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Research degrees
Research areas
Languages and applied linguistics
Language and the digital media

Language and the digital media

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

Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have transformed communication practices in the past few years. Along with the linguistic practices in which people engage and the nature of the social networks they construct, there is a strong and growing interest in how people make meaning not just through language, but through a range of resources.

A multimodal approach to meaning making means exploring diverse ways of communicating such as gesture, gaze, artefacts, images, layout, sounds and colour, in addition to language. Underpinning this innovative work is a critical theoretical approach, and the development of new research methodologies, including visual research methods and combinations of ethnographic and applied linguistic approaches. Our research covers all education sectors, from early years to post-compulsory education, and informal learning, as well as media, culture and public debate. Work in the area addresses issues such as the role social media have in the performance of identity and the construction of community. It also includes explorations of the opportunities that social media afford for novel forms of linguistic creativity, for extensive language contact and code-mixing, for acts of deception and fraud, and for political activism.

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

  • Linguistic strategies for privacy management on social media
  • New technologies and changing literacy practices
  • Multimodal communication and argumentation
  • The use of mobile technologies for language learning
  • Critical digital literacies in an era of social media and ‘fake news’
  • Critical digital literacies through virtual exchange

Current/recent research projects

  • Ethnographic case study of discursively negotiated identities on social media
  • Informal writing spaces: literacy and higher education goals
  • Explorations of student academic literacy practices in digital multimodal disciplinary contexts in South African vocational higher education
  • Impact on the knowledge-construction process of multimodal online interactions in audiographic conferencing systems: the case of adult distance learners of French
  • Multimodal meaning-making in second language learner interactions via mobile videoconferencing: gesture as mode

Potential supervisors

Fees and funding

PhD fees

UK fee International fee
Full time: £4,500 per year Full time: £11,426 per year
Part time: £2,250 per year Part time: £5,715 per year

Professional doctorate fees

UK fee International fee
Part time: £3,427 per year Part time: £8,702 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, and to see current funded studentship vacancies across all research areas, visit Fees and studentships.


Women learning language online

How to apply

Get in touch

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

Dr Inma Álvarez, Director of Postgraduate Research Studies
Phone: +44 (0)1908 659169

Apply now

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