On Trauma

“Trauma is a word used widely these days in the media and elsewhere. The word originally was a medical term meaning a serious wound or injury. A serious wound such as a bad head injury pierces the outer ‘membrane’ that protects the physiological system beneath. An emotional trauma is of a similar order” (Music, 2001, p. 54).


“Traumatic events, especially if they remain unacknowledged, continue to disempower victims, and intensify the feelings of shame and humiliation that are part of the legacy of trauma and its internalization. This “internal” dimension of trauma is an important one: while the source of trauma may be external, the recurrent effects of trauma, and the impairment of the memory function—the “unfinished business” of trauma—are primarily reflections of an inner breakdown of the self and of an inner emotional conflict. The intrusive memories and the re-experiencing of trauma are the most distressing features of the aftermath of trauma. Victims and perpetrators of trauma feel helpless and at the mercy of the intrusive and fragmentary memories of trauma, unable to control these memories and completely victimize by them. Thus, healing of trauma, that is, the restoration of the self and the reclaiming of one’s sense of control of memory, of the capacity to reflect, understand, and to perceive things as they are or were, requires transformation of traumatic memory into narrative memory” (van der Merwe & Gobodo-Madikizela, 2008, vii).


“The important thing in overcoming trauma is not to have a coherent story to start with, but to create a coherent story over the course of writing or talking, a story that weaves together all the threads of one’s personal experience” (Planalp, 1999, p. 113).



New 2017 publication: “Managing Researcher Dilemmas in Narrative Interview Data and Analysis”

In Jim McKinley and Heath Rose (Eds.). Doing Research in Applied Linguistics: Realities, Dilemmas, and Solutions. Routledge Press.

My chapter intro:

Narrative interviewing (Riessman, 2007), the elicitation of accounts of per­sonal experience, has become a favoured investigative method in applied linguistics and neighbouring disciplines. It has enhanced our understandings of the dynamic trajectories of language learning and use, and it has inspired alternative ways of conceptualizing and critiquing both narrative and iden­tity (e.g., Bamberg, De Fina, & Schiffrin, 2007; Barkhuizen, 2013; De Fina & Georgakopoulou, 2012; Pavlenko, 2007; also Okada, this volume). The introspective attitude of autobiographical inquiry has also encouraged close scrutiny of the “black box” (Kvale & Brinkmann, 2009) of social research and the various problems as well as practices surrounding knowledge pro­duction. The present chapter contributes to these goals of researcher reflex­ivity and methodological transparency. Reflecting on a sample narrative interview study, I trace some of the dilemmas I encountered in the stages of data analysis and discuss steps I took toward resolution. I conclude by considering implications for other qualitative researchers.

DRIALAbout the Volume

Doing Research in Applied Linguistics: Realities, dilemmas, and solutions (publisher’s weblink) provides insight and guidance for those undertaking research, and shows the reader how to deal with the challenges of this research involving real people in real settings. Featuring over twenty chapters by experienced and up-and-coming researchers from around the world, this book:

  • outlines the steps involved in solving the problem and completing a successful, and publishable, project;
  • provides case studies of obstacles faced at each stage of research, from preliminary planning to report writing;
  • addresses issues of validity and reliability during data collection and analysis;
  • discusses ethical issues in research dealing with vulnerable groups including children, refugees, and students;
  • includes examples from longitudinal studies, and both qualitative and quantitative research.

Doing Research in Applied Linguistics is essential reading for students studying research methods, or for those embarking on their first research project in applied linguistics or language education.

Panel on “Trauma During Fieldwork” at the 2017 TESOL Convention in Seattle

This intersects with my own research interests. More research is certainly needed in this area. Kudos to these scholars!

Friday, March 24 (9:30 am–11:15 am)

When Tragedy Strikes: Preparing Researchers for Unexpected Trauma During Fieldwork

Content Area: Research/Research Methodology

TESOL research methods courses often fail to prepare graduate students and supervisors for the unexpected in qualitative fieldwork. Panelists from around the world share their experiences facing fieldwork trauma and offer insights into how their tragic experiences can help graduate students, faculty, and supervisors become more informed researchers in TESOL.

Robert KohlsSan Francisco State University, USA

Peter De CostaMichigan State University, USA

Christine Pearson CasanaveTemple University Japan, USA

Mario López GoparUniversidad Autónoma Benito Juárez de Oaxaca, Mexico

Sreemali Herath, Open University of Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka

Marlon Valencia, University of Toronto, Canada


First review of my first book

coverThe first review of my first book, Emotion and Discourse in L2 Narrative Research, just appeared in Discourse Studies (2017) Vol.19(2) 234-249.

Link: Discourse Studies Book Review

The reviewer, Natasha Azarian-Ceccato (SKEMA Business School, France), writes:

“…I see in this book an immense treasure for graduate students and researchers using qualitative methods and all related narrative inquiry fields. This book not only provides the most up-to-date theoretical explanations and frameworks in the field, it also addresses the answers to questions that surely graduate researchers were/are silently asking, but for which there was simply an ample absence of research. This book is a must for students of narrative inquiry” (p. 235).

The reviewer further noted, “One should read this book for Chapter 7 alone, which I found to be the chapter de resistance. This chapter examines an overlooked area in qualitative research method courses or manuals, which is the examination of emotional work that transpires between researcher and research participants” (p. 235).

There is a story behind each of these chapters. Chapter 7 is one I wrestled with at length. I believe it opens up an important discussion. In truth, when I read the pages, they still evoke the distress of the research process and participants’ experiences—as well as our experiences together. Nevertheless, despite this personal discomfort, I would have to say that it is one of my favorite chapters.

As David Block (2008) reminds the self-conscious researcher, It is probably best not to take too much to heart reviews of one’s work” (p. 26). Still, it feels validating to be reviewed by someone who “gets” what my work is about.


Saying Aloha to Dick Schmidt

USDSiconRichard “Dick” Schmidt, a leading figure in the fields of applied linguistics and SLA passed away on March 15, 2017. Dick was my professor, advisor, mentor, confidante, and dear friend. He guided me throughout my MA and Ph.D. studies, and I worked for him at the NFLRC (National Foreign Language Resource Center) during that time. I was honored to have him on my MA and Ph.D. committees. We kept in touch after I graduated, and he often wrote to tell me he missed our coffee chats and asked me to make it back for a visit. I’m sorry I didn’t make it back in time. He always supported me in my career and in life. One thing I truly admire about him is that he lived. He was never afraid of life or selfish with his time or advice. He embraced people and adventure—and his curiosity and desire to solve puzzles was unparalleled. Like all who knew him, I’ll miss him dearly.

Here’s the write-up from the NFLRC website:

NFLRC – With Aloha and Appreciation for Dick Schmidt

It is with great sadness that we announce that Dr. Richard (Dick) Schmidt passed away on Wednesday, March 15, 2017. Dick was the longest serving director for the National Foreign Language Resource Center (NFLRC), from 1994 through 2012, when he retired. He left a lasting and indelible mark on the field of Applied Linguistics and all who came to know and work with him – fellow researchers and colleagues to graduate students to friends.

Dick was a full professor in the Department of Second Language Studies at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. Following completion of his doctorate in linguistics (specializing in Arabic linguistics), he spent his career engaged in the training of second and foreign language teachers, including teacher-training projects in Japan, Thailand, Brazil, Spain, and Egypt. His primary research areas concerned cognitive and affective factors in adult second and foreign language learning —including the role of attention and awareness and the importance of motivation in learning— as well as the problems of learning and teaching difficult, less commonly-taught languages. He wrote many pivotal and much cited articles in these areas. His most recent book was the Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics, 4th Edition. He was chair of the Language Resource Center Council of Directors for two years, President of the American Association for Applied Linguistics (AAAL) in 2003-04, and was the 2009 recipient of the AAAL Distinguished Service and Scholarship Award. In 2013, the NFLRC published a festschrift in his honor: Noticing and Second Language Acquisition: Studies in Honor of Richard Schmidt, where an international array of researchers spoke of the impact of his Noticing Hypothesis on their research over the years and into the future.

Dick will be sorely missed. We send our Aloha to his family and loved ones in this difficult time.


NFLRC – Richard Schmidt

UH News – In Memoriam: Esteemed linguist Dick Schmidt