Research Methods in Applied Linguistics: Quantitative, Qualitative and Mixed Methodologies

Zoltián Diörnyei. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. Pp. 1 + 336.

Reviewed by Vander Viana
Queen s University Belfast, UK

Zi³ltan Diörnyei s Research Methods in Applied Linguistics: Quantitative, Qualitative and Mixed Methodologies, as the title indicates, is dedicated to (future) applied linguists. However, given that the book show[s] that with a bit of care and lots of common sense all of us [italics added] can conduct investigations that will yield valuable results (p. 15), it does not limit its target readership to those within the academia, but goes further.

The volume is structured in five parts and fourteen chapters. The first part offers a look at the basics of research, including a discussion on what it takes to be a good researcher. The author then presents one of the most general and best known distinctions in research methodology (p. 24): qualitative and quantitative studies. Instead of conceiving them as two opposing fields without any intersection, Diörnyei sees them as the two ends of a continuum. Thus, special emphasis falls on mixed methods research, which combines both types of investigations. More intricate concepts within the label of quality criteria are introduced in chapter 3, such as reliability, validity, and practical considerations for designing a study. The final chapter in part I details longitudinal research from the different viewpoints of the three methods.

Part II deals with collecting data once a study has been designed. Readers learn how to carry out this task from the quantitative end (chapter 5), the qualitative perspective (chapter 6) and the mixed methods approach (chapter 7). Different from the threefold pattern which is adopted throughout the volume, Part II also reports on classroom research since the classroom . . . is a primary research site in applied linguistic investigations and the unique features of this context have a strong bearing on the way we conduct research in it (p. 176).

Data analysis forms the bulk of Part III. Here again the volume focuses on methodological procedures which are characteristic of quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods in three independent chapters.

Since research is inherently a social activity (p. 277), the author argues that writing up and disclosing results is an integral aspect of any study. Thus, Part IV details how to write a quantitative-based report in one chapter while the other blends recommendations on both qualitative and mixed methods papers.

Following a book-length presentation of methodological aspects, Part V offers, in a single chapter, some final considerations as far as method selection is concerned. Diörnyei proposes that readers should take a pragmatic orientation by considering aspects such as their own personal stance, the research itself and its audience.
Research Methods in Applied Linguistics does what it promises: it offers a way to get started in research methodology. The volume does not need to be read in a traditional way. In fact, one may eventually choose, for instance, to read all chapters on aspects of doing quantitative research first or only those which concern mixed methods. As the book is rich in cross-references, it is easy to find out to which page one should turn in order to read up on a topic. On the other hand, some readers may find these abundant references to be rather tiresome. In relation to the content, it would have been useful if the author had only made use of applied linguistic research to exemplify some of his points. This is especially the case in the discussion of quantitative techniques where novices in the area may have problems with some examples from the 1991 General US Social Survey, as is the case with the possible relationship between sex and race (pp. 229-230) and in the level of happiness and race (pp. 219-221). It might have been more fitting to stick to examples on, for instance, students performance on listening and reading tests as in the illustration of t-tests (pp. 217-218).

Keeping its positive points in mind, Diörnyei s Research Methods in Applied Linguistics can be recommended for courses on research methods both at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. It may also be useful to those who have a keen interest in the area and are willing to learn or develop their understanding of the methods employed in applied linguistics.