EDEV_504 Week 2_1

I’m so glad that you asked me how my research approach may be affected by my concept of time. I realise that I didn’t answer any of the DQ questions directly, but each time I followed a train of thought through those questions, I always ended up hitting the realisation that much of the espoused dichotomies in the qual-quan debate can be overcome by taking the wider view of time.

For the present purposes, there are two important considerations that inform research, at least for Ed.D. candidates. The first is that there is a time limit on data collection. Candidates can’t, for example, elect to undertake a 20-year single cohort study on the effects of a particular pedagogic motivational method on future employment. Even shorter time scale studies may be problematic. An ethnography in which a candidate works with a particular community must be limited to around a year. The practical implications of long-time scale studies may be less relevant, however, than the nature of personal change during that time. It is unlikely that a candidate will have the same cognitive tools after years of continual study. This personal change may result in an entirely different perspective which in turn may affect the mechanics and the interpretation of the study. In a trivial sense, then, time issues inform the availability of research type.

The second area is that the two broad categories of research type contain their own assumptions which need to be reflected in the research design. It is not so easy to say “I’m not into stats, so I’ll do a qualitative study”. Qualitative studies are useful for generating research hypotheses (Lund, 2012). To me, there is the implication in most qualitative research that any findings can (should?) be tested on wider populations. Although Bryman, Becher and Sempik (2008) show that 30.7% of researchers in their study believe generalisability and 31.9% believe replicability to be important criteria of quality in social policy research, these low figures, compared with 70.9% and 60.2% respectively for quantitative research, make the “so what” question in doctoral research a minor issue. If we accept Nonaka and Takeuchi’s (1995) definition of science knowledge as ”knowledge of general rules” (p. 33), candidates need to recognise that doctoral thesis qualitative research either questions the boundaries of what constitutes science by not attempting to generalise to abstract rules or acknowledges that the research undertaken is of limited use. Trowler (2014) describes the necessity that doctoral theses should be instrumental in “offering wider interest to a larger audience” (p. 6). The “so what” question contains a strong notion of generalisability or at least relevance. I would like to see a Bryman, Becher and Sempik study done on doctoral theses.

But perhaps I’m reading too much into this issue. The University of Liverpool Ed.D. brochure (n.d.) states that “the thesis leads to refinements of practice … rather than refinements of theory” (p. 10). In other words, there may be no critical need for testing theory and an interpretation of “refinements of practice” is an open question.


Bryman, A., Becker, S., & Sempik, J. (2008). Quality criteria for quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods research: A view from social policy. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 11(4), 261–276. doi:10.1080/13645570701401644

Lund, T. (2012). Combining Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches: Some Arguments for Mixed Methods Research. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 56(2), 155–165. doi:10.1080/00313831.2011.568674

Nonaka, I., & Takeuchi, H. (1995). The Knowledge-Creating Company: How Japanese Companies Create the Dynamics of Innovation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Trowler, P. (2014). Frequently Asked Questions About Doctoral Research into Higher Education [Kindle edition]. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

About theCaledonian

Scot living in north Japan teaching at a national university.
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