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Basics of Linguistic Research Methodology

Contents
1. 2. 3. 4. Introduction ........................................................................................................................ 3 Choice and formulation of a research topic ....................................................................... 4 Research questions and hypothesis .................................................................................... 5 Research methods .............................................................................................................. 6 4.1. 4.2. 4.3. 5. 6. Quantitative approach ................................................................................................. 6 Qualitative approach ................................................................................................... 7 Mixed methods ............................................................................................................ 7

Bibliography ...................................................................................................................... 8 Documentation styles ......................................................................................................... 9 1. MLA ................................................................................................................................ 9 2. APA................................................................................................................................. 9 3. Harvard ........................................................................................................................... 9

Conclusion ............................................................................................................................... 10 Bibliography ............................................................................................................................ 11

1. Introduction
There is a vast number of handbooks and guides issued on a topic of research methodologies, not only in linguistics but in other fields as well. When a researcher, especially a novice researcher finds himself at the beginning of writing of his masters dissertation or PhD thesis, it is inevitable for him to get lost, or just confused. The existence of these books does not offer entire help to the researcher, but they still offer motivation and assistance in the first steps, and later handrails towards the goal. In the following paper, a few most important topics on the linguistics research methodology are covered, starting with the topic and hypothesis formulation, description of different approaches and choice of bibliography and documentation styles.

2. Choice and formulation of a research topic


There have been many discussions and dilemmas whether a person should do a thorough theoretical research before formulating a topic of a research paper, or vice versa. According to Maria Kleut (Kleut, 2010, p.14 -21) there is no right order. For a novice researcher it is inevitable to spend a certain amount of time reading and investigating the literature and then make a choice and formulate the topic. On the other hand, a more experienced researcher does the research and the topic formulation simultaneously, or he already has some of the topics prepared. As Kleut suggests, it is important to be up to date with contemporary topics and issues in a certain field of interest, mostly because vast number of papers is being published very often, and many topics can already be investigated, phenomena explained and theories modified due to new research results. A good topic, according to Kleut, should be relevant to the field, scientifically appropriate, and adapted to the abilities of a researcher. When it comes to the topic being relevant to the field, this is certainly a relative category. This is because a topic can mean investigating something completely unknown (which is very rare) or can mean challenging someone elses work by modifying results with similar, but updated research, or interpreting someone elses findings in a different way. Scientifically appropriate topic should have two very important features, innovation and clearly defined scope of the topic, which simply means that a person researching and writing should pay attention to the boundaries of a topic, not to go too far and get stuck with irrelevant pieces of information; also, to pay attention to the time necessary for a certain topic to be processed, investigated and delivered in writing. Last, but not the least important thing is the abilities of a researcher, which includes his intellectual abilities, talent, knowledge and education in a chosen field of research. It has been suggested, when it comes to dilemma in formulation a research topic, that a researcher should conduct some kind of a pilot research on a smaller example just to be sure he is on a write track. There is also a suggestion to have a working title in order to have enough space to adjust the topic during the research.

3. Research questions and hypothesis


When a researcher comes to a final decision what his topic is going to be, there comes the second step, or defining the hypothesis and research questions. Hypothesis is more precise than research question and it is formulated as a statement. Hypothesis is something that has to be proved or disproved. There are several characteristics of a good hypothesis (Kothari, 2004, p.185): a) Hypothesis should be clear and precise; b) Hypothesis should be capable of being tested; c) Hypothesis should be limited in scope and must be specific; d) Hypothesis should be amenable to testing within most reasonable time; On the other hand, research questions are formulated as interrogatives and they are a vehicle that leads the researcher through his research (Litosseliti, 2010, p. 9-27). Research questions can come from three different sources: literature, pre-existing topic and out of researchers findings. As already mentioned above, research questions are interrogative, however, they are divided in groups. First distinction can be made between descriptive, explanatory and evaluative. However, there is another categorization: a) Primary/secondary Some research questions are more important than others; b) Main/contributory There is a possibility that a researcher will have to answer the contributory question first in order to come to the main question; c) Overarching/subordinate Several research questions can be grouped hierarchically d) Empirical/methodological/theoretical e) Researcher-generated/participant-generated The main difference between these two questions is whether the research is done on the participants, with the participants or for the participants f) Empirical/speculative One may use many research questions, but it is important establish both sequence and hierarchy, also, research questions should be clearly formulated, and answerable, which means that too general questions should be avoided. When writing a research paper it is important to have a well-developed system of organizing and documenting research questions. The author (Litosseliti, 2010, p. 25) suggests 5

using a table, where one can enter research questions, data needed for that question, collection of the data and the analysis of the data. This table can be useful, first of all, to organize thinking, then to stay on track and to prove that all the data mentioned in the paper were not invented. Lastly, the reader will appreciate the effort and clear organization.

4. Research methods
After the topic, hypothesis and research questions, every researcher has to choose and decide which research method and data collection he will use in the research. There are 3 different approaches to research (Creswell, 2003, p.17), and those are: 1) Quantitative approach 2) Qualitative approach 3) Mixed methods approach

4.1.

Quantitative approach

Quantitative approach to research focuses on the quantity of a particular characteristic or item (Litosseliti, 2010, p.52). Greatest advantage of this approach to research is that enables the researcher to compare large numbers of things/people/data using comparatively easy index. All the data collected can be statistically analyzed and presented. Quantitative approach is deductive, which means that on already known theory researcher develops hypotheses which later he has to prove or disprove. With quantitative research we gain general information. Researches who apply quantitative approach have in mind two very important things: a) Reliability b) Validity Reliability is viewed through the instruments (such as tests, observations, questionnaires etc.) used to measure a certain phenomenon. Quantitative researchers use the measure of consistency to determine whether a particular instrument is reliable or not. Validity is assessed through the extent to which a study and its components are valid. There is internal validity, which determines whether an instrument used in the study actually 6

measures what is supposed to measure, and external validity, also called generalizability or likelihood that study findings will be applicable to the larger, let us say, population represented by the study.

4.2.

Qualitative approach

Qualitative research is concerned with structures and patterns and or how and why something is. (Litosseliti, 2010. p.52). This approach to research is inductive, which means that theory is derived from the results of the research. Results gained from qualitative research are not necessarily statistical. However, qualitative approach is often described as the opposite of quantitative approach, but many scholars and researchers are now choosing mixed methods and interdisciplinary approaches. This approach is mostly used to explore new phenomena. Qualitative approach is central approach in research conducted in education, social sciences, sociology, humanities and health studies. Range of methods available is very broad, and those are among others interviews, observations, diaries, journals etc.

4.3.

Mixed methods

Mixed methods approach is a combination of the two previously mentioned approaches. Purposes of the mixed methods are, initiation, which means discovering meaningful contradictions and the paradox; complementarity, which is actually taking different points of view on the same subject and, development, which is, using findings of the one method for the design of the other. Quantitative and qualitative methods can be combined or integrated, and according to Tashkakkori and Creswell (Litosseliti, 2010, p.33) that can be done in the following way: a) Two types of research questions (with qualitative and quantitative approaches) b) The manner in which the research questions are developed (participatory vs. preplanned) c) Two types of sampling procedures (e.g., probability and purposive) d) Two types of data collection procedures (e.g., focus groups and surveys) e) Two types of data (e.g., numerical and textual) f) Two types of data analysis (statistical and thematic) g) Two types of conclusions (emic and etic representations, objective and subjective)

5. Bibliography
As previously mentioned at the beginning of this paper, there is no right solution to the dilemma whether a researcher should formulate the topic first or do the theoretical research instead. That is why bibliography comes after methodology, even though it could have easily gone before. Nevertheless, in this part different written materials will be discussed and the bibliography of the research paper. According to Maria Kleut (Kleut, 2010, p.22-26) there are 3 possible types of written materials (i.e. literature or theory) for writing a research paper, and those are: a) Bibliography notes or secondary resources b) Documentary notes or primary resources c) Methodological notes or personal ideas and critics The nature of the resources will depend on the science, discipline and the topic of the research. If the topic is well developed resources are relatively easy to find. Resources are divided in two groups: a) Primary b) Secondary Primary resources are, for instance, historical documents, literary pieces, statistical data, experiment results etc. and it is important to bear in mind that if one research or discipline considers something as primary resource, other discipline will not, and vice versa. Secondary resources are, for example, encyclopedias, vocabularies, essays, studies, summaries etc. Therefore, to clarify, primary resources are those that make the foundation of the research and are closely connected to the topic of the research, and secondary resources are about the topic, form more distant point of view. It is also important to mention that, except primary and secondary resources, another resources can be used, and those are course books, descriptions of others experiences, personal opinions etc. Working bibliography is the list of resources, primary and secondary, used in the development and creation of the research paper. After that, the final bibliography is made and presented with the paper. Every resource used in the creation of any research paper needs to 8

be cited and listed in a particular way. There are several ways and rules on how to cite and quote an author and number of authors.

6. Documentation styles
Many researchers and scholars use a number of different documentation styles, and it is up to the researcher, or in cases where masters dissertation or PhD thesis is written, then is up to the mentor to decide which one should be used in the paper.

1. MLA
Most common documentation form in humanities is MLA, which stands for Modern Language Association of America, all the details and instructions can be found online or in handbooks issued by MLA. Here is an example of citing book with just one author: Finch, Geoffrey. How to study linguistics. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.

2. APA
APA stands for The American Psychological Association, and it is recommended documentation style for research papers in social sciences. As well as for MLA style, many handbooks have been published explaining the APA style, and guides have been issued on several web pages. The example of book with just one author written in APA style follows: Finch, G. (2003). How to study linguistics. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

3. Harvard
Harvard is known as Author & Date system and it emphasizes the author, and the date of publication. Example: FINCH, G. (2003) How to study linguistics. New York: Palgrave Macmillan Previously mentioned documentation styles are most commonly used, and a researcher should pay close attention to the citing and documenting all the literature used in his researcher, mostly because bibliography and the correct citing is one of the means of scientific communication (Kleut, 2010, p.41)

Conclusion
When we take a look at all the previously covered topics, we can see that even though all the basics were covered, and methods explained, there is still a lot of work on the researcher himself. There is an endless number of handbooks and guides for writing masters dissertation and PhD thesis, seminar papers and research proposals, but just few of them can actually do all the work. When a person makes a decision to do a research, there are so many processes he will go through, and things he has to discover, methods he has to apply, data collected he has to analyze in order for the research to be conducted well. Topics in linguistics are innumerous, but a lot of them have already been used, researches conducted, theories updated and hypothesis proven, and instead in the end, a linguist has to ask himself at the beginning what he wants to find out, or challenge or intentionally or unintentionally discover.

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Bibliography
1. CRESWELL, J. W. (2003) Research design: Qualitative, quantitative and mixed method. 2nd Ed. California: Sage Publications, Inc. 2. GIVEN, L. M. (ed.) (2008) The Sage encyclopedia of qualitative research methods. California: Sage Publications. 3. KLEUT, M. (2008) Nauno delo Od istraivanja do tampe. Novi Sad: Akademska knjiga 4. KOTHARI, C. R. (2004) Research methodology: Methods & Techniques. New Delhi: New Age International (P) Ltd. 5. LITOSSELITI, L. (ed.) (2010) Research Methods in Linguistics. London: Continuum Books

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