Demystifying the role of theory in second language research

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Tunku Mohani Tunku Mohtar


Theories in second language research abound. They are applied in research undertaking to explain the occurrence of a phenomenon. They provide a means of understanding a phenomenon.  However, theories in research are not well developed by students or researchers. Sometimes the theories are not mentioned. Sometimes they are mentioned but not well elucidated or described. At worst, they are incorrectly applied. Theories can mystify researchers especially the less experienced ones. They may fail to understand what the theories are about and hence are not able to apply them appropriately in their research work. This paper highlights the roles of theories in second language research. It explains the importance of selecting relevant theories to support a research undertaking and how these theories support the study. It suggests more informed use of theories to improve and strengthen research undertakings and evaluation of the effectiveness of these theories. This paper guides the researcher to select theories which are relevant to their studies. It also enables the researcher to analyse the elements within one theory and relate them to the elements in other related theories. Hence the inter-relatedness among theories can be understood to enable the researcher to apply these theories meaningfully in their research work. It will also elucidate the connection between the input and the output and between theory and reality. It will explain the use of theory to answer research questions and to support the findings of the study.

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MOHTAR, Tunku Mohani Tunku. Demystifying the role of theory in second language research. Proceedings of English Education International Conference, [S.l.], v. 1, n. 2, p. 1-5, nov. 2016. ISSN 2527-8037. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 19 june 2018.