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Historical Research. What is Historical Research?. The systematic collection and evaluation of data to describe, explain, and understand actions or events that occurred sometime in the past. There is no manipulation or control of variables as in experimental research.

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what is historical research
What is Historical Research?
  • The systematic collection and evaluation of data to describe, explain, and understand actions or events that occurred sometime in the past.
  • There is no manipulation or control of variables as in experimental research.
  • An attempt is made to reconstruct what happened during a certain period of time as completely and accurately as possible.
the purposes of historical research
The Purposes of Historical Research
  • To make people aware of what has happened in the past in order to:
    • Learn from past failures and successes
    • Apply them to present-day problems
    • Make predictions
    • Test hypotheses concerning relationships or trends
    • Understand present educational practices and policies more fully
steps involved in historical research
Steps Involved in Historical Research
  • Defining the Problem
  • Locating relevant sources
      • Documents
      • Numerical records
      • Oral statements
      • Relics
  • Summarizing information obtained from historical sources
  • Evaluation of historical sources
      • Internal criticism
      • External criticism
categories of sources
Categories of Sources
  • Documents
    • Written or printed materials that have been produced in some form or another.
  • Numerical records
    • Considered as a separate type of source in and of themselves or as a subcategory of documents.
  • Oral Statements
    • Are stories or other forms of oral expression that leave a record for future generations.
  • Relics
    • Are any objects whose physical or visual characteristics can provide some information about the past.
primary vs secondary sources
Primary vs. Secondary Sources
  • Primary source
    • one prepared by an individual who was a participant in or a direct witness to the event being described.
  • Secondary source
    • a document prepared by an individual who was not a direct witness to an event, but who obtained a description of the event from someone else.
data analysis in historical research
Data Analysis in Historical Research
  • Historical researchers use the following methods to make sense out of large amounts of data:
    • Theoretical model leading to a content analysis
    • Use of patterns or themes
    • Coding system
    • Quantitative data to validate interpretations
advantages and disadvantages of historical research

Permits investigation of topics and questions that can be studied in no other fashion


Cannot control for threats to internal validity

Limitations are imposed due to the content analysis

Researchers cannot ensure representation of the sample

Advantages and Disadvantages of Historical Research
action research

Action Research

The word "academic" is a synonym for irrelevant. (Alinsky, 1969)

what is action research
What is Action Research?
  • Action Research is conducted by one or more individuals or groups for the purpose of solving a problem or obtaining information in order to inform local practice.
  • Such studies are seriously limited in generalizability.
why action research
Why Action Research?
  • Teachers do not find research persuasive or authoritative.
  • Mainstream research has not been relevant to practice nor has it addressed teachers’ questions.
  • Findings from research often not expressed in ways that are comprehensible to teachers.
key characteristics of action research
Key Characteristics of Action Research
  • Persuasive and Authoritative
    • Teachers are invested in the legitimacy of the findings.
  • Relevant
    • Think Stanovich and multiple causation
  • Accessible
  • Problem solving approach
  • Not a fad
    • Good teachers have always systematically looked at the effects of their teaching.

Basic Assumptions Underlying Action Research


Teachers and other education professionals have the authority to make decisions.

Teachers and other education professionals want to improve their practice.

Teachers and other education professionals are committed to continual professional development.

Teachers and other education professionals will and can engage in systematic research.


A team of teachers, after discussions with the school administration, decide to meet weekly to revise the mathematics curriculum to make it more relevant to low- achieving students.

A group of teachers decide to observe each other on a weekly basis and then discuss ways to improve their teaching.

The entire staff—administration, teachers, counselors, and clerical staff—of an elementary school go on a retreat to plan ways to improve the attendance and discipline policies for the school.

Following up on the example just listed above, the staff decides to collect data by reviewing the attendance records of chronic absentees over the past year, to interview a random sample of attendees and absentees to determine why they differ, to hold a series of after-school roundtable sessions between discipline-prone students and faculty to identify problems and discuss ways to resolve issues of contention, and to establish a mentoring system in which selected students can serve as counselors to students needing help with their assigned work.

assumptions underlying action research
Assumptions Underlying Action Research
  • A number of assumptions underlie action research:
    • Participants have the authority to make decisions
    • Those involved are seriously committed to improving their performance
    • Educators and others involved in schools want to engage in research systematically
    • Those performing the research will make the necessary changes and recommendations
types of action research
Types of Action Research
  • There are two main types of action research:
    • Practical Action Research
      • Addresses a specific problem
      • Primary purpose is to improve practice and inform larger issues
      • A “how to” approach
    • Participatory Action Research
      • Philosophically driven
      • Empower individuals and groups to improve their lives and bring about a social change
      • Stakeholders are involved and are active in all processes
levels of participation
Provide information

Become informed of purpose of the study

Receive findings

Assist in data collection

Review findings

Participate in interpretation

Participate in designing the project

Participate in problem specification

Initiate study

Levels of Participation
steps in action research
Steps in Action Research
  • There are four steps or stages in Action Research:
    • Identifying the research question
    • Gathering the necessary information
    • Analyzing and interpreting the information
    • Developing a plan of action
advantages of action research
Advantages of Action Research
  • It can be performed by anyone, in any type of school or institution
  • It can help to improve educational practice
  • It can help education and other professionals to improve their craft
  • It can help them learn to identify problems systematically
  • It can build up a small community of research-oriented individuals at the local level

Similarities and Differences Between Action Research & Formal Quantitative and Qualitative Research

Action Research

Systematic inquiry.

Goal is to solve problems of local concern.

Little formal training required to conduct such studies.

Intent is to identify and correct problems.

Carried out by teacher or other local education professional.

Uses primarily teacher-developed instruments.

Less rigorous.

Usually value-based.

Purposive samples selected.

Selective opinions of researcher often considered as data.

Generalizability is very limited.

Formal Research

Systematic inquiry.

Goal is to develop and test theories and to produce knowledge generalizable to wide population.

Considerable training required to conduct such studies.

Intent is to investigate larger issues, of local concern.

Carried out by researcher who is not usually involved in local situation.

Uses primarily professionally-developed instruments.

More rigorous.

Frequently value-neutral.

Random samples (if possible) preferred.

Selective opinions of researcher never considered as data.

Generalizability often appropriate.

participatory action research
Participatory Action Research

“I think if the academic does the research you are doing a disservice to the community.”

Do you agree with this statement?

Why or why not?

In your opinion, what is the role of academics, or outsiders, in PAR?