Episode 5

David D. Perrodin

My dear fellow applied linguistics researcher friends…

At the end of Episode 4, I asked you to stay tuned for the next episode when I would share the challenges of operationalizing the abstract constructs of privilege and marginalization for my doctoral research. So, here we go….

When we refer to systematic empirical research, operationalization simply means converting abstract concepts or constructs into measurable observations. Take the concepts of privilege and marginalization, for instance, that I am measuring (or trying to measure) in my research.

Life would be so easy if all prior research about privilege and marginalization agreed on a single unifying definition of each term, then I could just work from that point. EXCEPT, “there is not anything about pursuing a Ph.D. that is meant to be EASY!” (from the mouth of my Ph.D. supervisor)

Neither the concept of privilege or marginalization has a single unifying definition, nor can either be ‘directly’ measured, but they can be operationalized in various ways. For example, in the last episode, I mentioned conversations with non-local non-native and native English language teachers in Thailand. During our discussions, the teachers said that they had experienced subjective feelings of privilege and marginalization in their working context and the social interactions with Thai people and that these experiences affected their self-image.

I knew from reading previous studies about privilege and marginalization that ‘experience’ was a ‘keyword’ and that the ‘effect’ of these experiences could be observed and measured.

OK, at this point, I had a broad idea of what I was looking for, but I still needed a theoretical framework to work within. I needed to determine what effects of the teachers’ experiences I would measure and what quantifiable aspects of the relationships I would look for within the experiences that had an impact on their self-image.

Yes, I know…. My mind was also blown… Even though I had found dozens of previous studies about either privilege or marginalization, I could not find any relatable research about combining both concepts and how these combined concepts related to non-native and native English language teachers as one homogeneous group.

To be honest with you, I started to panic. All right, I am lying! I would not call it panic; I would call it a near meltdown. I felt like I was at a dead-end.

I knew I needed to take a step back and look at privilege and marginalization from a new perspective. BUT WHAT? WHERE? HOW? Stay tuned for the next episode of “From the Mind of a Developing Researcher,” when I will share with you my eureka moment and the challenges of finding a theoretical framework to work within for my research.

My Favorite Books

  1. Bourdieu, P. (1986). The Forms of Capital. In J. G. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education (pp. 241–258). Greenwood Press.
  2. Holliday, A. (2013). The struggle to teach English as an international language. Oxford University Press.
  3. Persons, L. S. (2016). The way Thais lead: Face as social capital. Silkworm Books.
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