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RESEARCH METHODOLOGY IN LANGUAGE TEACHING
Learning Strategy 3
Introducing the conceptualization and types of Research Designs
The purpose of the 3rd learning strategy is to understand how you can define a solid
research idea coherent with a language research perspective and connected with a
research design. Additionally, students should comprehend how to establish a relation
between their research ideas and the research fields of the Licenciatura en Lengua
Extranjera Inglés. There are some questions that orient and guide the reflection to
continue defining your research idea:
a) What is the research objective of your idea?
b) How do you intend or plan to achieve your research objective?
c) What evidences would you collect?-Why and How?
d) What could be the contribution?
One of the main concepts to learn through this strategy is the definition of Research
What exactly is a Research Design?
It is often hard to think in the abstract about how to conduct research. Teacher-
Researcher Educator-Evaluators (TREEs) often want clear categories in order to be
able to think about research; if you can’t think clearly, it makes it more difficult to
act clearly. It helps to familiarize yourself with research categories because it gives
a sense of “what to do.” Two terms helpful in thinking about research are design
and data, or more specifically, research designs and data collection instruments.
Creswell (2003, p. 13) uses the term strategy to explain design. He also uses the
terms tradition, method, approach, procedure, and process. Ary, Jacobs, and
Razavieh (1990) say a research design is “a description of the procedures to be
followed in testing the hypothesis” (p. 110). For Babbie (2004), research design
“involves a set of decisions regarding what topic is to be studied among what
populations with what research methods for what purpose” (p. 112) Gay and
Airasian (2000) define research design as “a general strategy for conducting a
research study” (p. 107), which describes the basic structure of the study. They
explain that research design tells the researcher which strategy to select, and
includes the hypotheses, variables, and real world.
The definition we are going to take comes from Griffee, (2012): A research design
describes the procedure to conduct your research idea. It is a set of instructions or
procedure for data collection and analysis. The research design draws a path to
develop a research project.
How many Research Designs are there?
As reading the literature of research, you will identify different research designs.
Since you are initiating the exercise of language research, the purpose is to identify
the research designs connected with your idea and the purpose of the project.
Literature is huge so it is necessary to narrow down the process of identifying
What is the relation between a research design and your research idea?
Since a research design describes the path to conduct and understand a research
idea, you should know specific research designs, which are possible paths for you to
develop the research idea you are constructing. Before revising the research
designs, make sure that you understand the distinction between a confirmatory
study and a descriptive study to have a clear idea of how to connect your research
idea with the research designs.
1. A Research design based on Action Research
The information below has been taken from the theoretical presentation stated by Griffee,
(2012) who relates the definition of Action Research with other authors:
“Patton (1990) defines action research as aiming “at solving specific problems within a
program, organization, or community” (p. 157). ARD can be defined as small-scale
investigation by teachers on specific classroom problems,” (p.109).
2. A Research design based on Narrative Research
There are some authors who have recently discussed the path of narrative research
to develop a research idea. The theoretical basis of this definition comes from
Mendieta, J., (2013), a Colombian teacher who synthesized the principles,
characteristics and the purpose of narrative research. The next literal excerpt is
taken from the author’s presentation:
“As stated by Sikes and Gale (2006), we human beings construct narratives to explain
our doings as well as to interpret our and others’ past, present and imagined world
experiences. If narratives, or stories as they are commonly referred, are present in our
day to day, they must then be filled with social and cultural meaning; the meaning we
give to our lives and to all what occurs around us,” (p. 136).
“Stories can help us better understand the world of teaching and learning since teachers
and learners, like any other human being, are storytellers who engage in narrative acts to
make sense of their and others’ knowledge and experiences,” (p. 136).
3. A Research design based on Interactional Research
Interactional research makes reference to the study of (classroom) discourse. As it
is stated by Ellis, R. (2012), the study of discourse aims to analyze social functions of
the language, communicative acts and classroom interaction between participants.
4. A research design based on ethnography
Babbie (2004) defines ethnography such as “a study that focuses on detailed and accurate
description rather than explanation” (p. 289). Based on Griffee, (2012) an ethnography is
more likely to attempt to define the culture included in the study and make explicit
cultural characteristics since it is the core of the study.
5. A research design based on experimental research: It mainly responds to the
tradition of confirmatory research. There are specific characteristics that define an
experimental research: Variables, the control of the facts that you plan in your
research design, for example the application of tests to measure and evaluate. You
can establish comparisons with other groups of participants. According to Cook and
Campbell (1979) cited by Griffee, (2012), “All experiments involve at least a treatment,
an outcome measure, units of assignment, and some comparison,” (p.71).
6. A research design based on a **case study:
According to Griffee, (2012), “A Case study is occasionally confused with
experimental single-case design, (p.96).” What happens is that a case study could be
based on an experimental study, but also from the previous research designs.
Therefore, a case study should be supported from the characteristics and
o A case study should involve specific and particular characteristics to “probe
deeply” and “analyze intensively” according to Cohen, Manion, and Morrison
(2000). “It means that a Case Study does not accept surface data at face
value, but seeks through analysis to create a deeper explanation of the data.
Reflect on your research idea and the arguments that support it, including the
context. From that, establish a relation between your idea and the possible
research design(s) that could define the path or your idea.
For further questions, contact your national teacher:
Griffee, D., (2012). An Introduction to Second Language Research Methods. Design and
Data. TESL-EJ Publications, tesl-ej.org. Editor: M.E. Sokolik, University of California,
Mendieta, J.A., (2013). Narrative research: An alternative approach to study language
teaching and learning. Folios, segunda época. No. 37. Primer semestre de 2013, pp. 135-
147. Universidad de la Sabana, Bogotá, Colombia.