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Review of  An A-Z of Applied Linguistics Research Methods

Reviewer: Ferit Kilickaya
Book Title: An A-Z of Applied Linguistics Research Methods
Book Author: Shawn Loewen Luke Plonsky
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Issue Number: 27.5254

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Reviews Editor: Helen Aristar-Dry


Written by Shawn Loewen and Luke Plonsky, An A-Z of Applied Linguistics Research Methods (2016) offers detailed explanations of the terms, concepts, and techniques in applied linguistics and second language research. Conducting research and reporting the findings is a challenging task as the process requires both the knowledge in the field as well as the knowledge of terms, concepts and techniques that must be learned and applied appropriately in the research . As in other fields, researchers conducting research, students learning how to conduct research, as well as consumers of the research published, often need to have quick access to critical terms, methodological preferences and practices. This 210-page-long book is a nice contribution to the literature since it provides a clear and detailed overview of key terms.

An A-Z of Applied Linguistics Research Methods has a user-friendly design, given the easy access to key terms, and the page format, as well as the size of the book. Alphabet letters are given on the left and right side margins of every page to aid in finding the terms starting with the corresponding alphabet letters. Typographical notations such as bolding of the key terms and related concepts make it easier for reader to find related terms and other terms that are essential to understand the current terms. Moreover, each entry in the book is accompanied by a list of references where readers can find detailed discussion of the term explained. The number of the references varies from one term to another; however, the references provided for statistical terms are more numerous than the references for other terms. For example, the entry on General linear model (GLM) on page 75 includes 12 references.

Readers will notice that the many of the entries do not exceed half a page, while other entries (statistical terms as well as terms for some major methodological practices such as Pilot Study) span several pages, with detailed explanation and explication of the terms. For example, the entry for Data (p. 43) spans roughly three pages including the references, while the entry for Action research (p. 1) is one-page long. Moreover, at various points, visuals (figures, graphs, and tables) are used, especially in some of the long entries, both to exemplify the meaning of the respective term and to make the material interesting and appealing to readers, as in the entry Homogeneity of variance (p. 82) and the entry Degrees of freedom (p. 47). In general, terms are explained briefly and concisely; the definitionis often followed by an exemplary study in which this term or methodological practice is used. For example, the entry for Ethnography (p. 61) reads:

''A method within qualitative research in which researchers spend considerable time within a specific social context and the individuals within it. For example, Han (2014) examined the lives of two Chinese immigrants in Canada. She reports on the global, national, and local contexts that her participants found themselves...''

As the authors of the book state, ‘The entries in this book–more substantial than a glossary but not as lengthy as an encyclopedia entry–give the reader “bite-sized” overviews of key terms, …’ (p. viii). The definitions / explanations of the terms and concepts in applied linguistics and second language acquisition are not detailed, but they are concise and informative. The other encyclopedic dictionary books (Jupp, 2006; Zedeck, 2014), which take a ‘more generic approach’, appear to include more detailed explanations and/or entries. However, it is interesting to note that while An A-Z of Applied Linguistics Research Methods includes the entries “stimulated recall” and “think-aloud protocols”, which are types of research methodology, the aforementioned dictionary books have no room for these entries. This clearly shows that although the book reviewed here does not include definitions as lengthy as those in the other books, it includes the crucial terms and concepts in the field.


Considering the concise explanations of the terms and concepts that are frequently used in much research in both applied linguistics and second language acquisition, I can definitely state that the authors have achieved the main goal of the book: to provide researchers, reviewers, consumers of research, and students of research methods in applied linguistics and second language acquisition with an easy way to refresh their memory on critical terms and the methodological practices as well as key terms in statistics. The book has quite a few strengths over traditional research methods textbooks. The major strength lies in brief but concise definitions/explanations of important terms used in research methods, accompanied by a user-friendly approach to information access, visuals to make entries more understandable, and a size that is easy to carry. Moreover, the book provides examples from studies conducted in language contexts to illustrate and exemplify the terms, together with related references at the end of almost each entry for additional information that readers might like to access. An A-Z of Applied Linguistics Research Methods appears to be a handy book for anyone interested in the research methods in the field to access the crucial terms quickly and efficiently.

However, a word of caution is offered by by the authors. The book cannot be used as stand-alone research methods textbook since most research methods textbooks available on the market provide the key terms and terminology within larger discussions enhanced by detailed extracts from articles published. Regarding the field of applied linguistics and second language acquisition, there are a variety of comprehensive research methods textbooks available, to which An A-Z of Applied Linguistics Research Methods can be used as a good accompaniment. For example, Mackey and Gass (2005), McKay (2006), Dörnyezi (2007), and Mackey and Gass (2012) provide comprehensive overviews of research methodology from selection of methodology practices, collecting the research data to reporting the results, with a focus on both qualitative and quantitative procedures as well as research on mixed methods. While Larson-Hall (2010) focuses on the use of statistics in second language research, Pallant (2016) and Field (2013) provide a comprehensive and practical guide to statistics through detailed explanations on how to analyze the data and to report the findings. The specific textbooks on the use of experimental research include the books written by Field and Hole (2003) and Phakiti, A. (2014). The research methods textbooks that take a more generic approach to education are those written by Cohen, Manion, and Morrison (2007), Fraenkel, Wallen, and Hyun (2011), and Cresswell (2014).

Despite numerous merits, the book still has room for improvement. It is not reasonable to expect the authors to include each and every term used in applied linguistics; however, a few of the key terms are not included in the book. For example, the entry on interview should have included a reference to retrospective interview. Another crucial missing entry is “phenomenological study”, which has much common with “grounded theory”, together with differences. The book includes the cross-referenced entry on validity with specific references to “construct validity”, “face validity”, and “ecological validity” (p. 199); however, the entries on the terms “content-related evidence of validity” and “criterion-related evidence of validity” are not available in the book. Lastly, another addition that would also benefit its readers is to include, a subject index at the end, such as one can find in Jupp’s (2006) dictionary. I believe that the inclusion of a subject index would contribute more to readers’ access to information than the author index available in the book.

Overall, An A-Z of Applied Linguistics Research Methods is a welcome addition to the field of applied linguistics and second language acquisition, contributing thorough and concise explanations of the terms found in research methodology in the field. The improvements suggested in this review notwithstanding, this book will prove to be useful for a broad range of readers involved in applied linguistics and second language acquisition, such as students in research methodology classes, lecturers of these classes, researchers, and consumers of research wishing to have quick and easy access to the key terms.


Cohen, L., Manion, L., & Morrison, K. (2007). Research methods in education (6th ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

Creswell, J. W. (2014). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches (4th ed.). London: Sage Publications, Inc.

Dörnyei, Z. (2007). Research methods in applied linguistics: Quantitative, qualitative and mixed methodologies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Field, A. (2013). Discovering statistics Using IBM SPSS statistics (4th ed.). London: Sage Publications.

Field, A., & Hole, G. (2003). How to design and report experiments. London: Sage Publications.

Fraenkel, J. R., Wallen, N. E., & Hyun, H. H. (2011). How to design and evaluate research in education (8th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Jupp, J. (Ed). (2006). The Sage dictionary of social research methods. London: Sage publications.

Larson-Hall, J. (2010). A guide to doing statistics in second language research using SPSS. New York, NY: Routledge.

Mackey, A., & Gass, S. M. (Eds.). (2012). Research methods in second language acquisition: A practical guide. Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell.

Mackey, A., & Gass, S. M. (2005). Second language research: Methodology and design. New Jersey, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

McKay, S. L. (2006). Researching second language classroom. New Jersey, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Pallant, J. (2016). SPSS survival manual (6th ed.). New York, NY: Open University Press.

Phakiti, A. (2014). Experimental research methods in language learning. New York, NY: Bloomsbury Academic.

Zedeck, S. (Ed.). (2014). APA dictionary of statistics and research methods. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Ferit Kılıçkaya is working as an associate professor at the Department of Foreign Language Education at Mehmet Akif Ersoy University, Burdur, Turkey. His main area of interests includes computer-assisted language learning and testing, and educational technology. He has published several articles and reviews in journals such as CALL-EJ Online, Educational Technology & Society, Teaching English with Technology, Educational Studies and TESL-EJ.

Format: Paperback
ISBN-13: 9781137403216
Pages: 224
Prices: U.K. £ 21.99