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Research Methods


This resource was used to draw together materials that could be helpful to educational researchers at different stages of their careers. The resource was initially produced as part of the ESRC Teaching and Learning Research Programme (TLRP)'s commitment to research capacity building. TLRP itself has now developed a more comprehensive suite of resources on research approaches designed to help develop researcher expertise. However, the different way this set of resources was put together may still be of interest to those who want an insight into educational research methods. There are a number of general collections of web-based resources on educational research mentioned below, and we use the right hand column to showcase some TLRP material in this area, which will give you a grounded ways into discussions about research methods.

This section provides links to materials that include discussions about the range of methods, methodologies, strategies and epistemological and theoretical positions in use in educational research. Any consideration of research methods should also give attention to:

  • Decisions about which methods to use (e.g. epistemological positions)
  • Methods in action (adapting and using methods in context)
  • Data handling, reduction, analysis and synthesis (e.g. validation, tracking, coding, etc)
  • Ethical concerns
  • Scope of the study (e.g. longitudinal, snap-shot)

Intute is a free online service which aims to provide a trusted source of selected, high quality Internet information for students, academics, researchers and practitioners in a wide range of subjects: see, for example, Intute Education and Intute: Research Tools and Methods. Each resource has been evaluated and categorised by subject specialists based at UK universities. For an example of content on the site look at their sections on quantitative methods and qualitative methods. The Intute Virtual Training Suite also provides an introductory tutorial in the use of the Internet for education research and teaching, where you can look at the range of information about Education on the Internet; guide you to some key Web sites for teaching and research in Education; and help you start collecting your own list of useful Web sites. See especially the sections on Internet for Social Research Methods, written by Louise Corti of the Depatment of Sociology and Data Archive, University of Essex, and Internet for Social Statistics, written by Robin Rice of the Edinburgh University Data Library.

There are a number of not for profit research organisations that produce publications which may of interest: for example, the National Centre for Social Research and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The Chronic Poverty Research Centre have developed a research methods toolbox for use in policy relevant research. Research in Practice is the largest children and families research implementation project in England and Wales and their website includes a section designed to help users find and evaluate research supporting evidence informed practice.

The Research Methods Programme was an ESRC programme that ran from 2002 - 2007 aimed at improving the standards of research methods across the UK social science community. The National Centre for e-Social Science

The National Centre for e-Social Science (NCeSS) is an ESRC initiative designed to investigate how innovative and powerful computer-based infrastructure and tools developed over the past five years under the UK e-Science programme can benefit the social science research community.

The ESRC Researcher Development Initiative supports the training and development of researchers in the social sciences at all stages of their career. RDI aims to facilitate the production and deployment of a range of activities and resources, including student-led activities; training for research students and researchers throughout their career; regional training events; and the development and use of new tools and packages for training purposes.

The Centre for the Use of Research and Evidence in Education (CUREE) "supports and develops the effective use of research and evidence in education in order to improve practice and policy and to help raise standards." It aims to make research and evidence useful and attractive to practitioners and policy makers. It produces publications that may be of interest for reseachers: see, for example: their publications and resources sections.

Also on the Internet there have been attempts to reproduce complete textbooks on Research Methods in a web-based format: one example of this is the Research Methods Knowledge Base which is a comprehensive web-based textbook that addresses all of the topics in a typical American introductory undergraduate or graduate course in social research methods.

The National Centre for Research Methods (NCRM) facilitates workshops and other activities in relation to a wide range of research techniques. The ESRC National Centre for Research Methods (NCRM) is a Hub-Node network of research groups, each conducting research and training in an area of social science research methods, coordinated by the Hub at the University of Southampton. On the site you can search for training events and forthcoming methods workshops, conferences and seminars. You can also access NCRM publications and presentations. You can subscribe to receive information on developments and events in research methods, including a quarterly research methods e-newsletter; a monthly e-bulletin of forthcoming events, courses, training opportunities and so on, offered by ESRC, NCRM, the Research Methods Programme, the Researcher Development Initiative, and related groups.

NCRM nodes:

BIAS: Bayesian methods for combining multiple Individual and Aggregate data Sources in observational studies (Imperial College)
The aim of BIAS is to develop a set of statistical frameworks for combining data from multiple sources to improve the capacity of social science methods to handle the intricacies of observational data.

LEMMA: Learning environment for multilevel methodology and applications (University of Bristol)
This interdisciplinary Node focuses on the quantitative multilevel analysis of data with complex structure that mirrors substantive research questions.

Developing Statistical Modelling in the Social Sciences (Lancaster University & University of Warwick)
The aim of this node will be to develop and extend statistical methodology and models concentrating on substantive problems in the social sciences related to social and developmental change.

Methods for Research Synthesis Programme (Institute of Education, University of London)
Before undertaking any new policy, practice or research or making personal decisions in our lives it can be useful to find out what others already know about the issue. Research synthesis can assist such processes by providing a method for identifying and synthesising the findings of primary research.

QUALTI: Qualitative Research Methods in the Social Sciences: Innovation, Integration and Impact (Cardiff University)
QUALITI focuses on the innovation, integration and impact of qualitative research methods, paying particular attention to the social contexts in which research methods and methodologies are situated.

Real Life Methods (Universities of Manchester & Leeds)
The Real Life Methods node aims to pioneer research methods that can grasp the multi-dimensionality of everyday real life. The approach is qualitatively-driven, whilst spanning and transcending the qualitative/quantitative divide.

TLRP showcase:

Research methods are used in accordance with theorectical/epistemological perspectives, and a useful discussion of the Methodological Paradigms in Educational Research has been produced by Martyn Hammersley.

TLRP project discussions about methodological frameworks

Stephen Steadman (2004) produced a paper on the methodological issues associated with researching learning at work: Early Career Learning at Work (LiNEA) Project Methodology and Theoretical Frameworks. It is drawn from the TLRP project on Early Career Learning. The researchers faced the challenge of most learning at work being informal and therefore unlikely to be readily acknowledged or scarcely remembered without some pertinent prompting.

Discussion on the nature of cause:effect models

The role of cause and effect in education as a social science by Stephen Gorard in TLRP RCBN Occasional Paper 43.

Discussion on the nature of generalisation

Fuzzy generalisations and best estimates of trustworthiness: a step towards transforming research knowledge about learning into effective teaching practice
by Michael Bassey (2000).