Sources of Educational Research

Sources of Educational Research


(mellow piano music) – [Presenter] Decision makers
contend with information about educational interventions
and programs claiming to be effective in improving
student’s learning. The ability to access research
on a given intervention or program and assess
its quality is critical for decision makers and
educational practitioners, so that they can decide
which interventions or programs merit consideration
for implementation. In this video we will first
discuss different sources of information such as
newspapers, books, and journals, then we will cover how to access
research-based information. You are likely to encounter
many different sources of information about educational programs and what people think might work to improve education practices. These sources include newspapers,
magazines, television, academic, and popular
press books, journals, results you find from search engines, and the What Works Clearinghouse. Newspapers, magazines,
and television are able to provide current and recent information. Their stories can be based on developments and events that are hours or days old. They are also accessible both in terms of being able to gain
access to the content and in terms of their narrative styles. These kinds of sources work hard to be understood by a general audience. This can be a strength or a weakness. Newspapers, magazines, and television however have a number
of specific weaknesses. Their stories are often written by reporters who are not
experts in the field. They may lack knowledge of the context or history of the story. For example, a story on a highly successful inner city school may fail to discuss relevant factors that are related to its performance, such as additional external funding, selection criteria, or a
more homogenous student body. Popular media outlets such as these often also lack references or citations for those interested in
obtaining more information or verifying the facts of the story. Like newspapers, magazines, and television, popular press books can be highly accessible
sources of information. They are generally written for an audience that has more interest
than the general public and consequently often
provide more information, including references and sources, than other forms of popular media. However, popular press books do not generally provide
original research, and they do not generally
have a high level of rigor in how they review and report
research conducted by others, that is such books are less
likely to critically review and analyze the studies they examine, and consequently do not
provide enough information for you to evaluate and
understand the strength of the evidence presented. Academic books have several advantages. They tend to provide in-depth
examinations of a topic. Such books generally provide
a history and context for their topic, and the
conclusions they offer. This can make it easier to understand how and why prior research was
conducted and what was found. While every author has
his or her own views and perspectives, academic
books provide extensive sources and citations for you
to examine if you wish. Additionally, these types of books often include original research. However, academic books are
less likely to be current, often discussing events or
topics that are years old, sometimes even decades old. This is especially true if a book pulls together
a large body of research, which itself may span many years. The intended audiences
for academic books tend to be other academics and
professionals in the field. As a result, they are not
written for general audiences. This can either be a
strength or a weakness depending on one’s perspective and needs. Academic journals are not
as current as popular media, but are typically more
current than academic books. Their publication process in part because of their peer-review
requirements means it can take two or three years
to publish a journal article, though sometimes it is faster. Journal articles in contrast to books tend to be very narrowly
focused on a single topic. Like academic books they are intended for a technical audience,
often even more so than a book. This can make them difficult
to read and understand for people who are not
also researchers, but what primarily sets many academic
journal articles apart is that they are peer reviewed. This means that other experts in the field critically reviewed the
article prior to publication. Articles published in
peer-reviewed journals are reviewed by several other experts in the field to ensure the quality of the study. These journals are often referred to as refereed or scholarly. In many peer-reviewed journals, the reviewers’ and the authors’
identities are not shared to ensure that the article is
reviewed on its own merits, not the reputation of the authors. In most cases an article
is accepted for publication only after several rounds
of review and improvement. If the reviewers do not believe the article
is of sufficient quality, they may recommend against publishing it. Many academic journals
have rejection rates in excess of 90%. This process of examination, criticism, and feedback provides
a generally high level of quality control for
the studies published in peer-reviewed journals. One good way is to use the ERIC website to check whether the source is from a journal that uses peer review. ERIC is supported by the
federal government’s Institute for Education Sciences. It is one of the largest
education databases with over 1.5 million
records of journal articles, research reports, curricula,
and teaching guides, conference papers, dissertations
and theses, and books. You can choose to view
peer-reviewed only results from your search of education resources by checking that box while searching. ERIC also indicates when the source is from a peer-reviewed journal, as do most research
database search engines. In addition, there are
other ways you can check to see whether an article is
from a peer-reviewed source. You can check the
structure of the article. Most peer-reviewed articles will have the same basic
organizational structure, though the terms may differ. Look for sections such as
abstract, literature review, methodology, results,
conclusion, and references. You can take into account the advertising. Peer-reviewed journals seldom
contain advertisements, or if they do it’s often for
professional associations. There may be ads in the
first or last few pages, but in the main body or in the article you will rarely see advertisements. You can also look for information about the publication process. Is there any information about the publication
process of the article, such as date of initial submission, date for revisions, and
final acceptance date? These publications steps are usually found in peer-reviewed journals, and often absent in other
types of publications. If the answer is yes
to all these questions about structure, advertising,
and the publication process, the journal may very
well be peer-reviewed. Search engines are powerful
but do not discriminate well and can lead you to questionable sources. There are options however that can help you with your search. Google Scholar for example
identifies credible resources. These include academic
books, academic journals, government resources and more. Google Scholar will not
find everything available and may find some things
that are not high quality, but it is a much more
focused search engine than the regular Google search
or other common search tools. Always carefully consider information you find on the Internet. The What Works Clearinghouse,
often referred to as WWC, is one trustworthy online resource that can help you find high
quality research studies. It was established by the US Department of Education’s Institute
of Education Sciences to provide educators,
policymakers, and the public with a central, independent,
and trusted source of scientific evidence of
what works in education. The goal of the clearinghouse
is to help decision makers by providing a web portal of
comprehensive, systematic, high quality reviews of
studies on the effectiveness of educational programs,
products, practices, and policies. The WWC does not conduct research. Instead the WWC reviews
research on products, practices, programs, and policies in
the field of education, and provides summaries of their impacts. The reviews are objective,
based on stringent criteria, and all information is freely available. We strongly encourage you to
look at the WWC website anytime you’re looking for research
on an education-related topic. Learn more about study
design, design standards, and find existing research on different educational
programs, products, practices, and explore evidence-based
practice guides, individual studies, and
intervention reports at the What Works Clearinghouse. You can also learn more about understanding the
evidence definitions for education programs
through these videos from the US Department of Education. (mellow piano music)

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