The use of think-aloud methods in qualitative research an introduction to think-aloud methods

  • Charters E
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Think-aloud is a research method in which participants speak aloud any words in their mind as they complete a task. A review of the literature has shown that think-aloud research methods have a sound theoretical basis and provide a valid source of data about participant thinking, especially during language based activities. However, a researcher needs to design a process which takes into account a number of concerns, by selecting a suitable task, a role for the researcher, a source of triangulation, and, most importantly, an appropriate method of interpretation. This paper argues that think-aloud research can be effectively interpreted through a qualitative lens. A qualitative approach also has implications for the choice of participant(s) and the treatment of the data. Participants should be treated as quasi-researchers, and their efforts rewarded with reciprocity. Educators today stress our students' need to develop their ability to think and solve problems. Many hope to promote this thinking by using constructivist or problem-based lessons in the classroom. But researchers are only beginning to map out the actual mechanics of human thought processes. How, then, may teacher-researchers find out if our lessons truly do develop student thinking? Off and on, over the past century, psychologists and educational researchers have attempted to answer these questions by using a method called think-aloud to try to see into the minds of individuals. Participants are asked to voice the words in their minds as they solve a wide variety of problems, from mathematical equations to visual puzzles to reading comprehension. Individual researchers and theorists have debated the effectiveness of think-aloud techniques to illuminate thought processes in their particular area of research or pedagogy. As yet, however, there have been few discussions of the application of think-aloud techniques to the qualitative realm of research.

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  • Elizabeth Charters

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