How does a UX researcher use applied linguistics?
Think of applied linguistics as language user research. Applied linguists explore the ways people use and learn language and apply their research findings to solve problems in education and other fields. They ask research questions like:
• How do people use language to accomplish certain tasks, in speech or in writing?
• What do people need to know in order to use language effectively in a specific context?
• What are the most effective ways to teach a specific aspect of language use?
• What processes or practices do people engage in when writing a text?
• How do people’s ways of using language shape or align with their identities?
UX research involves asking similar questions about users’ needs and behaviors with a focus on their experiences of products and content. Researchers in both fields apply an array of research methods, such as interviews, think-aloud protocols, ethnographic observations, and surveys. Both UX research and applied linguistics draw on theories and methods from anthropology, sociology, psychology, and other social science fields. Both fields are also human centered, putting real people’s needs at the center of the problem-solving and design process.
My experience in both applied linguistics and UX research has prepared me to design and conduct UX research studies with particular attention to the language that people use to articulate their needs and experiences. For specific examples of how applied linguistics research intersects with UX research, please read my case studies on user reviews of ghostwriting services and how students seek writing support.
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