In this paper, the author presents a case for the systematic integration of naturalistic inquiry in language for specific purposes (LSP) research. Naturalistic inquiry (NI), in the context of LSP, is an empirical approach to better understand human behavior in natural settings such as classrooms, workplaces, healthcare facilities, criminal justice, community service, and other venues for the purpose of designing courses, training, and instructional materials on behalf of LSP students. NI, which includes the use of diary studies, single-researcher ethnography, team ethnography, and mixed methods, is one approach answering to Doyle’s call (2012) for the teaching of LSP based on empirical research. To make the case, the author illustrates the impact of several NI studies on LSP curriculum development and then proposes a five-step program to educate, train, fund, and mentor future NI researchers. The paper concludes with an overview of challenges to conducting NI, coupled with a description of a key funding source to support NI training and research in LSP.
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