EUROSLA - the European Second Language Association


The Clarion online

Issue 9, 2012

Editor Christina Lindqvist





Instruments for Research into Second Languages (IRIS): A free digital repository

by Emma Marsden & Alison Mackey 

IRIS (Instruments for Research Into Second Languages) is a free, online repository of materials that have been used to collect data for research into second language education. The IRIS database makes data collection instruments easily accessible. IRIS has been live since August 2012. To date (October 2012), over 100 instruments have been contributed to IRIS (with many more pledged), there have been over 600 downloads (from established and novice researchers), and the site has had over 2500 visits in the last three months. This high usage is likely to increase the visibility of the research studies that are associated with instruments that are held on IRIS. 

CONTENT. The IRIS repository contains instruments  from researchers in a wide range of countries, original publishers, funders, or journals/books, though these characteristics can be tagged and are searchable. All materials on IRIS have been used at least once to collect data for a peer-reviewed published study or an approved Ph.D. dissertation. The repository holds instruments from a rich and diverse range of research areas, theoretical and methodological perspectives. Each instrument is searchable and tagged with numerous descriptors along a variety of parameters (e.g. author, research area, linguistic feature, age of participant, L1, L2), and there is an intuitive, user-friendly interface for finding instruments. Examples of materials held on IRIS include: interview questions; observation schedules; motivation and attitude questionnaires; experimental teaching tasks; information gap tasks; sound files to elicit perception or comprehension; video and picture files for targeting specific linguistic structures; working memory capacity tests; language tests for different languages, skills and types of knowledge, including grammaticality judgement tests, gap fills, picture matching, or stimuli for narratives.  This is not an exhaustive list! The IRIS team can pursue intellectual property permission or copyright requests on behalf of contributors, and can digitise paper or analogue materials. Please email with any such requests.

UPLOADING.Contributing an instrument to IRIS takes between 10 and 20 minutes (depending on how many fields you choose to fill out - there are only eight obligatory fields). One instrument can consist of any number of related files, of any type. Once an instrument has been uploaded by one author, other instruments can be submitted very quickly by changing just the relevant details. Contributors can also log in to amend their information or instruments at any time. Interaction between contributor and downloader can be selected (or de-selected). For example, contributors can choose to be alerted whenever their instrument is downloaded by another researcher, and can choose to have any comments sent back to them directly or posted on line (or request none at all!). 

SUSTAINABILITY AND COMMUNITY 'BUY-IN'. IRIS is a sustainable resource, created for the community. It is curated and developed to meet the community's needs by the Digital Library at the University of York. It is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (until October 2013) and is a British Academy Research Project (until April 2017, in the first instance), directed by Emma Marsden (York) and Alison Mackey (Georgetown, U.S. / Lancaster, U.K.). It is supported by an international network of journal editors and research and teaching associations. In sum, the investment in IRIS from the community has been tremendous.  We thank those who have contributed materials to date, and urge other EuroSLA members to upload their data collection materials, explore the content of IRIS and download from it for their own research, and incorporate it into research methods training courses. We welcome feedback on any aspect of the project; please email either or


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