Research Methodology and the Question of Validity



    1. University of Pennsylvania
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    • Nessa Wolfson is Chair of the Language in Education Division of the Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania. Her research interests include sociolinguistics, discourse analysis, intercultural communication, and language and gender. She has published several books and articles in these areas.


The analysis of the rules of speaking for a specific speech community is the first step in understanding what it means to be communicatively competent among that group. We must have reliable descriptions of these rules and patterns in order to improve second language instruction and assessment. However, there are serious questions as to the best methods of gathering and analyzing the very data upon which such descriptions must rest. This article discusses the advantages and disadvantages of different research approaches to the study of everyday speech behavior and hence to our understanding of communicative competence.