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Applied Linguistics Review

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Interaction in qualitative questionnaires: From self-report to intersubjective achievement

Meike Wernicke
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  • Language and Literacy Education, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
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/ Steven Talmy
  • Language and Literacy Education, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
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Published Online: 2017-05-09 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/applirev-2017-0030


Survey questionnaires are among the most widely-used research methods in applied linguistics, adopted for everything from large-scale quantitative studies measuring social-psychological variables to qualitative studies that solicit participant views on a range of different topics. Despite the variety of purposes that survey questionnaires are used for, the most common approaches to analysis of the data they yield involve content analysis using descriptive or inferential statistics and/or enumeration of emergent themes. The study reported in this article conceives of questionnaire data in notably different terms: as occasioned (conditionally-relevant responses sequentially-projected by a question), recipient-designed (devised for the research context and researcher), and thus, as thoroughly interactional phenomena (Drew 2006; Sacks 1992). The study examines the identity construction of French as a second language (FSL) teachers on a professional development sojourn in France, drawing on a data-set in part comprised of participants’ open-ended responses to a 48-item questionnaire concerning whether their “confidence as French language teachers” increased as a result of their involvement in the sojourn. However, rather than conceiving of participants’ answers as revelations of changes in their interior states, the study draws on insights from conversation analysis and membership categorization analysis to examine how “confidence” was recruited as a discursive resource to “do being” a particular kind of L2 French teacher. We demonstrate how the presence and problematics of a (French) native-speaker archetype for the FSL teachers was in part formulated through close analytic attention to both the sequential and categorial features of researcher/respondent interactions occasioned by one open-ended response item in the questionnaire. This alternative approach to analyzing questionnaire data offers important insights about L2 teacher identity. It also addresses more fundamental questions concerning the discursive and interactional basis of ostensibly non-interactional research methods like survey questionnaires. Additionally, the insistence on an explicit methodological framing of the research process promotes greater theoretical and methodological consistency, and of particular importance, a significantly expanded conception of and accounting for researcher reflexivity.

Keywords: survey questionnaires; conversation analysis; membership categorization analysis; French teacher identity; researcher reflexivity


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About the article

Published Online: 2017-05-09

Published in Print: 2018-10-25

Citation Information: Applied Linguistics Review, Volume 9, Issue 4, Pages 513–537, ISSN (Online) 1868-6311, ISSN (Print) 1868-6303, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/applirev-2017-0030.

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