The core debates in research methodology are primarily focused on issues salient to SLA research. These issues are often under-represented in the literature. One significant limitation has something to do with negotiating site entry and research ethics. “A study maybe well designed but it can easily be compromised by inadequate negotiation of entry into the research site”(Davis, 2011). In as much as research is concerned, a researcher is bound to acquire the possible access to the research site; however, there is often limited opportunity for interviews, observations and other data collection methods within the research setting. Erickson (1986) suggests two ethical principles which researchers need to follow: (1) those studied must be well informed about the research purposes and activities bound to occur and (2) they should be protected from possible risks (Davis, 2011). The protection of individuals involves “guaranteeing” that any information acquired from or about individuals may not be disclosed(Davis, 2011); that is, to ensure anonymity.
More in particular, one common limitation of qualitative research is that it cannot be generalised within and across populations (Davis, 2011); that is, it allows a specific understanding of one particular group. On the contrary, the grounded theory created by interpretive qualitative studies potentially allows “transfer” to a wide range of cultures and social situations (Davis, 2011). Such can be done by accumulating empirical evidence on whether the theory described in one study can be applied in a different situation. With respect to the issue on generalisability or transferability, grounded theories generated from empirical studies establish “universals”(Davis, 2011). By comparing ethnographies ( also interpretive qualitative studies) for instance, universals are produced from asking similar questions and from describing similar social situations.
With respect to data collection and analysis, another methodological issue on the design and conduct of a study is the “cyclical nature” of the interpretive qualitative enterprise (Davis, 2011). Interpretive studies collect, conducts data analysis (from which hypotheses are formed), test hypotheses and again, further emphasize on data collection up until redundancy is achieved.
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