Assessing the Research

 

Use the questions listed below to help you determine whether the research resource you have found will meet your needs. Return to the NAFSA Research Connection.

What information are you hoping to find?
Can your question be answered by reading the research literature? Some questions can be answered more easily by looking at "best practices" from peers. Some questions are best answered by finding statistics or "big data" resources.

Is the research in the article relevant?
Is the campus environment in the research study similar to your own campus environment? Is the population similar? Does the research problem being analyzed apply to your question? Is there a way to apply the conclusion of the study to your own question? Are there any other studies in the article’s literature review that can lead you to more related sources?

What are the strengths and weaknesses of the research?
Determining the study's strengths and weaknesses might include asking about the sample size, its use of a particular statistical method, its segmentation of the population, the presence or absence of a control group, the strength of the hypothesis and conclusions, the length of time during which the study was conducted, etc. It is important to understand how much of the study's results can be generalized, and it is also important to compare the results of the study with other research on the same topic. How radical are the conclusions? Can any pattern be ascertained among different research papers? One way of understanding the strength of a conclusion can be by comparing it to others. For additional insight not only on how to present research but also on how to read it, consult AERA's "Standards of Reporting on Empirical Social Science Research in AERA publications" and AERA's "Standards of Reporting on Humanities-Oriented Research in AERA publications" available on AERA's Shaping Research Policy website. Other useful online resources include the standards used to evaluate research at the Institute of Education Science's What Works Clearinghouse (44kb Icon PDF 16) and, for a shorter guide, the Common Guidelines for Education Research and Development. (272kb Icon PDF 16)

How will I need to use the research?
Do you need to use research that uses the same measurement tool (e.g. the IDI or the GPI)? Are you needing qualitative data that can tell "stories"? What information will be most important for your audience? Does your audience understand the concepts used in the studies? The Mathematica Policy Institute's Center for Improving Research Evidence offered a research brief in October 2012 that includes guidance on how to present information to your audience.

Whom can I ask for assistance?
Resources on a university campus include your library's reference librarians and the library's subject specialists. You might also wish to consult your institutional research office, as well as the staff who work in the international education offices on campus.