Research Questions in Applied Linguistics Research: A Microscopic Analysis of Their Distributional and Syntactical Aspects

Document Type : Research Article


1 Department of Language and Linguistics, Islamic Azad University, Fereshtegaan International Branch, Tehran, Iran

2 Department of English Language, Humanities, Yasouj University, Yasouj, Iran



This study presents a microscopic analysis of distributional and syntactical aspects of 2189 research questions (RQs) in 748 articles from four leading L2 research journals published between 2000 and 2019. Concerning distributional features, The Modern Language Journal was found to include the largest number of both RQs and constituent words. Syntactically, there was no significant difference between polar and non-polar RQs. However, RQs were mainly formulated either as simple or complex questions with only a few comprising compound or compound-complex structures. Additionally, a substantial majority of RQs were used in the present tense, with past tense and future being the next frequent tenses. More specifically, it was noted that most of the RQs involved simple present tense wh-questions, insinuating that L2 researchers opted for more qualitative RQs, lending themselves to more extensive descriptions, explanations, and interpretations. The findings will have several implications for students and instructors of graduate writing courses.