With all of the research articles made available to educators, how is an individual ever to read each article of interest? Hittleman and Simon (2006) propose a time-efficient method of reading quantitative research articles with a three step process. The Reading Quantitative Research PDF provides detailed information on this three-step process.
“Research reports help consumers to know about educational practice, to acquire knowledge that they can apply, and to gain insight about effective instruction” (Hittleman & Simon, 2006, p. 75). How is an individual to accomplish all that if they cannot clearly understand information presented in published research articles? It is important to note that not all published research is perfect but nor should a knowledgeable research consumer be so critical of published research that they refuse to accept any research findings. It is a critical balance that a research consumer must strike through the ability to evaluate and interpret research. The Evaluating Quantitative Research PDF contains more specific information as to the areas that need to be considered when evaluating quantitative research.
In causal-comparative research, researchers attempt to describe conditions already in existence to determine the cause of a condition. Causal-comparative research is also referred to as ex post facto research (meaning “after the fact” in Latin) because “both the effect and alleged cause have already occurred and must be studied in retrospect” (Gay, Mills, Airasian, 2006, p. 217). Causal-comparative research is described by Charles and Mertler (2002), “Causal-comparative research is done to explore possible cause and effect, though it cannot demonstrate cause and effect, as does, experimental research” (p. 341). Put in another way, in causal comparative designs, researchers are attempting to determine whether one variable (this is the independent variable) influences changes to occur in another variable (this is the dependent variable) (Lodico, Spaulding, Voegtle, 2006). The Causal-Comparative Research PDF provides more detailed information on this topic.
Is there a relationship between the amount of hours a student spends completing homework and test scores? What is the relationship between students’ attitudes about school and the rate at which they drop out of high school? Is there a way that teachers can predict which middle school students will do well after they transition to high school? Is there a relationship between the amount of years a child spends in preschool and their reading scores in third grade? Each of these questions could be explored with a correlational research design. Correlational research is especially applicable to the field of education as so much of what educators and support services do is to consider the relationship between different variables (e.g. teaching strategies, educational initiatives, materials, interventions) and the ability of students to learn. In fact, much of what educators know about the practices and conditions required for students to learn has been provided through correlational research (Charles & Mertler, 2002).
Correlational research is utilized to “measure two or more variables and examine whether there are relationships among the variables” (Lodico, Spaulding, Voegtle, 2006, p. 214) without any manipulation of the variables (Slavin, 2007). Variables are typically considered to be related when levels of one variable are associated with different levels of another variable in a consistent pattern. This does not mean that one variable causes another variable (Lodico et al., 2006). Researchers must use an experimental research design rather than a correlational research design to determine if one variable causes another variable. The Correlational Research PDF contains more specific information about correlational research and its applications.
Descriptive research, formerly referred to as survey research, is used to “determine and describe the way things are” through assessing “attitudes, opinions, preferences, demographics, practices, and procedures” (Gay, Mills, & Airasian, 2006, p. 159). In an effort to describe a topic, researchers conduct descriptive research to gather information regarding a large group of peoples’ perceptions, opinions, and/or beliefs of current issues (Lodico, Spaulding, & Voegtle, 2006). Consult the Descriptive Research PDF for mroe information on this fascinating type of research.