Studies in Second Language Acquisition

TO THINK ALOUD OR NOT TO THINK ALOUD: The Issue of Reactivity in SLA Research Methodology

Ronald P.  Leow  a1 c1 and Kara  Morgan-Short  a1
a1 Georgetown University

Article author query
leow rp   [Google Scholar] 
morgan-short k   [Google Scholar] 


Recently, several studies in SLA (e.g., for discourse, Alanen, 1995; Leow, 2001b; Rott, 1999; for problem-solving tasks, Leow, 1998a, 1998b, 2000, 2001a; Rosa & Leow, in press a, in press b; Rosa & O'Neill, 1999) have addressed the operationalization and measurement of attention (and awareness) in their research methodology. Studies have employed think-aloud protocols to gather concurrent, on-line data on learners' cognitive processes while they interacted with L2 data. However, the issue of reactivity—the act of thinking aloud potentially triggering changes in learners' cognitive processes while performing the task—has not been empirically addressed in the SLA field. The present study empirically addresses the effects of thinking aloud during the reading process on learners' comprehension, intake, and controlled written production. Participants were first-year college-level students of Spanish exposed to the same passage, pretest, and posttest assessment tasks but differed on type of condition (±think aloud). Results indicate that reactivity does not play a significant role in learners' subsequent performances. a

(Received May 27 2003)

c1 Address correspondence to: Ronald P. Leow, Department of Spanish and Portuguese, Georgetown University, Box 571039, Washington, DC 20057-1039; e-mail:


a We would like to especially thank the SSLA statistician and our own statistician Dr. Rusan Chen for improving the statistical section of our study.