Saturday, January 22, 2011

Literature Review & Research Method

My fourth semester has just begun, and I have just finished reading all the literature that I downloaded or borrowed from the library over the past year. I believe I have just enough to make a case for my research proposal, however I'd like to collect more to make a more convincing case.

The last piece of literature ended up being one of the most rewarding as it was a dissertation done by a former student from the same department. She was interested in the same population, although not necessarily the same sample. I haven't even decided who to select for my study yet. She was also interested in one major variable. The biggest difference was in another major variable, as she was interested in teacher knowledge and I am interested in intercultural communication competence of teachers.

In total, I have read nearly 30 pieces of literature, most of them being peer-reviewed scholarly articles. Of the research-based pieces, an overwhelming majority were qualitative. There were a few quantitative studies, and they investigated the accuracy of measurement tools for various aspects of intercultural communication competence.

As I read through them, I created a document that comprised of summative notes for each study. I also created a color code which I applied to each article after reading. Green indicated that the study directly relates to my research interest. Yellow indicated that the study indirectly relates to my research. This means that certain parts of the study are useful, but the study as a whole is not. And red indicated that I found no value in the study. Fortunately for me, only a few articles were coded in red. In terms of quantity, yellow had a slight edge over green.

All of these articles only relate to my topic of interest. I haven't included literature relating to my research methods. The studies I read are helping to inform my decision of which method to implement.

I am most certainly going to investigate qualitatively, but I'm not certain to what extent the study will be qualitative. This means I am considering a mixed-method approach. A course on this approach will be offered next year, thus will better inform my decision. If I do use quantitative methods, they will definitely be descriptive and perhaps investigating a correlation between teaching successfully in another country and intercultural communication competence. I'm taking a statistics course in correlation & regression this semester that will provide me the tools and guidance if I choose to investigate this connection.

Just yesterday, I learned about the two major purposes of regression analysis: prediction and explanation. I could frame my research in either way, the former being the easier. If my purpose were to be prediction, then I "success teaching abroad" would be my criterion and one or more of the measurement tools for different aspect of intercultural communication competence would be my predictor. I could also switch around, making intercultural competence the criterion and variables in teaching success abroad as my predictors. If my purpose were to be explanation, then one possible research question would be: "Why do (experienced) EFL teachers vary in (one aspect of) intercultural competence?" with similar research questions varying in the description of the EFL teacher and the aspect of intercultural competence.

I expect that this semester will help me gain the confidence to implement quantitative methods. I also expect to collect more literature about my research interest in a class called "Cultural Curriculum." If I stumble across something illuminating in my research during the semester, I will definitely post it. If not, I will post something after the semester is done.

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