The typical outputs from research in the social sciences, which is where education fits or sits are in the form of papers, books, book chapters, conference papers and non-refereed documents like working papers, blog posts, even tweets!
Each of these outputs are, to some degree, a finished product. If we use a cooking analogy, they are like a finished apple pie. You have the opportunity to sample it, to taste it but you have little idea about how it was made, why it was made, what work-arounds the chef had to make when he, for example ran out of apple and so on. If you read research as the finished product you only get a limited sense of what went on. In the days before the Internet that was largely all you could rely on, that and actually writing to researchers1 Today, however you can be a little more forensic.
Before you delve into a specific paper you need to make a relatively quick decision by asking is this paper useful, germane, of interest to the issue about which I want to write? Skip over to the reading fast and slow page which outlines some ideas about making these kinds of decisions.