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Primary Research for Linguistics

Qualitative methods in linguistics and sociolinguistics are often use when you are trying to understand participants perceptions, beliefs, and ideologies about language.  Discourse analysis and critical discourse analysis are also frequently qualitative and rely on the researcher to interpret the data rather than a statistical procedure.  The most common research strategies associated with qualitative methods in applied linguistics are interviews, observations (ethnographic fieldwork), and case studies. 
It’s important to understand that, in general, qualitative research is not aimed at discovering something that is “true” or generalizable, but is concerned with the meaning associated with the data within the particular context in which the data was collected.  For instance, if I wanted to understand how Latinx students felt about the use of Spanish on campus, I might interview a group of purposefully selected Latinx students and ask questions related to their perceptions and interpretations of what they experience.  I might also observe in spaces where Spanish is used and record the interactions that I witness.  These would result in text which I would analyze for meaning (content).  

Interviewing Best Practices

Do's and Dont's


Make your interviewee comfortable.  Small talk helps!

Bring recording equipment.

Pay attention!

Come to the interview prepared.


Push your interviewee to answer questions they do not want to answer.

Be rigid.  Continue on conversations of interest and ask questions.

Allow your interviewee to pursue conversations that are off topic.

Driscoll, D. L. & Brizee, A.  "Interviewing."  Purdue Online Writing Lab.  Purdue University.  Web.  6 December 2015. 

Observing Best Practices

Think about how you might alter the scene being observed.

             Will you participate in the event?

             Will you interact with the people around you?

How will you record what you observe?

Should you give the people involved time to adjust to your presence?

Driscoll, D. L. & Brizee, A.  "Observing."  Purdue Online Writing Lab.  Purdue University.  Web.  7 December 2015. 

Introductory Information