Carnegie Mellon University

Program Requirements

Program of Study

The Ph.D. in ALSLA consists of at least four semesters of course work and a Ph.D. dissertation. Students are expected to enroll full time (36 units) during the semesters that they are working toward the degree. There is a university residency requirement of two years.

Students will have considerable flexibility in designing their course of study; however, they will be required to complete the following courses:

  • Second Language Acquisition: Theories and Research
  • Research Methods in SLA
  • Language Theories
  • Graduate Research Seminar

Elective Courses (students will choose one):

  • Statistics
  • Language Theories
  • Instruction and Learning

To have an in-depth sequence in research methods, all students are also required to take at least two courses in either quantitative or qualitative methods (in addition to the introductory ones).

In order to benefit from the experience and strengths of the core faculty, students are expected to take courses with each faculty member in the program during their stay at Carnegie Mellon. Students are required to conduct guided research or to take at least four courses in AL & SLA topics offered by the core faculty in the program. All additional coursework will focus on the student’s chosen area of study.

All students will participate in the Graduate Research Seminar every semester. This seminar provides an opportunity for students and faculty to discuss their research in progress with occasional presentations by outside guest speakers.

Description of Major Benchmarks

The following benchmarks are intended to guide students through the program and provide opportunities to engage in activities common to the profession. These benchmarks also serve as an opportunity to assess students' general performance in the program and to provide them with feedback.

The goal of this paper is to encourage students to identify their interest area in AL & SLA and probe it more deeply. For this paper students are expected to engage in the following:

  1. Identifying a topic of interest
  2. Problem formulation
  3. Literature search
  4. Study quality/relevance assessment
  5. Interpretation and synthesis
  6. Summary and conclusion
  7. Identifying directions for future research

This project is to be completed by the end of the first year. Ideally, the topic selected in the first year will evolve into the core theme of the dissertation. Through engaging in this project, students receive training and opportunities for conceptual explorations through problem formulation and research synthesis/expansion. This paper will be reviewed by all ALSLA core faculty. Only those students whose paper is judged to be of superior quality will be advanced to the next phase of the program.

The second project will be to prepare a research report based on research done during the first two years of residency in the program. The paper needs to conceptualize a problem, situate the problem in discussions in the field, and present a clear methodological design with preliminary results and future steps. It will be a data-driven paper of publishable quality (25-30 pages in length).

After the research report is completed, students begin work on their dissertation proposal. They are expected to complete their dissertation proposal by the end of the semester following the research report. Students select a dissertation committee comprised of no less than three members: a committee chair from the department, and two additional members (one may be from outside the department or university). Students write the proposal, which includes an introduction, a critical review of the literature, and research design (methodology). The committee reviews the proposal and suggests changes or improvements, and later convenes to approve the proposal. After the proposal is approved, the student becomes ABD (All But Dissertation) and begins the dissertation research.

After the completed dissertation is submitted to the committee, the student has an oral defense open to the public. Approval of this defense and incorporation of changes into the dissertation successfully concludes the doctoral program.