Understanding and Interpreting Educational Research

Ronald C. Martella, J. Ron Nelson, Robert L. Morgan, and Nancy E. Marchand-Martella

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April 17, 2013
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This user-friendly text takes a learn-by-doing approach to exploring research design issues in education and psychology, offering evenhanded coverage of quantitative, qualitative, mixed-methods, and single-case designs. Readers learn the basics of different methods and steps for critically examining any study's design, data, and conclusions, using sample peer-reviewed journal articles as practice opportunities. The text is unique in featuring full chapters on survey methods, evaluation, reliability and validity, action research, and research syntheses.

Pedagogical Features

“Each chapter in this book is well organized, with good examples, suggested readings, and other helpful materials.”

—Hisako Matsuo, PhD, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Saint Louis University


“Unlike many other texts, this book covers each topic with consistent depth. Great features include a thorough chapter on program evaluation, which many texts don't offer; coverage of reliability and validity early in the book (I love the section on things to consider about measurement devices!); and the best presentation of qualitative research that I have seen in any text. I like how qualitative research and quantitative research are presented separately instead of being merged in a confusing fashion. I will definitely consider adopting this text.”

—Melody Whiddon, PhD, College of Education, Florida International University


“This accessible book does the best job of any text I've seen of making the dynamic nature of research designs come to life for educational researchers. I teach two research methods classes—one for doctoral students and the others for master's students—and I will use this book for both. It covers the right material, has a solid structure within chapters, and includes some nuts-and-bolts material not available in other texts.”

—Eleazar Vasquez III, PhD, BCBA-D, Exceptional Education Program, University of Central Florida 


“This book is an easy read, full of good examples and well-thought-out approaches. The authors have brought extensive experience to bear on creating a very effective text. I look forward to using this text in my graduate course in research for speech-language pathologists.”

—Anthony P. Salvatore, PhD, Director, Speech-Language Pathology Program, and Chair, Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Texas, El Paso 


“This clear, detailed volume provides a comprehensive look at the elements that help novice researchers become more critical consumers of research. I like the graphic organizers and the use of discussion questions and exercises. These tools help the instructor ensure that students understand the topics and allow for a variety of different learning styles. When I teach educational research courses, I often have to locate related articles on my own; I appreciate that the authors have taken the time to provide related articles. This text is just the right level for my graduate students.”

—Tracy M. Walker, PhD, Department of Doctoral Studies, Virginia State University


“This text delivers exactly what it claims: it teaches students how to consume and understand research. The comprehensive coverage of all types of empirical inquiry is truly impressive and second to none. Advanced undergraduates and graduate students at the master’s and doctoral levels will greatly appreciate the book's treatment of both the fundamentals and nuances of most types of research designs. This text will enlighten and more than satisfy the most inquisitive educational research consumer.”

—Edward J. Sabornie, PhD, Graduate Program in Special Education, North Carolina State University

Table of Contents

I. UNDERSTANDING RESEARCH

1. Thinking Critically about Research

Objectives

Overview

How Important Is Critical Thinking?

What Are the Elements to Becoming a Critical Research Consumer?

What Are Science and the Scientific Method?

What Are the Purposes of Science?

What Is a Scientific Theory?

What Are the Types of Scientific Logic?

In What Ways Do We Gain Information?

What Are Constraint Levels in Educational and Psychological Research?

What Are the Differences between Basic and Applied Research?

What Is Replication Research?

Summary

Discussion Questions

II. CRITICAL ISSUES IN RESEARCH

2. Fundamental Issues for Interpreting Research

Objectives

What Is Variability?

What Is Internal Validity and Its Threats?

What Is External Validity and Its Threats?

What Are Statistical and Social Validities?

Summary

Discussion Questions

Interpretation Exercises

3. Reliability, Validity, and Interobserver Agreement

Objectives

Overview

What Are Reliability and Validity Issues in Quantitative Research?

How Do Researchers Assess the Reliability of Measurement Devices?

How Do Researchers Determine the Validity of Measurement Devices?

What Are Reliability and Validity Issues in Qualitative Research?

What Is Interobserver Agreement?

What Are the Methods of Establishing Interobserver Agreement?

What Are the Factors That Influence Interobserver Agreement?

What Are the Factors to Consider When Assessing Measurement Devices in the Context of a

Study?

Summary

Discussion Questions

Practice Exercises

III. QUANTITATIVE RESEARCH METHODS

4. Basic Statistical Concepts and Sampling Procedures

Objectives

Overview

What Are the Scales of Measurement?

What Is a Univariate Frequency Distribution?

How Can We Describe Data Sets?

What Role Do Hypotheses Play in Research?

What Are Parametric and Nonparametric Tests of Statistical Significance?

What Is Statistical Significance?

What Are Type I and Type II Errors and Power?

What Are the Types of Statistical Significance Testing Methods?

What Are the Different Sampling Methods?

What Are the Sampling Decisions Researchers Make?

What Is Sampling Error?

Summary

Discussion Questions

5. Experimental Designs

Objectives

Overview

What Are True Experimental Designs?

What Are the Most Common True Experimental Designs?

What Are Factorial Experimental Designs?

What Are Quasi-Experimental Designs?

What Are the Common Quasi-Experimental Designs?

What Are Preexperimental Designs?

What Are the Types of Preexperimental Designs?

When Should Researchers Use Each Experimental Research Design?

Summary

Discussion Questions

ILLUSTRATIVE ARTICLE EXAMPLE

Research Example Questions

Additional Research Examples

Threats to Internal Validity Form

Threats to External Validity Form

6. Causal-Comparative Research

Objectives

Overview

What Is the Causal-Comparative Research Method?

What Should Researchers Consider When Designing a Causal-Comparative Research Study?

Can the Causal-Comparative Approach Be Combined with Factorial Designs?

When Should Researchers Use the Causal-Comparative Research Design?

Summary

Discussion Questions

ILLUSTRATIVE ARTICLE EXAMPLE

Research Example Questions

Additional Research Examples

Threats to Internal Validity Form

Threats to External Validity Form

7. Correlational Research

Objectives

Overview

What Is the Correlational Research Method?

What Are the Issues in Designing a Correlational Study?

What Are the Statistical Procedures Used in Correlational Research?

When Should Researchers Use the Correlational Research Method?

Summary

Discussion Questions

ILLUSTRATIVE ARTICLE EXAMPLE

Research Example Questions

Additional Research Examples

Threats to Internal Validity Form

Threats to External Validity Form

8. Survey Research Methods

Objectives

Overview

What Are the Purposes of Survey Research?

What Are the Different Types of Surveys?

What Are the Factors in Choosing a Survey Method?

How Is Survey Research Designed?

When Should Researchers Use Survey Research?

Summary

Discussion Questions

ILLUSTRATIVE ARTICLE EXAMPLE

Research Example Questions

Additional Research Examples

Threats to Survey Validity Form

IV. QUALITATIVE RESEARCH METHODS

9. Basic Understandings in Qualitative Research

Objectives

Overview

What Are the Characteristics of Qualitative Research?

What Are the Differences between Qualitative and Quantitative Research?

What Are Qualitative Research Procedures?

What Is Understanding in Qualitative Research?

What Are the Evaluative Criteria for Judging the Reliability and Validity of Qualitative Research?

What Are the Types of Triangulation Methods?

How Are Qualitative Data Analyzed?

Summary

Discussion Questions

10. Data Collection and Designs in Qualitative Research

Objectives

Overview

What Are Field-Oriented Studies?

What Is Historical Research?

What Are Mixed-Methods Studies?

When Should Researchers Use Each Qualitative Research Design?

Summary

Discussion Questions

ILLUSTRATIVE ARTICLE EXAMPLE

Research Example Questions

Additional Research Examples

Qualitative Research Examination Form

V. SINGLE-CASE RESEARCH METHODS

11. Withdrawal and Associated Designs

Objectives

Overview

What Are Graphing Methods in Withdrawal Designs?

What Are Withdrawal and Associated Designs?

When Should Researchers Use Each Withdrawal and Associated Design?

Summary

Discussion Questions

ILLUSTRATIVE ARTICLE EXAMPLE

Research Example Questions

Additional Research Examples

Threats to Internal Validity Form

Threats to External Validity Form

12. Multiple-Baseline Designs

Objectives

Overview

What Are Graphing Methods in Multiple-Baseline Designs?

What Are Multiple-Baseline Designs?

When Should Researchers Use Each Multiple-Baseline Design?

Summary

Discussion Questions

ILLUSTRATIVE ARTICLE EXAMPLE

Research Example Questions

Additional Research Examples

Threats to Internal Validity Form

Threats to External Validity Form

13. Additional Single-Case Designs

Objectives

Overview

What Is a Changing-Criterion Design?

What Is a Multitreatment Design?

What Is an Alternating Treatments Design?

What Are Combination Designs?

When Should Researchers Use Each of the Additional Single-Case Designs?

Summary

Discussion Questions

ILLUSTRATIVE ARTICLE EXAMPLE

Research Example Questions

Additional Research Examples

Threats to Internal Validity Form

Threats to External Validity Form

VI. EVALUATION RESEARCH

14. Program Evaluation

Objectives

Overview

What Are the Goals and Objectives of Program Evaluation?

What Are the Types of Program Evaluations?

How Is a Program Evaluation Conducted?

When Should Program Evaluations Be Conducted?

Summary

Discussion Questions

ILLUSTRATIVE ARTICLE EXAMPLE

Research Example Questions

Additional Research Examples

15. Evaluating the Literature

Objectives

Overview

What Are the Purposes of Research Syntheses?

What Are Systematic and Unsystematic Research Syntheses?

What Are The Considerations For Conducting Research Syntheses?

How Do Researchers Plan and Execute Research Syntheses?

When Should Researchers Conduct Research Syntheses?

Summary

Discussion Questions

ILLUSTRATIVE ARTICLE EXAMPLE

Research Example Questions

Additional Research Examples

VII. ACTION RESEARCH

16. Action Research: Moving from Critical Research Consumer to Researcher

Objectives

Overview

What Is Action Research?

What Are the Characteristics of Action Research?

How Are Quantitative Methods Used in Action Research?

How Are Qualitative Methods Used in Action Research?

How Are Single-Case Methods Used in Action Research?

How Are Survey, Historical, and Program Evaluation Research Methods Used in Action Research?

What Are the Ethical Principles and Codes of Conduct for Research?

How Does One Write a Research Article?

How Are Articles Submitted for Publication?

When Should One Conduct Action Research?

Summary

Discussion Questions

ILLUSTRATIVE ARTICLE EXAMPLE

Research Example Questions

Additional Research Examples

Glossary


About the Authors

Ronald C. Martella, PhD, is Professor of Special Education at Eastern Washington University. He has over 26 years of experience working with at-risk populations and provides technical assistance to numerous states and districts on positive behavior support/behavior management for students with or without disabilities. Dr. Martella has over 150 professional publications, including several literacy programs and interventions.

J. Ron Nelson, PhD, is Professor at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. He has over 20 years of experience in the field of special education as a teacher, technical assistance provider, and professor. A recipient of the Distinguished Initial Career Research Award from the Council for Exceptional Children, Dr. Nelson has more than 150 publications that focus on serving children at risk of school failure and on research issues. He has developed a number of behavior and literacy interventions.

Robert L. Morgan, PhD, is Professor in the Department of Special Education and Rehabilitation at Utah State University and serves as the Head of the Severe Disabilities Teacher Preparation Program and Chair of the Undergraduate Committee. He worked in schools, adult residential facilities, and supported employment programs for 11 years. Dr. Morgan's research interests and more than 100 publications address issues including transition from school to adult roles and applied behavior analysis.

Nancy E. Marchand-Martella, PhD, is Professor of Special Education at Eastern Washington University. She has over 26 years of experience working with at-risk populations, including serving as a consultant for the Washington Improvement and Implementation Network and the Washington State Striving Readers Grant, and as a Reading First panel member. Dr. Marchand-Martella has over 160 professional publications, including several literacy programs and interventions.

Audience

Students in education, psychology, and related social and behavioral science fields; also of interest to practitioners who are consumers of research.

Course Use

Serves as a text in upper-division undergraduate and graduate-level courses providing an introduction to research methods in practitioner-related fields.
Pedagogical Features: