7.4 Chapter Summary

This chapter briefly introduced the four primary research traditions: postpositivism, constructivism, advocacy, and pragmatism. A good quality research project will be situated in one of these traditions and will carry its beliefs and perspectives consistently throughout the study. When you read a journal article that reports on a research project, keep this need for consistency in mind. Do the researchers seem to believe that truth is objective and knowable (though maybe not perfectly), or do they believe truth is more subjective and knowledge is context-dependent? Then look at the research questions to see if they correspond with that perspective. For example, researchers who believe truth is objective and discoverable should ask research questions that emphasize things that can be measured quantitatively. Next, evaluate how well their research methods match the questions they asked. For example, postpositivists seeking to answer cause-and-effect questions will use experimental design, while constructivists seeking to explore perspectives and experience will use a method, such as interviews, that provides rich data reflecting the participants’ perspectives. Finally, the conclusions that they draw at the end should be consistent with what came before. They should not, for example, make cause-and-effect claims if their data came from qualitative interviews.

For more background and detail on different research traditions, you are encouraged to watch the video linked below. While it is addressed to nursing students, it is relevant to all researchers and consumers of research reports, as it provides an excellent overview of the “big ideas” from this chapter:

https://youtu.be/hCOsY5rkRs8 (11:59 minutes).


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Foundations of Educational Technology by Penny Thompson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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