Realities of doing research in applied linguistics

Heath Rose, James Mckinley

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Much published research in applied linguistics presents research methodology as a highly idealized and uncompromising process, where issues of validity, reliability, objectivity, and ethicality are resolved through precise research design. However, we concur with Dörnyei’s (2007) impression that “researchers are often ashamed of the compromises that they need to make, not realizing that making compromises is part and parcel of being a researcher”(p. 309); in fact, we argue that overcoming methodological obstacles is the norm for any applied linguist conducting research in the field. This presentation introduces the concept underpinning a research methodology project, where more than 30 established applied linguists showcase the methodological problems encountered in research projects that, despite obstacles, were eventually successful. In this project, the applied linguists outline the steps involved in negotiating problems in the various stages of research, from constructing research designs, collecting and analyzing data, to reporting the findings. The presenters will also draw on a number of their own research projects as case studies to bring the methodological obstacles to the forefront, and to illustrate situations where applied linguists need to adapt their research methods in situ. Among the cases studies is a research project where the theoretical framework needed to be changed mid-project, and data collection instruments needed to be adapted due to difficulties in securing suitable research sites and participants. A further study is discussed where a researcher faced a challenge to position themselves in fieldwork as an ‘insider’, but to analyze and write up the data as an ‘outsider’, and to expose their own researcher subjectivity. The presentation aims to provide novice and experienced researchers alike with an overview of the realities of doing research in applied linguistics and offer advice on overcoming similar methodological problems.
Dörnyei, Z. (2007). Research Methods in Applied Linguistics. Oxford University Press: Oxford.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - Apr 2016
EventAmerican Association of Applied Linguistics Conference - Orlando, USA United States
Duration: 9 Apr 201612 Apr 2016


ConferenceAmerican Association of Applied Linguistics Conference
Abbreviated titleAAAL
Country/TerritoryUSA United States
Internet address


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