Doing Research in Applied Linguistics: Realities, Dilemmas and Solutions

James Mckinley (Editor), Heath Rose (Editor)

Research output: Book/ReportBook


When novice researchers are taught about research methods, they are usually only ever exposed to ideal research designs, where all avenues of validity, reliability, generalizability, and ethicality have been carefully contemplated and accounted for. When beginning their data collection, however, things may not go according to these perfect plans: researchers cannot always get the representative sample they were planning for; participants drop out from their longitudinal study; an institution decides not to grant them access to their planned research context; working within a vulnerable community proves more difficult than expected; or they struggle to maintain a positivist, objective stance in an area of research in which they have invested considerable personal and emotional energy. There are innumerable ways in which a research design faces obstacles in the research process, no matter how carefully a project is planned. In these situations, a researcher may be left wondering how to salvage the project from failure.

When referring to research methods literature, a novice researcher concerned about project feasibility finds little comfort in the ideological nature in which research methods are presented in most books. The way these texts are written suggests that nothing other than the most stringent research design will stand up to the rigor of academic scrutiny, with each research method, data collection instrument, and analytical tool meticulously presented with a long list of threats to validity and reliability if not carried out according to a watertight design.

Published research further perpetuates a stereotype that obstacles in research are anomalies, rather than the norm. Journal articles often document their research designs with scientific precision, and a reader may be led to believe data were collected and analyzed with few problems in the process. Limitations of a project are always discussed, but they are too often presented in a way that the reader would believe that the researcher was aware of these limitations from the outset of planning, and had accounted for them before data were collected and analyzed. In the presentation of published research as the ideal, the reader is often made oblivious to the methodological journey of the project, and of the compromises made along the way.

Furthermore, published research almost always focuses on the implications of the findings of the study, and almost never discusses the methodological implications of the research process itself. It is our conviction that the methodological implications of any study play an equally important role in shaping our understanding of research in the field of applied linguistics as the content-related findings do. They help to shape our understanding of the project and build upon it when carrying out future research in the area.

This book aims to rectify the imbalance in research methodology literature by exposing the research design and implementation obstacles that we, applied linguists and educational researchers, face in many of our research projects. The projects discussed in this book were all carried out by experienced academics in their fields. The projects outlined in these chapters all resulted in published research papers, despite the obstacles encountered along the way in the research process. In this book, the projects are presented with a shift in focus from their original publication on the content of their findings, to the methodological implications of the study. By bringing the methodological obstacles to the forefront, we can better build an understanding of best practices in overcoming similar research problems in the future.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationAbingdon, U.K.
Number of pages262
ISBN (Electronic)9781315389608
ISBN (Print)9781138947351, 9781138947368
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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