Vol. 4. No. 4 R-18 December 2000
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Stimulated Recall Methodology in Second Language Research
Susan M. Gass and Alison Mackey (2000)
Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
Pp. xiii + 177
ISBN 0-8058-3224-6 (paper)
US $18.50 (also available in cloth, $39.95)

Research methodologies in second language acquisition (SLA) are moving away from an earlier focus on product only, and beginning to incorporate techniques that will lead to better understanding of the process of SLA. This has led to more introspective methods, one of which, stimulated recall methodology (SRM), is described in this volume. The book is another in Erlbaum's series on Second Language Acquisition Research, several of which have been reviewed previously in TESL-EJ.[1]

Stimulated Recall Methodology in Second Language Research consists of five chapters, three appendices, and a wide selection of resources (in addition to references at the back of the book). The three appendices present helpful samples from both data collection and analysis processes. The strength of the book lies in the organization, the content covered in the chapters, and the samples in the appendices.

The first chapter is titled "Introduction to Introspective Methods." This chapter presents the historical development of SRM as a part of the wider area of introspective research methods. This helps the reader understand the roots of SRM, how it has developed through the years, and where it stands within the research methodology literature. The authors describe the strengths of this method and also cover the limitations of introspective methods in general.

In discussing SRM in its broader context, the second chapter focuses on "Introspection and Second Language Research." This chapter questions an important phenomenon in SLA research: process- versus product-oriented research methodology. In addition, this chapter presents a possible classification of categories of introspective methods. This classification visually displays for the readers what SRM can do in certain research areas. A literature review table ranging from 1977 to 1999 displays the major studies conducted using this methodology.

Chapter 3, "Characterization of Stimulated Recall," describes the stimulated recall procedure in detail and presents a through review of studies that have been conducted in SLA research using SRM. In this chapter, the authors present types of stimulated recall, discuss issues in stimulated recall methodology (timing, recall, training process in recall, etc.), and make recommendations for researchers.

The next chapter, "Using Stimulated Recall Methodology," goes into specific details about ways to carry out stimulated recall. Through a systematic presentation, the authors take readers from the data collection process through data analysis and coding, with sufficient and meaningfully-selected examples. Discussions on pitfalls of this methodology and recommendations from the authors make this chapter even stronger. [-1-]

The authors deal with the limitations and propose additional uses of SRM in chapter 5, titled "Limitations and Additional Uses." The criticisms that have been directed at stimulated recall during its history are organized around the issues of validity and reliability. Both the advantages and the disadvantages of the method are discussed in this chapter (based on the literature review), and summarized in tables. The authors also propose areas where SRM may possibly be applied, based on published articles in major leading journals in the field.

SRM in second language research is gaining increasing popularity as researchers focus on language learning as a process. This book provides a guide for researchers new to this methodology who might want to consider using these techniques. From an action research paradigm, the book could also be of great value for practitioners, since it covers the literature related to SRM and provides a wide range of examples to clarify the theory. This book can be used as a course book for students of research methodology in SLA, or to cover process-oriented research design in any research methodology course. By taking readers through the history of introspective methods, discussing SRM's strengths and weaknesses, and presenting the procedures in detail, the authors contribute a great deal to the field of research and language studies.

End Note

[1] The following books in the series are reviewed in this or previous issues of TESL-EJ:

Arif Altun
Nigde University, Turkey
<altunar@hotmail.com >

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