Qualitative methods: Overview


Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapters


Discussions of qualitative research usually begin by contrasting qualitative with quantitative approaches. Quantitative research may best be defined as research that relies on the reduction of data to numbers and statistical argument, and typically aims to produce knowledge that holds true of relatively large populations. In applied linguistics, quantitative approaches are often underpinned by theoretical assumptions about universal language learning processes and the influence of contextual factors such as gender, culture, and sociopsychological differences. Qualitative research in applied linguistics takes many forms and may best be defined as research that relies mainly on the reduction of data to words (codes, labels, categorization systems, narratives, etc.) and interpretative argument. In applied linguistics, qualitative research is also associated with a focus on the individual and the particular in regard to “cases” as subject matter, the visibility of the researcher and the specificity of findings. Whereas quantitative research findings are, in principle, unrelated to the identity of the researcher, qualitative findings are always contingent upon particular processes of data collection, analysis, and interpretation carried out by particular individuals in particular settings. Copyright © 2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe encyclopedia of applied linguistics
EditorsCarol A. CHAPELLE
Place of PublicationChichester
ISBN (Electronic)9781405198431
ISBN (Print)9781405194730
Publication statusPublished - 2013


Benson, P. (2013). Qualitative methods: Overview. In C. A. Chapelle (Ed.), The encyclopedia of applied linguistics (pp. 1-10). Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.


  • 21st century
  • Research methods in applied linguistics
  • Sociocultural language studies


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