What you need to know about the basics of educational research

Behind the scenes of an educational research

The word research might be an intimidating word for an aspiring scholar. In fact, its etymology comes from a French origin, cerchier, which means ‘to search’ (Etymonline).

What separates educational research from other forms of studies?

Educational research as a social science

Basically, there is not much of a difference. The goal to arrive at an answer to inquiries still remains.

As a social science, the main objective of educational research is to present and explain existing realities in the field of education.

Logically, one might deliberately categorize this to be related to schools in general.

For example,  we can classify Dr. Bambang Sumintono’s (2015) study, “Becoming a principal in Indonesia: possibility, pitfalls, and potential,” under the field of education.  The title alone is a giveaway hint.

However, we need to go beyond the title to define an educational study. By reading and looking deeper into the statistical data and the responses from the principals as quoted by the researcher, we can get a clearer and more concrete idea of the process and principles behind the study, and its purpose in the field of educational research.

Alongside its streamlined methodology, this article by Dr. Sumintono is a very insightful article in the field of education as it gives the readers a general picture of what it takes to be a principal in an Indonesian context. In effect, this could be adopted by other academic institutions.

This sample study makes us fully understand the nature of educational research. Other than that, it presents the value of conducting interviews to gather data to be analyzed for a conclusive finding.

Reliability and validity in educational research

In effect, our attempt to fully understand and evaluate Dr. Sumintono’s study—its methodology and findings—leads us to another article: “Understanding reliability and validity in qualitative research” by Nahid Golafshani (2003).

According to this study, although the terms reliability and validity are used to establish truth in quantitative approach, these parameters can also be applied in qualitative studies.  This is a form of “inquiry audit” to examine consistency, credibility and to redefine philosophies (Golafshani, 2003).

From this, we are trying to understand the standards used in judging the reliability and validity.

A ‘good’ educational research

In effect, this stems out of a very basic yet difficult question: what makes a good educational research?

A good opportunity for educational research

By using the word ‘good’, does it mean that research is still highly subjective?

Henceforth, as a future researcher, it is quite difficult to understand how to produce a unique study. Moreover,  to ensure an article is good enough given the parameters of reliability and validity can be a challenge.

Even from the perspective of personalizing research enlisting the criteria for a good study, there is no formula for a ‘perfect’ one.

Despite all these gray areas, what remains consistent with our current thinking is the essential fact that research is a vital tool to find the answers to a particular problem.

Following the approaches and designs that structure an activity, we promote a culture of systematic thinking to produce findings. These are not just from one’s whimsical imagination. However, they are from evidence whether qualitative or quantitative in nature.

We are now in this era of information technology when all answers to our questions could just be ‘Googled’ instantaneously.  Subsequently,  the experience of researcher gives value to the research.

Since research is not just a one-step process, arriving at answer involves several methods. As a source of knowledge, data from research is as vital as the ‘holy grail’.

Hence, we need to go back to our query on the quality of educational research and the way we judge a work.

How do we assess the value of a research?

As for now, what we could only hypothesize is that in order to judge quality (reliability or validity), evidence should be subjected to rigorous measures based on inquiry.  

Next steps

To address these questions and further work on this hypothesis, we need to read more articles on judging the value of educational research and on testing reliability, validity, and quality.

We should also have a clearly defined understanding of these terms.  After defining these terms, we can see the differences among them.  

From the abstract thought as an originally French word, we’ve been able to expand and concretize our understanding of educational research with the help of sample studies and related literature.

In the end, we can say that research is not just a word. It’s an art of discovery and a science of philosophy.



Online Etymology Dictionary. (n.d.). Retrieved March 02, 2016, from

Golafshani, Nahid. (2003). Understanding reliability and validity in qualitative research. The Qualitative Report. Retrieved from