Bringing Life to Research: Life History Research and ESL


  • Sandra G. Kouritzin



Despite its potential, life history methodology has seldom been used in TESL research. This article first defines what is meant by life history research methodology, and then examines how it might benefit our research in TESL. Answering the question, What are the benefits of life history research? the author examines how life histories in other fields and in her own research have shifted focus from the extraordinary to the mundane, and from the universal to the singular, while simultaneously adding previously marginalized perspectives, challenging and informing theory, allowing for comprehensive reinterpretation, locating research historically, and encouraging the production of invitational texts. The author further argues that participants in life history research benefit from being listened to and from framing their stories in terms of overcoming adversity, while the researcher benefits from becoming critically involved with her or his participants. The final section of the article addresses some of the potential pitfalls of life history research, including reliability, verifiability, the tendency toward exoticism, difficulties with translation and authorship, and the "afterlife" of research. The article concludes by asserting that life history is one methodology that is powerful enough to begin recording the complexities of race, class, language, history, and cultures in our classrooms.




How to Cite

Kouritzin, S. G. (2000). Bringing Life to Research: Life History Research and ESL. TESL Canada Journal, 17(2), 01–04.