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Google Groups: One more arrow in your research quiver
Trip down memory lane turns up old SLART discussions

When I did the ERIC literature search for my masters research in 1983, the Kansas University library had a new-fangled service which involved making an appointment and bringing in a list of key words, then waiting a couple of minutes while an actual telephone receiver was placed into the modem and a connection was made with one of the earliest educational servers way out in California.

By the late eighties and early nineties, educators were enjoying electronic bulletin boards, bitnet listservers and rudimentary e-mail messaging, along with something new called the World Wide Web. I was lucky enough to be at Chubu University in Japan in 1992, when Chubu hosted the second ever Foreign Language and Technology international conference, for which I published the program book and sent some of my first Bitnet alerts.

Now we have Google and Google Groups, a fantastic search engine for discussion groups, bulletin boards and listservers. The other day I was trying it out and found several Second Language Acquisition Research & Teaching (SLART) discussion threads dating back to the winter of 1992-93.

On November 11, 1992, a SLART discussion started in response to a question from a graduate student at the American University in Cairo, regarding "how L2 learners encode vocabulary items, i.e., whether acoustic and/or semantic clustering takes place in the learners' mental lexicon, are they grouped according to content or phonological form." Participants in these exchanges about mental lexicons were: Nagwa Kassabgy, the graduate student who asked the question; Andrew Cohen, of the University of Minnesota; Lydie Meunier-Cinko, then a doctoral student at Arizona; Swathi Vanniarajan, of Nanyang Tech. University; Steve Tauroza, whose bitnet domain was cphkvx; Jim Lantolf, of Cornell; Robb Scott, then at Teachers College, Columbia Univ.; Bert Peeters, at the University of Tasmania; Hideo Tomita, at Ohio State; and Nadia Abdalla, at the EGAUCACS domain. This discussion includes a great bibliography supplied by Lydie Meunier-Cinko.

On February 12, 1993, Martyn J. Miller, of the University of Georgia's American Language Program, asked an innocent enough question:

"A faculty member of mine is contemplating pursuing a doctoral degree in TESL or TEFL (not Applied Linguistics, though). She would appreciate hearing from any of you about what would be considered the top programs in either the U. S. or in Canada for such a pursuit."

Miller's query sparked a 23-message discussion. Those weighing in on what the ingredients for a good doctoral program in TESL/TEFL would be included: Susan Gonzo, Frank B. Brooks, Gail Guntermann, Mike Sharwood Smith, Herb Seliger and Susan Foster-Cohen.

When Eileen Prince asked, "Can someone please give me a full reference for THE NATURAL APPROACH?" on February 20, 1993, an interesting discussion ensued, including notes honoring the research by Tracy Terrell, who co-authored that popular book. Contributors to the discussion included Jeri Dies, of the University of Texas; Marcella Rollmann, Memorial University of Newfoundland; Margaret van Naerssen, at the University of Pennsylvania; and Barb Kennedy, University of Kentucky;

When we're looking for the very beginning of new ideas and trends in our research, discussion threads on lists like these certainly can be valuable; sometimes, we find the first mention of something, while other times, we simply run across references and bibliographies which point us in directions we might not otherwise have gone.

By Robb Scott