Eye-tracking research on online language practices

Qualifications Duration Start dates Application period
PhD or Professional doctorate PhD:
Full time: 3–4 years
Part time: 6–8 years
Professional doctorate:
Part time: 4–8 years
October November to January
PhD or Professional doctorate
Full time: 3–4 years
Part time: 6–8 years
Professional doctorate:
Part time: 4–8 years
Start dates
Application period
November to January

Eye-tracking allows researchers to investigate the gaze focus (and by implication the attention focus) of people working on a computer screen. In language research, this method has been used to analyse the reading behaviour of first language users and second language learners, test taking practices, and more recently also learning strategies during synchronous online language tutorials. The method has potential to research the strategies of language professionals, e.g. the complex classroom management skills of online language teachers or the search and scan patterns of professional translators. As this area of research is relatively new, part of its challenge and potential is the establishment of baseline measures for attention time and patterns, comparability of results, ground rules for task settings, and justifying the implementation of naturalistic approaches in traditional laboratory settings.

The Open University is fully equipped to conduct eye-tracking projects within its own Jennie Lee Laboratories (Institute of Educational Technology) or in distributed locations using its portable desktop eye-tracker and eye-tracking glasses.

Entry requirements

Minimum 2:1 undergraduate degree (or equivalent) and an MA or research methods training at MA level (or equivalent). If you are not a UK citizen, you may need to prove your knowledge of English.

Potential research projects

  • Attention focus during online language learning
  • Baseline measures for first, second and third language reading
  • The application of eye-tracking to research on new technologies in language learning and teaching
  • The professional skills of online language teachers
  • The professional skills of translators and interpreters
  • Independent language learning and the use of social media
  • Interaction and collaboration in language learning
  • Task design for online language learning
  • The role of social presence in speaking online
  • Strategies in language learning
  • Eye-tracking as a research method in translation studies
  • Translator behaviours and strategies

Current/recent research projects

  • Researching cognitive processing and other aspects of L2 reading
  • Eye movements of online Chinese learners
  • Eye movements of online language teachers
  • Eye-tracking methodology in SCMC: a tool for empowering learning and teaching

Potential supervisors

Fees and funding

PhD fees

UK fee International fee
Full time: £4,786 per year Full time: £12,146 per year
Part time: £2,393 per year Part time: £6,073 per year

Professional doctorate fees

UK fee International fee
Part time: £3,643 per year Part time: £9,250 per year

Some of our research students are funded via the Open-Oxford-Cambridge AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership or The Grand Union Doctoral Training Partnership; others are self-funded.

For detailed information about fees and funding, visit Fees and studentships.

To see current funded studentship vacancies across all research areas, see Current studentships.


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How to apply

Get in touch

If you have an enquiry specific to this research topic, please contact:

Dr Mara Fuertes-Gutierrez, PGR Convenor in Languages
Email: WELS-student-enquiries@open.ac.uk
Phone: +44 (0)1908 654224

Apply now

If you’re interested in applying for this research topic, please take a look at the application process.