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Building Research Design in Education: Theoretically Informed Advanced Methods

reviewed by Janice Fournillier - March 01, 2019

coverTitle: Building Research Design in Education: Theoretically Informed Advanced Methods
Author(s): Lorna Hamilton & John Ravenscroft (Eds.)
Publisher: Bloomsbury, London
ISBN: 135001950X, Pages: 288, Year: 2018
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This edited volume takes the reader on a well-organized journey into the world of research design in education. The wide range of authors from diverse disciplines use their experiences as supervisors, teachers of research methods, and researchers to share insights into their own particular philosophical positions, which they argue are critical to research design. In the introduction, the editors write: “Of critical importance within the advanced study of research methods and the creation of meaningful and rigorous research projects is the ability to understand and justify fully [researchers’] choice of methodology, grounded in clear ontological and epistemological positioning (p. 2).

On this premise, editors Hamilton and Ravenscroft, both from the School of Education at the University of Edinburgh in the U.K., address the “absent presence” (p. 1) of theoretical assumptions that drive research design in education. The reader is therefore consistently reminded throughout the volume of the importance of the role of epistemology in various methodological processes. These range from the more traditional in Chapter Two to the futuristic in Chapter Ten. The authors describe and critically evaluate the ways in which they or the authors they cite designed and implemented various studies, including the challenges and concerns they had in terms of the relationship between epistemic preferences and certain aspects of the research design.

A major strength of the volume is the in-depth discussion of various research designs, including surveys, mixed methods, experimental and quasi-experimental studies, multiple case studies, collaborative ethnographies, comparative and international research, youth participatory action research, speculative methods, and evaluating technologies for children’s learning. For example, in Chapter Six, Fiona O’Hanion reviews the major literature on mixed methods to address the what, why, how, and when of this design strategy. In doing so, O’Hanion provides a framework for ensuring that a mixed methods design is robust. In this and other chapters, expert references and additional relevant advanced readings are provided that further strengthen the content.

In Chapter One, Ravenscroft and Allison write that “Once you have read the book, we hope that you will better understand your possible ontological position, which will lead to your understanding of the nature of knowledge as an epistemological foundation (p. 7). This goal is supported by the inclusion of activities and reflection sections in all of the chapters. These provide the reader with an opportunity to think deeply and reflect on the what, how, and why of their specific designs. This could benefit not only postgraduate researchers and doctoral students but also an instructor who decides to make this a text in an advanced methodology course.

Despite their different epistemic preferences and choice of research designs, the authors are clear that no one design is superior to another and that there is also the possibility of overlapping designs. Indeed, it is emphasized throughout the volume that this overlapping is not to be viewed as a weakness but as a strength as long as there is coherence and consistency throughout the process that allows for robust and rigorous research.

The individual chapters cover the following topics: the value of specific designs and their use in education research; the complexities associated with building a theoretically informed design in all types of research that include the evaluation of technologies for children’s learning; the importance of ensuring that a design is thoughtful, ethical, and reflects the researcher’s preferred epistemological and ontological positioning; and finally, the importance of valuing the uncertainty that is sometimes necessary in designing research. All of the authors in the volume review the literature related to their specific methodology closely. While some authors make description their focus, others critically examine, and a few problematize and deconstruct the notion of complexity and what works.

In reading the volume, one might come to know oneself better as a researcher and become more aware of how to apply this knowledge to the design, implementation, and evaluation of research. The edited volume does indeed confirm that “No one position in education research is better than any other, although some may be more appropriate than others for certain questions” (p. 23). Overall, the edited volume seems to align with the call for “an ethical imperative to rethink the nature of being—this is an ethico-onto-epistemological project—and a heightened curiosity and accompanying experimentation” (St. Pierre, Jackson & Mazzei, 2016, p. 100) as researchers in education teach, learn, and participate in research design.



St. Pierre, E. A., Jackson, A. Y., & Mazzei, L. A. (2016). New empiricisms and new materialisms: Conditions for new inquiry. Cultural Studies Critical Methodologies, 16(2), 99–110.


Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: March 01, 2019
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22692, Date Accessed: 12/3/2021 2:49:19 AM

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About the Author
  • Janice Fournillier
    Georgia State University
    E-mail Author
    JANICE B. FOURNILLIER is an associate professor with tenure at Georgia State University in the department of Educational Policy Studies, where she teaches and writes about qualitative research methodologies and works as a program evaluator and research methodologist on state and national funded grants. She has published several articles exploring the use of qualitative research methodologies from the perspective of a “native” ethnographer. Her research interests in teaching/learning practices in school and non-school contexts come out of her 28 years of experience as a classroom teacher at all levels of the educational system in the Caribbean and her research work in the Trinidad Carnival mas’ camp, the ‘ideal school.’ Dr. Fournillier has recently published in the International Journal of Qualitative Studies and has an article in press in the Journal of Negro Education.
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