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MPhil in Theoretical and Applied Linguistics by Thesis

University of Cambridge

MPhil by Thesis (MLM9)

The MPhil by Thesis is for students whose knowledge of linguistics is already substantial, and who already know the area which they wish to research for their thesis. It allows students to carry out focussed research on a specific topic in a way that foreshadows a potential PhD. To be eligible for consideration for the MPhil by Thesis, a student will need:

  • a broad foundation in linguistics, with depth in at least some subfields
  • a clear idea of the area in which the dissertation will be written.

Students taking the MPhil by Thesis will follow some elements of the MPhil by Advanced Study as agreed with their supervisor, but formal assessment is by a 30,000 word thesis alone, submitted in June. Progress will be monitored through the year by work submitted according to a schedule specified by TAL.

It is important that you only apply to a course in our section if your interests are properly represented by the research interests of our staff. Applicants may find it useful to look at the following lists of people to find out more about potential supervisors in their fields of interest:

Please direct any enquiries regarding entry requirements and academic matters to the Graduate Administrative Assistant in the MMLL Graduate Office, and any general admissions enquiries.  Applicants should apply online through the central Graduate Admissions Office . 

Our English language requirements are absolute. Note that this is a nine-month course, lasting from October until June, and as a result it is quite intensive. Therefore there is no time or provision for improving one’s proficiency in English. We only accept candidates whose command of English meets the language test requirement in order to ensure that students can follow advanced lectures, often using specialist terminology, and formulate well-expressed, sophisticated arguments in their written work. The language test requirements stated in the eligibility criteria are the absolute minimum and are not negotiable. They must be met in full before admission to the course.


Michaelmas Term

All students are required to follow a course in research methods and a statistics course to acquire skills needed for research and 'transferable' skills. Beyond that, each student will follow his or her own 'training plan', which allows the individual interests, needs, and strengths of the student to be met. At the start of the course the student draws up a Training Plan for the Michaelmas and Lent Terms (October to March), with advice (if needed) from the Course Director of the MPhil and subject specialists.


Lent Term

In the Lent Term students research forums, which might be PhD seminars, MPhil seminars, or other appropriate research seminars and courses in Linguistics or elsewhere in the university, as agreed with their supervisor.  

A proposed title and summary for the 30,000 word thesis, formulated in discussion with the supervisor, must be submitted in mid-February, and this will be subject to approval by the Linguistics Section, the supervisor, and the Faculty's Degree Committee. The thesis demands independent study under the guidance of the supervisor and will involve a substantial piece of original research. 


Easter Term

The thesis is submitted on the fourth Thursday of Easter Full Term, and about two to three weeks later there is an oral examination (viva) on the thesis.

The examination process is very similar to that of the PhD, and consists of two parts: scrutiny of the thesis by one internal and one external examiner, and a viva involving both examiners and the candidate. Some candidates may be asked to carry out corrections to their thesis which may mean graduating in October rather than in July.