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. A scholarship is available to an outstanding applicant (or applicants), while those with the equivalent of honours grades in their Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees are eligible for positions as self-funded students (currently costing HK$42,100 per year for full-time PhD students). 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.

Possible supervisors are: Professor Ken Hyland, Dr. Peter Crosthwaite, Dr. David Gardner, Dr. Ken Lau, Dr. Cynthia Lee and Dr. Michael Yeldham.

Research interests

Our supervisors’ research interests can broadly be classified into five areas:

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

English Language Teaching
– classroom interaction; curriculum development; 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; learner corpora and data-driven learning; psycholinguistics; second/third language acquisition; self-access learning, video processing

Methodological Approaches
– research methods; systemic functional linguistics

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

Postgraduate Admissions Advisor

Dr. Michael Yeldham, Fax 25473409, e-mail

Application can be made at any time of the year, although we generally advise scholarship 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, 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 research proposal, 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; for scholarship applicants, preferably in early November before the official submission deadline.

Current full-time PhD students

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

Kevin Jiang, Metadiscursive nouns in disciplinary writing

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

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

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

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

Alice Chik, How experience shapes individual differences among second language learners: A biographical study of Hong Kong learners in three age groups

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.

Peter Huang, Autonomy in EFL learning and teaching in the Chinese university context: Pathways, perspectives, and possibilities

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

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

Citing Li, Chinese EFL learners’ pragmatic and discourse transfer in the discourse of L2 requests

Clarence Wang, Teachers’ beliefs and practices in the implementation of a new English curriculum in China: case studies of four secondary school teachers

Lillian Wong, Innovation and change: Information technology and in-service teacher professional development

Xiao Lei, Understanding writing strategy use from a sociocultural perspective: A multiple-case study of Chinese EFL learners of different writing abilities