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Postgraduate Study

Course closed:

Theoretical and Applied Linguistics by thesis is no longer accepting new applications.


The MPhil by Thesis is for students whose knowledge of linguistics is already substantial, and who already know the area they wish to research for their thesis. To be eligible for consideration for the MPhil by Thesis, a student will need (a) a broad foundation in linguistics, with depth in at least some subfields, and (b) a clear idea of the area in which the thesis will be written. The majority of students follow the MPhil by Advanced Study (MLM5). Students taking the MPhil by Thesis have to follow some elements of the MPhil by Advanced Study, but the formal assessment is by a 30,000-word thesis alone. Progress will be monitored through the year by work submitted or presented orally according to a schedule specified in the Guidelines for the course.

Michaelmas Term

All students are required to follow a course in 'Research Methods' and a statistics course to acquire skills needed for research and 'transferable' skills. Beyond that, each student has to follow the General Seminar, as well as his or her own 'Training Plan', which allows the individual interests, needs, and strengths of the student to be met. At the start of the course the student, with advice, if needed, from the Director of the MPhil and subject specialists, draws up a Training Plan for the Michaelmas and Lent Terms (October to March).

Lent Term

In the Lent Term, students have to take part in two or more research forums, which might be PhD seminars, MPhil option seminars, or other appropriate research seminars or courses in Linguistics or elsewhere in the university, as agreed with their supervisor.  They also have to participate in student oral presentation sessions at the end of the term and contribute a talk on their own research as part of the monitoring process. 

A  5,000-word document forming part of the thesis is submitted in January.  A proposed title and summary for the 30,000-word thesis, formulated in discussion with the supervisor, must be submitted in mid-February, and this will be subject to approval by the Course Director and the supervisor. The thesis demands independent study under the guidance of the supervisor and will involve a substantial piece of original research. 

Easter Term

The thesis is submitted in early June and about two to three weeks later there is an oral examination on the thesis.

Part-time Students

Students taking the course over the period of two academic years will be required to attend the General Seminar and the Research Methods seminar (including statistics) in their first year. At least one of the two subject-specific Lent Term courses should also be attended in the first year. Monitoring can take place over the period of two years, except for the detailed plan of research which is to be submitted by Thursday of week 3 of Lent Term of the first year. Assessment will take place in the second year. 

One to one supervision

Students will normally have discussed their proposed research in advance with a staff member in Linguistics specialising in the relevant subject area, and this person or an equivalent will be appointed as a supervisor throughout the year. For equity, there are norms for the amount of supervision each student can expect to receive. It is expected that a student will be capable of largely independent work.

The following supervision is provided:

•   Seven hours of supervision throughout the course

The University of Cambridge publishes an annual Code of Practice which sets out the University’s expectations regarding supervision.

Seminars & classes

Full-time students

Michaelmas term: 32–44 hours of research training

Lent term: 16-24 hours of research training

Part-time students:

Michaelmas term (year 1): 32 hours of research training

Lent term (year 1) : 8-16 hours of research training

Posters and Presentations

At the end of Lent term, students are required to present on their ongoing research project in front of their peers and academic staff. In reading groups and seminars, students will also likely be asked to present. 


In Michaelmas, Lent and Easter terms reports are written by the supervisor and made available to the student online. Feedback on the thesis is provided after it has been examined in the form of written Examiners' reports. Student satisfaction with the course is also monitored by termly meetings of Staff-Student Liaison Committee.


Thesis / Dissertation

Students submit a thesis of no more than 30,000 words. Two to three weeks later there is an oral examination on the thesis.

The examination process is very similar to that of the PhD, and consists of two parts: scrutiny of the thesis by one internal and one external examiner, and a viva involving both examiners and the candidate. Some candidates may be asked to carry out corrections to their thesis which may mean graduating in October rather than in July.

Students receive the overall outcome of pass/fail. No mark is awarded for the MPhil By Thesis.

Key Information

9 Months full-time

21 months part-time

Study Mode : Research

Master of Philosophy

Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics This course is advertised in multiple departments. Please see the Overview tab for more details.

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Dates and deadlines:

Applications open
Sept. 4, 2023
Application deadline
Feb. 22, 2024
Course Starts
Oct. 1, 2024

Some courses can close early. See the Deadlines page for guidance on when to apply.

Course Funding Deadline
Dec. 5, 2023
Gates Cambridge US round only
Oct. 11, 2023

These deadlines apply to applications for courses starting in Michaelmas 2024, Lent 2025 and Easter 2025.

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