Collect the Data

This stage of your research project involves determining the methods you will use to collect the evidence (data) you need to answer your question. There are many methods available to researchers, and the key is to find the method that best fits your research question, and that will give you the best evidence (data) to answer your question. It is also important at this stage of the research process to decide “who” you will want to gather evidence from (students, faculty, support staff, texts, etc).

If you plan to use human subjects/participants in your research, and you plan at some point to make the results of your research “public,” then you will need to obtain permission to investigate these human subjects through your campus Institutional Review Board. This Review Board’s mission is to insure that research participants are treated fairly and ethically. Each campus has their own Review Board, and the rules are similar, but not uniform from campus to campus. Be sure to get information from your Review Board well in advance of when you plan to conduct your research because there are several forms to complete, and, once complete, these forms may have to go before a committee of reviewers (which may only meet once a month). If you are using human subjects in your research, and you plan to make your results public at some point, you CANNOT conduct your research without obtaining permission from your campus Institutional Review Board. If you have never done research before using the Institutional Review Board, it would be helpful for you to talk with someone who has experience with the process. Experienced IRB researchers can provide you with helpful hints and guidelines for completing this process as painlessly as possible. You can also view a pdf of the LS whitepaper, "Guidelines for Human Research Participants in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning."

As you think about how to investigate your teaching/learning question, you might consider some of the following types of methods and forms of evidence:

Some methods to consider:

  1. Case study analysis
  2. Experimental study
  3. Descriptive study
  4. Reflective analysis
  5. Interviews
  6. Focus groups
  7. Surveys
  8. Content Analysis
  9. Protocol Analysis
  10. Text Analysis methods to consider:

Some forms of evidence that might be collected with these methods include:

  1. Students' reports of their learning (surveys, interviews, focus groups)
  2. Samples of students' work (papers, projects, journals, presentations, student performances, videotaped group discussions, etc.)
  3. Evidence of how students actually work (think-aloud protocols, videos, process journals)
  4. Course exam scores, or scores on single questions on an exam
  5. Institutional research data (GPAs, grades, admissions scores, etc)
  6. Counts (web requests, office visits, etc.)
  7. Reflective journals or logs

National Assessment Tools:

  1. National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE)
  2. Faculty Survey of Student Engagement (FSSE)
  3. University of Maryland University College (UMUC) General Education Skills Assessment for Critical Thinking

Additional sources for finding out more about quantitative, qualitative, and rhetorical methods such as those listed above, and evidence-gathering, can be found in the Publications section of this website. You can also view a powerpoint presentation on Designing Systematic Inquiry: Research Methods and Evidence Gathering.