Questionnaires in Second Language Research: Construction, Administration, and Processing

Questionnaires in Second Language Research: Construction, Administration, and Processing

Questionnaires in Second Language Research: Construction, Administration, and Processing

Questionnaires in Second Language Research: Construction, Administration, and Processing

Synopsis

One of the most common methods of data collection in second language research is using questionnaires of various kinds. In spite of the wide application of questionnaires in the second language field, there does not seem to be sufficient awareness in the profession about the theory of questionnaire design and processing. The usual--and in most cases false--perception is that anybody with a bit of common sense can design good questionnaires, and the practice of questionnaire design and use has remained largely uninformed by theory. As a consequence, it is all too common to see that studies which start out with exciting research questions are spoiled by the application of badly designed questionnaires and/or a lack of reliable and valid results due to faulty processing. One reason for the lack of sufficient awareness of questionnaire theory among language researchers is the absence of relevant summaries and training materials in the second language literature. The purpose of the current book is to fill this gap. The book is motivated by very practical purposes, namely to help researchers to increase the efficiency of their questionnaires and to avoid possible pitfalls. Accordingly, special care has been taken to avoid unnecesary jargon, to make the text accessible, and to relate everything to real-life situations. Illustrated by concrete examples, the book offers a thorough but accessible overview of the theory of questionnaire design, and administration and processing, with a special view on second language research applications. The conclusion summarizes the main points of questionnaire theory in a straightforward checklist that offers an easy-to-use tool for researchers. Researchers and students in TESOL and second-language programs and applied linguistics, with secondary markets in other language research (e.g., child language) will find this book useful.

Excerpt

One of the most common methods of data collection in second language (L2) research is to use questionnaires of various kinds. The popularity of questionnaires is due to the fact that they are easy to construct, extremely versatile, and uniquely capable of gathering a large amount of information quickly in a form that is readily processable. Indeed, the frequency of use of self-completed questionnaires as a research tool in the L2 field is surpassed only by that of language proficiency tests.

In spite of the wide application of questionnaires in the L2 field, there does not seem to be sufficient awareness in the profession about the theory of questionnaire design and processing. The usual - and in most cases false - perception is that anybody with a bit of common sense can construct a good questionnaire. This situation resembles somewhat the 'pre-scientific' phase of language testing (i. e., the period before the 1950s) when language tests were used without paying enough attention to their psychometric qualities, and every language teacher was, by definition, assumed to be capable of devising and grading tests and exams without any special training. It is my impression that many questionnaire users are unaware of the fact that there is considerable relevant knowledge and experience accumulated in various branches of the social sciences (e. g., psychometrics, social psychology, sociology). This is why it is all too common to find studies which start out with exciting research questions but are flawed by a badly designed or inadequately processed questionnaire.

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