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    1. Read Gage’s (1989) ‘The Paradigm Wars and their Aftermath- A "Historical" Sketch of Research on Teaching Since 1989’ (Educational Researcher)
    2. Use the following chart to delineate the characteristics of positivistic research and how it has been critiqued by the anti-naturalists, the interpretivists/qualitative research proponents, and critical theorists. Add as many rows as you deem necessary.

Positivistic Paradigm / "standard" research Anti-naturalist critique Interpretivist qualitative critique Critical Theorists' Critique
A research on teaching that had flourished in the 60s and 70s and that had come in for a severe beating during the 80s. the anti-naturalist position claims that human affairs simply cannot be studied with the scientific methods used to study the natural world. Interpretivists called for a focus on the "immediate meanings of action from the actors' point of view" (Erickson, 1986, p120)-a focus that they found absent from the mainstream of research on teaching of the 60s and 70s. In their view, most educational research in general and research on teaching in particular had been governed by a merely "technical" orientation aimed at efficiency, rationality and objectivity.
It had been characterised as"at best, inconclusive, at worst, barren" (Tom, 1984, p2) and inadequate to tell us anything secure and important about how teachers should proceed in the classroom" (Barrow, 1984, p213) According to antinaturalist critique, the scientific study of human affairs is impossible because of many reasons:
1- Human affairs, including teaching and learning are inextricably involved with the intentions, goals, and purposes that give them meaning.
2- a science is involved with direct, one-way causal links, but there are no causal connections between teacher behaviour and student learning.
3- Scientific methods can be applied only to natural phenomena that are stable and uniform across time, space and context in a way obviously untrue of the human world of teaching and learning.
Interpretivists saw sharp differences between their own theoretical presuppositions and those of the quantitaive, objectivity seeking researchers. they were "pessimistic" (Erickson, p120) about the possibility of combining interpretive and objectivity-seeking approaches. The critical theorists claimed the we should have been looking at the relationship of schools and teaching to society.
According to many critics, despite its attempts to lay a scientific basis for the art of teaching, this paradigm had failed and the search for scientifically grounded ways to understand and improve teaching had led nowhere.

By focusing on behavior rather than on behavior and its meaning i.e on "actions", the standard researchers had disregarded the interpretations of teachers and pupils.
the interpretivists considered the focus on specifics of action and meaning perspectives to be overlooked by the objectivists'research on teaching.
They emphasized the importance of power in society and the function of schools in defining social reality.
Even if such" positivistic social science" had succeeded, it would have bred ideas that can only be implemented in an authoritarian, manipulative, bureacratic system" (Cazden, 1983, p33)
Interpretive researchers differed from "standard"researchers in different ways:
1- Their theoretical presuppositions about the nature of schools, teaching, children, and classroom life, and about the nature of cause in human life in general" (Erickson, p;125)
2- they rejected the conception of cause as mechanical or chemical or biological, a conception they said was used in the "standard" approaches to research on teaching.
3- they also rejected the assumption of uniformity in nature- the assumption that phenomena would occur in the same way in different places and times.
4- they rejected the use of linear causal models applied to behavioural variables as a basis for inferring causal relations among the variables, because such models presupposesd fixed and obvious meanings of certain types of actions by teachers.
They stressed the ways in which education served the interests of the dominant social class, which consists of the rich, the White and the male,as against the poor, the non-white, and the female.

Instead, the interpretive researchers emphasized the phenomenological perspectives of the persons behaving. In this perspective, behavioral uniformities are seen "not as evidence of underlying, essential uniformity among entities, but as an illusion-a social construction" (Erickson, 1986, p 126)
The effects on people's actions of their interpretations of their world create the possibility that people may differ in their responses to the same or similar situations. Thus, interpretive researchers regard individuals as able to construct their own social reality, rather than having reality always be the determiner of the individual's perceptions.
They asserted that human beings can change the social structure and they need not be dominated by it.
schools, like other social institutions, such as the media must be the for the necessary struggle for power and educational research ought at least to be aware of the possibility of such struggles.

The implication of the the critical theorists'position was that the kinds of research on teaching that had been done until 1989 by so-called positivists, attemting to use scientific methods, and even to some degree by interpretivists, exploring social constructions of reality, had been more or less trivial.

The critical theorists implied that what is needed is a reconsideration of the whole structure of society in which education, including teaching, goes on.

Course Instructor: It is clear that Nesrine Bahloul is taking her work very seriously, despite the short time allocated for her to prepare her presentation of the Gage article. Thank you Nesrine. May 7, 2009. 19:43



Aims of research proposal
  • The research proposal is an argument. It has to sell.
  • ‘..to explain and justify your proposed study to an audience of non-experts on your topic’(Maxwell, 1996, 100-101)
  • Your job is to show that it follows certain norms in accordance with the discipline under which the research is proposed
  • To persuade a committee of scholars of the following:
    • Conceptual innovation
    • Methodological rigor
o Rich, substantive content. · Proposals should indicate awareness and tolerance of alternative viewpoints · All research is more or less comparative because it must use, implicitly or explicitly, some point of reference. · Research is in part about summarizing, comparing, and integrating all relevant theory and research into your topic.

Three key points in this order

  1. What questions is the research trying answer? What
  2. How will the research answer those questions? How
  3. Why are these questions worth answering? Why?

  • What is it trying to find out or achieve?
    • Proposal needs to be clear on
      • Context of research
      • Goal
      • How will it go about doing that?
      • Justifying the goal
  • What will I learn from it and why is it worth learning?
Three functions: communication, plan, contract

  • Communication
Communicates researcher’s intentions and research plans to those giving consent or funds

  • Plan
(Distinction between pre-structured versus unfolding research) o pre-structured, pre-planned, prefigured o unfolding, emerging, open-ended o
Continuum of research in empirical social science research: one end is tightly pre-planned, other end totally unfolding o This is the plan of investigation (esp. pre-structured research) § With anticipation of problems to be encountered § Planned and thorough in such a manner that with the same planned observations, not substantially different results are to be reached § Basis for the rest of the research process § Saying exactly what you are going to do and how you are going to do it ·

  • Contract
Bond of agreement between student and review panel o Once contract made, only minor changes are allowed o Proposal mainly about your study not about the literature

2.1 A formulation of the question or statement of the problem

2.2 Statement of the subproblems

2.3 Statement of the hypotheses

2.4 Delimitation of the research

2.5 Definition of concepts

2.6 The assumptions

2.7 The significance of the research

2.8 A review of relevant literature

2.9 A methodological justification

2.10 The researcher's qualifications

2.11 Envisaged programme of study

2.12 Source list


  • Begin with something interesting, a quote or a story, to capture the reader's attention.
  • Surprises, puzzles, and apparent contradictions can also be a great starter
  • What do you want to understand? How did you personally get interested in the question?
Statement of the problem
  • Research starts with a question leading to the delimitation and description of a problem.
  • Research without clearly formulated problem or without problem statement leads nowhere.
  • How to problematize?
    • Look for gaps, deficiencies, areas of darkness; look for topics where evidence is (out)dated.
    • Watch for incongruities and contradictions among competing theories, the points of controversy, the untested conclusions
    • Follow clues and suggestions obtained from readings, conferences, and thinking.
  • Formulate a researchable problem, with enough detail, precision, and clarity that anyone who knows the language in which the question is written can read it, understand it, and react to it in the absence of the researcher.
  • Turn the problem or the statement into an economically formulated interrogative sentence; NB: these are not rhetorical questions, but questions for which the answer is not obvious and needs researching;
  • The problem must be answerable within the time limits available for you, and takes into account the nature of the degree you are seeking, and the level of investment you are expected to be capable of making.

The Subproblems
  • Each problem consists of various distinctive components known as subproblems, usually between 2 and 6 subproblems .
  • The solution of the subproblems together will solve the main research problem.
  • Present the subproblems in question form.
  • Each subproblem must be a researchable problem, necessitating the collection, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of data, as well as deductions and conclusions.
  • Omit everything beyond the scope of the problem.
  • Questions about methodology are not part of the problem

Statement of the Hypothesis (Travers (1969 : 68)
  • Not always necessary to state hypothesis especially in human sciences.
  • The hypothesis need not be confirmed; It just must be testable so it can be proved as true or not true. it can be rejected without jeopardizing the value and acceptability of research.
  • A hypothesis must be stated clearly, precisely, and unambiguously, stated, using simple terms.
  • It must be possible to test the hypothesis within a reasonable time period.
  • Do not try to prove your hypothesis true; you are then jeopardizing the impartiality of your research.

Delimiting the research
  • Do not attempt too wide an investigation. State the boundaries of the problem clearly so you don't get astray in the periphery, interesting as it may be.
  • Along with a statement of what falls under your research, you should also state what is not within the scope, e.g. "This study will not attempt to .... This study will not determine... This study will be limited to ...
Definition of concepts
  • Since research is communication with other researchers; terminology must not be haphazard. It has to be explained exactly as used in the research project in such a manner that it is not misinterpreted by other scientists.
  • Terminology in the title, statement of the problem and subproblems must be appropriately defined and authoritatively referenced.
  • Abbreviations must also be clearly defined, along with the sources.

The assumptions
  • Assumptions (those statements that you take for granted as a researcher) relating to the problem must be clearly stated and justified.
  • Be specific in naming and describing your research paradigm, that is the theoretical and epistemological underpinnings of your research.
  • The researcher must not make assumptions regarding what they are investigating.
Significance of the research
  • Cite relevant literature that calls for the need for research in this particular area, case, period.
  • Timely question to be addressed; problem looming in case the situation is not addressed.
  • Relevance of research in connection with current theoretical debate
  • Who will benefit by this research? (Teachers, educators, educational authorities, parents, scholars, etc.)
  • What are we going to learn as the result of the proposed project that we do not know now?
  • Why is it worth knowing?
  • How might your research have direct or indirect applications?

A review of related literature
  • Not a final source list at the stage of research proposal writing.
  • Focused review of the literature representing the current state of knowledge with regard to the research undertaken.
  • Literature search demonstrates researcher's ability to conduct research and knowledge of subject matter.
  • Aim of literature study: bring researcher's attention to similar studies; reveal a technique previously used in this specific case, reveal unknown sources of data, new ideas or approaches, prevent researcher from addressing problem already exhausted.
  • Literature review demonstrates your knowledge of the contradictions and inaccuracies in published material (Puth, 1985: 5)
  • Say how has the literature review influenced the way you are approaching the topic?
  • Literature must be critically evaluated and correctly reported in the proposal.
  • Only relevant literature must be mentioned in the review.

Methodological justification
  • Be specific about how you plan to collect information, about the techniques you will use to analyze it, and about the tests of validity to which you commit yourself.
  • Justify your research method; Remember, a research methodology is not just a list of research tasks to be performed. Make a sustained argument to the effect that the methodology you are pursuing is the best way to attack the problem at hand.
  • Cite authors who have defined your research paradigm and its application to your field of study.
  • If existing methods are not applicable, say why they have been adapted in order to solve the problem.
  • If the researcher expects problems with the method, then there is a need to indicate how these will be solved.
  • Do you have access to the information needed to answer your research questions?

The researcher's qualifications
  • The researcher must show that they are adequately qualified to complete the research project successfully.
  • Describe the personal and professional experience you have for tackling the research.

Intended programme of study
  • The researcher must envisage a time schedule for the research to be completed.
  • The researcher must present an outline of the chapters to be included in the thesis.
  • References and sources to be included at the end of the proposal.
  • Committee members take the bibliography very seriously: relevant, up-to-date, following known referencing norms (APA).
  • Seek help and input with regard to research area from significant others (correspondence, libraries, electronic mail, discussion groups, mailing lists, online research databases (ERIC), friends in the know, a seminar, experts in your field, experts from similar fields, your supervisor/advisor, etc.)
  • Make use of appendices so as not to clutter or overload the proposal with unnecessary information or detail.

Clough, P. & C. Nutbrown. 2002. A Student's Guide to Methodology. London: Sage Publications.

Heath, A. W. (1997, March). The proposal in qualitative research [41 paragraphs]. The Qualitative Report [On-line serial], 3(1). Available: http://www.nova.edu/ssss/QR/QR3-1/heath.html

Przeworski , A. & Salomon, F. The Art of Writing Proposals: Some Candid Suggestions for Applicants to Social Science Research Council Competitions. 1995 (rev.), 1988 Social Science Research Council. Retrieved from the Word Wide Web: http://www.ssrc.org/fellowships/art_of_writing_proposals.page


Content analysis does not have to limit itself to interviews (structured, semi-structured or unstructured). You can WEFT QDA to analyze field notes you collected during your research, observations, other text you came across that is related to your research, or even certain sections of the literature review. WEFT is the name of the program and QDA is short for qualitative data analysis.

The download page is the following: http://www.pressure.to/qda/.
The basic page of a project opened by WEFT QDA looks as follows

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