Verbal Reports in the Reading Processes of Language Learners: A Methodological Review

Patriann Smith, University of South Florida
Deoksoon Kim, Boston College
Oksana Vorobel, University of New York
James King, University of South Florida


This methodological review highlights the trends in empirical studies where a methodological construct (i.e. verbal reports) intersects with content (i.e. literacy research). Specifically, we synthesise research on language learners’ reading in which verbal reports were deployed as a methodological tool. Questioning the long‐standing assumption that verbal report methods validated in first‐language verbal report reading studies necessarily constitute a basis for validation of second‐language verbal report reading studies, we consider the broader educational frameworks within which studies are embedded. In our synthesis of language learners’ verbal report literacy research published between 2000 and 2015, we attend to the social, demographic and geographic realities characteristic of studies reviewed and of the participants involved. Our findings demonstrate the following: (a) tendency to report quantitative information regardless of the type of verbal reporting method and the component of reading explored; (b) predominance of independent concurrent methods that emphasised the reading product ; (c) predominance of integrated verbal reports (i.e. concurrent and other forms of reporting) in sociocultural studies that reflected the reading process ; (d) concerns about validity in studies premised on cognitivist models of verbal reports; (e) a tendency to use solely concurrent verbal reports in quantitative studies; (f) high reliance on integrated concurrent methods in qualitative studies; and (g) preponderance of qualitative‐to‐quantitative versus a qualitative‐to‐quantitative‐to‐qualitative verbal reporting paradigms across studies. Based on these findings, we make several recommendations to be considered when verbal reports are used to study language learners’ reading processes.