MPhil & PhD Studies

Postgraduate Research

The Centre for Applied English Studies encourages applications for Ph.D. or M. Phil positions from candidates whose research interests match those of the Centre, with a scholarship available to an applicant (or applicants) with outstanding academic results from a top-level university. The Centre has special expertise in a number of areas. It is particularly strong in linguistics as applied to English language education at university level.

Currently, possible supervisors are: Dr. Ken Lau, Dr. Cynthia Lee and Dr. Michael Yeldham.

Research interests

Our supervisors’ research interests can broadly be classified into five areas (with the underlined topic areas currently of key supervision priority):

Discourse Studies
– academic and professional literacies; discourse analysis (including written and spoken); second language writing; writing across the curriculum

English Language Teaching
– classroom interaction; curriculum development; English as a medium of instruction; ESP/EAP; L2 listening; pronunciation and phonology; task-based learning; teaching and learning pragmatics

Language Learning
– autonomous learning; computer-assisted language learning; individual differences, learning styles and strategies; psycholinguistics; second language acquisition; self-access learning, video processing

Methodological Approaches
– research methods; systemic functional linguistics

– conversation analysis; cross-cultural communication; English as a Lingua Franca (particularly in relation to language policies); interlanguage and intercultural pragmatics; politeness; speech acts; writing and computer-mediated communication

Postgraduate Admissions Advisor

Dr. Michael Yeldham, Fax 25473409, e-mail

We advise applicants to aim for the main round deadline in early December by submitting their application before the end of November (for admission in September of the following year).

Potential applicants should contact the Postgraduate Admissions Advisor, Dr. Michael Yeldham, in the first instance, preferably a couple of months before the December application deadline, giving brief information about research interests, along with a CV which should include qualifications, university grades, and any recent English test scores if required (IELTS, TOEFL, etc). Under no circumstances should an applicant send identical enquiries to several supervisors. This will create confusion about who should be replying to you and thus cause a delay in our response.

For further details on formal application procedures, please see the Faculty of Arts page.

For general information regarding research postgraduate admission, please see the Graduate School page.

Proposal Requirements

To apply, you will need to identify a research topic and write a proposal for an expansive, theoretically-grounded and well-designed research study, which includes a review of the literature, and your research questions and research methodology, along with expected findings and significance of the study. Proposals are usually between 5 and 6 pages long, single spaced (not including references and appendices). The study should preferably have relevance to the Hong Kong/China context, or to the wider applied linguistics context (e.g., see the studies undertaken by current and former PhD students at the Centre, shown below).

It is a policy of the University of Hong Kong to check for plagiarism in all research proposals. Please contact the Secretary, Sanny Kwok ( for further instructions on this procedure when you are ready to submit, preferably in early November before the official submission deadline.

Current full-time PhD students

Kim Chanhee, A corpus-based study on ‘evaluative that construction’ in academic and professional discourse

Vivian Kwan, Socialising into two academic discourse communities: A case study of undergraduates from double-degree teacher training programmes in Hong Kong

Amanda Ma, Learner agency in learning academic English: Case studies of Mainland Chinese postgraduates in an English-medium university

Peter Wingrove, How academic are TED talks?

Greg Wu, Empowering work-based learning to facilitate teacher professional development in the English-in-the-Disciplines courses: A case study

Olivia Zhang, Feedback on graduate writing

Victor Zhang, Student engagement with feedback on their writing: Case studies of English majors in two Chinese universities

Some past graduates

Ivy Chan, A study of academic writing development over time: The case of Engineering undergraduates

Aaron Doyle, The L2 motivation and academic decision making of local and international English majors in China

Andy Gao, From the Chinese Mainland to Hong Kong: Understanding shifts in Mainland Chinese students’ English learning strategy use

Dick Huang, A corpus study of Chinese EFL majors’ phraseological performance.

Nora Hussin, Interaction from an activity theoretical perspective: Comparing learning discourse of language face-to-face, in chat and in audio conferencing in second language learning

Kevin Jiang, Metadiscursive nouns in disciplinary writing

Ellie Law, Promoting learner autonomy through a self-access language learning (SALL) component of a taught English course​

Tim Lee, The use and perception of second language motivational strategies at a Hong Kong community college

Laura Luo, Writing support for Chinese scientists seeking to publish research articles in English

Richard Zhang, Language choice, language ideologies, and identity: A sociolinguistic study of Mainland Chinese students in Hong Kong and Macao