Developing A Research Methodology

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Research Methods


Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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How does one go about developing a research methodology for a doctoral degree?

As another deadline looms for late-August 2019, I haven’t written very much on my website about my doctoral research, but I thought I would take a moment to describe what I have done so far and how my current thoughts are shaping up …

Researching professionals or professional researchers?

When I first wrote about my intentions to study for an EdD, I published my application in full on this blog with my original research question: How is social media being used to influence education policy?

One year later, my thoughts have evolved significantly since this initial enquiry. Attending seminars with colleagues has immersed me in an entirely different world of research, inquiry processes and methodologies which I have found fascinating, particularly studying for an EdD which aims to bridge the gap between theory and practice – this is already influencing my day-to-day work as a teacher.

I have learnt to understand knowledge in context for research professionals and the difference between those who may study for a PhD, where the contribution to knowledge as a professional researcher offers an entirely different approach. One thing the Faculty of Education has achieved at Cambridge University is not only bridging the gap between theory and practice, but bringing together those who are studying both types of degrees.

EdD Doctorate Faculty of Education, Cambridge University

Only last month, the faculty organised their annual conference and brought together current PhD and EdD students to share ideas and emerging themes. It was a powerful day! I had the pleasure of sitting on the panel at the end of the day (above image) to share how I have managed to reach a wider audience; something which all researchers hope to achieve with their published work. For me, this will be interesting once I reach a position where my research is published and whether it is received widely. In some respects, although I have a large audience for ‘teaching content’, this does not mean that my research will be received widely even though I have the platform to build to do this …

Developing my thinking and research …

Some of the more interesting seminars have unpicked academic processes for observations, work scrutiny and critical friendships in the workplace. This has allowed me to widen my lens at a macro level –  again, another sociological theory learned on the course –  to understand sociological behaviours and structures within our society. An example:

  • Macro – the education system/legislation and politics
  • Meso – the school/community and parents
  • Micro – the classroom

As a ‘micro-celebrity’, an academic term I’ve since learnt to describe myself as an ‘online influencer’, I can see how my practice as a teacher at a micro-level has gradually positioned me towards becoming a macro-level practitioner. The challenges for me today is to be able to conceptualise my practice and theorise it, as well as work between all three levels.

The challenges ahead …

Throughout the academic year 2019/20, I will be attempting to achieve some of the approaches outlined below in richer detail. Once I worked out my research approach, complete initial literature reviews and gain a better understanding of research methodologies, I can start to select which ones I may or may not use and then develop my own theory to begin/test initial research ideas. I do not want to go into details of how I will do this, because I don’t yet know how, although I do have some ideas of some of the approaches I may consider.

Approaches to research…

Over the coming weeks, I need to have my first attempt at articulating the following on paper:

  • My theoretical and empirical case for the work planned
  • Underpinning paradigm for the design/methodology/approach
  • The research design
  • The deployment of feasible, rigorous and ethically appropriate methods.
  • The stages of the research and the timeline for completion
  • How I will use surveys, measures, questionnaires and interviews.
  • The methods of analysis and what gains each might provide
  • The ethical dimensions of the proposed work and how it will be collected
  • The scale of the work as appropriate for EdD, allowing scope for sufficient data to be collected in six to nine months
  • The potential limitations and risks of the project.

My research approach in a visual …

What I will leave you with is the graphic of my discussions with both my supervisors, Steve Watson and Mark Carrigan, in July 2019. I would like to thank them both for their support and interest in my research, and more importantly, helping me make sense of the world around me and how this fits in from an academic viewpoint and research method.

You can see from the image, that I have three theories which are intertwined:

  1. Teacher voice,
  2. Social media and,
  3. Education policy.

EdD Doctorate Faculty of Education, Cambridge University

I hope to use and develop various research methods (scribbled on the right) to understand some of the areas I have listed above and then start to align this (next year) which some initial enquiries and tentative claims …

I hope some of you will benefit from seeing how my research is unfolding and that it may inspire you to kickstart your own journey. If you have already been through the process, I would welcome any feedback and critique so that I can sharpen my lens…

One thought on “Developing A Research Methodology

  1. Great article Ross. I loved doing my MEd and now seriously considering a EdD – starting a journey without knowing what you will find excites me. The key for me is that whatever I research must be of practical value to teachers. Lots of ideas muddling in my head so reading your reflections make me realise that you don’t even need to know the questions never mind the answers. I will continue to follow your research with huge interest. Thanks for sharing.

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