Indiana University Bloomington
Department of Second Language StudiesCollege of Arts and Sciences  


Ph.D. in Second Language Studies

Admission Requirements

Admission to the Ph.D. program will be based upon evaluation of


1.    previous academic record,

2.    level of achievement on the Graduate Record Examination General Test,

3.    three letters of recommendation,

4.    previous exposure to TESOL/Applied Linguistics and related course work,

5.    statement of purpose,

6.    statement of research interests,

7.    curriculum vitae.

Doctoral Requirements
A total of ninety (90) credit hours are required, with at least 66 credit hours of course work plus up to 24 credit hours of dissertation research.

Required Core Courses
Every student in the program will take six core courses (18 cr. total):

Seminars ( 3 cr. each)
All students will complete at least 6 credits in two seminars in Second Language Studies. These courses may be applied to other requirements as well.

Breadth requirements
All students will complete at least 3 credits each in four of the following five areas for a total of 12 credits. There is no restriction on the department in which these courses may be completed. Courses in the Second Language Studies core cannot be used to complete this requirement.

Research Concentration
Students will establish a research concentration in consultation with their committees. A research concentration may be established by enrolling in five courses in the area of specialty, by working in an appropriate research laboratory or research group, by undertaking appropriate field work or training, by conducting approved independent research and publication, or by a combination of these. Students who satisfy their research concentrations through participation in a research lab or research group or through independent research and publication may count the equivalent of up to three courses (9 credits) of S690 (Directed Readings) toward the 66 credits required for the doctorate. The research concentration is represented in the research qualifying examination.

Minor and Language Concentrations
All students will be required to have a minor. The selected minor should be appropriate to the student's choice of subdiscipline within Second Language Studies. Appropriate minors include Anthropology, Cognitive Science, Communication and Culture, foreign languages, Language Education, Linguistics, Psycholinguistics, and Sociology. In all cases the number of hours to be included in the minor will be consistent with the requirements of the unit granting the minor.

Some students may wish to pursue a significant concentration in a particular language area or in English as a Second Language. Students pursuing a language concentration in French, German, or Spanish will ordinarily take at least 21 hours in the Department of French and Italian, the Department of Germanic Studies, or the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, as appropriate. (Additional language concentrations may be added in the future.) Providing a student has completed all the requirements for the minor in the language department, there is no need to complete both a minor and a language concentration. The language concentration will be the student's minor of record.

Language Requirements
The language requirement for the Ph.D. is two research languages, which will ordinarily be languages of scholarship in the student's specialty. In addition, students will take 1-2 courses in a language outside of the language family of the student's native language (for example, a native English speaker would take courses in a non-Indo-European language; in contrast, a native speaker of Chinese might take courses in Russian). To satisfy this requirement, a student could complete a one-year language class, take the Field Methods sequence in Linguistics (L653-L654), or take a course on the structure of an appropriate language.

Qualifying Examinations
All students must pass a set of examinations, consisting of a General Qualifying Examination (GQE) and a Research Qualifying Examination (RQE).  These examinations are intended to provide an institutional structure for students as they move from taking courses to writing a dissertation.

General Qualifying Examination (GQE)

The GQE is meant to demonstrate the ability to synthesize material explored in courses and in independent reading.  The GQE will consist of two cloistered examinations, each three hours in duration.  Students will elect two of the following five areas, corresponding to the breadth requirements.


                    Historical Linguistics/Language Contact/Language Revitalization

                    Second Language Morphology/Syntax/Semantics

                    Second and Foreign Language Pedagogy/Language Assessment

                    Second Language Phonetics/Phonology

                    Second Language Sociolinguistics/Pragmatics/Discourse Analysis


Most students will take the GQE the semester after coursework is completed.  In general, the two cloistered exams will be offered on two consecutive days in October and in February.  The GQE schedule will be posted by the end of each semester by the committee, each student will inform the Director of Graduate Studies of his or her two areas no later than one month in advance of the scheduled exam.  Appropriate faculty members will submit potential questions to the Director of Graduate Studies, who in turn will select and edit questions and coordinate grading.


On any given cloistered exam, the student will have the opportunity to de-select at least one question; the student will be required to answer two of three questions.  All students selecting a given area in a given semester will receive the same questions.  All responses to any given exam question will be graded by the same two faculty members.  The grades are Pass and Fail.  To pass any given cloistered exam, at least three of the four grades assigned must be Pass.  If a student fails to pass one or both sections, s/he may take it a second time when the GQE is offered in the next semester.  After consultation with his or her advisory committee, such a student may also select a different exam area.


Research Qualifying Examination (RQE) 

The RQE is designed to demonstrate that students have developed sufficient depth in their understanding of a particular constellation of research questions and that their academic writing skills are sufficiently well honed that they are able to begin meaningful work on their dissertations.  In contrast to the GQE, the research exams will be scheduled individually.  We recommend that the research exam be completed in the semester following the successful completion of the GQE.  Nevertheless, students are required to have demonstrated preparation in a research focus to the satisfaction of their advisory committees before they will be permitted to proceed with the RQE.  In contrast to the GQE, the advisory committee administers the RQE and reports successful completion of the examination to the Director of Graduate Studies.        


The RQE may take one of two forms:

Option 1:  a publishable research paper which pilots the student's dissertation research, or

Option 2:  a  research essay which will be completed by the student over the course of one full week.


For Option 1, the student must complete, to the advisory committee's satisfaction, an original sole-authored research paper in the student's intended area of dissertation research, which in the committee's judgment, is ready for submission to one of the following journals:  Studies in Second Language Acquisition, Second Language Research, Language Learning, TESOL Quarterly, or Applied Linguistics. Research papers are 8,000-10,000 words in length including text, references, tables, figures, and appendices.


For Option 2, the advisory committee will assign a single question arising from extensive consultation with the student reflecting the individual student's research focus, as defined through a series of courses, approved independent research, participation in research groups or labs, outside publications, or a combination of these.  The student is to complete the essay within exactly one week, but is free to employ data collected and analyzed ahead of time.

Dissertation Proposal
The proposal for the dissertation must be approved by the student's research committee. Proposals should include pilot studies. The research committee may have the same membership as the advisory committee or the student may choose different members. The advisor for the dissertation will be a faculty member in the Department of Second Language Studies and a member of the Graduate Faculty. One of the three other members of the committee will be based in a the minor department or in the department of the student's language concentration. The student will defend the proposal at a public colloquium.

Dissertation (up to 24 cr.)
Students are required to complete a dissertation that constitutes an original and significant contribution to the field of Second Language Studies. The dissertation must be successfully presented to the research committee in an oral defense as described in the University Graduate School Academic Bulletin.

Milestones toward completion of a PhD in the Department of Second Language Studies

(1)    Apply for admission to the PhD program.  The deadline for international applications is December 1; the deadline for domestic applications (including IU-internal and SLS-internal applications) is January 15.

(2)    Once you have entered the SLS Department, you should make an appointment with the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) during the registration period each semester.  The DGS will temporarily serve as your advisor immediately upon your admission to the SLS Department, but his/her primary responsibility is to help you stay on track for timely completion of your degree.

(3)    Once you have determined the SLS faculty member whose research interests most closely correspond to your own, you should consult with this faculty member about becoming his/her advisee.  Ideally, you should have your Advisor in place no later than the fourth week of your second semester.  You should realize that it is entirely appropriate to change your Advisor, if your research interests change during your semesters of course work.

(4)    As soon as possible, you should establish an Advisory Committee.  Your Advisory Committee should consist of your Advisor, (at least) one additional SLS faculty member, and (at least) one faculty member from another department, typically the department in which you plan to obtain your PhD minor.  Absolutely no later than one year after entering the PhD program (and preferably sooner), you should file a form with the Graduate School formalizing your Advisory Committee.  Once your Advisory Committee is in place, you should turn primarily to your Advisor and other members of your Advisory Committee for substantive advising on your academic program.  You should also continue to meet with the DGS every semester during the registration period.  (NOTE: The Graduate School imposes certain restrictions on the composition of Advisory Committees relating to whether faculty members are members of the "Graduate Faculty."  See DGS for details.)

(5)    Complete all of the course work required for the PhD as well as your Minor and fulfill the language requirements.  (You should ensure that the relevant Minor Dept. and language departments provide the SLS Dept. Secretary with written documentation).

(6)    In the semester immediately following the completion of all course work for the PhD, you should take the General Qualifying Examination (GQE).  This requires consultation with the DGS, who administers the GQE in consultation with relevant SLS Dept faculty members.

(7)    By the end of the semester following successful completion of the GQE (and preferably sooner), you should take the Research Qualifying Examination (RQE).  Your Advisory Committee administers the RQE.

(8) As soon as you have passed the RQE, your Advisory Committee should submit a Nomination to Candidacy Form to the Graduate School. The Graduate School will then issue you a Certificate of Candidacy.

(9) You should now establish a Research Committee as soon as possible, but in any case before the beginning of the semester immediately following successful completion of your RQE. Your Research Committee will consist of the director of your dissertation, (at least) two additional SLS Dept. faculty members, and (at least) one faculty member from another department, typically the department in which you obtained your PhD minor. Here is how to proceed: Taking into consideration your Advisory Committee's feedback on your RQE, you should draft a brief prospectus of your planned dissertation research. This should be one to two pages in length. You should discuss this draft prospectus with faculty members you feel would be appropriate members of your Research Committee. Once the requisite faculty members have agreed to serve as members of your Research Committee, you should file a form with the Graduate School formalizing your Research Committee. You should then submit a revised version of your prospectus to the Graduate School. (NOTE: The Graduate School imposes certain restrictions on the composition of Research Committees relating to whether faculty members are members of the "Graduate Faculty." See the DGS for details.)

(10) Once you have entered candidacy and established your Research Committee, you are expected to submit a written progress report to your Research Committee no later than the end of Week 10 of each Fall and Spring Semester until you complete your Ph.D. Drafts of your dissertation proposal or chapters of your dissertation may be attached to the written progress report. Your semi-annual written progress report is the basis for determining whether you are making satisfactory progress toward timely completion of your Ph.D.

(11) You should now prepare a dissertation proposal. The dissertation proposal should be on the order of fifty (50) pages and should include a pilot study of your dissertation research. The dissertation proposal must be approved by your Research Committee, after you have defended it in a public colloquium.

(12) Complete the remaining research and writing of your dissertation, in consultation with the director of your dissertation and other Research Committee members.  You cannot expect your Research Committee to approve a draft of your dissertation on short notice.  When you believe that your dissertation is ready, you should submit it to all members of your Research Committee, who will have thirty (30) days to read and evaluate it.  Research Committee members may conclude that the dissertation is ready to defend as is, that it would be ready to defend with only minor changes, or that it should be substantially revised and submitted again for their consideration.

(13) When the Research Committee arrives at a consensus that your dissertation is ready to be defended, the date of a defense should be scheduled.  The dissertation defense cannot be scheduled on short notice.  At least thirty (30) days before the scheduled defense, you must submit an announcement of the defense (including a summary of the dissertation) to the Graduate School.

(14) Once the dissertation has been successfully defended and the final draft of the dissertation has been approved by the Research Committee, you must submit the dissertation to the Graduate School following guidelines in the Graduate School Bulletin.       

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