In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Methodologies for Conducting Education Research

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Datasets
  • Journals
  • Experimental Research
  • Quasi-Experimental Research
  • Hierarchical Linear Modeling
  • Survey Research
  • Assessment and Measurement
  • Qualitative Research Methodologies
  • Program Evaluation
  • Research Syntheses
  • Implementation

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Education Methodologies for Conducting Education Research
Marisa Cannata
  • LAST REVIEWED: 19 August 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 December 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0061


Education is a diverse field and methodologies used in education research are necessarily diverse. The reasons for the methodological diversity of education research are many, including the fact that the field of education is composed of a multitude of disciplines and tensions between basic and applied research. For example, accepted methods of systemic inquiry in history, sociology, economics, and psychology vary, yet all of these disciplines help answer important questions posed in education. This methodological diversity has led to debates about the quality of education research and the perception of shifting standards of quality research. The citations selected for inclusion in this article provide a broad overview of methodologies and discussions of quality research standards across the different types of questions posed in educational research. The citations represent summaries of ongoing debates, articles or books that have had a significant influence on education research, and guides to those who wish to implement particular methodologies. Most of the sections focus on specific methodologies and provide advice or examples for studies employing these methodologies.

General Overviews

The interdisciplinary nature of education research has implications for education research. There is no single best research design for all questions that guide education research. Even through many often heated debates about methodologies, the common strand is that research designs should follow the research questions. The following works offer an introduction to the debates, divides, and difficulties of education research. Schoenfeld 1999, Mitchell and Haro 1999, and Shulman 1988 provide perspectives on diversity within the field of education and the implications of this diversity on the debates about education research and difficulties conducting such research. National Research Council 2002 outlines the principles of scientific inquiry and how they apply to education. Published around the time No Child Left Behind required education policies to be based on scientific research, this book laid the foundation for much of the current emphasis of experimental and quasi-experimental research in education. To read another perspective on defining good education research, readers may turn to Hostetler 2005. Readers who want a general overview of various methodologies in education research and directions on how to choose between them should read Creswell 2009 and Green, et al. 2006. The American Educational Research Association (AERA), the main professional association focused on education research, has developed standards for how to report methods and findings in empirical studies. Those wishing to follow those standards should consult American Educational Research Association 2006.

  • American Educational Research Association. 2006. Standards for reporting on empirical social science research in AERA publications. Educational Researcher 35.6: 33–40.

    DOI: 10.3102/0013189X035006033

    The American Educational Research Association is the professional association for researchers in education. Publications by AERA are a well-regarded source of research. This article outlines the requirements for reporting original research in AERA publications.

  • Creswell, J. W. 2009. Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches. 3d ed. Los Angeles: SAGE.

    Presents an overview of qualitative, quantitative and mixed-methods research designs, including how to choose the design based on the research question. This book is particularly helpful for those who want to design mixed-methods studies.

  • Green, J. L., G. Camilli, and P. B. Elmore. 2006. Handbook of complementary methods for research in education. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

    Provides a broad overview of several methods of educational research. The first part provides an overview of issues that cut across specific methodologies, and subsequent chapters delve into particular research approaches.

  • Hostetler, K. 2005. What is “good” education research? Educational Researcher 34.6: 16–21.

    DOI: 10.3102/0013189X034006016

    Goes beyond methodological concerns to argue that “good” educational research should also consider the conception of human well-being. By using a philosophical lens on debates about quality education research, this article is useful for moving beyond qualitative-quantitative divides.

  • Mitchell, T. R., and A. Haro. 1999. Poles apart: Reconciling the dichotomies in education research. In Issues in education research. Edited by E. C. Lagemann and L. S. Shulman, 42–62. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

    Chapter outlines several dichotomies in education research, including the tension between applied research and basic research and between understanding the purposes of education and the processes of education.

  • National Research Council. 2002. Scientific research in education. Edited by R. J. Shavelson and L. Towne. Committee on Scientific Principles for Education Research. Center for Education. Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

    This book was released around the time the No Child Left Behind law directed that policy decisions should be guided by scientific research. It is credited with starting the current debate about methods in educational research and the preference for experimental studies.

  • Schoenfeld, A. H. 1999. The core, the canon, and the development of research skills. Issues in the preparation of education researchers. In Issues in education research. Edited by E. C. Lagemann and L. S. Shulman, 166–202. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

    Describes difficulties in preparing educational researchers due to the lack of a core and a canon in education. While the focus is on preparing researchers, it provides valuable insight into why debates over education research persist.

  • Shulman, L. S. 1988. Disciplines of inquiry in education: An overview. In Complementary methods for research in education. Edited by R. M. Jaeger, 3–17. Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association.

    Outlines what distinguishes research from other modes of disciplined inquiry and the relationship between academic disciplines, guiding questions, and methods of inquiry.

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