Becoming an Educated Consumer of Research

Taylor Dimsdale and Mark Kutner

This paper is a primer from which practitioners can draw when they are faced with new and unfamiliar research. It is an attempt to flesh out the most important aspects of quality research and to explain how those not trained in advanced research methods can be effective consumers of education research.

The paper describes the following:

  • The continuum of research methods so that you as a practitioner will have some rudimentary understanding of the features of each of these methods. The amount of certainty that research findings are both valid and generalizable to other settings depends on the type of research method used. Because of the emphasis increasingly being placed on experimental and quasi-experimental designs, they receive the most attention in this paper. We do, however, also describe non-experimental designs at some length and do not discount them as useful tools in education research.
  • Two aspects of research designs—the research question and research findings—that are important to consider when assessing the quality of research studies.