Introduction to Research
Methods in TESOL
Desmond Thomas,
University of Essex, 2012
Useful references
• Cohen,L. & Manion,L., 2007, Research Methods in
Education, Abingdon: Routledge
• Denscombe, M., 1998, The Good Research Guide for
Small-scale Social Research Projects, Open U. Press
• Gray, D. 2009, Doing Research in the Real World,
London:Sage
• Grix, J. 2004, The Foundations of Research,
Houndmills: Palgrave
• Hopkins, D. 2008, A Teacher’s Guide to Classroom
Research, Maidenhead: Open University Press
• Nunan, D. 1992, Research Methods in Language
Teaching, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Why do research?
1.To add to existing knowledge
2.To explain existing knowledge
3.To question or to challenge existing
knowledge
2 types of knowledge
Hard (scientific)
Soft (non-scientific)
• A process of reduction/isolation
• Complex ideas are broken down
into simpler components
• Impersonal
• Value-free
• Relies on quantitative data
• Phenomena are examined in
context
• Complexity is often desirable
• Personal
• Value-laden
• Relies on qualitative data
The Positivist (Scientific) Approach
• The world exists independently of our
knowledge of it (“The truth is out there”)
• Emphasis on observation and
verification of empirical evidence
• Emphasis on causal relationships and
deductive logic
• Emphasis on objectivity and the
neutrality of researcher and methods
The Interpretivist Approach
• The world is defined by our knowledge of it
(“Truth is subjective”, “Truth is relative”).
• Emphasis on describing and interpreting how
events occur within context
• Theory should be derived from data
(inductively) as well as tested through data
(deductively) in order to do justice to the
complexities of social phenomena
• Reflexivity: the researcher is never neutral
Two types of research (Gray 2009)
BASIC RESEARCH
APPLIED RESEARCH
Purpose
Purpose
Expand knowledge of organizational Improve understanding of specific
processes
organizational problems
Develop universal principles
Produce findings of significance and
value to society
Create solutions to organizational
problems
Develop findings of practical
relevance to organizational
stakeholders
Research in TESOL
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Ethnographic studies (inc. observation)
Action Research
Discourse/text analysis
Interaction analysis
Case studies
Surveys
Experiments?
Which type of approach?
• Qualitative or quantitative?
• What’s the difference?
• Can they be mixed together
successfully or not?
• Can a data collection method be
classified as both qualitative and
quantitative?
Which data collection methods?
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Questionnaires (closed, open-ended?)
1-to-1 Interviews
Focus Groups
Observation Schedules
Text/Discourse Analysis
Evaluative frameworks
Tests
Some key concepts
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Validity of claims and evidence
Reliability of claims and evidence
Triangulation of data sources
Ethical standards in data collection
Developing a research project
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
Choosing a topic
Developing research questions
Formulating claims or hypotheses
Engaging with the literature
Planning data collection and analysis
Preparing a detailed research proposal
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Research Methods in Education - ORB