Research methods in second language acquisition

Research methods in second language acquisition: A practical guide. Ed. By Alison Mackey and Susan M. Gass. (Guides to research methods in language and linguistics.) Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011. Pp. 336. ISBN 9781444334272. $44.95.

 Reviewed by Ferit Kılıçkaya, Middle East Technical University

Intended as a guide and resource book for students planning to design their own research projects, this book is divided into two parts. The first part focuses on data types, such as corpora and surveys. The second focuses on data coding, analysis, and replication, which is discussed in relation to coding, statistical analyses, and meta-analyses.

In the first chapter, the editors briefly introduce the aim of the book and describe how each chapter contributes to the overall theme. Ch. 2 discusses how learner corpus research has evolved since the late 1980s and deals with how learner corpora can be collected, analyzed, and interpreted. In Ch. 3, data collection methods used in generative second language acquisition are introduced, highlighting that the method chosen is determined by several factors, such as the linguistic phenomena and populations. Ch. 4 provides a discussion on how research methods such as experimental studies and action research can be utilized to investigate the issues that have emerged within the field of instructed second acquisition.

Ch. 5 introduces survey studies, explaining each step involved in designing a survey, analyzing data, and reporting the results. In Ch. 6, case study research is discussed, starting with a historical perspective, followed by an explanation of how a case study can be conducted. The authors of Ch. 7 focus on how to use psycholinguistic methodologies involving tasks, such as picture-word interference and sentence preamble, can be implemented to inquire into how people can comprehend and produce language. Ch. 8 considers second language writing and elaborates on how an analysis of the writing process can be achieved. Ch. 9 examines second language reading, dealing with issues such as methodological foundations and dual-language impacts on reading development.

In Ch. 10, qualitative research is discussed, highlighting its pivotal characteristics in research traditions, such as ethnography and conversation analysis. Ch. 11 addresses coding procedures of second language studies validly and reliably. Ch. 12 deals with coding qualitative data through computer-assisted data analysis software such as CAQDAS, ATLAS.ti, and HyperRESEARCH. The author of Ch. 13 discusses how to conduct the basic and most frequently used inferential statistical tests such as t-tests, analysis of variance, and chi-square and Pearson correlation tests. In Ch. 14, the authors look at the key steps of conducting a meta-analysis, a statistical method used to determine the mean and the variance of various studies conducted on a specific issue or topic. In the final chapter, Ch. 15, replication studies are discussed, with a focus on how to conduct a replication study.

Overall, the editors and the authors of the chapters have provided students and teachers in the field of second language acquisition with a handy book on various aspects of data types, coding, and analysis in research methodology. The study boxes providing summaries of exemplary studies on the topic discussed within each chapter, the study questions available at the end of each chapter, and the practical step-by-step guide offered throughout, will help readers to increase their knowledge as they design their own research projects.