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Doctoral Programme in Applied Linguistics: Argumentation in Professional Practice

The Department of Applied Linguistics at ZHAW and the Faculty of Communication Sciences at USI are pleased to offer the first doctoral programme in Applied Linguistics in Switzerland. The first edition is financed by swissuniversities and focuses on argumentation in professional practice, especially in professions related to communication and language.

What is the programme about – and why is it relevant?

In recent years, the relevance of argumentation – i.e. of the practices of social reasoning and reason-giving – has emerged from a wide range of studies. In particular, the centrality of argumentation in professional practice is becoming increasingly pivotal: professionals need to understand controversies in their sphere of action, defend their positions, negotiate their strategies, solve conflicts and, by doing so, apply and further develop sets of good practices. This is all the more the case for language and communication professionals, who produce semiotic objects aimed at spreading information, shaping public opinion, and influencing the behaviour of citizens and customers. Moreover, argumentation plays a key role in multilingual and multimodal settings where it interacts with other rhetorical modes such as narration and explanation. Therefore, looking at the argumentative dimension of communication is key to improving both communicative procedures and outputs in language and communication professions. This research falls within the realm of applied linguistics, the discipline that studies the relation between language and real-life problems.

Why this partnership?

The doctoral programme constitutes a continuation of an already existing consortium between USI and ZHAW, as well as its reorganization with a more systematic and differentiated focus on professional practices. The theoretical background on argumentation and communication sciences, and the corresponding research methodology, will be provided by USI; the data collection and dissemination methodology, the applied linguistics framework, and the expertise on professional practices will be provided by ZHAW.


  • Filling a gap in doctoral education, i.e. the training of PhD candidates researching language and communication in professional practice from an applied linguistics viewpoint and in collaboration with real practitioners.
  • Helping graduate students doing applied research on these professions to gain an adequate theoretical background, providing them with a critical perspective and aiding them in solving open issues within the investigated profession(s).
  • Offering graduate students doing research on language-based professions such as journalism, organizational communication, and translation a close connection to professional fields, so that they can better understand the interests, demands, and problems of the real world.
  • Developing theoretical solutions that bring theory a step forward as well as foster good professional practice.

The programme offers

  • Individual research supervision from USI and ZHAW professors
  • doctoral courses
  • colloquia for the scientific exchange of research among the programme’s participants
  • transdisciplinary workshops for the transfer of competences between the academic and the professional world
  • financial support for participation in international conferences and journal publication
  • an evaluation at the end of each course (a positive evaluation allots ECTS)
  • a diploma supplement for PhD graduates.

Courses include

  • Fundamentals of argumentation theory
  • Argumentation and semantics
  • Argumentation and rhetoric
  • Argumentation in interaction
  • Argumentation and corpora annotation
  • Applied linguistics and linguistic theory
  • Applied linguistics and multilingualism
  • Collection and dissemination of data
  • Language and social interaction
  • Argumentation in the professions
  • Argumentation, professions and multimodality
  • Challenges and opportunities of transdisciplinary research
  • Controversies in the public sphere
  • Strategic communication.

Steering board


Programme manager

Scientific committee

Admission and practicalities

From September 2017 onward

In Lugano and Winterthur

All courses and events will be held in English

Who can participate?
- Candidates enrolled as doctoral students at a Swiss university
- Candidates at both beginning and advanced stages of their doctoral research
- Admission of candidates with a Master’s degree from a university of applied sciences is possible at USI upon evaluation of each profile

How can I apply?
Prospective candidates should send their academic CV, a description of their research focus, and a letter of motivation (addressing how their research topic fits into the programme’s topic, among other motivations) in English to Marta Zampa.