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Unit information: Introduction to Educational Inquiry in 2020/21

Unit name Introduction to Educational Inquiry
Unit code EDUCM5915
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Academic Year (weeks 1 - 52)
Unit director Dr. Liz Washbrook
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Education
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This unit provides an introduction to the variety of methods used to conduct research in education. It engages students in the key debates surrounding educational research and its importance in developing educational policy and improving educational processes. The question of what constitutes good educational research is addressed and students will be encouraged to develop strategies to better understand and critique the immense variety of educational research reported in books and journals.

In this unit, students are introduced to the entire process of conducting educational research from the initial stages of thinking about research questions to designing a project, choosing particular methodologies and methods. Students are encouraged to look at this from a political and philosophical as well as an educational perspective and also to consider and reflect on the key issues that educational researchers face, including how it is possible to ensure good ethical practice.

The unit aims are to:

  • present the main philosophical and methodological positions within social science research with special reference to research in education
  • appreciate the importance of critically engaging with research literature
  • understand and engage with the process of research design and its conduct, including issues in data collection and analysis
  • be prepared to undertake an empirically-based dissertation
  • enrich their reading and understanding of research literature that they engage with in their other units on the MSc programme

Intended learning outcomes

On completion of the unit students will be able to:

  • Read critically and evaluate research-related documents, which have employed a range of research approaches and methods based on differing epistemologies
  • Formulate a research question and an appropriate research design for a project
  • Critically engage with issues of ethics, validity, trustworthiness and reliability in relation to research
  • Have the skills and confidence to be able to conduct an independent research project
  • Have made decisions regarding their future learning needs, in particular in the area of data collection and analysis techniques (this is particularly important for those likely to be undertaking a dissertation)

Teaching details

Given the nature of the programme, teaching is organised into an intensive 3-day event during which there are a combination of teaching strategies, which may include whole group lectures, visiting speakers, case studies, critical analysis of key readings, group discussions and student presentations.

Assessment Details

Summative assessment:

For students who have not yet submitted Developing as an Educational Researcher (EDUCM5919):

Assessment Details

A 4,000 word report on a group research project. Outline details of the project and provide a thorough discussion of the methodological and ethical issues that were raised.

For students who have already submitted Developing as an Educational Researcher (EDUCM5919):

Assessment Details

A 4,000 word dissertation proposal. Students will be expected to identify relevant research literature, outline research questions and construct a research design that would address them. Critical appraisal of the research approach being proposed will be expected.

Reading and References

  • Cohen, L., Manion,L. and Morrison, K. (2017) (Eighth Edition) Research Methods in Education. Abingdon and New York: Routledge
  • Clough, P. & Nutbrown, C. (2007) (Second Edition) A Student’s Guide to Methodology: justifying enquiry, London: Sage.
  • Crotty, M. (1998) The Foundations of Social Research: meaning and perspective in the research process, London: Sage.
  • Denscombe, M. (2003) The Good Research Guide: for small-scale social research projects, Maidenhead: Open University Press.
  • Punch, KF. and Oancea, A (2014) Introduction to Social Research: quantitative and qualitative approaches, London: Sage.
  • Ritchie, J. & Lewis, J. (2003) Qualitative Research Practice: a guide for social science students and researchers, London: Sage.