Effective Documentation in Research

Effective documentation strengthens the use and credibility of a research report in several ways.  First, documenting sources allows other researchers to “visit the same sites you have found” (McMillan, 2007, pp. 81).  This allows each reader to vet the relevancy of the information you have provided, find further information related to their query, and ensure the accuracy of your research stance.  Second, documentation strengthens a research report by providing evidence that a study is of interest and relevant to a variety of researchers across the field.  Proof of a literary review suggests that a researcher has vetted existing studies, evaluated them, and used the “interpretations in [the] work, to solve problems, or conduct action research” (McMillan, 2007, pp. 61).  Third, effective documentation provides an easy way to assess source credibility, such as the consumer protection of peer reviewed journals.  Stanovich (2003) explains that “the front line of defense for teachers against incorrect information in education is the existence of peer-reviewed journals in education, psychology, and other related social sciences. These journals publish empirical research on topics relevant to classroom practice and human cognition and learning. They are the first place that teachers should look for evidence of validated instructional practices.”

I believe this is especially important when considering educational research because of the differences in pedagogy that exist among educators.  There is a stark contrast between experienced opinion and information that is truly research-based.  Before teaching, I worked with curriculum implementations for an ed-tech company, and quickly became accustomed to the many claims that resource providers and companies made.  So many times, educators are looking for tools to help fix the problems of their classrooms, schools, or districts, and truly analyzing documentation that supports educational claims can often save districts thousands of dollars in implementations, professional development, or other costs associated with hasty decisions.  A simple “research suggests” does not carry as much weight as quantitive data backed by relevant meta-analysis, for example.  The same credibility should be considered when approaching instructional practices, demographic issues, or any other educational research question.

McMillan, J. H. (2007). Educational Research: Fundamentals for the Consumer 6th ed. Pearson.
Stanovich, P. J., & Stanovich, K. E. (2003).  Using research and reason in education: How teachers can use scientifically based research to make curricular instructional decisions.  PsycEXTRA Dataset.  doi:10.1037/e563842009-001

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