In this article, we respond to the special issue ‘Definitions for Applied Linguistics’, where the past and future of applied linguistics are discussed, and the place of pedagogy in the field’s scope is debated. In the issue, Hellermann (2015) uses data from 1980 to 1984 and 2009 to 2013 to show a shift in the field towards an emerging range of language-related problems, coupled with the declining prominence of pedagogy-related research in the journal. In this article, we extend Hellerman’s work to investigate whether this trend is reflective of other published work in applied linguistics. In our investigation, 336 research papers published in 2015 were analysed from 10 self-identified applied linguistics journals. Data revealed language-pedagogy-related studies constituted 32 per cent of all empirical research, although this representation was unevenly distributed across the journals. Findings suggest a number of practice-oriented journals now take the lion’s share of pedagogical research, allowing other key applied linguistics journals to focus on a diverse range of non-pedagogy-related language problems. Nevertheless, in general, pedagogy remains a key topic in the field.