This may cover a variety of approaches, but will draw primarily on existing literature, rather than new empirical data. A discursive study could examine a particular issue, perhaps from an alternative perspective (eg feminist). Alternatively, it might put forward a particular argument or examine a methodological issue.
· Davies, P. (1999) ‘What is Evidence-Based Education?’ British Journal of Educational Studies, 47 (2), 108-121. [A discussion of the meaning of ‘evidence-based education’ and its relevance to research and policy]
· Pring, R. (2000) ‘The ‘False Dualism’ of Educational Research’. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 34, 2, 247-260. [An argument against the idea that qualitative and quantitative research are from rigidly distinct paradigms]
2 Literature review
This may be an attempt to summarise or comment on what is already known about a particular topic. By collecting different sources together, synthesising and analysing critically, it essentially creates new knowledge or perspectives. There are a number of different forms a literature review might take.
A ‘systematic’ review will generally go to great lengths to ensure that all relevant sources (whether published or not) have been included. Details of the search strategies used and the criteria for inclusion must be made clear. A systematic review will often make a quantitative synthesis of the results of all the studies, for example by meta-analysis.
Where a literature field is not sufficiently well conceptualised to allow this kind of synthesis, or where findings are largely qualitative (or inadequately quantified), it may not be appropriate to attempt a systematic review. In this case a literature review may help to clarify the key concepts without attempting to be systematic. It may also offer critical or alternative perspectives to those previously put forward.
· Adair, J.G, Sharpe, D. and Huynh, C-L. (1990) ‘Hawthorne Control Procedures in Educational Experiments: A reconsideration of their use and effectiveness’ Review of Educational Research, 59, 2, 215-228. [A systematic review and meta-analysis of studies that have tried to measure the ‘Hawthorne Effect’]
· Black, P. and Wiliam, D. (1998) ‘Assessment and classroom learning’. Assessment in Education, 5, 1, 7-74. [Quite a long article, but it includes an excellent summary of a large field of research]
· Brown, M., Askew, M., Baker, D., Denvir, H and Millett, A. (1998) ‘Is the National Numeracy Strategy Research-Based?’ British Journal of Educational Studies, 46, 4, 362-385 [A review of the evidence for and against the numeracy strategy]
3 Case study
This will involve collecting empirical data, generally from only one or a small number of cases. It usually provides rich detail about those cases, of a predominantly qualitative nature. There are a number of different approaches to case study work (eg ethnographic, hermeneutic, ethogenic, etc) and the principles and methods followed should be made clear.
A case study generally aims to provide insight into a particular situation and often stresses the experiences and interpretations of those involved. It may generate new understandings, explanations or hypotheses. However, it does not usually claim representativeness and should be careful not to over-generalise.
· Jimenez, R.T. and Gersten, R. (1999) ‘Lessons and Dilemmas derived from the Literacy Instruction of two Latina/o Teachers’. American Educational Research Journal, 36, 2, 265-302. [A detailed study of the behaviour and experiences of two teachers of English to minority students]
· Ball, S. (1981) Beachside Comprehensive: a case study of secondary schooling. Cambridge, CUP. [This is a book, but a classic case study]
Where an empirical study involves collecting information from a larger number of cases, perhaps using questionnaires, it is usually described as a survey. Alternatively, a survey might make use of already available data, collected for another purpose. A survey may be cross-sectional (data collected at one time) or longitudinal (collected over a period). Because of the larger number of cases, a survey will generally involve some quantitative analysis.
Issues of generalisablity are usually important in presenting survey results, so it is vital to report how samples were chosen, what response rates were achieved and to comment on the validity and reliability of any instruments used.
· Francis, B. (2000) ‘The Gendered Subject: students’ subject preferences and discussions of gender and subject ability’. Oxford Review of Education, 26, 1, 35-48.
· Denscombe, M. (2000) ‘Social Conditions for Stress: young people’s experience of doing GCSEs’ British Educational Research Journal, 26,. 3, 359-374.
This might be an evaluation of a curriculum innovation or organisational change. An evaluation can be formative (designed to inform the process of development) or summative (to judge the effects). Often an evaluation will have elements of both. If an evaluation relates to a situation in which the researcher is also a participant it may be described as ‘action research’. Evaluations will often make use of case study and survey methods and a summative evaluation will ideally also use experimental methods.
· Burden, R. and Nichols, L. (2000) ‘Evaluating the process of introducing a thinking skills programme into the secondary school curriculum’. Research Papers in Education, 15, 3, 259-74.
· Ruddock, J. Berry, M., Brown, N. and Frost, D. (2000) ‘Schools learning from other schools: cooperation in a climate of competition’. Research Papers in Education, 15, 3, 293-306.
This involves the deliberate manipulation of an intervention in order to determine its effects. The intervention might involve individual pupils, teachers, schools or some other unit. Again, if the researcher is also a participant (eg a teacher) this could be described as ‘action research’. An experiment may compare a number of interventions with each other, or may compare one (or more) to a control group. If allocation to these different ‘treatment groups’ is decided at random it may be called a true experiment; if allocation is on any other basis (eg using naturally arising or self-selected groups) it is usually called a ‘quasi-experiment’.
Issues of generalisablity (often called ‘external validity’) are usually important in an experiment, so the same attention must be given to sampling, response rates and instrumentation as in a survey (see above). It is also important to establish causality (‘internal validity’) by demonstrating the initial equivalence of the groups (or attempting to make suitable allowances), presenting evidence about how the different interventions were actually implemented and attempting to rule out any other factors that might have influenced the result.
· Finn, J.D. and Achilles, C.M. (1990) ‘Answers and questions about class size: A statewide experiment.’ American Educational Research Journal, 27, 557-577. [A large-scale classic experiment to determine the effects of small classes on achievement]
· Slavin, R.E. (1980) ‘Effects of individual learning expectations on student achievement’. Journal of Educational Psychology, 72, 4, 520-4. [A smaller study which investigates how the kinds of feedback students are given affects their achievement]