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The Principles of Good Research in Education Essay


Nowhere is the quality of education is as important as it is in the domain of education. By successfully engaging in research projects, it is possible to improve the structure of the education system, thereby ensuring that it helps to develop successful career researchers who are capable of contributing to their respective fields. Thus, the future production and analysis of scientific evidence hinge on the recognition of the complex nature of educational research, its purpose, and key strategic and ethical principles associated with it. By understanding the epistemological, methodological, and ethical elements of research in the field of education, it is possible to guarantee that its quality approaches levels established by “empirical traditions of the social sciences” (Erickson et al., 2006, p. 33). Unfortunately, the question of what constitutes acceptable education research is open to debate.

The aim of this paper is to provide a coherent debate on the principles of good research in education. The paper will analyze and criticize Martin and Firestone’s positions on the issue and compare them to the standards for reporting educational research issued by the American Educational Research Association (AERA). It will be argued that good research should be driven the desire to improve the well-being of involved social groups as conceptualized by the said groups.


Hostetler’s Position

Hostetler (2005) argues that education researchers have a moral obligation not only to improve the overall quality or educational studies but also to serve people. The latter presupposes a rigorous analysis of the educational model with the aim of “accomplishing something worthwhile” (Hostetler, 2005, p. 21). In the scholar’s article on education research, ‘worthwhile’ is foregrounded as the promotion of human well-being. Hostetler (2005) maintains that the pursuit of the improvement of the human condition should be of immediate concern even for those researchers whose inquiry is not directly related to social well-being. The scholar’s position rests on three pillars. The first is the emphasis on the questioning of whether human good is “good for these people, at this time, in this situation” (Hostetler, 2005, p. 20). The second element of his argument is that good education research should produce new questions, thereby expanding the knowledge horizon of an inquirer. The third pillar of his position is the acknowledgment of limitations of one’s knowledge.


Upon carefully analyzing Hostetler’s approach to the quality in the field of educational research, it is possible to summarize his position on the issue as utilitarian. The scholar does not explicitly admit that his argument is based on the philosophical theory of morality known as utilitarianism. However, he acknowledges that the pursuit of well-being is conceptually connected to utilitarianism. It would be unreasonable to criticize Hostetler’s position for its adherence to utilitarian principles based on their alleged distastefulness, impracticality, insufficiency, and impossibility. It has to do with the fact that these criticisms have been thoroughly dismantled by the proponents of utilitarian moral reasoning (Barrow, 2015). However, it is necessary to raise an important point of contention concerning the lack of practical application of the principle of utility to individual cases.

The considerations of preferences of marginalized individuals do not enter the utilitarian moral calculus. The scholar preemptively deflects all possible criticism of the broad application of the utilitarian principle by stating that good research should consider what ‘good’ is for each case (Hostetler, 2005). However, such a formulation of his position renders impossible the formulation of a uniform set of principles for conducting and assessing education research. Therefore, while being directionally accurate, Hostetler’s position on the quality of research in the field of education lacks focus.

Firestone’s Position

One can argue that in the field of education, research projects should be undertaken to produce evidence that can be used to inform future actions. However, to produce such evidence, research has to be conducted in accordance with a pre-determined methodology, the choice of which hinges on a philosophical stance on the nature of reality and knowledge. More often than not, in the process of engaging in methodological considerations, researchers find themselves at a crossroads between quantitative and qualitative research designs. Firestone (1987) argues that instead of reducing lines of their inquiry to paradigmatic extremes, it is necessary to make use of both methodological approaches. The scholar maintains that the nature of the relationships between the two research designs and paradigms underpinning them is complementary. A corollary of this position is that a mix of two approaches should be used by researchers interested in the expansion of methodological coverage of their inquiry.

Firestone’s position can be squared with that of Hostetler because the use of mixed research methods can satisfy the key requirements for good research. Subjectivist epistemology and transformative methodology associated with critical theory can be used to liberate marginalized individuals, thereby improving their well-being, the pursuit of which was emphasized by the scholar. In other words, mixed research methods can be used to approach the task of positive social transformation in a systematic manner (Guba, 1990).

Martin’s Position

Martin (2003) has conducted a comparative analysis of two research methodologies with divergent ontological underpinnings. The findings of the study point to the fact that by using different analytical frameworks, it is possible to arrive at similar inferences. The scholar concludes that comparativists should combine divergent ontologies, thereby gaining “a fuller more complete picture of the realities being studied” (Martin, 2003, p. 116).

Martin’s position is aligned with that of Firestone, which, as has been shown above, is conceptually positioned along Hostetler’s line of reasoning. It follows that the attitude expressed by Martin can be squared with the requirements of good research outlined by Hostetler. Namely, the call for social well-being the achievement of which necessitates the recognition of value biases that might further ongoing oppression. By acknowledging the drawbacks of positivistic research, it is possible to ensure that subjugated groups are not affected by unequal distributions of power that undergird reductionist approaches to inquiry.

AERA Standards

According to the AERA standards, research in the field of education should satisfy two requirements: “the sufficiency of the warrants and the transparency of the report” (Erickson et al., 2006, p. 33). That is, a scholar willing to produce good research in education has to provide adequate evidence supporting their results and conclusions. In addition, the reporting should foster academic excellence by being transparent. By building on these key principles, the standards elaborate requirements for the following areas of research: design, sources of evidence, measurement and classification, evaluation and interpretation, and research ethics (Erickson et al., 2006). The standardization of these research domains makes it easier for a researcher to report the findings of their study. However, the guidelines issued by AERA avoid making a value judgment as to ontological, epistemological, or methodological choices of an inquirer. Therefore, it is evident that the standards do not overlap with the first element of good research proposed by Hostetler. However, by urging researchers to recognize the limits of their techniques and applicability of their findings, the standards can be squared with the third element of the scholar’s position.

Student’s Position

While it is hard to disagree with Hostetler’s criteria for good education research, it is worth acknowledging that his position fails to provide researchers with a proper analytical focus. That is, the scholar states that an inquirer has an obligation to question whether a good is “good for these people, at this time, in this situation” (Hostetler, 2005, p. 20). However, not only to approach the analysis of a social phenomenon in sufficient detail but also to make the said analysis possible, a researcher has to understand the scope of generalizations about the good in the context of their interest. Furthermore, the context of interest can overlap with other domains, the existence of which can elude an inquirer. It means that the establishment of how to serve research subjects’ well-being should be the initial point of research planning. To this end, it is necessary to have a workable conception of both ‘these people’ and their good, which opens a broad set of complications for a well-meaning researcher.

An education researcher who wants to improve the well-being of their research subjects can ask them to voice their vision of the good. Unfortunately, many studies preclude the articulation of such a position, which calls for the conceptualization of good from their perspective. However, experiences of other individuals cannot be understood and dissected by academics belonging to other social, cultural, racial, gender, religious, and sexual strata. From this vantage point, it is clear that the urging of Hostetler to question good of people whose interest is involved in research rings hollow in the face of radical diversion of the dominant and oppressed worlds’ consciousness. The question then arises: who can formulate a workable conception of good?

When researching individuals whose innate characteristics differ from those of a researcher, it is reasonable to inform research agenda by a population’s conception of good. When their position on well-being cannot be directly elicited, an inquirer can approach their perspective as a collective product. By conceptualizing a population’s perspective in this manner it is possible to ensure that marginalized individuals are not misrepresented by an inquirer. There are several avenues of representation that can be used in education research: social, political, and procedural (Bhopal & Deuchar, 2015). By contacting organizations representing different social segments, a researcher can better understand their position, thereby ensuring that a study does not reinforce problems already experienced by oppressed individuals.

The most important point that can be made about good research is that it should be guided by specific criteria. The AERA standards reinforced by the directional principles formulated by Hostetler can be used by forward-looking educational inquirers. However, to improve Hostetler’s standards of education research that can be regarded as good, it has to be added that a researcher should take into consideration the ideas and values of people as conceptualized by either them or their representatives. Under no condition, an inquirer should make assumptions on what constitutes good for people belonging to a social stratum other than theirs. Having added this point to Hostetler’s position on good research, it is necessary to acknowledge the validity of positions expressed by Martin and Firestone. Therefore, good education research is one that is designed, implemented, and evaluated by using the well-being of an involved population as is conceptualized by the said population in the capacity of directional guidance.


The paper has analyzed Hostetler’s position on good research and compared it to that of Martin and Firestone. It has been argued that good research should aim to improve the well-being of a studied population. The well-being should be conceptualized by involved individuals either directly or through political or social representatives.


Barrow, R. (2015). Utilitarianism: A contemporary statement. Abington, England: Routledge.

Bhopal, K., & Deuchar, R. (2015). Researching marginalized groups. Abington, England: Routledge.

Erickson, F. D., Grant, C. A., Green, J. L., Hedges, L. V., Levine, F. J., Moss, P. A.,… Schneider, B. L. (2006). Educational Researcher, 35(6), 33-40.

Firestone, W. A. (1987). Meaning in method: The rhetoric of quantitative and qualitative research. Educational Researcher, 16(7), 16-21.

Guba, E. G. (Ed.). (1990). The paradigm dialog. New York, NY: Sage.

Hostetler, K. (2005). What is ‘good’ education research. Educational Researcher, 34(6), 16-21.

Martin, T. J. (2003). Divergent ontologies with converging conclusions: A case study comparison of comparative methodologies. Comparative Education, 39(1), 105-117.

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