What Can Be Considered a Good Education Research?

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Introduction

Good education research is a subject of debate for many researchers and philosophers. Some people argue that good research must be quantitative, i.e., supported with facts and numerical data. Others believe that good research must be qualitative, i.e., based on findings and results. There are also those who suggest that good education research must consist of qualitative and quantitative data and have an ethical nature. One can see that it is not easy to define the constituents of good research, and one should investigate this issue to understand the main principles of good research. To begin with, one should consider the claims and beliefs of Karl Hostetler (2005), who assumes that ‘good’ research requires “careful, ongoing attention to questions of human well-being” (p. 16). Although some researchers take into account only the structure and content of educational research, the aim of good research is to accomplish something worthwhile and promote human well-being.

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Hostetler’s Claims and Beliefs about ‘Good’ Research

In his article “What Is ‘Good’ Education Research?,” Karl Hostetler (2005) discusses the conditions that scientists and researchers have to meet to make their research acceptable. The author criticizes the debates that consider education research from the perspective of qualitative and quantitative methodologies only. Hostetler (2005) believes that the structure and content of research are less important than its moral side. Good education research must inquire into human well-being and try to find out “what a good human life entails” (Hostetler, 2005, p. 18). The author argues that science and ethics are inseparable and should be equally considered in good education research (Hostetler, 2005, p. 19). Thus, good researchers must always think of the moral side of their research.

Hostetler (2005) begins his argument with a criticism of the current standards of research. He asserts that these standards, or “sound procedures,” pay no attention to human well-being (Hostetler, 2005, p. 17). Instead, their main focus is on the methodologies and fixed processes aimed to support a hypothesis. The author provides evidence that most education researchers concentrate on how to conduct the studies instead of focusing on what good can be achieved after conducting them. Although Hostetler’s arguments are relevant and valid, fixed standards and procedures should not be ignored while conducting education research. Thus, these two elements should complement each other in order to achieve the best results and promote human well-being.

At the same time, Hostetler (2005) does not mean that moral aspects of human well-being are not addressed in education research. On the contrary, he claims that these aspects are well-addressed, but the problem is how often they are addressed. The author suggests that educational researchers should ask questions about human well-being more often in their research. Hostetler (2005) believes that good intentions of research and good-sounding slogans do not always guarantee “good” research and an ethical understanding of its goals (p. 17). Researchers must be well aware of the processes and structure of research, its qualitative and quantitative methodologies, and they must have good knowledge of human well-being.

Moreover, the researcher mentions the German philosopher Gadamer’s thoughts about knowledge and education. The three main elements of good research are questions, conditions, and knowledge (Hostetler, 2005, pp. 20-21). Questions are essential for the research because they allow the researchers to understand whether their research is good for people at this time and in this situation (Hostetler, 2005, p. 20). Conditions should also be established properly to make the researchers expand their knowledge and awareness and ask proper ethical questions. Finally, knowledge is another integral element of good research, especially if it is “knowledge that one does not know” (Hostetler, 2005, p. 21). If a researcher admits that they do not know something and continue to research, their research will be good even if it leads to wrong conclusions. According to Hostetler (2005), wrong conclusions may lead to progress, which is good (p. 21). In such a way, good education research is research that combines questions, proper conditions, and knowledge that requires ethical and moral philosophy and considers human well-being.

Comparison of Hostetler’s Claims with the Beliefs of Other Theorists

Hostetler admits that empirical findings are significant to answering ethical questions, but he also insists that researchers must go beyond empirical to understand the issues of well-being. Thus, the author says, “good education research requires philosophy, in particular moral theory” (Hostetler, 2005, p. 19). When comparing Hostetler’s claims with those of Percy Bridgman, one can see that their beliefs about the constituents of good research are slightly opposite. The physicist wrote his article, “Broad Points of View,” based on the concept of scientific research only. Thus, Bridgman (1927) argues that empirical knowledge and experimentation are crucial for good research, and “experience is determined only by experience” (p. 491). For the physicist, every research should be conducted according to the standards that rule experimentation. Unlike Hostetler, Bridgman does not consider the ethical side of research as something important. On the contrary, good research can be done when it is ruled by empirical inquiries only. Such a difference between the beliefs of the two researchers stimulates the readers better comprehend the subject and conduct their own investigation on the constituents of good research.

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At the same time, Bridgman’s operational theory might not be fully opposite to Hostetler’s beliefs about good research. For example, Bridgman (1927) believes that Einstein’s relativity theory changes human attitude to not only physics but also scientific concepts in general (p. 491). Einstein changed human understanding of essential concepts and their value. Thus, the term “length” may have different meanings, and these meanings will depend on the theoretical context under which the length is measured (Bridgman, 1927, p. 491). For example, when one talks about physical measurements, researchers will need to conduct physical operations to measure them. However, if the concept of length is mental, like mathematical continuity, researchers will be involved in mental or logical activities. The author claims that any concept is “synonymous with the corresponding set of operations” (Bridgman, 1927, p. 491). In such a way, the researcher admits that research is no more limited to fixed theories and hypotheses.

One can see that Bridgman (1927) expands the definition of good research and does not tie it to some standards and specific processes. Similarly, Hostetler (2005) argues that good research is not limited to strict theories and standards but includes the concept of human well-being, thus adding richness and complexity to research. In addition, Bridgman (1927) emphasizes the importance of human experience in research, claiming that experience is as important as standards and rules (p. 494). However, the author admits that strict standards cannot be applied to validate some operations so that the human experience will be used in such cases.

The second theorist whose beliefs about good research differ from those of Hostetler is Karl Popper. The researcher believes that one of the main limitations of research is the “problem of demarcation” (Popper, 1959, p. 501). The author means that there is no criterion that would allow people to distinguish between scientific or empirical data and non-scientific data. According to Popper (1959), scientific research is not perfect because it excludes such essential concepts as logic, psychology, and metaphysics (p. 501). Similarly, Hostetler (2005) affirms that good research is not limited to empirical knowledge only and consists of many other elements, including moral philosophy and ethics. Nevertheless, the approaches of Popper and Hostetler to the definition of good research are still diverse.

Popper (1959) accepts the philosophy of Hume, rejecting inductive logic and rejoicing skepticism. The researcher argues that those scientists who insisted on pure observation in the research were wrong because observation is always based on a theory (Popper, 1959, p. 497). Therefore, it is essential to focus on the human experience, either physical or mental, because experience is the only way to define whether a system is empirical or scientific (Popper, 1959, p. 504). Thus, the author writes, “it must be possible for an empirical scientific system to be refuted by experience” (Popper, 1959, p. 504). This point of view differs from that of Hostetler about the experience because, for Popper, experience is not necessarily associated with human well-being. In addition, Popper tries not to limit education research by celebrating skepticism, while Hostetler tries not to limit research by the certainty that the main purpose of good research is human well-being.

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Having reviewed the approaches to the definition of good research by three different theorists, one can suggest that Hostetler’s claims differ from the claims and beliefs of Bridgman and Popper. Hostetler (2005) emphasizes the importance of the moral side of research and its value to human well-being. He argues that it is essential to understand why the research is valuable and what it can bring to people rather than conduct it according to standards and rules. Moreover, the researcher affirms that biased opinions about the experiments and methods threaten the real humanistic value of research. In comparison, Bridgman and Popper mostly focus on the empirical side of research, to some extent calling for changes and new possibilities in research. In general, all three authors agree that good research is a complex issue, and it should be considered from diverse perspectives, including psychological and philosophical ones.

My Conclusions and Rationale

Having read and analyzed three different articles about the constituents of good research, I can conclude that good research is a combination of all the claims and beliefs mentioned above. I think that even though the importance of empirical research is unchallengeable, the other elements, such as moral theory, experience, and philosophy, should not be ignored. I believe that Hostetler’s argument that good research should be useful for people’s well-being is important, and all scientists and educators should not disregard it while conducting new research. Unfortunately, many people continue to conduct research only for research but not for human well-being’s sake. I am confident that the aim of good research should be the good of humans, not only empirical facts and measurements.

In addition, I think that modern educators should encourage moral education among researchers to help them comprehend the significance of moral theory in research. As Hostetler (2005) says, analysis is “itself a moral activity, a form of practical philosophy” (p. 18). If researchers analyze their research within the realm of normative factors, thinking of human well-being and dignity, they will be able to conduct good scientific and ethical research. Some may argue that not all research can emphasize ethical and moral issues. Even if it is true, all researchers should realize that the difference between ethical research that is good for people and scientific research that brings no moral value is significant.

What is more, researchers should remember that their findings and results are not always right. Wrong answers should stimulate researchers to explore the subject from a novel perspective, thus giving rise to new research. I agree with Hostetler (2005) that “research that is wrong in its conclusions may still lead to progress” (p. 21). Moreover, good research always welcomes questions and criticism from the readers. At the same time, I understand that good research should meet the standards set by quality control organizations. Nevertheless, the true aim of all educational researchers should be to ensure that their research is good and useful to human well-being. Other essential elements of good research are a literature review, a clear and comprehensible methodology section, evaluation and analysis sections, and a proper explanation of findings and limitations. Finally, a clear thesis statement with the purpose of the study, research questions, description of the research methods, and conclusions that stimulate people to think of further investigation are integral elements of good research.

References

Bridgman, P. (1927). Broad points of view. In The logic of modern physics (pp. 490-497). Macmillan.

Hostetler, K. (2005). What is “good” education research? Educational Researcher, 34(6), 16-21. Web.

Popper, K. (1959). A survey of some fundamental problems. In The logic of scientific discovery (pp. 497-505). Basic Books.

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