Introduction to Educational Research

A. What is research?

Research is the systematic application or use of a set of methods to provide trustworthy information about problems.  Educational research utilizes sets of methods to provide trustworthy information about educational problems/issues. Give examples.

Human beings draw conclusions based on

(a)    Inductive reasoning—drawing generalizations from a limited number of specific observations—give examples

(b)   Deductive reasoning—developing specific predictions from general principles, observations, or experiences-give examples

Research helps to provide “facts”/reliable information or verifiable information instead of assumptions.

·        A scientific and disciplined inquiry approach is based on systematic approach to examining educational issues and questions. It combines features of inductive and deductive reasoning with other characteristics to produce an approach to understanding that, though fallible, is generally more viable and reliable than traditions, experts, personal beliefs/experiences or inductive/deductive reasoning alone.

·         It is extremely difficult to tally or remove the biases and beliefs of the researcher in any study.  It is extremely difficult to be “objective”. Research is always influenced by the researcher’s subjectivity even though researchers try to be objective. The complexity of humans and the contexts within which research is contacted makes objectivity an impossible task. Attempts to follow a scientific inquiry requires the researcher to describe in detail the procedures used to conduct the research study-provides a basis for examination and verification of claims/the result. These checks and balances allows research studies to be critiqued in ways that are not available to critique traditions, personal experiences etc.

The Four basic steps of a scientific Inquiry

(a)    Recognize and identify a topic to be studied.  A topic is a question, issue or problem related to education that can be examined and answered through the collection and analysis of data

(b)   Describe and execute the procedures to collect information about the topic being studied.  This involves identify the subjects/participants, the measures needed to collect the data, and the activities describing how and when the data will be collected.

(c)    Analyze the data-how will data be analysed? Are data requiring qualitative or quantitative analyzes processes?

(d)   State the results or implications based on analysis of data. Conclusions reached in the research study should relate back to the original research topic.  What can be concluded given the information provided by the study? Are the conclusions drawn from the data? Etc.

Research Topics: Defining Purpose and Methods

(Refer to page 5-6)-Researchable topics.

1.                  Do students learn more from our new social studies program than from the prior one?

2.                  What is the effect of positive versus negative reinforcement on elementary students’ attitudes toward schools?

3.                  How do teachers in our school district rate the quality of our teacher evaluation program?

4.                  What do high school principals consider to be the most pressing administrative programs they face?

5.                  Is there a relationship between middle school students’ grades and their self-confidence in science and mathematics?

6.                  Do students’ high scores on an anxiety test relate to the scores they get on the Scholastic Assessment Test?

7.                  What factors led t the development of standardized achievement tests from 1900 to 1930?

8.                  What were the effects of the GI Bill on state colleges in the Midwest in the 1950s?

9.                  How do special needs students adapt to the culture of junior high school when transitioning from a strongly child-centred elementary school?

10.              How do the first 5 weeks of school in Ms. Foley’s classroom influence activities and interactions in succeeding months?

(a)     1&2-deal with comparisons (comparing) two things

(b)    3&4 –descriptive

(c)    5&6-relational

(d)   7& 8-Historical (what led)

(e)    9& 10 require long-term, in-depth observation to obtain information about the adaptation of special needs children.

The nature of the question determines the method/methodologies to be used to collect data that will help to understand the issue at hand. Some research questions require that you involve many subjects before you can draw conclusions etc.

Activity: Make a list of a few research questions or topics you might wish to study

Basic and Applied Research

(a)    Basic Research-involves the process of collecting and analyzing data information to develop or enhance theory

(b)   Applied Research is conducted for the purpose of applying or testing theory and evaluating its usefulness in solving educational problems.

Most educational research deals with finding what works best rather than why it works best. Educational research tends to find solutions to issues/problems.

Evaluation Research

This type of research is used for evaluative purposes. It seeks to examine the usefulness of a project/program.

Formative Evaluation- is used to inform and improve what is being evaluated

Summative Evaluation: Helps in the making of decisions of the overall quality/usefulness of the program


Quantitativ e and Qualitative Research

Qualitative (subjective)

Quantitative (objective/natural science methods)

Develops hypotheses

Tests hypotheses

Does not seek to control the contexts

Seeks to control the context

Researcher interacts with the participants

Researcher does not interact with participants

Involves a smaller sample

Involves large number of subjects/participants for results to be statistically significant

Is more holistic

Seeks to generalize results

Assumes individuality

Assumes that contexts are relatively stable, uniform and can be controlled

Interpretation of data

Data analyses relies on statistical procedures


Both research methods should not be considered oppositional.

Quantitative Approaches

Quantitative approaches are used to describe current conditions, investigate relationships, and study cause-effect phenomena.

(a)    Descriptive or survey studies-studies designed to describe current conditions. Usually utilizes questionaires/surveys

(b)   Correlational research-studies designed to investigate whether or not a relationship exists between relationship between two or more quantified variables

(c)    Causal-comparative or experimental research-studies designed to investigate cause-effect relationships experimental if the relationship is studied after the fact or in a controlled environment.

Correlational Research:-the degree of correspondence between the variables is measured by a correlation coefficient between –1.00 and +1.00.  If there is no correlation between two variables, the coefficient is 0.00 if there is a correlation, the coefficient is either –1.00 or +1.00 depending on whether if one variable increases the other increases (+1.00) or decreases (+1.00).

Causal-Comparative and experimental Research:-aim at making cause-effect statement about the performance of two or more groups, methods or programs. The basic difference between the two is the amount of control the researcher has over the comparisons studied. In experimental research, the cause is under the control of the researcher and is manipulated by the researcher while in the causal-comparative research, it is not. The alleged cause-the characteristic believed to make a difference is referred to as the treatment or independent variable. The effect is referred to as the dependent variable.

With the causal-comparative study, the researcher does not control the variable eg. Gender, height smoking.  The independent and dependent variables are already in place. It is unethical to attempt to control the variables. (go through examples on page 14-15).

Historical Research Methods

Although a type of qualitative research methodology, it is past oriented and it collects different kinds of data than that of most other qualitative approaches.

It involves studying, understanding and interpreting past events. It is more than collecting and compiling data. It requires interpretation of data/information.

Data sources include: Primary and Secondary sources.

External criticism-this assesses the authenticity of the data (i.e did Martin Luther King write this diary? Could it be forged etc.

Internal criticism evaluates the worth or truthfulness of the content of the data. I.e are the author’s statements biased for some reason? Are important pieces of information left out and why?

Six Features of qualitative Research (see p.g 19)

Guidelines for classification (p.21)

(a)    It is the problem/question that determines which research method is appropriate.

Limitations of the Scientific and disciplined inquiry approach

Questions that seek ask “should” cannot be answered through research. (p. 23).