EDIT 7320 - Clinton
What is Research? (by Dr. Fitzgerald)

Adapted from a similar topic in EDIT 6900

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  • Farmer text
  • Leedy, P.D., & Ormrod, J.E. (2001). Practical research: Planning and design (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall.  (I do not expect you to purchase this book.  I will, however, reference it often because it's my favorite general research how-to book.)

Overall comments

I like the Farmer book very much and feel it to be a concise guide to doing useful research in the media center.  Because it IS so concise, we will supplement it with articles that present other points of view this semester and next.

The Leedy & Ormrod reading comes from a textbook for research that I've used many times.  I like it too because it's well explained.  However, it has many parts that are not relevant to our agenda, and so I chose not to use it as a text.

Ideas from Leedy & Ormrod (L&O)

It is quite important to be able to distinguish research from non-research.  However, I believe that these authors take a rather "prissy" point of view on the whole thing.

As SLMSs, we believe that inquiry itself is a useful activity.  It's based on curiosity or a life problem, it involves exploring the world of information for relevant information, and it may involve action to solve the original problem.  We believe that all parts of this process are inherently useful and educational for all members of our learning communities. Leedy and Ormrod demean some of our cherished notions about inquiry by labeling them "not research."

However, L&O  represent by far and away the dominant view within the Academy.  Research isn't research unless it involves data collection and all the steps after that.  Dissertations and publications for professors that "count" toward tenure and promotion must be of the data collection variety.  Many professors do not consider information-based research as the real thing. 

For a few days, I'd like you to listen out for the word "research."  Try to figure out exactly what kind of activity is meant each time it's used. 

It is a useful skill to be able to distinguish the kinds of research apart, because it helps you to decide the level of trust to place in a statement based on "research."

I also like the Cyclical Research model on page 9.  The point of this to take away for now is: most often, a research project generates as many questions as it answers.

There is a valuable Evaluation Checklist at the end of this chapter.  It could help you review individual research articles, which will be the bulk of your activity in this class.

Comments about Farmer

Focus on p.1, paragraph 6, beginning "So what exactly is action research?"   She lays out the steps in an action research project.  In this class, we will end our projects just before "designing." 

I don't have too much to say about these 2 pages - but in general, Farmer takes the research enterprise and tailors it to our professional work. It's highly relevant to K-12 education in general, although her context is strictly SLM.

My two cents

Neither of these chapters address a problem that we will have in this class: distinguishing among types of published professional articles.

Here is my [MAF's] taxonomy of what you will find in typical educational professional literature:

  • true research studies, as described by Leedy & Ormrod [research reports that present primary data collected by the author(s)]
  • research studies "lite," which don't report the entire study but are based on an original research study by the same author(s)
  • anecdotal articles, following this pattern: "I/we did this *thing* in my classroom/media center. It worked really well. I shall now tell you all about it so you can do it too."
  • literature syntheses, in which the author gathers results of many research studies around a given theme and packages them for the reader
  • concept piece: the author has an original idea and describes it
  • opinion piece: the author reacts to some movement or issue in the field
I believe that all of these types of professional articles are useful.  It's critical, though, to be able to tell them apart.  For example, an anecdotal article might lead you to try a new approach much more cautiously than an approach that has been tested by one or more research studies.

Don't confuse these types of articles with the Types of Research we'll be discussing next semester, which have to do with methodology.

Optional Activities
1. Construct a research cycle similar to Leedy & Ormrod's, using Farmer's steps.   It doesn't have to be in a pretty wheel - just a list of numbered steps will do.
2. Identify and describe one example of the use of the word "research" in your world (conversations, news media, etc.).  What did the person using the word really mean?  Did it fit any of  Leedy & Ormrod's  'research/not-research' types?
3. Browse through the table of contents of a professional journal.  Classify 5 of the articles into my list of types above.

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