Applied Linguistics

Researchers in Applied Linguistics and Literacies in the School of Languages and Applied Linguistics (LAL) within WELS view language as a powerful social and cultural phenomenon and adopt a range of socially oriented approaches towards the study of language across educational, political, economic, cultural and social contexts. A wide range of theoretical and methodological approaches are used, including academic literacies, corpus linguistics, discourse analysis, second language acquisition theory, eye tracking, multimodal analysis, linguistic and post-digital ethnography, linguistic landscapes, literary theory and criticism, pragmatics, semiotics, systemic functional linguistics, sociocultural theory, translanguaging, sociolinguistics and southern theories.

These approaches are used to explore language in many contexts such as teaching and learning across the curriculum and in different educational sectors, social work, language policy, politics, business communication, children’s literature, translation, digitally mediated communication, social media, language and globalisation, and decolonisation.

Key facts

  • A large community of researchers including PhD and Professional Doctorate students
  • A vibrant interdisciplinary, multilingual and multicultural environment
  • Opportunities and support provided for research students to attend workshops, seminars and conferences at the Open University and at other national and international institutions
  • Interdisciplinary links with researchers in the Institute of Educational Technology, Schools of Education and Health, Wellbeing and Social Care, and with the Faculty of Arts and Social Science


Most of our full-time research students are based at our Milton Keynes campus; for details of residence requirements for different modes of study see Full-time study and Part-time study.


Specialist software for language data analysis, including access to several large corpora, is available.

State-of-the-art research laboratories are located in the Institute of Educational Technology; they include facilities for eye tracking, a games lab, observational technology, and specialist equipment for disability support.

Opportunity to join a vibrant international community of scholars interested in Discourse studies: DiscourseNet. International Association of Discourse Studies.

Career prospects

Many of our doctoral students go on to build successful academic and non-academic careers. Many of them use the doctorate as a platform for continuing professional development in a wide variety of occupations at local, national, and international contexts.



Find your research topic

Explore specific areas of research, current and prospective projects, entry requirements, fees and funding, available supervisors, how to apply and contact details for advice.

Academic and professional literacies

Corpus linguistics

Discourse studies

Language and globalisation

Language and policy

Language and politics

Language and technology


Related topics

Consider linked topics from other research areas.

Education futures

Literacy and social justice