Sampling and Generalizability in Lx Research: A Second-Order Synthesis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


As in many other social sciences, second/additional language (Lx) researchers are often interested in generalizing their findings beyond the samples they collect data from. However, very little is known about the range of learner backgrounds and settings found in Lx research. Moreover, the few papers that have addressed the range of settings and demographics sampled in Lx research paint a disappointing picture). The current study examines the extent to which concerns expressed over this issue are merited and worthy of further attention. Toward that end, sample-related features such as L1, Lx/target language, age, proficiency, and educational setting (or lack thereof) were extracted from a sample of 308 systematic reviews of Lx research. The data from this “meta-synthetic” sample are then used to estimate the extent to which Lx research has sampled—and might or might not be able to generalize to—different populations and contexts including those pertinent to migrant populations, the focus of this special issue. The results reveal an incredibly disproportionate interest in participants with English as a first or target language and as well as university students in a narrow range of countries. The findings are used to call out the applied linguistics community on this gross oversight while also seeking to inform future research and contribute to the ongoing methodological reform movement in applied linguistics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number75
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2023


  • demographics
  • generalizability
  • meta-synthesis
  • research synthesis
  • sampling
  • second language research
  • second-order review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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