and activities. Throughout the module students will have the opportunity to analyse, plan, prepare and present L2 speaking and listening activities.

Dramatic Discourse

Working with a range of texts from the early modern period to the present day, this module explores the relationship between the ‘dramatic text’ of the written script and the ‘theatrical text’ of the script in performance through the lens of linguistic analysis. Drawing on facets of stylistics and discourse analysis, the module considers the role of language in moving dramatic scripts from page to stage, exploring aspects of characterisation (such as identity, power and provocation), the role of language in story-telling on stage, and the 'management' of performance through stage directions.

The above is a sample of the typical modules we offer but is not intended to be construed and/or relied upon as a definitive list of the modules that will be available in any given year. Modules (including methods of assessment) may change or be updated, or modules may be cancelled, over the duration of the course due to a number of reasons such as curriculum developments or staffing changes. Please refer to the module catalogue for information on available modules. This content was last updated on Wednesday 18 November 2020.

You will complete a 60-credit dissertation:


During the summer, you will complete a 60-credit dissertation (14,000 words). You will be supervised by a member of staff with expertise in your chosen field.

The above is a sample of the typical modules we offer but is not intended to be construed and/or relied upon as a definitive list of the modules that will be available in any given year. Modules (including methods of assessment) may change or be updated, or modules may be cancelled, over the duration of the course due to a number of reasons such as curriculum developments or staffing changes. Please refer to the module catalogue for information on available modules. This content was last updated on Wednesday 18 November 2020.

Learning and assessment

How you will learn

  • Seminars
  • Group study

Students are taught in small seminar groups, so there is plenty of opportunity for discussion of ideas and development of our students as researchers.

You will be allocated a personal tutor, who will monitor your academic progress, provide feedback on your work, help with module choices, and assist with pastoral support if needed.

MA Dissertation Preparation Day

This is an opportunity for students to learn more about the challenges of a larger-scale research project, about supervision and support, and about the resources available to Masters researchers. It is also a social occasion, bringing together our postgraduate students as an academic community. Find out more about the Dissertation Preparation Day.

Peer mentoring

All new postgraduate taught students can opt into our peer mentoring scheme. Your peer mentor will help you settle into life at Nottingham and access support if needed. 

More about peer mentoring.


How you will be assessed

  • Essay
  • Presentation
  • Dissertation

Most modules are assessed by written work of varying lengths, corresponding with the content and weighting of the module. You may also be assessed by other means, for example presentations or by original empirical work.

Your course tutors provide detailed comments on assignments. 

Towards the end of your studies, you will complete a 14,000 word dissertation. This is a major piece of independent research, and you will be allocated a supervisor who is a specialist in your chosen area.

Your dissertation supervisor will provide advice and guidance to help you select your area of study, and offer close supervision and support as you complete your research.

Contact time and study hours

You will typically have six hours of face-to-face timetabled contact a week. Your tutors will also be available during office hours to discuss your work, address any issues, and help you develop your understanding.

Study hours

One credit is approximately 10 hours of student work, so a 20-credit module will be around 200 hours of work. On average, you will spend around 13 hours per module per week on structured independent study.

Entry requirements

All candidates are considered on an individual basis and we accept a broad range of qualifications. The entrance requirements below apply to 2021 entry.

Undergraduate degree2:1 (or international equivalent) in English language/literature or a related arts or humanities subject


Our step-by-step guide covers everything you need to know about applying.

How to apply


Qualification All
Home / UK To be confirmed in 2020
International To be confirmed in 2020

If you are a student from the EU, EEA or Switzerland starting your course in the 2021/22 academic year, you will pay international tuition fees.

This does not apply to Irish students, who will be charged tuition fees at the same rate as UK students. UK nationals living in the EU, EEA and Switzerland will also continue to be eligible for ‘home’ fee status at UK universities until 31 December 2027.

For further guidance, check our Brexit information for future students.

Additional costs


You'll be able to access most of the books you’ll need through our libraries, though you may wish to buy your own copies of core texts. The Blackwell's bookshop on campus offers a year-round price match against any of the main retailers (i.e. Amazon, Waterstones, WH Smith).


Midlands4Cities Nottingham Masters Studentships

These financial awards are for students wishing to pursue a full-time on-site Masters over a maximum period of one year.

Apply to the M4C programme

There are many ways to fund your postgraduate course, from scholarships to government loans.

The University also offers masters scholarships for international and EU students. Our step-by-step guide contains everything you need to know about funding postgraduate study.

Postgraduate funding


We offer individual careers support for all postgraduate students.

Expert staff can help you research career options and job vacancies, build your CV or résumé, develop your interview skills and meet employers.

More than 1,500 employers advertise graduate jobs and internships through our online vacancy service. We host regular careers fairs, including specialist fairs for different sectors.

Graduate destinations

This course will develop a range of transferable skills, including:

  • written and oral communication skills
  • presentation and time management skills
  • data collection and analysis
  • research design skills

Our graduates enter a varied range of careers, including:

  • English language teaching
  • working in Higher Education
  • marketing/PR/journalism
  • business and finance
  • the charity sector
  • local and national government
  • going on to do PhD study

Career progression

For postgraduate taught students from the School of English: 

  • 97.4% are in work or study 15 months after graduating
  • 81.6% are in graduate level work or study 15 months after graduating 

Source: University of Nottingham derived figures from HESA's Graduate Outcomes Survey of the Class of 2017/18 (Open Data Release 23rd June 2020)

Two masters graduates proudly holding their certificates
" I am interested in understanding how we can take theoretical ideas and principles and apply this knowledge to support teaching and learning in specific contexts. I find this area fascinating because it brings together several very different fields of research (including linguistics, education and psychology), and it requires us to engage critically with each of them. "
Christine Muir, Assistant Professor in Second Language Acquisition

Related courses

The University has been awarded Gold for outstanding teaching and learning (2017/18). Our teaching is of the highest quality found in the UK.

The Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) is a national grading system, introduced by the government in England. It assesses the quality of teaching at universities and how well they ensure excellent outcomes for their students in terms of graduate-level employment or further study.

This content was last updated on Wednesday 18 November 2020. Every effort has been made to ensure that this information is accurate, but changes are likely to occur given the interval between the date of publishing and course start date. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply.