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Qualifying Paper (QP) Information

What’s a QP?

Each prospective Linguistics Ph.D. candidate is expected to complete two substantial research papers in different subfields of linguistics, one in the second year and one in the third year.  These papers, which are known as Qualifying Papers (QPs), are intended to provide students with experience in carrying out independent, original research projects before embarking on the dissertation.

The quality of the QP is measured in depth, not length.  The QP must be a substantial and original research paper that shows the student’s ability to carry out an independent research project, that is, to formulate and delimit a research question, develop a hypothesis concerning its solution, select an appropriate research methodology to test the hypothesis, collecting relevant data and proposing an analysis of this data.  Further, the paper itself must show the student’s ability to make a compelling and cogent linguistic argument in writing and to place the research within the context of related work in the field.  The suggested average length for QPs is 25 pages.  Often, an adequate QP is a paper that would qualify as the draft of a satisfactory contribution to a linguistics conference.

While a satisfactory QP is more substantial than the typical term paper for a course, a term paper is often an excellent starting point for a QP, and students are encouraged to enroll in courses that through topics covered, work required, and so on, will directly advance their work on a QP.

The subject matter of the two QPs must be clearly distinct, i.e.  from different basic areas, though they may be related.  Although some students may wish to use a QP as the basis of their dissertation work, many others will prefer to use the QPs to broaden the scope of their portfolio.

What is the QP oral?

Each QP is discussed orally with a committee of faculty in what is known as the QP oral.  The Department stresses the value of explicating a piece of research orally; thus, the purpose of the oral is to discuss the paper’s content with several faculty members, to clarify any remaining issues about the work, and to consider next steps.

For more information

Further details about QPs, including the selection and make-up of QP committees, timeline for completion, scheduling and format of the oral, can be found in the Ph.D. Handbook.

Examples of QPs

Older QPs


Students can present their qualifying papers at the yearly QPFest: