Research methods in applied linguistics by dry15567


                                                                  1.    What is research?
                                                                  2.    Qualitative vs. quantitative research
    Research methods in applied                                   3.    Validity
    linguistics                                                   4.    Orientations in applied linguistic research
                                                                  5.    The role of time in research
                                                                  6.    Research methods:
                                                                        - production data elicitation
                                                                        - intuitional data elicitation
                                                                        - questionnaires
                                                                        - interviews

             What is research?                                                       Qualitative research
“Research is a systematic approach to searching for               •     The prototypical qualitative methodology is an
     answers to questions” (Hatch & Lazaraton, 1991, p. 9).             ethnographic study in which the researchers do not set
     Scientific research is a systematic and disciplined                out to test hypotheses, but rather to observe what is
     inquiry.                                                           present with their focus free to vary during the course
There are two basic types of research:                                  of observation (hypothesis generation).
1. Secondary research which is based on secondary                 •     Qualitative studies aim to understand the process of
     sources, that is, other researchers' books and articles -          language learning and teaching from the perspective
     library research, literature review.                               of the participants.
2. Primary research which is based on primary and                 •     Qualitative studies are not generalisable because their
     empirical data (e.g. interviews, questionnaires,                   aim is to observe and understand the phenomenon
     observations).                                                     under study (e.g. the behaviour of a problematic
                                                                        group). It is the task of the reader of the study to
Primary research can be quantitative and qualitative.                   decide to what extent the findings are relevant for
                                                                        his/her circumstances.
                                                                  •     Typical research tools include: field-notes,
                                                                        observations, diaries, interviews.

                                                                 Quantitative research                  Qualitative research
                                                                 There is one reality.                  There are multiple realities
               Quantitative research                             Objectivity is possible.               The researcher is never
                                                                                                        independent of the research topic.
•    A quantitative study aims to test a hypothesis through                                             His/her values influence the way
     the use of objective instruments (e.g. questionnaires)                                             reality is understood.
     and appropriate statistical analyses.                       Causal relationships are possible.     Events shape each other.
•    The aim of most quantitative studies is to make a           Generalization is possible.            Only tentative explanations for
     sufficient number of observations in order to be able to                                           one time and place are possible.
     make generalisations.                                       It proves or rejects hypotheses.       It discovers and uncovers
•    In quantitative studies it is important that the research                                          propositions.
     should be valid and reliable.                               External validity – generalizability   Transferability – rich description
                                                                 Internal validity – truth value        Credibility – triangulation
     External validity: to what extent the findings of the
     study can be applied or generalised to situations           Reliability – replication              Dependability – triangulation,
     outside the research.                                                                              member checking
                                                                 Clearly defined variables, excluding   Open questions, circumstances are
     Internal validity: whether the results are caused by the    intervening factors                    important, new questions can arise
     factors identified by the researcher and not factors that
     were not controlled in the research.                                                               during the research
                                                                 Large number of participants           Small number of participants
                                                                 Statistical tests                      Quantification is possible, but not

                                                                                  Orientations in applied linguistic
         Validity in qualitative research                                                     research
•     In qualitative research the term used for validity is credibility.     1. Analysis of learners' language
      Credibility can be enhanced in the following ways:                     The aim of this orientation is to describe the language system used by
1.    Prolonged engagement and persistent observation (e.g. if the aim             L2 learners. For example: interlanguage analysis, acquisition
      is to describe the behaviour of a language learning group one                order studies, how L2 learners express various pragmatic
      needs to observe a number of classes, not just a few).                       functions, how L2 learners' performance varies in various types of
2. Triangulation: the use of multiple sources (e.g. curriculum guidelines,   2. Verbal reports on language behaviour
      samples of students' writing, field notes), methods (e.g. interviews   There are three types of verbal reports:
      and observations) and investigators (e.g. presence of two                    1. self-report questionnaires e.g. motivation questionnaire,
      observers).                                                                  learning strategy questionnaire;
                                                                                   2. introspection/think-aloud – participants have to think aloud
3. Thick description: detailed description of the research methods and             while solving a task (e.g. reading task, multiple choice test) and
      the observations made.                                                       verbalise every thought that comes to their mind;
                                                                                   3. retrospection – participants provide information on their mental
4. Audit trail: storing and organising all the data gathered so that they          strategies after the completion of the task.
     are available for further study.                                        Introspection and think-aloud are often used as complementary
                                                                                   research instruments.

                                                                                 5. Ethnographic research
3. Text/discourse analysis
                                                                              •   Ethnography "seeks to describe the set of
• Text analysis describes texts that L2 learners                                  understandings and specific knowledge shared
  produce and often compares them to texts                                        among participants that guide their behaviour
  produced by native speakers (for further details                                in that specific context„
  see Chapter 10).
                                                                              • The subject of ethnographic research can be
4. Classroom interaction analysis                                                 the culture of a community, a class, an event
• "Interaction analysis describes and categorises                                 or a program.
  various aspects of the instructional practices and                          6. Action research
  verbal interactions that take place between
  teachers and students in language classrooms"                               • Action research is research done by classroom
  (Spada, 1994, p. 685).                                                          teachers, who assume the role of the
                                                                                  researcher, with the aim of understanding an
• The most frequently used methods are the                                        aspect of teaching or learning that is relevant
  application of classroom observation schemes                                    in their situation. Action research is considered
  and filed-notes taken by the researcher.                                        an integral part of reflective teaching practice.

    The role of time in applied linguistic
                                                                                           Research instruments
                                                                             1. Production data elicitation (performance)
                                                                             Reading aloud
•     Cross-sectional approach: the linguistic                               Structural exercises (transformation, fill-in-the-gap,
      performance of a large number of participants                                sentence rewrite)
      at different levels of proficiency is studied, the                     Text completion task
      performance data are collected at one session                          Elicited imitation (understanding a long sentence and
      using controlled measurement. Usually                                        reconstructing it)
      quantitative methods are used.                                         Elicited translation
                                                                             Guided composition
•     Longitudinal approach: observing the                                   Question and answer
      development of linguistic performance of a                             Reconstruction (reconstruction after listening, watching or
      group of students or of individual learners over                             reading)
      a longer period of time. Often qualitative                             Communication games
      methods are used.                                                      Role play
                                                                             Oral interview
                                                                             Free composition

           2. Intuitional data elicitation                             3. Questionnaires

• Data elicitation procedures:                        Questionnaires are used to get information about the
• Error recognition and correction (participants
  have to find errors and correct them)               1. Language behaviour, i.e. what students do in specific
                                                         situations. E.g.: What do you do if you do not understand
• Grammaticality judgements (participants are            a word in a reading text?
  asked whether or not the given utterance is         2. Opinion. E.g.: What is your opinion about language
  grammatically well-formed)                             games?
• Other judgement tasks (participants are asked       3. Feelings. E.g.: How do you feel when the teacher corrects
  whether or not the given utterance is well-            you?
  formed concerning politeness, easy                  4. Knowledge. E.g.: What languages are spoken in
  understanding, etc.)                                   Hungary?
                                                      5. Background information E.g.: How old are you?
• Card-sorting (sentences on cards, and
  participants have to categorise or rank order       The responses to questions can be given in two forms:
                                                      • Open-ended questions
                                                      • Closed-response questions

  Types of closed-response questions
                                                      3. Semantic differential scale
                                                      What are your classmates like?
1. Alternative-answer questions
  Did you learn any other language before coming      friendly __:__:__:__:__:__ unfriendly
  to this course? YES        NO
  Which skill causes the most difficulties for you?   4. Ranking questions
  A) reading      B) writing C) speaking         D)   Please indicate by rank order which skill is the
  listening                                             most important for you in your current job?
2. Likert-scale questions                             Listening ________
Learning English can be important to me.
Strongly              Strongly                        Reading ________
agree                 disagree                        Writing     ________
  __ __ __ __ __ __                                   Speaking ________

                   4. Interviews                             5. Other research instruments

• Interviews can be of three types:                   •   Diaries
1.Structured interview – interview questions are
  written in advance and questions are always         •   Retrospection and think-aloud
  asked in the same order.
                                                      •   Classroom observation schedules
2. Semi-structured interview – interview questions
  are written in advance but their order and          •   Field-notes
  content can be modified in the light of what the
  respondent says.
3. Open interview – only very broad questions are
  put to interviewees who are free to express their
  thoughts without being guided by specific

           Experimental research                                     Check questions
• In experimental research the effects of specific
  and controlled treatment given to subjects are     •   What is research?
  studied. In an experiment, the researcher wants    •   What is the difference between qualitative and
  to establish cause and effect relationships.           quantitative research?
• True experimental design: Participants for the     •   What is validity in quantitative research and what is
  experimental study can be randomly selected            credibility in qualitative research?
• Quasi-experimental design: existing language       •   Explain cross-sectional and longitudinal research in
                                                         your own words.
  learning groups
                                                     •   What are verbal reports and how can they be used?
• Control group: does not receive a treatment
                                                     •   What can we gain information on with the help of
• Experimental group: is exposed to the                  questionnaires?
  treatment.                                         •   What types of interviews are there?
• Pre-test + post-test                               •   What are the components of experimental research?


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