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PhD Handbook

The information in this handbook should serve as a supplement but not a substitute for the policies and procedures of the College of Arts and Sciences detailed in the Graduate Bulletin. This Bulletin is available for the graduate division of the College of Arts and Sciences. All graduate students should become thoroughly familiar with the information contained there. 

Purposes of the AL/ESL PhD Program |
Student Outcomes of the PhD Program | Financial Support |
Advising | PhD Program Summary of Requirements | Required and Elective Coursework |
Required PhD Core Courses (15 credits) | Elective Courses (15 credits) | Qualifying Exam | Comprehensive Examination | Advancement to Candidacy | Dissertation | PhD Program Summary of Requirements | Faculty | Appendix A: Plan for Completing Degree in Four Years |
Appendix B: Language Requirement

Purposes Of The AL/ESL PhD Program

The Department of Applied Linguistics and English as a Second Language at Georgia State University offers a PhD program in response to societal needs resulting from the current status of English as the language of international communication. This world-wide use of English in programs and institutions of higher education has created a need in two areas. The first need is for research on an assortment of interrelated topics: language learning by adults who will use English for academic purposes, effective teaching of adult language learners, the nature of English as an academic language, and societal implications of native-nonnative interaction. The second need is for doctoral faculty who can teach in educational programs that prepare master’s level teachers of English as a Second/Foreign Language.

The doctoral program of the Department of Applied Linguistics and ESL seeks to develop in the student a high level of competence in conducting basic and applied research and in university teaching. To accomplish these objectives, the program provides a rigorous and in-depth course of study emphasizing current theoretical knowledge as well as both quantitative and qualitative research methodology in applied linguistics.

The doctoral program anticipates that the student will demonstrate mastery of a large and complex body of knowledge and a high degree of proficiency in the techniques of teaching and research. This proficiency is evidenced by the successful completion of coursework and examinations, effective performance in classroom instruction, participation in conducting research and writing articles, and the writing of a dissertation.

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Student Outcomes of the PhD Program

Graduates of the program will… These outcomes can be measured by performance on…
Be familiar with the current state of knowledge in applied linguistics, including the numerous questions that remain to be answered Required courses, qualifying exam, comprehensive examination, dissertation proposal, and dissertation
Be able to design studies on a range of topics in applied linguistics (e.g. second language acquisition, second language teaching, and English for academic purposes) AL 8960 Quantitative Research Methods, AL 8961 Qualitative Research Methods, three seminars; comprehensive examination; dissertation proposal; dissertation
Be experienced teachers Teaching at least 4 semesters on average, including 2 semesters in the applied linguistics bachelor’s degree program
Understand the needs of ESL/EFL teachers and have expertise in providing educational opportunities for master’s level ESL/EFL teachers AL 8990 Current Issues in the Preparation of Second Language Teachers, teaching in the IEP or in another ESL program staffed predominantly by master’s level ESL/EFL teachers
Have begun contributing to the knowledge-base of applied linguistics through presentation of papers at conferences and through publication Submission of proposals to present scholarly papers at professional conferences, publications in scholarly journals

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Financial Support

Full-time students may receive some financial support in the form of Graduate Teaching Assistantships (GTAs), Graduate Laboratory Assistants (GLAs), or Graduate Research Assistantships (GRAs). Financial support includes tuition waivers and stipends. Graduate teaching assignments may include undergraduate courses, master’s degree courses, and ESL courses.

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Advising

Upon the student’s entrance into the doctoral program, an advisor is assigned by the Director of the PhD Program. The advisor works with the student to prepare her/his program of study by assisting with selection of courses and providing information on program requirements and faculty expectations. During the first semesters of study, the student is encouraged to invite another faculty member to serve as advisor based upon mutual research interests. If another faculty member agrees to serve as advisor, the student shall notify the former advisor and the Director of the PhD Program of the change.

Portfolio Development

In the MA program students are required to submit a portfolio before they graduate. The portfolio documents courses they have taken, professional development activities they have attended, courses taught, papers presented, articles presented and so forth. Although it is not required that doctoral students submit portfolios, it is recommended.

When a PhD candidate begins looking for jobs, s/he will be asked to document courses s/he has taught, supply evidence of teaching effectiveness, discuss papers presented or published, and professional service performed. A portfolio keeps all of this information together. One doctoral student noticed that faculty put portfolios together for annual reviews, pre-tenure reviews, and promotion and tenure. Doctoral students are encouraged to organize their portfolios in the same way that faculty at Georgia State University organize theirs: Professional Development, Teaching, and Service.

The Professional Development section would include, for example, conference presentations and publications. The Teaching component of portfolios could include examples of course syllabi from courses taught, student evaluations, copies of observer comments, some lessons, assessment philosophy and also efforts the student has made to improve her/his teaching. The Service section would include evidence of service to the profession such as volunteering for professional organizations (e.g., reading abstracts for a conference). You really are the decision-maker in terms of what to include in your portfolio. In the portfolio, you are presenting yourself.

Increasingly, portfolios are online. The e-portfolio is often preferred because it is easily accessible by a larger number of people than a paper portfolio and is less cumbersome.

Students who want help in developing a portfolio or who want to talk to someone about it should contact their advisor.

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PhD Program Components & Requirements

The PhD program in Applied Linguistics consists of four main components:

  • Required and elective coursework
  • Qualifying exam
  • Comprehensive exam
  • Dissertation with oral defense

On average, full-time students are expected to complete the program in four to six years, a minimum of 51 hours (10 courses plus dissertation). Appendix B provides a plan for completing the program in four years.

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Required and Elective Coursework

A minimum of 51 hours beyond the Master’s degree is required. This includes at least 30 hours of coursework, consisting of a combination of required and elective courses, and at least 21 semester hours of dissertation credit. Students must normally have maintained a GPA of 3.5 or higher in the first six courses to continue in the program, and must continue to maintain a minimum 3.5 GPA thereafter.

Required PhD Core Courses

The courses in the PhD program cover three content areas:

Area I: Research Methods
Area II: Language, Cognition, and Communication
Area III: Language Teaching and Teacher Development

The five required core courses from Areas I through III are the following:

Area I: AL 8960 Quantitative Research Methods
AL 8961 Qualitative Research Methods
Area II: AL 8970 Linguistic Analysis (phonetics-phonology topic)*
AL 8970 Linguistic Analysis (morphology-syntax-semantics topic)*
AL 8980 Current Issues in Adult Second Language Acquisition
Area III:  AL 8990 Current Issues in the Preparation of Second Language Teachers

*Students are required to fulfill breadth and depth requirements in linguistic theory. The preferred way to do this is by taking both versions of AL 8970. However, students may be exempted from one of the AL 8970 courses if they have taken AL 8240 General Linguistics or an equivalent course from another institution. (General Linguistics itself does not count toward the 30-hour requirement.) Those who wish to teach Introduction to Linguistics need to have taken both Linguistic Theory courses.

Additionally, all PhD students must have taken a course comparable to AL 8550 Second Language Evaluation and Assessment either at the MA level or while in the PhD program in AL/ESL. If it is taken during the PhD program, it counts as 3 of the 6 hours that can be taken in courses that are aimed at both MA and PhD students (see below).

Elective Courses

The remaining credits will be chosen from elective courses approved by the student’s advisor. Students will take a minimum of 6 credits in Applied Linguistics doctoral seminars; one of these seminars must have Quantitative Research Methods or Qualitative Research Methods as a prerequisite. PhD students can, with the permission of their advisors, take appropriate courses that are aimed at both MA and PhD students. No more than 6 credits from such courses can be applied toward the 30 hour requirement, and some MA-level courses cannot count toward the 30-hour requirement: AL 8240 General Linguistics, AL 8250 Second Language Acquisition, AL 8450 Approaches to Teaching Second/Foreign Languages, AL 8710 Research Methods in Applied Linguistics, AL8900 Practicum in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. The courses listed below are examples of courses that can be applied toward these 6 hours; depending on their interests, students may choose other courses in consultation with their advisor, including courses in other departments.

Area II - Language, Cognition, and Communication

  • AL 8330 Intercultural Communication
  • AL 8470 Sociolinguistics
  • AL 8500 Pragmatics and Language Teaching
  • AL 8520 Psycholinguistics
  • AL 8760 Corpus Linguistics
  • AL 8770 Conversation Analysis
  • AL 8780 Discourse Analysis for Language Teachers

Area III - Language Teaching and Teacher Development

  • AL 8490 Second Language Reading: Theory and Practice
  • AL 8530 Issues in Second Language Writing
  • AL 8540 Second/Foreign Language Listening Comprehension

Two doctoral seminars will normally be offered per year. Potential seminars include:

  • Academic Discourse
  • Applied Phonology
  • Computer-Assisted and Computer-Based Testing
  • Corpus Linguistics: Analysis of Linguistic Features of Academic Texts
  • Critical Approaches to Culture
  • Critical Pedagogy
  • Genre Analysis
  • Identity
  • Language Assessment
  • Perceptions, Attitudes, and Ideologies about Non-Native Language
  • Second Language Teacher Education (Theory and Research)

Descriptions of all AL/ESL graduate courses are available on the GSU GoSolar Website.

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Qualifying Exam

The purpose of the Qualifying Exam is for the PhD student to demonstrate theory and content knowledge, research and methodology competence, and communication and writing skills, as well as to develop a plan of study. It consists of a Qualifying Paper and a meeting with a faculty committee (the “exam” proper). Passing the exam qualifies the student to continue her or his Ph.D. coursework.

The Qualifying Paper is an empirical paper that is completed independently in an Applied Linguistics/ESL course during the student’s first year in the program. The goals of the meeting with the faculty (the “exam” proper) are to discuss the paper and to discuss the student’s academic and professional goals in the near and far future.

QE timeline

Students starting in the summer or fall submit their Qualifying Paper at the end of the spring semester and take the Qualifying Exam in the following fall semester. Students starting in spring submit their Qualifying Paper at the end of the fall semester and take the Qualifying Exam in the following spring semester. The schedule will be adjusted accordingly for any students taking less than a normal full-time course load their first year.

What 

When 

Student submits paper to committee

Within two weeks of the official end of second semester of full time study

Student sets exam date and time with committee; exam is scheduled for one hour (it may take less time)

By the end of the second week of the following semester (excluding summer)

Student submits plan of study to committee

By three weeks before exam date

Committee evaluates the paper and draws up a list of questions for the exam

Before the exam

Exam (meeting with faculty committee)

By the end of the tenth week of the semester

Results

By the end of the semester



QE plan of study

Students prepare a one-to-two-page plan of study in consultation with their administrative advisors, or with their academic advisor if they have chosen one. Students are also welcome to consult with other faculty as relevant. Students turn in the plan of study to the committee three weeks before their exam date.  The plan should cover general areas of interest, short-term (during the PhD program) and long-term career plans, and preparation needed to do research in their chosen area(s), including courses still needed and possible comprehensive exam areas.

QE committee

The departmental QE committee consists of three tenure-track faculty members elected by the tenure-track faculty.  Members serve a three-year term; terms are staggered so that a new member is elected every year.  The new member serves as an alternate on student committees as specified below and is included in all correspondence about the exam.  The member in his or her third year on the committee serves as chair.  

Each student has a QE committee consisting of the two regular members of the departmental committee and the professor for whom the student wrote their qualifying paper. If that professor is a regular member of the departmental committee, the alternate serves as the third member of the student’s committee.

QE evaluation

After the exam, the committee evaluates the strength of the qualifying paper and the student’s oral presentation of the paper and their plan of study. The committee then advises the department chair in writing as to whether the student has passed, needs to retake the exam the following semester, or has failed. In case of a fail, the graduate faculty will convene to discuss the qualifying exam results and the overall performance of the student in the program in order to reach consensus on the status of the student. The department chair then communicates the decision to the student. If the faculty decides that the student failed the exam, s/he may not continue in the program. If the student has to retake the exam, they cannot use the same Qualifying Paper from their first attempt and must select another paper written during their study in the PhD program. 

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Comprehensive Examination

The Comprehensive Exam (CE) will consist of three examination questions, which the student has three weeks to answer. The questions will require the student to address issues in theory, research methodology, research topics of importance in the field, and/or topics related to the student’s intended dissertation research. At least one of the topics will require consideration of issues that overlap the boundaries between language, cognition and communication and language teaching and language teacher development. Each of the three topics requires the student to consider some area in depth; the three areas taken together should also show breadth.

CE timeline

The student must the take the CE within one year of completing required core and elective coursework.

CE committee

During or after the final semester of required coursework, working with her/his advisor, the student recommends a Comprehensive Exam Committee of a minimum of three faculty members. The CE committee must be approved by the department chair. The chair of the CE committee reports results to the department chair for implementation.

CE process

The student must submit to all members of the examination committee suggested areas for questions for all three examination questions, along with a reading list for each area. The number of readings will vary according to the topic; however, a typical reading list is likely to consist of 30-50 references. The student must submit to her/his committee these suggested areas for questions and relevant bibliographies at least 30 days before the comprehensive examination is to begin. Examination areas must be approved by the examination committee, who may add additional references. The committee will create the questions to be asked. These questions will go beyond what is done in individual courses; answers should demonstrate that the student is ready to do research in that area. The questions will require the student to synthesize and evaluate the relevant research and may involve the design of a study or the analysis of data. For example, a student may be asked to analyze a set of data from different perspectives and evaluate these different approaches for the analysis of this data. Or, given a particular controversy, the student may need to discuss and evaluate the major arguments and design a study that would help further the discussion.

The student receives the three questions and has three weeks to write three papers in response. Each answer is a paper that should be approximately 20 pages double-spaced (plus additional pages for any notes, appendices, tables, references, etc.). Questions must not be discussed with anyone, and the student must not get help of any kind with exception of use of the library, the Internet, and other such research resources. At the end of the three-week period, the student gives a copy of the three papers to each member of her/his CE committee.

CE evaluation

The committee reads and evaluates the answers in a reasonable amount of time (usually within two weeks) and informs the department chair of its decision in writing. The department chair communicates the decision to the student. If a student does not pass, s/he can re-take the CE one additional time following a minimum interval of six months, either with the original committee or a duly constituted new committee. If the student passes two questions but fails the third, they will only need to re-do the failed question. The committee can require the student to rewrite on the same topic or to choose a new topic and new list of references.

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Advancement to Candidacy

A student must have successfully completed the following before s/he will be admitted to candidacy to begin research and work on the dissertation:

1. Coursework
2. Qualifying Exam 
3. Comprehensive Examination
4. Dissertation Proposal with Oral Defense
5. Language Requirement (Documented in a memorandum to the student’s advisor; see Appendix B)

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Dissertation

Dissertations must be the products of the graduate students to whom the degrees are awarded. Approvals by the students’ committees of their dissertations are not only approvals of the manuscripts and of the research described in them but also a certification that the students are qualified to conduct research on their own. Basic to that certification is the knowledge that students are primarily responsible for designing the studies, synthesizing the material examined, analyzing the data, and discussing the results, with guidance from their advisors, committee members, and others, and through the process, are able to publish research projects independently.

Georgia State University requires that each student assume full responsibility for the correctness in content and form of the dissertation. Explicit guidelines for the dissertation (“Thesis and Dissertation Guidelines”) are available from the Office of Graduate Studies of the College of Arts and Sciences; these guidelines specify standards with respect to composition, typography, and certain policies and requirements.

Dissertation timeline

When students have passed their comprehensive exams, they officially begin work on their dissertations. Students must register for a minimum of 21 credits of dissertation research; they are given an IP grade until the dissertation is completed. Two semesters before a student plans to have successfully completed the dissertation, s/he should file for graduation with the Graduation Office (404-413-5040).

Dissertation committee

A Dissertation Committee, of which the dissertation advisor shall be chair, shall pass on the acceptability of the dissertation. If the student wishes to work with a dissertation advisor who was not previously her/his advisor, the student should follow the procedure for changing advisors discussed above under “Advising”. The committee will consist of at least four graduate faculty, three of whom must be in the Department of AL/ESL. The committee shall be nominated by the student and appointed by the department chair.

Dissertation process

The dissertation process consists of the following stages:

  • Preparation of a dissertation proposal
  • Securing approval of the dissertation proposal
  • Admission to candidacy
  • Carrying out research and writing the dissertation
  • Oral defense of the dissertation

The student writes a dissertation proposal that s/he defends to the members of the Dissertation Committee. The proposal, to be developed in consultation with the dissertation advisor and committee members, should include the following:

  • Abstract. A brief summary (usually limited to half a page) of the significance of the project, its research question/hypotheses, and the method planned to conduct the research.
  • Significance of the project. Justification of why the project will extend the current body of knowledge in an important way.
  • Literature review. A summary of the findings of relevant research in the proposed area of study.
  • Research question/ hypotheses. The questions that will be answered by the research project.
  • Method. The specific procedures planned for conducting the research. Any use of students or others as study participants must be described in detail and must be accompanied by advance permissions from the GSU Research Office.
  • Expected outcomes.

The student must set up an oral defense meeting time that is agreeable to all parties involved and that is at least two weeks after the student presents the committee with the proposal acceptable to the dissertation advisor. At this meeting, the student will answer questions from the faculty about the proposal and receive recommendations for any revisions required by committee members. The student should bring the filled-out Advancement to Candidacy form to the meeting for committee members’ signatures.

After the proposal has been approved, the student may officially begin dissertation research, working with her/his dissertation advisor and the committee members. Dissertations must conform to APA format and the guidelines for dissertations available through the graduate office.

When the dissertation has been completed, a student explains her/his work in a public oral defense. The student must submit the dissertation to the Committee a minimum of two weeks before the defense date (earlier if required by the Committee). The student is responsible for scheduling the defense based on committee members’ availability and for securing a room in coordination with the office staff. The presentation should be scheduled no later than the midterm point of the semester the student expects to graduate. The date, time, and location should be publicized and the meeting should be open to other interested students, faculty, and staff. After the defense, the student submits a revised version of the dissertation for approval by the dissertation chair.

When the final, signed copy of the student’s dissertation (appropriately bound for permanent display in the Department) is presented to the student's dissertation advisor, s/he will submit a Change of Grade form to the department chair and college dean, which will allow the student to graduate. Dissertations must be microfilmed by University Microfilms, Inc.

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PhD Program Summary of Requirements

The following suggests a recommended time sequence for doctoral students:

  • Advisor assigned by the Director of the PhD Program.
  • Plan program of study with advisor; begin to take required and elective courses based on the plan of study.
  • Select empirical course paper to serve as basis for Qualifying Exam.
  • Submit paper for Qualifying Exam.
  • Submit plan of study for Qualifying Exam.
  • Qualifying Exam
  • Complete required core and elective coursework.
  • Form Comprehensive Examination Committee.
  • Take Comprehensive Examination.
  • Provide advisor with documentation on fulfillment of the language requirement.
  • Prepare and defend dissertation proposal. Fill out the Advancement to Candidacy form and bring to defense.
  • Carry out dissertation research and write dissertation under the direction of the dissertation advisor. Take required dissertation course hours.
  • Be in residence at GSU as required by CAS and explained in the CAS Graduate Catalog. Four semesters of residence are required, two of which must be consecutive; during all four semesters the student must register for at least six hours of course work.
  • Apply for graduation with the GSU Graduation Office at least two semesters before planned graduation.
  • Submit copies of the completed dissertation to committee members at least two weeks before dissertation defense.
  • Defend dissertation.
  • Revise dissertation as necessary based on the defense.
  • Obtain signatures required for acceptance page of the dissertation.
  • Submit dissertation original following College of Arts & Sciences (CAS) requirements and using appropriate CAS forms.

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Faculty

Up-to-date information about members of the faculty is available on the AL/ESL Website.

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Appendix A: Plan for Completing PhD in Four Years

While most students will take approximately five years to complete their degrees, students who wish to complete the degree in four years will need to work with their advisors to follow a plan such as the one outlined here. (To be modified)

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Appendix B: Language Requirement

Teacher-scholars who work in the field of applied linguistics need to have had a significant experience of second language study and use. This personal experience of second language learning and second language use can come in many different ways:

  • Successful completion (a grade of “B” or better) in a minimum of four semesters of university language study, or
  • A minimum of one year living in a country where English is not the primary language and learning and using a language of the country, or
  • The acquisition of additional language(s) as a child or adult.

The basic language profiles expected for the PhD in Applied Linguistics include the following:

Profile I: The doctoral student will provide evidence of success in studying one or more second languages in college. Documentation can be provided with transcripts that show a grade of “B” or better in a minimum of four semesters of study of a language other than the student’s first language. 

Profile II: The student will have learned and used a new language during an extended international experience while studying or working in a country where English is not the primary language. Documentation can include an Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI), an interview with an appropriate faculty member in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages or AL/ESL, a transcript, or other documentation approved by the student’s advisor.

Profile III: The student will be bilingual or multilingual, having learned the additional language(s) as a child or as an adult. Non-native speakers of English can use the TOEFL scores submitted to meet this requirement. Documentation can include an OPI, an interview with an appropriate faculty member in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages, a transcript, or other documentation approved by the student’s advisor.

Before being admitted to candidacy, a student writes a memorandum to her/his advisor documenting her/his profile. The advisor can require additional evidence, if necessary.