Conducting research in English language teaching (11 May 07)

Date: 11 May, 2007
Location: York St John University
Event type: Subject Centre sponsored lecture

Guest speaker

The guest speaker was Huw Jarvis, Senior Lecturer and Researcher in ELT, University of Salford.

His presentation provided participants with insights into conducting and publishing research in ELT. It did so by documenting a case study of a recent piece of research into language learners' perceptions and practices when using computer-based-materials for self-study purposes in language resource centres. It took the audience through some of the challenges, procedures and issues arising in ELT research, and illustrates how these were addressed within a specified area of study.

This lecture was sponsored by the Subject Centre's guest speaker fund.


The lecture will take place at
York St John University (YSJU)
Lord Mayor's Walk
YO31 7EX

Event Report: From conception to publication - conducting research in English language teaching

By Rachel Wicaksono

Huw Jarvis has nearly 25 years’ experience as a language teacher and trainer and has worked with teachers in Sudan, Kuwait, Thailand, Malaysia, China and Taiwan. His primary research interests cover issues of technology in language pedagogy.

Huw’s workshop at York St John University provided insights into conducting and publishing research in ELT by documenting a case study of a project on language learners’ perceptions and practices when using computer-based materials in language resource centres. Huw began by describing the framework for his talk on ELT research as follows:

  • Where? ELT publishing outlets;
  • Why? Reasons for conducting and publishing research;
  • How? The research process – topic, literature review, research questions, methodology and the peer review process.

The workshop participants were asked to list examples of ELT publications and then consider ways of categorising their list. The following categories were suggested:

  • Types
    • Journals, chapters in books, conference proceedings, shorter articles, web postings, IATEFL SIG publications.
  • Differentiation
    • Peer-reviewed/refereed (research) vs. others (resource/descriptive)
    • ELT specific vs. ELT related
    • Orientation – ‘teaching’ (pedagogical/educational) vs. ‘learning’ (second language acquisition)
    • Area specific (topic and/or region) vs. general
    • Online (free of charge?) vs. print

Next, the participants were asked to consider why English language teachers might conduct and publish research. Suggested reasons included to:

  • investigate a teaching/learning problem;
  • find out something new – ‘knowledge building’;
  • develop (professionally and personally);
  • take the next step in your career;
  • get the most out of MA and PhD level study;
  • submit to a university Research Assessment Exercise.

Huw then described how the research process begins with the formulation of a research topic and its articulation in a provisional title and key questions. This includes a survey of what is already known (i.e. a literature review) and what is missing (i.e. a niche). Huw illustrated this process by asking the participants to suggest possible titles and research questions for a project he was involved in at the Language Resource Centre (LRC) at Salford University. He then outlined the importance of clarifying the theoretical base of the research, choosing a research design and then deciding on the generation, collation, presentation and discussion of data and findings, including the importance of process and genre throughout these stages. These processes were demonstrated when Huw described how he had taken the LRC project through each stage. Finally, the process and the procedures for publishing in a peer-reviewed journal were discussed and there were questions from the audience.

The workshop was attended by tutors from the International Centre, lecturers from the BA English Language and Linguistics course, and current participants on the MA English Language Teaching course at York St John University. The participants felt that their awareness of issues involved in conducting and publishing pedagogic-based ELT research had been raised in an enjoyable and inspiring manner.