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Review of  Research Methods for Applied Language Studies

Reviewer: Ferit Kilickaya
Book Title: Research Methods for Applied Language Studies
Book Author: Keith Richards Steven John Ross Paul Seedhouse
Publisher: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Issue Number: 23.3069

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AUTHOR: Keith Richards, Steven John Ross, and Paul Seedhouse
TITLE: Research Methods for Applied Language Studies
SUBTITLE: An Advanced Resource Book for Students
SERIES TITLE: Routledge Applied Linguistics
PUBLISHER: Routledge
YEAR: 2011

Ferit Kılıçkaya (Ph.D.), Department of Foreign Language Education, Middle East
Technical University, Ankara, Turkey


This book is one of the series of comprehensive textbooks, Routledge Applied
Linguistics. It provides readers a step-by-step approach to the processes of
research, from research questions to a complete research project, serving as a
resource text for students and scholars in the field of second and foreign
language learning. The book comprises eight chapters, each followed by
exploration tasks to help the reader better comprehend and apply the knowledge
and practice presented.

In Chapter 1, ‘Introduction to research in language teaching and learning’, the
authors, after introducing the aim and the focus of the book, provide an
overview of research and what phases it involves. The authors present a research
design flow chart summarizing the processes of research, and go through these
processes in turn: The research questions, how they relate to the literature,
the justification for doing the research, the evidence to provide an answer to
research questions, type of data, better methods of collecting data, choosing
appropriate methodology, writing research proposals, getting permissions and
ethical approval, data collection, analysis and relating these to the research
questions, and finally, writing up an article, dissertation, or thesis.
Following the discussion of these processes, quantitative and qualitative
approaches are explained in detail, with a focus on ethnographic research and
conversation analysis.

Chapter 2, entitled ‘Interaction and pedagogy’, highlights two pivotal
concepts in second language (SL) classrooms: spoken interaction and pedagogical
action. Noticing and repair, the two important concepts in interaction analyses,
are discussed taking into consideration the research design and findings of two
prominent articles in SL research. Moreover, through using SPSS data provided
the readers are guided through a test of independence conducted between
‘noticing’ and interrogative ‘development’.

In Chapter 3, ‘The classroom as a language learning environment’, the
distinction between two basic approaches to research, descriptive and
hypothetical-deductive, are investigated. The first part of the chapter
specifically examines ethnographic observation, going into details of grounded
theory and thematic analysis. The examination is enriched with several excerpts
from articles published on these issues. The second part discusses intervention
studies, focusing on an exemplary article discussing the impact of task-based
practice on the students’ development of automaticity. The chapter ends by
providing an application of t-test in a study related to vocabulary learning.

Chapter 4, entitled ‘Affect and belief in language learning’, deals with
interviews and surveys. The first part focuses on types of interviews and how
interviews can be conducted, discussed in detail and step-by-step analysis. The
reader, as in previous chapters, is guided through exemplary articles benefiting
from interviews and self-ratings as data collection instruments and statistical
analyses such as multiple regression and Rasch.

Chapter 5, ‘Language learning tasks’, highlights task-based learning in pedagogy
and research in SLA (Second Language Acquisition) and exemplifies how ‘tasks’
are integrated into the research process in the excerpts from two articles
provided in the chapter. Discussions are enhanced with statistical analyses
through ANOVA and ANCOVA.

Chapter 6, entitled ‘Interaction, context and identity’, discusses the use of
qualitative approaches such as Conversation Analysis and ethnography in
describing and analyzing the relationship between context and identity in spoken

Chapter 7, ‘Assessing language and accessing constructs’, discusses the
constructs in language learning such as fluency, motivation and teachability,
and pays special attention to implicit and explicit knowledge, and proficiency
through excerpts of several articles published on these constructs. The
discussion of these issues is accompanied by statistical analyses through Factor
analysis and Bivariate correlation analysis, explaining each step involved.

Chapter 8, entitled ‘Mixed-methods studies and complexity’, is the concluding
chapter of the book, combining the methodologies in a mixed-methods approach to
analyze complex systems. After examining the characteristics of a complexity
theory approach within research in language learning and teaching, the chapter
elaborates on how different methods can be combined, suggesting three
possibilities: Discourse analysis and corpus linguistics, SLA and corpus
linguistics, SLA and conversation analysis. The chapter further considers
conceptual issues: reliability, validity (internal, external, ecological, and
construct), epistemology and ontology.


This would be a useful textbook for postgraduate courses in foreign/second
language learning. The book will provide graduate students majoring in Applied
Linguistics with an opportunity not only to analyze but also to evaluate
research articles written by leading researchers in the field. The major
strength of this book lies in the use of key readings published on the core
areas of applied linguistics, together with key questions and tasks that combine
the pivotal concepts. The exercises and tasks provided makes this book unique as
the readers have the opportunity to apply what they have acquired to proposed
questions, coming up with their own reflections.

We have a variety of books recently published on research in foreign/second
language learning (Mackey & Gass, 2005; McKay, 2006; Larson-Hall, 2010; Porte,
2010; Mackey & Gass, 2012). The structure of the current book is very different
from the books published by Mackey & Gass (2005) and McKay (2006). This book
does not follow a linear structure focusing successively on issues in research
such as data collection measures, quantitative and qualitative studies, etc. It
deals instead with the core issues in applied linguistics, and discusses
research design taking these issues into consideration (excluding Chapter 1,
which aims to provide a very clear and brief introduction to the steps,
summarizing the processes of research). This non-linear approach, if correct to
label it this way, can be a little problematic for students used to following a
linear approach. For instance, in Chapter 2, a test of independence is conducted
and the readers are guided through the analysis conducted on ‘noticing’ and
‘interrogative development’, while Chapter 3 is devoted to discussion of
ethnographic observation, going into details of grounded theory and thematic
analysis, together with an application of t-tests in research conducted on
vocabulary learning.

The analyses conducted using SPSS present screen shots of SPSS to guide the
reader; however, there is no information provided on how to present the results
in a scholarly way. This lack of information on presenting the results from
statistical analyses persists in the following chapters, such as in Chapter 5,
focusing on analyses conducted through ANOVA and ANCOVA. The readers can
compensate for this through reading Chapter 13 (pp. 245-274) of the book edited
by Mackey and Gas (2012), which provides example reports of the analyses conducted.

The reviewer suggests that the authors of the current book should include
information on how to choose the appropriate measurement test, especially for
quantitative studies, which would further enrich the book (such as the flow
chart provided by Porte (2010), on pages 292-293, reprinted from Hatch and
Lazaraton (1991)). As it is clearly stated that the target audience is upper
undergraduates, postgraduates, teachers and researchers in the field of language
learning, the book is more suitable to be used in classes where students have
taken research courses on social sciences and language-related issues. In order
to fully benefit from the key readings and concepts, tasks and practice provided
by the current book, this reviewer suggests that the readers refer to the
statistical analyses provided by Larson-Hall (2010) and Pallant (2010), which
present a simple, step-by-step guide to data analysis process using SPSS without
focusing on the mathematical underpinnings and to conversation analysis
discussed by Liddicoat (2007).

Overall, this book provides readers an advanced introduction to quantitative and
qualitative research methods frequently used in research projects as well as in
articles published within the field of second and foreign language learning. It
is a well-structured book, offering clear discussion and explanation powered by
tasks on key articles in the field and follow-up questions for anyone, not just
students, interested in language related issues.


Hatch, E. and Lazaraton, A. (1991). The research manual: Design and statistics
for applied linguistics. New York: Newbury House Publishers.

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

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

McKay, S. L. (2006). Researching second language classrooms. Mahwah, New Jersey:
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

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

Liddicoat, A. (2007). An introduction to conversation analysis. New York:

Pallant, J. (2010). SPSS Survival Manual: A step by step guide to data analysis
using SPSS (4th ed.). New York, NY: Open University Press.

Porte, G. K. (2010). Appraising research in second language learning: A
practical approach to critical analysis of quantitative research (2nd ed.).
Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Ferit Kılıçkaya is a Doctor of English at the Department of Foreign Language Education, Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey. He received his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in English Language Teaching at the same university. His main area of interests includes computer assisted language learning (CALL), teacher education and technology, language teaching methodology, second language education, language testing, authoring tools, and culture and language teaching. He has published articles and reviews in journals such as CALL-EJ Online, Educational Technology & Society, Teaching English with Technology, Educational Studies, and The Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology.

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