Skip to main content

Engaging with postgraduate research: education, childhood & youth

Completion requirements
View all sections of the document

This figure shows the larger diagram of which Figure 3 forms one segment. Here there are four contiguous oblong segments moving from left to right. The four segments relate to the four phases of the research process. The first segment is headed ‘Purpose’. The second segment is headed ‘Paradigm’. The third and fourth segments share the heading ‘Design frame’. We shall now take each segment in turn. The main theme covered in the first segment is the ‘Initial research questions’. This descriptor sits at the centre of the segment, with two double-headed arrows running vertically along either side, taking up about two-thirds of the segment. These arrows point upwards to the words ‘Policy context’, indicating that the questions in educational enquiry emerge from practice and are influenced by the prevailing policy relevant to that practice. The vertical arrows also point downwards to the words ‘Scope and scale’ and, below that, the words ‘Institutional practice context’. This shows that policy may relate to a single institution or a small unit within it, and this context will affect the scope of the research. The scope will be limited if the research takes place within a single unit. If the research takes place at national or international level, then the findings may be transferable to more contexts. Research questions are therefore shaped not only by policy but also by practice. The interaction of policy and practice, i.e. where the policy is enacted, will determine the scope and scale of the research (i.e. how large it is, how many research participants and research sites). From the centre of the segment, a horizontal single-headed arrow points from the words ‘Initial research questions’ across the segment’s right-hand border into the second segment, illustrating that the discussion on the initial research questions flows into the second phase of the research process. This phase looks at ontology, epistemology and methodology. The second segment has four arrows forming a cruciform shape, which includes the arrow from the first segment on the left. From the centre of this cruciform shape, the single-headed arrow points upwards to the question ‘What is there to study? (ontology)’. Another arrow points downwards to the question ‘How can we know about it? (epistemology)’, which is towards the bottom of the segment. The arrow on the right is pointing inwards from the central theme of this segment, which is the ‘Refined research questions’. An arrow further to the right points to the questions ‘How do we find out what we are looking for? What data is needed? (methodology)’ These questions are on the boundary between the second and third segments. Taken as a whole, this segment indicates that the initial research questions are refined when they are related to the researcher’s ontological and epistemological theories. The refined questions are then subjected to consideration about how to produce the data necessary. From the centre of the segment, a horizontal double-headed arrow points from the ‘methodology’ descriptor across the second segment’s border into the third segment, illustrating that the discussion on refined research questions flows into third phase of the research process. This looks at research methods and techniques. The third and fourth segments of the figure come under the umbrella heading of ‘Design frame’. The third segment can be thought of as two vertical panels connected by a double-headed arrow. In the left-hand panel is a list of the design frames used in research: these are the ‘Experimental’, ‘Longitudinal survey’, ‘Case study’, Ethnography’, ‘Action research’ and Activity theory’ design frames. In the right panel are the activities taking place within these design frames – the methods and techniques of the research (who to involve and how). Then below that is a list of data-collection instruments – observation, interview and questionnaire – with the descriptor ‘How to generate the data needed’. From the centre of the segment, a horizontal double-headed arrow points from the ‘Methods and techniques’ descriptor into the fourth segment, illustrating that the discussion of methods and techniques flows into the content of the fourth and final phase, which looks at data analysis. At the bottom of the diagram, on the boundary between these two segments, is the word ‘Ethics’, indicating that ethical considerations apply to the activities presented in each segment. The fourth segment shares the same heading as the third segment, ‘Design frame’. The arrow from the third segment points from the left towards the principal theme in this segment, which is ‘Data analysis’. Below this is a descriptor saying ‘Turning data into evidence; validity’. Then, moving down the diagram are the phrases ‘Theme analysis’, ‘Frequency analysis’, ‘Discourse analysis’ and ‘Casual analysis’. Further to the right of ‘Data analysis’, a double-headed arrow connects to the descriptor ‘Claims and inferences’. This completes the figure and forms the final phase of the research process.