Let’s Talk Research

As most of you know, I’m currently working on my doctorate. An article I was recently provided really hit home for me…and I think it will for you too. There are some wonderful tidbits in here, and (in my not so humble opinion), a great tool to use for when you’re reading research (which I KNOW you are…right?). Don’t worry, it’s not written as a “boring research article,” but it is extremely interesting and thought-provoking.

researchTitle: 10 Things Every Literacy Educator Should Know About Research

Author: Nell K. Duke, Nicole M. Martin

Publisher: The Reading Teacher Vol. 65 Issue 1 pp. 9–22 DOI:10.1598/RT.65.1.2 © 2011 International Reading Association

I’m not going to go through and critique the whole article. But I do want to highlight a couple of key pieces.

In this article, the authors discuss the differences in research. While they mention specifically literacy research, it could easily be shifted to any other type of research (including speech-language pathology).

The article discusses 10 things we need to consider when reading the research.

What Research Can do. In this section, the authors talk about how research is meant to guide us and how our experiences alone “may often misguide us” (italics is mine). Also, sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know. They also discuss that “research will often allow us to take longer looks at things than what we can typically do on our own.” You know, that “whole picture” thing. One of the final things that really clicked here, is that research allows us to have strength in numbers.  One SLP (teacher, doctor, parent, etc.) may not have had enough experience to be able to say something works…For instance if I have had, over the course of my 10 years of experience, 20 students who I successfully remediated /r/ using Mary’s Patented Bite Blocks, I could believe it worked, and advocate strongly that it worked. But if 20 other SLPs use Mary’s Patented Bite Blocks to rememdiate /r/, and they each have 20 clients, but alas there’s only 30 clients that remediated…the numbers don’t look nearly so good.

The second element the article brings up is What Research is. Research is “the systematic collection and analysis of data to address a question.” Period.

Perhaps more telling is what Research is Not. Research is not clinical expertise (I don’t care how many YEARS of experience you have, I care about your results), it’s not what a PhD says, and it’s not only done by university faculty.

Not all research based statements are accurate. Just because a product says “research-based” or “research-tested” doesn’t mean it is. The strength of the claim is only as good as the strength of the research or test. Poor reseach = poor claim. period.

And..wait for it…

“Conclusions Drawn from Research Are Only As Sound as the Research Itself.” (mic drop). Yep… that’s it in a nutshell folks. When messed up research, (e.g., a design flaw, poor math, inaccurate statistics, faulty questions, inaccurate reporting) happens the conclusions made on that research are faulty (unless of course the conclusion is “this research is seriously messed up.”).

We also need to be aware of how and where research is published or presented. I’ve said it before…What’s touted as “research” in a continuing ed credit is not always research. A presentation at ASHA does not carry the same weight as a peer reviewed study (although they may give you more “meat” to work with).  Just because something is easy to read doesn’t mean it’s useless…and just because an article is printed with lots of big words that’s challenging to wade through doesn’t mean it’s gospel. Just because something is WRITTEN WELL does NOT mean it’s a good study! Sorry folks…I know it’s a blow.

The article has a fantastic rubric to use when evaluating research. I highly recommend you take a look for yourself.

I’d love to hear your response to the article. It’s not a hard read by any means.

Until then…Adventure on!