Nature and Classification of Educational Research (Part 1)

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Information about Nature and Classification of Educational Research (Part 1)

Published on March 9, 2014

Author: ChaamSon



This is the first part of Ch. 1 of the book "Research Methods in Education: An Introduction". It tackles upon the nature of research and classification of educational research. The second part to be uploaded soon is on the role of theory, activities of the research process, and the function of educational research.

Damascus University Higher Languages Institute Research Methodology Research Methods in Education: An Introduction Educational Research: Its Nature and Characteristics (chapter 1, part 1) Professor: Ali Saud Hassan Presented by: Abd Al-Rahman Al-Midani January, 6th, 2014 Email:

Outline:  Introduction  The Nature of Research  Empiricism of Research  The Systematic Process of Research  Validity of Educational Research  Reliability of Educational Research  Research has many forms  Classification of Educational Research  Basic and Applied  General Methodology: Qualitative and Quantitative Research

Introduction:  Scholars and practitioners of various degrees of academic and professional sophistication are involved in research.  Research is necessary for graduate students to go further in their education.  Research is conducted under many settings, durations and fundings.  Advances in all fields are attributed to research.

 Graduate students are required to conduct researches to acquire a degree despite all financial, expertise, and opportunity impediments.  It has been argued that the results of educational research will lead to the improvement of educational practice; therefore, professional practitioners should maintain a continued interest in research.  The results of educational research are reported in a way that requires a knowledgeable person to read and implement them. In Research results are important to make decisions.

 Although educational research is complex and demanding, the broad spectrum of research activities ranges from the simple, single operations to complex combinations of qualitative and quantitative procedures.  Doing research is the only way to be competent in it; the researcher must be skillful to carry out a research. He has to identify a problem, collect date, write a report etc…  The results of research must always be subject to constructive criticism.  This chapter discusses the general procedures and methods; the practicing researcher must project them into the specific situation.

Nature of Educational Research  The following characteristics are related in that, as a whole, they describe the nature of research: 1. Research is empirical; 2. Research is systematic; 3. Research should be valid; 4. Research should be reliable; 5. Research can take on a variety of forms.

1. Research is Empirical:   Empiricism is the concept that all knowledge is derived from a sense experience; this experience results in some information form—data– so that knowledge can be generated upon it. Researchers work upon data; this may involve organizing them, generating hypotheses, testing them and so on. 2. Systematic Process of Research:   McMillan and Schumacher (1989) define research as “a systematic process for collecting and analyzing information (data) for some purpose.” (P. 8) Kerlinger defines scientific research as “systematic, controlled, empirical and critical investigation of natural phenomena guided by theory and hypotheses about the presumed relations among such phenomena.” (P. 10)

 To make research systematic, researchers use the approach of scientific inquiry and scientific method.  Scientific Inquiry: search for knowledge through recognized methods of data collection, analysis and interpretation.  Scientific Method: research process is considered to consist of a series of sequential steps.  Scientific Method: 1) Identifying a problem The nature of the problem is to be defined; related knowledge is identified and a framework to conduct the research is established. In addition, necessary assumptions and conditions are also identified. 2) Review information The researcher reviews how others approached a similar problem; i.e. Literature review.

3) Data collection: Collecting data requires a proper organization and control to validate the data to make decisions upon them 4) Data analysis: Data analysis must be done in a manner appropriate to the problem. 5) Drawing conclusions Following data analysis, researchers draw conclusions and make generalizations based on the data they had collected. Educational research is systematic and within a broad framework follows the steps of the scientific method. However, across different types of studies, there is extensive flexibility in how the steps are implemented.

3. The Validity of Educational Research: Researches must be based on facts; i.e. capable to be justified. There are two concepts: internal validity and external validity.  Internal Validity: it is the extent to which the results of a research can be interpreted accurately and with confidence. • An Example of high internal validity:

 External Validity: the extent to which research results can be generalized.  Internal validity is a prerequisite for external validity because if the results cannot be interpreted accurately with confidence, researchers cannot generalize them.  An example of high external validity: In a school district that has five elementary schools, a survey via telephone was conducted on the perceptions of parents who have children studying in these schools; the questions covered all point of interest to the schools. From each school, 25 parents where chosen randomly. The total number is 125. - The population to which the results of this study are to be generalized is the population of parents who have children in the five elementary schools. - It is unlikely to generalize the research to other schools that use other schools systems. If done, an argument for similarity of parents must be provided.

An example of a research lacking external validity: Only 25 parents of the intended 125 had been interviewed. Researchers cannot generalize the results i.e. it lacks external validity. External Validity is the extent to which results are generalizable to populations and/or conditions.  Generalizability does not mean that the study must be generalized to many various situations and populations; external validity, rather, depends upon the conditions and purposes of the specific research study.  It is impossible to reach perfect internal and external validity; researchers must work to reach a balance so that results can be interpreted with confidence and still have some useful generalizability.

4. The Reliability of Educational Research: Reliability refers to the consistency of the research and the extent to which studies can be replicated. 1. Internal reliability refers to the extent that data collection, analysis, and interpretation are consistent under the same conditions. - If internal reliability is lacking, the data becomes a function of who collected them rather than what actually happened. 2. External reliability deals with the issue of whether or not independent researchers can replicate studies in the same or similar settings with consistent results.

 Good description of procedures and conditions is necessary to replicate researches.  Reliability is a necessary characteristic for validity; a study cannot be valid unless it is reliable. If it is unreliable, results cannot be interpreted with confidence and cannot be generalized.  Reliability + validity = credibility of research Reliability of research concerns the replicability and consistency of the methods, conditions, and results. 5. Research has a Variety of Forms Different forms or types of research involve classification systems.

Classification of Educational Research Two systems are described: one based on the goal of the research, and another on the way in which the research is conducted. Basic and Applied Research Applied Research Basic Research - Purpose: solve an immediate, practical problem; - Purpose: adding to the existing body of knowledge in a discipline; - It may contribute to the general knowledge of some field as it produces a solution for a specific problem. (supplemental purpose). - Although not ruled out, basic research does not necessarily provide results of immediate practical use (supplemental purpose).

 Basic and applied research are important; they should not be differentiated by hierarchy of value judgments; instead, the purpose of research is the criterion. An example of Basic Research: - An experiment on learning in a laboratory setting. The purpose of the experiment is to contribute to the knowledge about how learning takes place. An example of Applied Research: - A curriculum committee is surveying elementary school teachers about materials of reading programs. The results of the survey would provide the necessary information for deciding which program to adopt.

Misconceptions 1. Basic research is complex and applied research is simple in methodology. 2. Whereas applied research carried out by unsophisticated practitioners, basic research is carried out by abstract impractical thinkers. 3. While applied research is often sloppy and haphazard but of a great practical value, basic research is precise and exacting but of little or no value in real situations. Basic research and Applied research are differentiated by their purpose. The primary purpose of basic research is the extension of knowledge; the purpose of applied research is the solution of an immediate, practical problem.

Action Research  Action research is one type of applied research. It is conducted by a professional educator to aid in making decisions in local schools.  Since it is local, there is concern upon generalizing its results to other educational settings. Teachers are curious about their own practices rather than generalizing the outcomes.  Action research is less rigorous in terms of methodology and design than other educational research.  Action research + research literature = viable approach to making educational decisions at local level. Action research is usually conducted by teachers, or other educational professionals for solving a specific problem, or for providing information for decision making at local level.

Evaluation  In addition to applied and basic research, McMillan and Schumacher (1989) include a third category of evaluative research or evaluation.  Briefly, evaluation is close to applied research. Its function is assessing a practice or program in a certain situation. Application of its results aids in decision making in a specific situation as is the case in applied research. General Methodology: Qualitative and Quantitative Research  Krathwohl defined them as (1993), “Qualitative research: research that describes phenomena in words instead of numbers or measures… Quantitative research: research that describes phenomena in numbers and measures instead of words (P. 740)”  In terms of conducting research, the difference between them is not a dichotomy but a qualitativequantitative continuum.

Qualitative Research  Its origins lay in the descriptive analysis.  It is essentially an inductive process; reasoning from the specific situation to a general conclusion. Quantitative Research  It is closely associated with deduction; reasoning from general principles to specific situations.

Epistemological differences: Qualitative Research Quantitative Research   It has its roots in positivism, and it is more closely associated with the scientific method than the qualitative research.  The emphasis is on facts, relationships, and causes.  Quantitative researchers place great value on the outcomes and products It follows the naturalist paradigm.  It is a holistic interpretation of the natural settings.  Qualitative researchers have great concern for the impact of the process as well as the outcomes. Typically, they are concerned with that more than the quantitative research

Comments on theory Qualitative Research Quantitative Research  Inductive; it does not emphasize a theoretical base for whatsoever is studied at the beginning of the research.  Deductive; it tends to be more theory based from the beginning.  Theory may develop, be changed, or dropped as the research progresses.  When theory-testing research is done, it is likely to be quantitative.  If a theory develops based on the data, a “grounded theory” emerges. It is based on the data rather than prior notions or ideas.  Theory not necessarily identified explicitly, but theory does exist in a way or another.  If no theory emerges, research is atheoritical, and it retains its descriptive value.

Context Qualitative Research    Context-specific; the role of the researcher is one of inclusion in the process. Smith (1987) indicates, “qualitative research is based on the notion of context sensitivity… the particular physical and social environment has great bearing on human behavior.” Qualitative research emphasizes a holistic interpretation; facts and values are inextricably mixed. Quantitative Research  Context-free generalizations.  Quantitative research is much willing to focus on individual variables and factors rather than on a holistic interpretation. Quantitative researchers separate facts and values.

Standards and design Qualitative Research Quantitative Research  Qualitative Researchers are more flexible once they start their research.  It is more attuned to standardized research procedures and predetermined designs.  Qualitative Research involves multiple methods more frequently than the quantitative research.  Qualitative Research involves less multiple methods than the qualitative research.  It relies heavily on statistical results represented with numbers.  It relies heavily on narrative description.

Purpose Qualitative Research Quantitative Research   It is done to understand a social phenomenon. It is done to determine relationships, effects, and causes. In education, both types are valuable and can be supportive of each other in understanding the many factors that impact education.

 From a practical point of view, qualitative and quantitative procedures are often mixed; however, their methodologies can be placed on the continuum– not on dichotomy–as they tend towards the qualitative or quantitative.


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