our own work and in our colleagues’, we have found repeatedly that belief and anecdote are often the coin of the realm, and those with commercial interests are not expected by educators, policy makers or the public to use research to support what they sell. We believe that the expectation that research-based information will be available and should be part of the decision-making process needs to be cultivated both in the public and in the research community. With such expectations, it will become increasingly easy to establish the relationships—weak or strong—that are critical for conducting education research. Simply put, researchers need practitioners and practitioners need researchers. Without these relationships, a great deal of scientific research in education is likely to be piecemeal and opportunistic, and educators are unlikely to draw on scientific knowledge to improve their practices in any meaningful way.
This chapter provides a flavor for the particular character of scientific inquiry in education. We elaborate how the guiding principles and features of education are united within a variety of study designs in the next chapter, where we discuss, and provide examples of, how education researchers approach particular types of inquiries.