Research methodologies


Qualitative and quantitative methods are most prevalent researchmethodologies asserts Balnaves andCaputi, (2001). Five empirical articles from peer-reviewedjournals will be used in this essay to elaborate on researchmethodologies. The first article is titled patterns in theprevalence of research related goals in higher education programmes.This article is an integration of research into teaching and how itis considered a desirable characteristic for higher education.According to Verburgh, Schouteden and Elen (2014), the authors ofthis article, research is valuable for student learning. Neverthelessdespite research being imperative for learning, not much is knownabout the prevalence of research integration in students and theirdaily experiences within higher education. As a result, this articleis a comprehensive report on an empirical study on the prevalence ofsix research related goals in 45 educational programmes in Flanders.

The second study is titled challenges in higher educationresearch: the use of quantitative tools in comparative analysis.Emanuella Reale describes not only the challenges in highereducation research but the little consensus about specificmethodological approaches in research. The paper has a two-fold aimto address key methodological problems for purposes of accurateinternational comparisons in higher education studies and to addressthe difficulties that using measurement in comparative studiesbrings. Is there a shortage of quantitative work in educationresearch? Is the third article that this essay will look at. Thisarticle considers ranges of research methods used by the educationresearch community in the UK. It investigates the currentlywidespread weakness in the quality of education research in UK, muchof which is attributed to a shortage in skills in quantitativemethods. Ashwin (2012), wrote an article on how often are theoriesdeveloped through empirical research into higher education?Itwill be the fourth article used for this essay useful for reportingon a review of empirical research published in selected highereducation journals with a focus of examining how often the theoriesare developed through research. The fifth article is titled learningon the margins of adult education: Self-help reading about health,relationships, and career success. It presents qualitativeresearch methodologies in form of interviews with an aim of enrichingthe existing knowledge of learning experiences of adults.

Each of the articles listed above has a significant connection toresearch methodologies. It will be useful in helping me developuseful skills for understanding research methodologies for higherlearning.

Literature review

A research article is not complete without clear researchmethodologies. The research problem in the first article patternsin the prevalence of research related goals in higher educationprogrammes, is the absence of knowledge on the prevalence ofresearch integration in students experiences within higher education.Research becomes a useful part of learning as students pursue highereducation for undergraduate degree, master’s degrees and PHD’s.It becomes a crucial aspect that cannot be overlooked if students areto succeed in being scholars. The relationship between teaching andresearch touches on the core of higher education. According toVerburgh et al.(2013), lecturers, students and the administrators inhigher learning institutions are highly convicted of the fact that apositive relationship exists between research and teaching. As aresult, numerous projects are carried out to inspire lecturers, andencourage student participations. In the setting where this researchwas carried out Flaunders, Belgium, programmes are defined asstructural entities of an institution leading to a degree. Coursesare explained as small units within the educational scope from whichstudents follow several courses. When students are registered theychose specific programmes they wish to follow depending on twolevels. The first level suggests the relationship between whilesecondly it may be due to influence. Higher education programmes aremore academically, vocationally oriented.


Identifying the patterns in the prevalence of goals at programmelevels that students choose is the article purpose. It reports anempirical study that has 45 educational programmes on the prevalenceof these goals at programme level. The data set method was used fordata collection in this study with characteristics of the data setbeing type of programme, discipline and same degree programmes. Threetypes of programmes namely vocational, academic bachelors and masterswere used. For each programme a profile was identified and a clusteranalysis used to reveal three different patterns of low attentionpattern (n=21), a results pattern (N=16) and a critical thinkingpattern (N=8). The prevalence of the patterns in the programmesincluded the sample differs between distinct types of programmes andnot the disciplines. Threats to validity were minimized throughclassifying the programmes into a cluster of three. This ensured thateach cluster had its reliable results and accurate findings.


The findings and implications of the article met all the goals set.Six research related goals had been selected for this study. Thegoals define what lecturers intend to teach students also termed asobjectives and aims of learning. The goals were

  • results: acquire knowledge from research results,

  • Underpinnings: Gaining insight into research methodological and theoretical underpinnings

  • Practical research skills: to be able to develop practical and particular research skills

  • Competence to become researcher through developing research competence

  • Critical thinking: developing a critical attitude towards information, knowledge and construction

  • Curiosity: to develop a curious mind as a researcher, (Verburgh et al, 2013)

In the second article, challenges in higher education research:the use of quantitative tools in comparative analysis, Reale(2013), describes comparative research under the quantitativeresearch methodology. The research problem is mentioned as thechallenges in higher education following the use of quantitativetools in comparative analysis. Reale (2013) argues that thecomparative approach is seen as viewed as one of the most fruitfulapproaches of research as it allows researchers to broaden theirobservation base. However, this recognition is sometimes mixed withpoor understanding of the methodological needs of comparativeanalysis in concepts and statistics (Well et al, 2015).

Research questions are

  • What is comparative research and the advantages of adopting this approach?

  • What are the peculiarities of comparative research in the higher education field?

  • How can methodologies for comparative research be improved using measurements?

  • How and under what conditions are indicators useful for comparative analyses?

Literature review

The research purpose of this article is addressing the challenges incomparative research. According to Raele (2013), discussing thechallenges of comparative higher education is a challenging tasksince one cannot consider the problems encountered to be generalissues. Specific problems belonging to the discipline might bepractically irrelevant to other intellectual traditions such ashumanistic ones. Objectivity, casuality and rationalism are means toinvestigate social facts. Criticisms to this approach come from humanscience and social scholars who feel that research on society shouldfocus on values, symbols, norms and social processes.


The study design is described in two folds. It aims at addressingmethodological problems for accurate international comparisons andaims at discussing difficulties encountered in using measurements incomparative studies. Threats to validity for this study aremethodological limitations, which hinder attainment of rigorousresults. Those limitations are closely linked to its methods such asthe autonomy of the units chosen for comparison. Selection ofentities for comparison often leads to assumptions about the autonomyand tendency to ignore the complex interplays and mutual influencesof units asserts Raele (2013). The challenge arising from asymmetricunderstanding of cases resulting from scholars having no directexperience with certain country specific features which are importantfor the meaningfulness of the analysis. The limitations can beovercome by bringing together different scholars from diversecountries to integrate their knowledge and various experiences in thefield of research.

Literature review

Quantitative research methodologyis highly used in higher learning. Its complexity makes researcherswant to investigate more about this type of research method.Quantitative research entails asking people for opinions and is thesystematic empirical investigation of observable events throughcomputational, mathematical r statistical techniques. This method isbest explained in the third article titled Is there ashortage of quantitative work in education research?This articleconsiders ranges of methods of research employed in the UK educationcommunity. The research question is just as the title suggests isthere a shortage for quantitative work in education research? Thequestion explains the challenges that quantitative research methodencounters through describing the views on current strengths andweakness in the method as well as the future developments needed toimprove it. According to Gorard et al (2004), there is currently aweakness in the quality of UK education research much of which isattributed to a shortage of skills in quantitative research methods.The study focuses on UK research community and is vital for helpingother researchers estimate the challenges that come with quantitativeresearch to come up with improvement methods in the group.


The research assessment method according to this article wasintroduced to Universities grants for purposes of determining thequality of research in the higher education sector. It was lastconducted in 2001 across the UK providing a considerable amount ofinformation on research activity in the research community. Theimprovements are as a result of substantial numbers of persistentlylow ranking due to funding allocation asserts the UK parliament(2002). According to Mc Nay (2003), out of 174 institutions thatsubmitted for 2001 funding 75% was allocated to 24 institutions. Thecooperation from the government and high publications of quality ofresearch of education in the research community and wider publicpolicy have partly attributed to interest in the study ofquantitative research. The purpose of this study is coming up withrelevant explanations on the causes of shortage of quantitative workin education and what can be done to increase it.

The study method used was 25 interviews from the key stakeholders todescribe their views on the current strengths and weakness in thequantitative methods. 521 responses were received with 80% being fromthe researchers involved in the TLRP. The research instrument askedrespondents to summarize their knowledge of various methods of designand data collection and analysis. More than 300 methods werespecified and respondents could add further techniques. Theclassification system was collapsed into 29 categories staring withthe structured questionnaires. Threats to the validity of this studywere over generalization and use of many categories to come up withquality research returns that may have been a task force for theeducational panel hindering accurate result compilation. They weredealt with through coding each category and storing it safely toavoid confusion.

Literature review

The fourth article is how often are theories developed throughempirical research into higher education? According to Ashwin(2012), empirical research into higher education is how theory isdeveloped in research and is a thorny issue as most of it hasexplicit engagement with theoretical resources argues Tight (2004).Sustaining and developing the theory over time is also not easy. Theresearch problem in this article is how often theories are developedthrough empirical research. It reports on a review of empiricalresearch published in selected higher education journals in 2008focusing on how often development of theories happens. There waslittle evidence on the development of theory creating the need for awrite up on this topic. The purpose of the article is promotingdiscursive gap in the reporting of research and reporting on the lackof development of theories.


Theory development in empirical research has been debated ineducational research and its usefulness. Anyon et al (2009) arguesthat it plays a crucial role in research. Higher education had notdiscussed this topic until recently, with a discussion on the role oftheory in higher education based on non-US higher educationaljournals in 2000. This journal revealed that only more than half ofthem used a wholly theoretical and only a quarter made explicit useof theory. These findings contradicted the US journals in the sameyear in relation to which it was argued that more than half of themshowed explicit use of theory with more than a quarter beinga-theoretical (Tight, 2007). Theory was discussed in relation to thenumber of critiques of limited theory ranges used particularly inrelation to teaching, learning and higher education assessmentresearch. In wider educational literature, the lack of theorybuilding for research outcomes often presented methodologicalproblems asserts Lepori, &amp Bonaccorsi, (2013). The articleintends to focus on the theories which develop through empiricalresearch into higher education. To conceptualize this processhowever, Ashwin draws focus on Bernstein’s notion of languagedescription. For Bernstein (2000) empirical research involves thedescription of internal and external language. Internal language isthe conceptual model or language of theory while the external modelis the evidence generated in the study.


The method used to study this article was a review of journalsarticle in a particular year. Higher educational journals were a goodchoice of study as the primary place for researchers to seek currentinformation and justify their outcomes. Samples were collected forall journals in 2008 leading to data analysis. They were initiallysorted from 292 articles into 211 in the non-US journal category and81 in the US journal category. They were classified as quantitativeif they analyzed their data numerically and qualitative if analyzedthrough text. Threats to the validity of this research emerged as itaddresses research in higher education through journals rather thanthrough direct access to the research process. There was a differencebetween scientific practices and how these practices are presented inreporting of research as in this study. The clarification of thatpoint was crucial to avoiding misleading information.

Literature review

The fifth article learning on the margins of adult education:Self-help reading about health, relationships, and career success, isan interesting example of qualitative research methodology. Theresearch investigates adult learning and explains how adult educatorshave recognized that much learning takes place outside the formalsetting. Through using concepts such as self directed learning andpublic pedagogy, the author draws attention to ways in which adultsaccess resources such as popular culture and learn withoutinvolvement of educational institutions (Scott, 2014). The purpose ofthis research is to investigate qualitative research methods asuseful for study. The use of self-help books like the handbook ofpublic pedagogy has chapters on cinema, video, museums, television,social media, blogs, performance arts, graffiti, hip hop music,knitting clubs, parades amongst others (Wright and Sandlin, 2009).


Taylor and Cranton (2012) describe the handbook of transformativelearning as another means of learning through fictional literature,television and film. Since 1970’s self directed learning has beenhighly influential in the study of adult education. It is an attemptto let adult educators connect to self-help literature. According toScott (2014), this research has helped shift focus on the attentionof educators in the adult learning phenomenon. It has challenged theassumptions that learning can only happen with educators. This studyalso helped break down the dichotomy of institutionally sponsoredlearning, which is seen as purposeful for learning.

The interview research method was used to collect data from readersof self-help books relating to health, career, relationships andsuccess. In 2012, the research was carried out in Canada. Qualitativeinterviews were conducted online, via chat software, calls adexchange of mail messages. The interviews organized into fivesections of motivation, learning outcomes, strategies, goals andimpact were useful in answering open-ended questions that encouragedparticipants to share their experience of self-help reading. Out ofthe 100 adults interviewed, responses from 96 claimed that theylearned through self-help books. 75 claimed that they changedsomething about their day-to-day life as a result of their reading.56 had reasonably concrete examples of actions they had undertaken intheir pursuit for important goals revealing that they felt betteremotionally and physically through achieving greater success at work.

Conducting one of the researches

Given an opportunity I would conduct the third research titled, Isthere a shortage of quantitative work in education research?Differently. The research paper would be titled can educationresearch methodologies be improved , with an aim of investigatinghow qualitative and quantitative methodologies can be employed ineducation theories to improve learning. The research would not onlybe based in the UK community but would cover higher learninginstitutions which mostly use research work for education,assignments, projects and proposals. The purpose of the researchwould be using insights from both qualitative and quantitativeresearch methods to describe the current strengths and weaknesses inresearch methods. This would help me develop methodologicaldevelopments that are needed for future improvement in higherlearning. The research paper agrees that there is currentlywidespread weakness in the quality of education research resultingfrom shortage of skills in quantitative methods. That would also beanother factor to consider.

Dealing with obstacles like using multi- would be avoided in myresearch methods to carry out the research. The multi method researchin unnecessary and insufficient for completing high quality study. In this study, more than 300 methods were specified and respondentscould add further techniques. The study method also used 25interviews from the key stakeholders to describe their views on thecurrent strengths and weakness in the quantitative methods. Themethods were collapsed into 29 categories of action research, casestudy, comparative study, computer software, diaries,ethno-methodology, experimental design, group interviews, historicaldesign, intervention research, interview, linguistic analysis,literature review/ semiotics, longitudinal study, non-classifiable ,observation, philosophical study, pictures, policy study, programmeevaluation, scales, qualitative data analysis/ unclassifiablequalitative, quantitative methods, secondary numeric data sources,survey, systematic review, textual analysis, think piece and writtentests. Using many categories for data collection is a threat tovalidity and can interfere with the expected results. I would narrowthe study data collection to only interviews, case studies andwritten tests to reduce the chances of invalid results.

In conclusion, each article describes the use of researchmethodologies for education theories. Kothari (2005) argues thatresearch methodologies are crucial for effective collection of data.Papers that are well researched have common features like accurateand valid data collection and analysis. There are numerous factorsthat researchers take into account when carrying out a research anddeciding on which methods to use for methodology. Taylor (2005)argues that identifying the type of research being carried out isalways imperative in helping determine the suitable researchmethodology to be used. The paper has examined research methodologiesto demonstrate the ability of employing research methods withingeneral education specialization. It has also critiqued researchmethodologies used by scholar practitioners and composed responsesthat will help in educational research.


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