Reading educational research

The slow read is for those documents you have judged to be worthy of a lot of your attention. It won't apply to all that you come across. How you decide what to include and what to exclude is not trivial, even though, at first blush, it may seem so.

This is a key element in this and all of the postgraduate courses you will do. There is no right or wrong way to do this but here are some suggestions that might help you develop some habits about the stuff you read. They are in the form of questions with notes. And, nag, nag… the notes go into, you guessed it, your 1st and 2nd notebooks!

What is the paper/chapter/text about? Apart from the title, read the abstract and then the summary or conclusion of the paper.
Who wrote it? Where are they from? Do the authors or author figure prominently in your searches, i.e. do they have a history in this field? Whare are they based? Is there a centre or group interested in or working in this field? Do they have any of their publications online? There may be cluses to key terms and other
Has the paper been cited? Use Google scholar. What do the papers/books that cite the paper look like? Does it make sense in terms of what you think the paper is about?
What does the abstract say? This is the quickest way to get a sense of the paper.
Are there any key terms listed? Do you know what they mean? These terms might be useful in finding other, related papers that you may be looking for. You might try a Google alert for them.
What does the conclusion or summary of the paper say? Always good to skip to the end to see what was found or what the main claims are. It may not be what you want or thought the paper was about.
If the paper looks good for your purpose, work your way through it. Just make notes about key points. Most well written papers go over their argument and analysis very carefully. Make a note of any terms you don't understand that you think might be useful to your topic and look the meanings of the terms up1.
Read the findings and discussion section, paying attention to any limitations they might mention This can be the trickiest thing to do. Stats papers will have measures that you may not be familiar with. Good to look them up. You don't have to do a stats course but knowing what the basic terms mean will be very helpful in making sense of any paper that has numbers. Similarly with the many types of qualitative research. Getting to know what each label means is also part of making sense of the terrain.

You may want to add suggestions to this page. Please feel free to do so.

Here is a worked example of a read.

If at times you find it tricky to work out what the author(s) are saying you may find this decoding of euphemisms useful.

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