Two students and a lecturer work at a computer

Before you start - Practical considerations


Careful consideration of the practical and ethical considerations involved in carrying out a piece of educational research needs to take place at the outset. Although this is something of an iterative process and some practical issues may not emerge or pose a potential challenge until after the research process has started, time spent attending to the practical aspects early on will help minimise complications and will contribution to the identification of an appropriate research question.

The table below provides an overview of some of the main considerations that might inform your decisions about the ways in which you wish to conduct your research:

Things to consider
ConsiderationQuestions to ask yourself
 Access to participants or data Are you likely to be able to gain access to the participants or data you need to actually conduct the research? Are the sensitivities of ethical considerations involved likely to be too challenging to be easily overcome?
 Consent If access is given, are the intended participants likely to give or be able to give their informed consent? Will they be willing or able to cooperate?
 Personal and professional considerations Are your personal skills, motivations, beliefs and commitments compatible with the sort of research you are intending to carry out? Do you have the right level of expertise to make appropriate decisions about what to prioritise?
 Time Can the project actually be done (and is it manageable) within the time you have available? Are participants or colleagues likely to be able to give up their time as required? Have you factored in time for following up and writing up, and contingency time for if certain things don't go to plan?
 Costs and resources Are the resources and materials you need (human and material) within the scope of your research funding? Will your research incur printing, postage or administrative support costs? Will participants have access to the resources they need (e.g. software or appropriate venues) to participate?
 Supervision Is there someone available who can adequately supervise the research or provide expert guidance?
 Value Can and will this research actually make any difference?
Summary of the table's contents
'It is difficult to overstate the importance of researchers doing their homework before planning the research in any detail […]. The researcher is advised to consider carefully the practicability of the research before embarking on a lost cause in trying to conduct a study that is doomed from the very start because insufficient attention has been paid to practical constraints and issues.'
Cohen, Manion and Morrison, 2018, pp. 158-60

'As the saying goes, "the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time"!'
Cohen, Manion and Morrison, 2018, p. 160

Further reading

Cohen, L., Manion, L. & Morrison, K. (2018), Chapter 9 – “Choosing a research project” (Section 9.5: “Ensuring that the research can be conducted”) in Cohen, L.,

Manion, L. & Morrison, K. (eds), Research Methods in Education (Abingdon, Routledge, 8th edn, pp. 158-160.