Googling through the Research

January 23, 2011

I had the privilege for the past two days of running a seminar on educational research for our Master’s level teacher leader programme at Sheffield Hallam University. During the seminar we talked about the eclectic methodologies one can use when evaluating data. The discussion inevitably turned towards the tension that sometimes exists between qualitative and quantitative methodologies and the unhelpful binary that this sometimes creates. We also examined some of the free tools that are available to both the professional and the occasional researcher, and between us we uncovered a rich mine of easily accessible tools. Without meaning to sound like a Google zealot, the Google suite offers a range of helpful applications in this field. Google Scholar is a great alternative to the sometimes unwieldy online university library resources, offering access to many online journal articles. Narrow you search by include the metatag ‘pdf’ in the search criteria. Google Docs has a powerful spreadsheet that offers the facility to create simple aggregated statistics. For the analysis of qualitative data, free applications such as Weft QDA (Qualitative Data Analysis) can help with thematic analysis of text based data and the mighty and majestic creates word clouds based on text files that not only analyse but present data in an attractive and readable form. For online surveys and questionnaires, both zoomerang and survey monkey are good applications that allow data to be collected quickly and efficiently online. I wish I was doing my Master’s now. Back in 1984 I used a manual typewriter and spent an eye-watering amount of money on a scientific calculator that proved to be totally counter-intuitive and ill-suited to the purpose for which I bought it. The tools available now offer huge affordances to the teacher researcher. I can hardly wait to read the research reports from the people doing our teacher leader programme.

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