27.5254, Review: Applied Ling: Loewen, Plonsky (2015)

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LINGUIST List: Vol-27-5254. Thu Dec 29 2016. ISSN: 1069 - 4875.

Subject: 27.5254, Review: Applied Ling: Loewen, Plonsky (2015)

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Date: Thu, 29 Dec 2016 18:50:20
From: Ferit Kilickaya [ferit.kilickaya at gmail.com]
Subject: An A-Z of Applied Linguistics Research Methods

Discuss this message:

Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/26/26-5389.html

AUTHOR: Shawn  Loewen
AUTHOR: Luke  Plonsky
TITLE: An A-Z of Applied Linguistics Research Methods
PUBLISHER: Palgrave Macmillan
YEAR: 2015

REVIEWER: Ferit Kilickaya, Mehmet Akif Ersoy University

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

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.


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