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Issues In Educational Research, Vol 13, 2003
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Clare McBeath
Curtin University of Technology

From time to time I receive a query from a potential contributor to Issues in Educational Research asking if a particular kind of article would be suitable for publication in the journal. For example, would a literature review be considered as "research" within the parameters of our definition of educational research?

I normally reply that we interpret educational research fairly broadly, taking into consideration that research itself is made up of different activities and articles may be written on different stages of the research. In the classic approach to a research article, a writer might build up the whole picture of the finished research - establishing the research question or questions, the literature review, the methodology, the data, the analysis and conclusions. However, any part of the bigger picture may also be regarded as research within certain contexts and expectations. Indeed, people write books on the nature and definition of research, indicating it is not an easy thing to get it right.

The DEST Specifications (DEST, 2003), which affect Australian academics in that they determine funding for research publication through the Institutional Grants Scheme, define research as "creative work undertaken on a systematic basis in order to increase the stock of knowledge, including knowledge of humanity, culture and society, and the use of this stock of knowledge to devise new applications". (The Specifications acknowledge the OECD in using this definition.)

A literature review is not difficult to accept within this definition if it brings together the significant research which already exists, thus setting the scene for new research questions to be framed. Methodology, also, when it can be seen to be creative, also lends it self to interesting articles for publication. Within this category, the devising, testing and trialing of new methods, measures and data bases can be included, and indeed, such articles occur regularly in this journal.

Case studies and narrative accounts also have to be accepted as valid research topics for articles on educational research, but would have to be subjected to certain restrictions. They would have to have a valid and relevant research context defined, and reach conclusions adding to the existing knowledge of educational research, or project new research questions or directions for research. Single case studies are expected to be more than stories. Likewise, narrative accounts would be expected to cast new light on, or new insights into, existing issues or research dilemmas.

There is another area of educational research much more difficult to categorise, and that is the systematic look at, or overview of an area of knowledge by a scholar with many year's knowledge and experience in that field. This might be little more than one person's point of view, albeit from a well informed position. This sort of paper especially relies on the peer reviewing process for selection or rejection in a research journal such as this. It is only the peer group in the same discipline who can judge whether such a paper adds significantly to the 'stock of knowledge' in a useful and pertinent way. And even then, the peer reviewers might get it wrong if they themselves have too narrow an interpretation of what educational research is.

Five papers have been selected for this issue. The retention and persistence support project: A transition initiative by D. Darlaston-Jones, L. Cohen, S. Haunold, L. Pike, A. Young and N. Drew is a case study. Its significance is that it looks at the issue of retention in higher education, and suggests initiatives to support students through their first year.

Murray Thomas asks the question Does the playing of chess lead to improved scholastic achievement? The effect of playing chess on problem solving was explored using Rasch scaling and hierarchical linear modelling. The author suggests that this combination of Rasch scaling and multilevel analysis is a powerful tool for exploring such areas where the research design has proven difficult in the past. The paper is more about the research model than about chess.

Susanne Tonkin and Helen Watt look at the issue of Self-concept over the transition from primary to secondary school: A case study on a program for girls, which is also a case study on the issues of transition. The research triggers a series of further questions for research.

Reframing research and literacy pedagogy relating to CD narratives: Addressing radical change in digital age literature for children by Len Unsworth looks at electronic books for children in the early school years. Current research and classroom practice seem to be largely positioned at the conventional literacies end of the continuum. This paper proposes rethinking that position and the relationship between research and practice in the classroom use of CD narratives.

The effect of a problem based learning curriculum on students' perceptions of self directed learning is addressed by Jean Teetson Walker and Susan Price Lofton. This paper describes a quasi-experimental research study to determine the effects of a problem based learning curriculum on students' perceptions about self directed learning. The research is also located in higher education, in this case in the School of Pharmacy at an American university. The study supports the need for additional research regarding age and the effect of problem based learning.

Clare McBeath
September 2003

DEST (2003). Higher Education Research Data Collection: Specifications for the collection of 2002 data. Higher Education Division, Department of Education, Science and Training, Canberra. http://www.dest.gov.au/highered/research/documents/specs2002.rtf

Please cite as: McBeath, C. (2003). Editorial. Issues In Educational Research, 13(1), iv-vi. http://www.iier.org.au/iier13/editorial2.html

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© 2003 Issues In Educational Research. This URL: http://www.iier.org.au/iier13/editorial2.html
Created 14 Oct 2003. Last revison: 14 Oct 2003. HTML: Clare McBeath, Faculty of Education, Curtin University of Technology, [c.mcbeath@bigpond.com] and Roger Atkinson [rjatkinson@bigpond.com]