A blog reader requested this post about the best online ELT journals so we were very happy that Florentina Taylor agreed to write it for us. More reader requests always welcome!
Having been invited to recommend ‘the best ELT journals…, maybe a top 5 list’, I will do my best to explain why the following are, in my opinion, great resources for ELT professionals. Such a list will always be a subjective compilation dependent on personal preference, work context, accessibility and the reasons for accessing (and recommending) the respective journals. I’m hoping this will, nevertheless, answer the question. You can find an objective journal ranking tool at the end of this post.
This small selection, listed here in no particular order, includes only peer-reviewed journals published in English, with at least some open access content that is likely to be of interest to ELTjam readers. Peer review is important, as it offers some guarantee of quality and reliability. I’m using (partial) open access as one of my selection criteria here, as I don’t see the point of recommending resources hidden behind ‘paywalls’ (content for which you have to pay). I will also suggest other ways to find relevant materials.
ELT Journal (subscription, with some open access)
This is a journal for ELT practitioners interested in research on a wide range of topics related to language education, applied linguistics, sociolinguistics and educational psychology. It covers pretty much every aspect of English other than L1 literacy (English as a foreign, second and additional language, medium of instruction or lingua franca). The journal is published by Oxford University Press and has a strong association with the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL). (An ELT Journal scholarship is currently being offered for the IATEFL 2016 conference – deadline 23 July 2015!). The ELT Journal Debate is now a popular feature at IATEFL conferences and information about IATEFL events is regularly published in the journal.
The articles have a practical focus and are generally written in an accessible style, without too much academic jargon or advanced statistics. While most papers are rigorous and well-argued, the journal has occasionally published insufficiently critical pieces with questionable research support. That will be something to bear in mind if citing such papers in, for instance, MA dissertations. An interesting occasional section is ‘Point and counterpoint’ which pairs an article accepted for publication with a commissioned response providing an alternative perspective. This makes for informative and sometimes pretty entertaining reading! A very useful feature published twice a year is ‘Key concepts in ELT’, discussing topical, relevant concepts (or ‘buzz words’), and all these articles are freely available on the website. A few papers selected by the editor are also available for free, and some of them have great video summaries created by the authors.
TESL-EJ (open access)
The Electronic Journal for English as a Second Language is a peer-reviewed, freely available journal which publishes a mix of research papers and conceptual overviews by established and emergent authors. It also publishes book reviews and evaluations of computer-assisted language learning (CALL) resources, which are usually thorough and informative. This is an accessible journal – both literally, as all the content is available for free, but also in terms of style and assumed technical knowledge. Some of the research published should be taken with a pinch of salt, which will require some knowledge of research methods and data analysis techniques. But, overall, TESL-EJ is a useful, informative resource providing a good overview of the discipline.
L2 Journal (open access)
An interesting interdisciplinary outlet, the L2 Journal covers all aspects of language learning and teaching, along with literature and culture, aiming to disseminate research and conceptual discussions to general, non-specialised audiences. The journal is supported and hosted by the University of California, Berkeley, where the current editor, Claire Kramsch, is also based. While the editorial board, authors and target audience do seem to be mostly US-based, the articles published in the L2 Journal will be of interest to readers from many other contexts. It is not limited to the learning and teaching of English but, again, ELT professionals will find plenty of relevant and transferable content in it.
CALICO Journal (subscription, with significant open access)
This is the official journal of the Computer Assisted Language Instruction Consortium (CALICO), a US-based international organisation supporting CALL research and development. This is also the focus of the peer-reviewed CALICO Journal, which covers the learning and teaching of any foreign language, not just English. Access to all the journal articles is included in the consortium membership but all the articles become open access (freely accessible to anyone) 36 months after publication. The editorials, book reviews and software reviews in the latest issues are all open access.
The journal is a great way to keep up to date with the latest CALL research, and has recently included studies on topics of particular interest to (English) language teachers, such as the effect of mobile technology on vocabulary learning, using freely available speech recognition systems for pronunciation training, teaching cultural content through online multimedia and the role of blogging in L2 literacy development. The software review section is particularly useful, as it describes and evaluates in great detail packages that readers may not be familiar with (or, if they are, they will still welcome the detailed critical evaluation).
Foreign Language Annals (subscription, with some open access)
This is the official journal of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) and, again, the US bias is visible (not least because only ACTFL members can publish in the journal). It focuses on the teaching of languages other than English, although much of the content is relevant to ELT professionals as well. Some of the papers are available for free but most content requires a subscription.
The main reason I am recommending this journal is the video abstracts or article summaries available for free on the website (linked from YouTube). These are an excellent way for authors to present their work to a wider audience, as well as for readers to gain access to good quality research that would otherwise be restricted by paywalls. The videos are around 15 minutes long and use a generally accessible style, which makes them great examples of how research can be summarised and presented to a wider (remote) audience. ELTjam readers looking to improve their research presentation skills may consider this an added bonus.
Another way to access relevant, high quality research is by taking advantage of periodic discounts such as the one from Taylor & Francis, which is currently offering free access to the 25 most-read articles of 2014 on language and linguistics topics.
Numerous relevant resources are also available outside the dreaded paywall, though not all are necessarily peer-reviewed, so there will be some variation in quality. An excellent annotated list is that compiled by John Canning on his Yazik Open website. Also helpful are general directories such as this, which can be used to search for papers using various criteria (key words, subject, language of publication).
A great, familiar resource is Google Scholar, which I use to run customised searches and set up email alerts for new content (see screenshot below). Many search results are available to download from various sources (though, for copyright reasons, these may be the initial manuscripts submitted for peer review, or the uncorrected proofs). Unlike the general Google search engine, which will identify any source mentioning the keywords irrespective of type and quality, Google Scholar should only return reliable, ‘scholarly’ results.
I hope this is of some help, though I am sure many of you are already familiar with some of these resources. There are many great journals relevant to ELT out there. Please tell us about your favourites in the comments!
(Many thanks to the colleague who recommended me for this invited post!)
Florentina Taylor is a Senior Lecturer in Applied Linguistics and TESOL in the Centre for Applied Research and Outreach in Language Education (CAROLE) at the University of Greenwich, London. She conducts research on language education from an identity perspective.
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