Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-7f7b94f6bd-vvt5l Total loading time: 0.425 Render date: 2022-06-30T08:33:50.394Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true } hasContentIssue true

Concurrent Verbal Reports in Second Language Acquisition Research

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 July 2010


This article provides an overview of the ways in which concurrent verbal reports, sometimes referred to as think-alouds, have been used in cognitivist second language acquisition (SLA) research. It addresses two issues related to the validity of verbal reports—reactivity and veridicality—and reviews studies that have examined the validity of verbal reports in SLA. On the basis of the results of a meta-analysis of studies comparing the performance of silent and think-aloud groups (Bowles, 2010), this article concludes with suggestions for further research into the issue of validity and recommendations for the careful use of think-alouds in research.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2010

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Anderson, M. (1985). Some evidence on the effect of verbalization on process: A methodological note. Journal of Accounting Research, 23, 843852.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Baumann, J. F., Jones, L. A., & Seifert Kessell, N. (1993). Using think alouds to enhance children's comprehension monitoring abilities. Reading Teacher, 47, 184193.Google Scholar
Berg, H. P. (2002). Remediating cognitive perspective-taking in children with autism. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Columbia University Teachers College, New York.Google Scholar
Bernardi, L., Wdowczyk-Szulc, J., Valenti, C., Castoldi, S., Passino, C., Spadacini, G., et al. (2000). Effects of controlled breathing, mental activity, and mental stress with or without verbalization on heart rate variability. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 35, 14621469.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Biehal, G., & Chakravarti, D. (1989). The effects of concurrent verbalization on choice processing. Journal of Marketing Research, 26, 8496.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
*Bowles, M. (2008). Task type and reactivity of verbal reports in SLA: A first look at a task other than reading. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 30, 359387.Google Scholar
Bowles, M. (2010). The think-aloud controversy in language acquisition research. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
*Bowles, M., & Leow, R. P. (2005). Reactivity and type of verbal report in SLA research methodology: Expanding the scope of investigation. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 27, 415440.Google Scholar
Box, J. A. (2002). Guided writing in the early childhood classroom. Reading Improvement, 39, 111113.Google Scholar
Bozarth, J. (1970). Verbal protocol patterns of college dormitory counselors. Counselor Education and Supervision, 10, 2329.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Breetvelt, I. (1994). Relations between writing processes and text quality: When and how? Cognition and Instruction, 12, 103123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Brinkman, J. A. (1993). Verbal protocol accuracy in fault diagnosis. Ergonomics, 36, 13811397.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Carrell, P. L. (1989). Metacognitive awareness and second language reading. Modern Language Journal, 73, 121134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chamot, A. U., & El Dinary, P. B. (1999). Children's learning strategies in language immersion classrooms. Modern Language Journal, 83, 319338.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chan, R. C., Hoosain, R., & Lee, T. M. (2002). Talking while performing a task: A better attentional performance in patients with closed head injury? Journal of Clinical Experimental Neuropsychology, 24, 695704.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Cohen, A. D. (1986). Mentalistic measures in reading strategy research: Some recent findings. English for Specific Purposes, 5, 131145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cohen, A. D. (1987). Recent uses of mentalistic data in reading strategy research. Revista de Documentação de Estudos em Lingüística Teorica e Aplicada, 3, 5784.Google Scholar
Cohen, A. D., & Cavalcanti, M. C. (1987). Viewing feedback on compositions from the teacher's and the student's perspective. ESPecialist, 16, 1328.Google Scholar
Cushman, D. (2002). From scribbles to stories. Instructor, 111, 3233.Google Scholar
Davis, J., & Bistodeau, L. (1993). How do L1 and L2 reading differ? Evidence from think aloud protocols. Modern Language Journal, 77, 459472.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Davis, J. H., Carey, M. H., Foxman, P. N., & Tarr, D. B. (1968). Verbalization, experimenter presence, and problem solving. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 8, 299302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Earthman, E. A. (1992). Creating the virtual work: Readers’ processes in understanding literary texts. Research in the Teaching of English, 26, 351384.Google Scholar
Ellis, R. (2004). The definition and measurement of L2 explicit knowledge. Language Learning, 54, 227275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ericsson, K. A., & Simon, H. A. (1993). Protocol analysis: Verbal reports as data (Rev. ed.). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
Folger, T. L. (2001). Readers’ parallel text construction while talking and thinking about the reading process. Dissertation Abstracts International, 62 (4), 1329A. (UMI No. 3012966)Google Scholar
Fowler, L. P. (1997). Clinical reasoning strategies used during care planning. Clinical Nursing Research, 6, 349361.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Fresch, M. J., Wheaton, A., & Zutell, J. B. (1998). Thinking aloud during spelling word sorts. National Reading Conference Yearbook, 47, 285294.Google Scholar
Friedman, P., & Mulhern, S.T. (1976). Relationship of clinician feedback to child-initiated verbalization during language training. Journal of Communication Disorders, 9, 289299.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Gagné, R. H., & Smith, E. C. (1962). A study of the effects of verbalization on problem solving. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 63, 1218.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Gass, S., & Mackey, A. (2000). Stimulated recall methodology in second language research. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
Gordon, C. J. (1990). Modeling an expository text structure strategy in think alouds. Reading Horizons, 31, 149167.Google Scholar
Greenwood, J., & King, M. (1995). Some surprising similarities in the clinical reasoning of expert and novice orthopaedic nurses: Report of a study using verbal protocols and protocol analysis. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 22, 907913.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Herwig, A. (2003). Plurilingual lexical organisation: Evidence from lexical processing in L1-L2-L3-L4 translation. In Cenoz, J., Hufeisen, B., & Jessner, U. (Eds.), Cross linguistic influence in third language acquisition: Psychological perspectives (pp. 115137). Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.Google Scholar
Hosenfeld, C. (1976). Learning about learning: Discovering our students’ strategies. Foreign Language Annals, 9, 117129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hosenfeld, C. (1977). A preliminary investigation of the reading strategies of successful and nonsuccessful second language learners. System, 5, 110123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hosenfeld, C. (1979). Cindy: A learner in today's foreign language classroom. In Borne, W. (Ed.), The foreign language learner in today's classroom environment (pp. 5375). Montpelier, VT: Northwest Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.Google Scholar
Hosenfeld, C. (1984). Case studies of ninth grade readers. In Alderson, J. C. & Urquhart, A. H. (Eds.), Reading in a foreign language (pp. 231249). London, UK: Longman.Google Scholar
Hu, G. (2002). Psychological constraints on the utility of metalinguistic knowledge in second language production. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 24, 347386.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hughes, J., & Parkes, S. (2003). Trends in the use of verbal protocol analysis in software engineering research. Behaviour & Information Technology, 22, 127141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jourdenais, R. (2001). Cognition, instruction, and protocol analysis. In Robinson, P. (Ed.), Cognition and second language instruction (pp. 354375). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Karsenty, L. (2001). Adapting verbal protocol methods to investigate speech systems use. Applied Ergonomics, 32, 1522.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Keck, C. M., Iberri-Shea, G., Tracy-Ventura, N., & Wa-Mbaleka, S. (2006). Investigating the empirical link between task-based interaction and acquisition: A quantitative meta-analysis. In Norris, J. M. & Ortega, L. (Eds.), Synthesizing research on language learning and teaching (pp. 91131). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kern, R. G. (1994). The role of mental translation in second language reading. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 16, 441461.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kuusela, H., & Paul, P. (2000). A comparison of concurrent and retrospective verbal protocol analysis. The American Journal of Psychology, 113, 387404.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
*Lass, U., Klettke, W., Lüer, G., & Ruhlender, P. (1991). Does thinking aloud influence the structure of cognitive processes? In Schmid, R. & Zambarbieri, D. (Eds.), Oculomotor control and cognitive processes (pp. 385396). New York: North-Holland.Google Scholar
Lee, S.-K., & Huang, H.-T. (2008). Visual input enhancement and grammar learning: A meta-analytic review. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 30, 307331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Leow, R. P. (1997). Attention, awareness, and foreign language behavior. Language Learning, 47, 467505.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Leow, R. P. (1998a). The effects of amount and type of exposure on adult learners’ L2 development in SLA. Modern Language Journal, 82, 4968.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Leow, R. P. (1998b). Toward operationalizing the process of attention in SLA: Evidence for Tomlin and Villa's (1994) fine-grained analysis of attention. Applied Psycholinguistics, 19, 133159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Leow, R. P. (1999). The role of attention in second/foreign language classroom research: Methodological issues. In Gutiérrez-Rexach, F. M.-G. J. (Ed.), Advances in Hispanic Linguistics: Papers from the 2nd Hispanic Linguistics Symposium (pp. 6071). Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project.Google Scholar
Leow, R. P. (2000). A study of the role of awareness in foreign language behavior: Aware versus unaware learners. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 22, 557584.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Leow, R. P. (2001a). Attention, awareness, and foreign language behavior. Language Learning, 51 (Suppl. 1), 113155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Leow, R. P. (2001b). Do learners notice enhanced forms while interacting with the L2? An online and offline study of the role of written input enhancement in L2 reading. Hispania, 84, 496509.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
*Leow, R. P., & Morgan-Short, K. (2004). To think aloud or not to think aloud: The issue of reactivity in SLA research methodology. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 26, 3557.Google Scholar
Lipsey, M. W., & Wilson, D. B. (2001). Practical meta-analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
Mackey, A., & Goo, J. (2007). Interaction research in SLA: A meta-analysis and research synthesis. In Mackey, A. (Ed.), Conversational interaction in second language acquisition (pp. 407452). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Masgoret, A. M., & Gardner, R. C. (2003). Attitude, motivation, and second language learning: A meta-analysis of studies conducted by Gardner and associates. Language Learning, 53, 123163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
*Mathews, R. C., Buss, R. R., Stanley, W. B., Blanchard-Fields, F., Cho, J. R., & Druhan, B. (1989). Role of implicit and explicit processes in learning from examples: A synergistic effect. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 15, 10831100.Google Scholar
Midanik, L. T., & Hines, A. M. (1991). “Unstandard” ways of answering standard questions: Protocol analysis in alcohol survey research. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 27, 245252.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Nisbett, R. E., & Wilson, T. D. (1977). Telling more than we can know: Verbal reports on mental processes. Psychological Review, 84, 231259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Norris, J. M., & Ortega, L. (2000). Effectiveness of L2 instruction: A research synthesis and quantitative meta-analysis. Language Learning, 50, 417528.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Norris, J. M., & Ortega, L. (Eds.). (2006). Synthesizing research on language learning and teaching. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Payne, J. W., Braunstein, M. L., & Carroll, J. S. (1978). Exploring predecisional behavior: An alternative approach to decision research. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 22, 1744.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Piolat, A., & Olive, T. (2000). Comment étudier le coût e le déroulement de la rédaction de textes? La méthode de la triple tâche: Un bilan méthodologique [How can the process and cost of writing texts be studied? The triple task methodology]. L'Annee Psychologique, 100, 465502.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Polio, C., & Chiu, S. C.-H. (2007, April). Reactivity, veridicality, and language choice in L2 writing concurrent verbal protocols. Paper presented at the American Association of Applied Linguistics Conference, Costa Mesa, CA.Google Scholar
*Polio, C., & Wang, J. (2005, October). Another look at the reactivity of concurrent verbal protocols in second language reading research. Paper presented at the Second Language Research Forum, New York.Google Scholar
Pressley, M., & Afflerbach, P. (1995). Verbal protocols of reading: The nature of constructively responsive reading. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
Pritchard, R. (1990). The effects of cultural schemata on reading processing strategies. Reading Research Quarterly, 25, 273295.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Qi, D., & Lapkin, S. (2001). Exploring the role of noticing in a three-stage second language writing task. Journal of Second Language Writing, 10, 277303.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rhenius, D., & Deffner, G. (1990). Evaluation of concurrent thinking aloud using eye-tracking data. In Wiklund, M. E. (Ed.), Proceedings of the Human Factors Society 34th Annual Meeting (pp. 12651269). Santa Monica, CA: Human Factors Society.Google Scholar
Robertson, B. (1995). Why think along? Using “think alouds” in the classroom. State of Reading, 2, 1922.Google Scholar
Robinson, K. M. (2001). The validity of verbal reports in children's subtraction. Journal of Educational Psychology, 93, 211222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rosa, E., & Leow, R. P. (2004a). Awareness, different learning conditions, and L2 development. Applied Psycholinguistics, 25, 269292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rosa, E., & Leow, R. P. (2004b). Computerized task-based exposure, explicitness, type of feedback, and Spanish L2 development. Modern Language Journal, 88, 192216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rosa, E., & O'Neill, M. (1999). Explicitness, intake, and the issue of awareness. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 21, 511556.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rosenthal, M. C. (1994). “The fugitive literature.” In Cooper, H. & Hedges, L. (Eds.), Handbook of research synthesis. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
*Rossomondo, A. E. (2007). The role of lexical temporal indicators and text interaction format in the incidental acquisition of the Spanish future tense. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 29, 3966.Google Scholar
Russell, J., & Spada, N. (2006). The effectiveness of corrective feedback for the acquisition of L2 grammar: A meta-analysis of the research. In Norris, J. M. & Ortega, L. (Eds.), Synthesizing research on language learning and teaching (pp. 133164). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
*Russo, J. E., Johnson, E. J., & Stephens, D. L. (1989). The validity of verbal protocols. Memory and Cognition, 17, 759769.Google ScholarPubMed
*Sachs, R., & Polio, C. (2007). Learners’ uses of two types of written feedback on an L2 writing revision task. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 29, 67100.Google Scholar
*Sachs, R., & Suh, B. R. (2007). Textually enhanced recasts, learner awareness, and L2 outcomes in synchronous computer-mediated interaction. In Mackey, A. (Ed.), Conversational interaction in second language acquisition: A collection of empirical studies (pp. 197227). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
*Sanz, C., Lin, H.-J., Lado, B., Bowden, H. W., & Stafford, C. A. (2009). Concurrent verbalizations, pedagogical conditions, and reactivity: Two CALL studies. Language Learning, 59, 3371.Google Scholar
Scardamalia, M. (1984). Teachability of reflective processes in written composition. Cognitive Science: A multidisciplinary journal of artificial intelligence, 8, 173190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stratman, J. F., & Hamp-Lyons, L. (1994). Reactivity in concurrent think-aloud protocols. In Smagorinsky, P. (Ed.), Speaking about writing: Reflections on research methodology (pp. 89112). London: Sage.Google Scholar
Walczyk, J., Marsiglia, C. S., Bryan, K. S., & Naquin, P. J. (2001). Overcoming inefficient reading skills. Journal of Educational Psychology, 93, 750757.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wilhelm, J. (2001). Getting kids into the reading game: You gotta know the rules. Voices from the Middle, 8, 2536.Google Scholar
Witte, S. P., & Cherry, R. D. (1994). Think-aloud protocols, protocol analysis, and research design: An exploration of the influence of writing tasks on writing processes. In Smagorinsky, P. (Ed.), Speaking about writing: Reflections on research methodology (pp. 2054). London: Sage.Google Scholar
Woodfield, H. (2008). Problematising discourse completion tasks: Voices from verbal report. Evaluation and Research in Education, 21, 4369.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Yamashita, J. (2002). Reading strategies in L1 and L2: Comparison of four groups of readers with different reading ability in L1 and L2. ITL, Review of Applied Linguistics, 135–136, 1–35.Google Scholar
*Yoshida, M. (2008). Think-aloud protocols and type of reading task: The issue of reactivity in L2 reading research. In Bowles, M., Foote, R., Perpiñán, S., & Bhatt, R. (Eds.), Selected proceedings of the 2007 Second Language Research Forum (pp. 199209). Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project.Google Scholar
Zellermayer, M., & Cohen, J. (1996). Varying paths for learning to revise. Instructional Science, 24, 177195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Concurrent Verbal Reports in Second Language Acquisition Research
Available formats

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Concurrent Verbal Reports in Second Language Acquisition Research
Available formats

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Concurrent Verbal Reports in Second Language Acquisition Research
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *