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Conduct research

Educational research process

Conducting educational research involves the exploration, description, explanation, or prediction of educational phenomenon using systematic data collection and analysis procedures.

All educational research studies should follow a planning, data gathering, and analysis and reporting process consisting of the following steps:

Planning

STEP 1 Identify the problem or topic

The literature review will help you gain an understanding of the current state of knowledge pertaining to your research idea.  It will inform you if the research problem or topic has already been explored (and if a revision or replication is needed), how to design your study, what data collection methods to use, and help make sense of the findings of your study once data analysis is complete. 

STEP 2 Review prior research

The literature review will help you gain an understanding of the current state of knowledge pertaining to your research idea.  It will inform you if the research problem or topic has already been explored (and if a revision or replication is needed), how to design your study, what data collection methods to use, and help make sense of the findings of your study once data analysis is complete. 

STEP 3 Determine the purpose, research questions, or hypotheses

Identifying a clear purpose helps determine how the research should be conducted, what research design you will use, and the research question(s) or hypothesis(es) of your study. Four general purposes for conducting educational research are to explore, describe, predict, or explain.  

STEP 4 Consider research implications

Implications are the practical ways your research will affect the field of education. These are the underlying goals, the rationales for, or the importance of your study.  Implications are linked to your research problem or topic, research purpose, and research question(s) or hypothesis(es).

STEP 5 Construct a research proposal

The research proposal is a detailed description of how the study will be conducted that includes the title and researchers of the study, statement of the research problem and research purpose, review of relevant literature, research question(s) or hypothesis(es), what information or variables are to be gathered, the participants of the study and potential benefits or risks, the design and procedure for gathering data, what data collection method(s) will be used, and how the data will be analyzed.

Example proposal

Gathering Data

STEP 6 Gather data

Data gathering focuses on information acquisition that will attempt to answer your research questions or support your hypotheses.

Data gathering includes consideration about what variables to investigate, the unit of analysis or participants of the study (population and sample), human subject protections, procedures used for selecting participants, the methods and procedures used for data collection, and any reliability or validity of collection methods. [more]

Reporting Results

STEP 7 Analyze data

Data or statistical analysis will depend on whether you collected quantitative data, qualitative data , or both.

For quantitative data, there are a variety of statistical analysis tools you can use to identify statistical relationships between variables.  For qualitative data, data analysis generally involves holistically identifying patterns, categories, and themes.  [more]

STEP 8 Determine findings

Determine the findings from your data analyses. For quantitative data, you want to determine statistical information and general findings.  For qualitative data, you are primary more interested in detailed and specific findings. If you are using a mixed approach, which we strongly recommend, make sure to triangulate your findings or describe how the findings supplement each other and help explain a more complete picture.  

STEP 9 Report conclusions, implications, and limitations

Conclusions are statements that interpret and evaluate the results found from the study.  Make sure to give primary emphasis to the results that relate to the hypotheses or research questions of your study. 

Factors to consider when reporting conclusions, or data dissemination, include tailoring report content for the audience, explaining the purpose of the study, integrating your findings with the results from prior research, and how the findings relate to your research questions and hypotheses.  

Make sure to discuss what practical or theoretical implications can be drawn for your study, any major shortcomings or limitations of your research, and directions or suggestions for future research. 

Adapted from the following sources:

Creswell, J. W. (2004). Educational research: Planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research, 2nd ed. Columbus, OH: Prentice Hall

Johnson, B., & Christensen, L. B. (2004). Educational research: Quantitative, qualitative and mixed approaches, 2nd ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Page last updated: Sep 21 2011
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