Introduction to Educational Research

Introduction to Educational Research

Educational research aims to bring a scholarly lens—the curiosity, the inquiry, the rigor, the disciplinary variety—to what happens in the classroom. It begins with intellectual curiosity, is conducted deliberately and systematically, is grounded in an analysis of some evidence, and results in findings shared with peers to be reviewed and to expand a knowledge base.

Generally, educational research is defined as research that investigates the behavior of students, teachers, administrators, parents, and other members of the community who interact with educational institutions.

Educational research is a careful, systematic investigation into any aspect of education. The French word "recherche" means to travel through or survey. The nature of educational research is analogous to the nature of research itself, which is systematic, reliable, and valid to find the “truth”, investigate knowledge, and solve problems (William Wiersma, 1991).

Moreover, the educational research process involves steps to collect information in order to investigate problems and knowledge. However, educational research is more complex because it can use various approaches and strategies to solve problems in educational settings. It also can involve many disciplines such as anthropology, sociology, behavior, and history.

In addition, educational research is important because of contributing to knowledge development, practical improvement, and policy information (John W. Creswell, 2005). Therefore, educators can use those research findings to improve their competencies and teaching and learning process.

Reasons for Education Research

The reasons for pursuing educational research are to:

·         Examine your classroom practice through a systematic process of inquiry.

·         Record successes and failures with the goal of improving student learning and teaching practice.

·         Reflect on findings in relation to existing educational research literature.

·         Validate your teaching practice and build theory relating to educational approaches.

·         Share and disseminate experiences to build upon what we know about teaching and learning processes.

Purposes for Studying Educational Research

1.      To orient students to the nature of educational research: its purposes, forms, and importance.

1.      To provide information that helps students become more intelligent consumers of educational research: where to locate it, how to understand it, and critique it.

2.      To provide information on the fundamentals of doing educational research such as selecting a problem, using available tools, organizing a project, etc.

Characteristics of Educational Research

Research is a way of thinking and to qualify as research it needs to have certain characteristics such as follows:

Research begins with a question in the mind of the researcher

You need only to look around and everywhere you see phenomena that will arouse your curiosity. For example, why are children in this school unable to read? Why are girls performing better than boys? These are situations in which the meaning of which you do not comprehend.

By asking relevant questions we create an inquisitive environment which is the prerequisite for research. Research arises from a question that is intelligently asked with regard to a phenomenon that the researcher observes and is puzzling him or her.

Research requires a plan

One does not discover the truth or explanations about a phenomenon without serious and meticulous planning. Research is not just looking up something in the hope of coming across the solution to your problem. Rather it entails a definite plan, direction, and design.

Research demands a clear statement of the problem

Successful research begins with a clear, simple statement of the problem. The statement of the problem should be stated precisely and grammatically completely, must set forth what it seeks to discover, and enables one to see what one is attempting to research

Research deals with the main problem through sub-problems.

Divide the main problem into appropriate sub-problems, all of which when resolved will result in the solution of the main research problem.

Research seeks direction through appropriate hypotheses

Having stated the problem and the related sub-problems, the sub-problems are then each viewed through logical constructs called hypotheses. A hypothesis is a logical supposition, a reasonable guess, and an educated conjecture which may give direction to thinking with respect to the problem, and thus, aid in solving it.

Research deals with facts and their meaning.

Having defined the problem, the sub-problems, and the hypothesis, the next step is to collect whatever facts pertinent to the problem. Organize the data collected into a form that is potentially meaningful.

Types of Educational Research

There is no general agreement on the types of educational research which exist. The types that will be presented in this primer are as follows:

·         Ethnographic - attempts to describe group behavior and interactions in social settings. It relies on qualitative techniques especially observation and careful recording of events and social interactions.

·         Historical - attempts to describe and explain conditions of the past. It generally relies on qualitative data such as written documents and oral histories.

·         Descriptive - attempts to describe and explain conditions of the present. It relies on qualitative and quantitative data gathered from written documents, personal interviews, test results, surveys, etc.

·         Correlational - attempts to explore relationships or make predictions. It relies on quantitative data such as test scores, grade point averages, attitudinal instruments, etc. which can be correlated and show that some relationship exists between or among them.

·         Action and Evaluation Research - attempts to determine the value of a product, procedure, or program in a particular (e.g., school, district) setting with the goal of improving the same. Action and evaluation research does not attempt to generalize results for a broader population.

·         Causal Comparative - attempts to explore cause and effect relationships where causes already exist and cannot be manipulated. It relies on both qualitative and quantitative data such as written documents, interviews, test scores, etc.

·         Experimental - attempts to explore cause and effect relationships where causes can be manipulated to produce different kinds of effects. It relies mostly on quantitative data such as test scores and measures of performance.


Resources for Research

A literature review is an evaluative report of studies found in the literature related to your selected area. The review should describe, summarize, evaluate and clarify this literature. It should give a theoretical basis for the research and help you determine the nature of your own research.

Select a limited number of works that are central to your area rather than trying to collect a large number of works that are not as closely connected to your topic area.

Purpose of literature review

A literature review goes beyond the search for information and includes the identification and articulation of relationships between the literature and your field of research. While the form of the literature are view may vary with different types of studies, the basic purposes remain constant:

·         Provide a context for the research

·         Justify the research

·         Ensure the research hasn't been done before (or that it is not just a "replication study")

·         Show where the research fits into the existing body of knowledge

·         Enable the researcher to learn from previous theory on the subject

·         Illustrate how the subject has been studied previously

·         Highlight flaws in previous research

·         Outline gaps in previous research

·         Show that the work is adding to the understanding and knowledge of the field

·         Help refine, refocus or even change the topic

Sources of Literature

Sources are generally described as primary, secondary, or tertiary. Primary sources are “materials that you are directly writing about, the raw materials of your own research.” Secondary sources are “books and articles in which other researchers report the results of their research based on (their) primary data or sources.”

Tertiary sources are “books and articles based on secondary sources, on the research of others.” Tertiary sources synthesize and explain the work of others and might be useful early in your research, but they are generally weak support for your own arguments.


Examples of primary sources are data sets, computer runs, computer programs, scale models, drawings, and engineering notebooks. A well-kept engineering notebook can provide valuable information for later documentation of test conditions and assumptions, materials used, observations as well as measurements, and unusual occurrences that prompted further testing.


Examples of secondary sources include conferences, proceedings, journals, and books. Journal articles are often the most current source of information on a topic of study that is new or subject to rapid change. Lists of references at the end of each journal article can provide leads to further sources. Engineering journals are typically field-specific. For a selected list of current journals in agricultural, chemical, civil, computer, electrical, environmental, industrial, and mechanical engineering, ask at your facility or university library for specific guides.


Examples of tertiary sources include dictionaries, encyclopedias, guides, and handbooks. “Dictionaries and encyclopedias are excellent starting points for research. They can provide general background information to help narrow or broaden the focus of a topic, define unfamiliar terms, and offer bibliographies of other sources.

Some works include an index, which will provide excellent access to a subject.” Guides and handbooks cover topics such as tables, formulas, engineering fundamentals, measures and units of conversion, mathematics, statistics, and numerical calculations; these sources are especially useful during the writing phase of your research.

Methods of Data Collection

1. Observation

Observation is the process in which one or more persons observe what is occurring in some real-life situation and they classify and record pertinent happenings according to some planned schemes. It is used to evaluate the overt behavior of individuals in controlled or uncontrolled situations. It is a method of research that deals with the external behavior of persons in appropriate situations.

2. Interview

The interview is a relatively more flexible tool than any written inquiry form and permits explanation, adjustment, and variation according to the situation. The observational methods, as we know, are restricted mostly to non-verbal acts. So these are understandably not so effective in giving information about a person’s past and private behavior, future actions, attitudes, perceptions, faiths, beliefs thought processes, motivations, etc.

3. Questionnaire

According to Goode and Hatt “It is a device for securing answers to questions by using a form which the respondent fills in himself. According to GA. Lundberg “Fundamentally the questionnaire is a set of stimuli to which illiterate people are exposed in order to observe their verbal behavior under these stimuli”.

4. Schedule

The schedule is very much similar to the questionnaire and there is very little difference between the two so far as their construction is concerned. The main difference between these two is that whereas the schedule is used in a direct interview on direct observation and in it the questions are asked and filled by the researcher himself, the questionnaire is generally mailed to the respondent, who fills it up and returns it to the researcher. Thus the main difference between them lies in the method of obtaining data.

5. Case Study Method

In the words of Giddings, “the case under investigation may be one human individual only or only an episode in first life or it might conceivably be a Nation or an epoch of history.” Ruth Strong maintains that “the case history or study is a synthesis and interpretation of information about a person and his relationship to his environment collected by means of many techniques.”
Basic Statistical Terms

· Population is any specific collection of objects of interest.

· Sample is any subset or sub-collection of the population, including the case that the sample consists of the whole population, in which case it is termed a census.

· Measurement is a number or attributes computed for each member of a population or of a sample. The measurements of sample elements are collectively called sample data.

· Parameter is a number that summarizes some aspect of the population as a whole. A statistic is a number computed from the sample data.

· Statistics is a collection of methods for collecting, displaying, analyzing, and drawing conclusions from data.

· Descriptive statistics is the branch of statistics that involves organizing, displaying, and describing data.

· Inferential statistics is the branch of statistics that involves drawing conclusions about a population based on information contained in a sample taken from that population.

· Qualitative data are measurements for which there is no natural numerical scale, but which consist of attributes, labels, or other non-numerical characteristics.

Quantitative data are numerical measurements that arise from a natural numerical scale.

In Conclusion

Education research is the scientific field of study that examines education and learning processes and the human attributes, interactions, organizations, and institutions that shape educational outcomes.


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