In this post I offer food for thoughts and ideas on getting started with educational research. My previous posts cover thoughts on what methodology and methods and epistemology are and what the differences are between action research and case studies. Also, I offer brief introductions to two specific approaches: sensory ethnography and the Mosaic approach.
However, getting started with educational research requires more careful thought than merely some technical knowledge about key terms.
Irrespective of the size or scope of planned research, we all have to consider certain aspects before we decide on our methodology or method:
- Your own beliefs and assumptions
- Question or hypothesis
1. Your own beliefs and assumptions
Before setting out on the research journey, you should identify clearly what you believe in, what your thoughts are about the topic in question and about collecting data. Although these may appear quite philosophical your answers to the following questions matter and influence your choices: What is truth? What is knowledge? How can we describe truth and knowledge? What is good research?
What is the point of your research and what are you trying to achieve? Are you trying to describe something that happens in your practice? Or are you trying to improve the students’ experience of your teaching? Perhaps you are trying to improve your teaching? Depending on what you are setting out to do, you will either phrase a question or hypothesis, which in turn influences your choices of methods or methodology later on.
3. Question or hypothesis
The research question is that, a question. Although this may be an obvious statement, in reality it is not a simple matter. A question should be free of bias and not leading. If you have specific outcomes in mind then your question is not a question but a hypothesis. Answering a research question or testing a hypothesis requires different approaches to your research design. The importance here is to be fully aware of your own position. If you have clear expectations in mind, then be open and honest about those. Do not pretend to ask a question when really you are testing a theory.
Once you have considered research in general and the particular aims and objectives of your research, you need to think about who you are doing research with. Will you be doing research on or with your participants. This is an important decision to take and will influence how you design your research in detail. How much authority and power will you transfer to your participants? Will they be involved in the planning of the methods? Will you ask them to help with data gathering and analysis? Participatory research is very different from traditional research and the relationship between participants and researcher therefore also needs to be planned for.
More information and details will follow in future posts.