Monday, July 22, 2013


Need a ready-prepared research tool to assess interaction patterns in a language classroom? Ask IRIS. Need to find a typical activity to evaluate reading at intermediate level? Ask IRIS. Need to find a questionnaire on learner styles? Ask IRIS. So who's IRIS?

IRIS (Instruments for Research into Second Languages) is a database of tools for language and linguistics research. Or, as they put it:
IRIS is a collection of instruments, materials and stimuli used to elicit data for research into second and foreign languages. Materials are freely accessible and searchable, easy to upload (for contributions) and download (for use).
This is a project by the University of York in the UK and Georgetown University in the US, with supporters including Rod Ellis, Susan Gass, Jan Hulstijn and Peter Skehan, and is run by Emma Marsden at York and Alison Mackey at Georgetown. You can freely browsesearch and download from the database and you can join up, which gives you the choice to upload your own research tool to the database.
As with any database, it can only be as useful as its contents. The research community is asked to contribute their research papers, using the form to identify research tools, references, participants etc.
As a quick test, I was able to filter the results to reading tests and found the page on the right, which I have also downloaded. Quick, easy and very helpful.
For researchers, the advantage of IRIS is that they do not have to reinvent a (possibly inferior) research tool while for contributors clearly the advantage is the possibility that someone may replicate their research or  validate their research tool.
There is a conference on 2-3 September in York, called Eliciting data in second language research: Challenge and Innovation, which promises to be a very stimulating event. Finally, if you would like to spread the news, here is a poster for the database

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