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Meaning / Characteristics and Classification of Educational Research

Meaning / Characteristics and Classification of Educational Research

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The term research consists of two words,’ Re’+’Search’. “Re” means again and again and “Search” means to find out something. Actually research is simply the process of arriving as dependable solution to a problem through the planned and systematic collection, analysis and interpretation of a data as revealed by Best, & Kahn (1998).

Boykin (1972) stated that research in the field of education is the more formal, systematic and intensive process of carrying on a scientific method of analysis. Research in education primarily aims at systematic investigation of educational problems and tries to provide possible solutions to those problems.

Research in education has enabled significant progress to be made in curriculum development and reform, educating learners with difficulties, understanding the individual differences and preferences and in adapting methods of instruction to the needs of individual learners.

Meaning / Characteristics and Classification of Educational Research

Research is a logical and systematic search for new and useful information on a particular topic. Research is important both in scientific and nonscientific fields.

In our life new problems, events, phenomena and processes occur every day. Practically, implementable solutions and suggestions are required for tackling new problems that arise. Scientists have to undertake research on them and find their causes, solutions, explanations and applications.


Characteristics of research are as follows:

(a) Research is a systematic and critical investigation to a phenomenon embedded in our society and education system.

(b) Research aims at interpreting and explaining a phenomenon logically and systematically by adopting a scientific method.

(d) Research is based on empirical evidences and observable experience and develops generalizations, principles or theories and is directed towards finding answer to the questions and solutions to the education related problems.

(e) Research in education deals with social, educational, economical and cultural phenomena related to process, product and system of education and studies human behaviour and their feelings.

(f) Research in the education field is carried out on both for discovering new facts and verification of the old ones and tries to establish casual connection between various human activities, social institutions and teaching learning process.


Educational research can be broadly categorized into 3 which are descriptive research, correlational research, and experimental research. Each of these has distinct and overlapping features.

Descriptive Educational Research

In this type of educational research, the researcher merely seeks to collect data with regards to the status quo or present situation of things. The core of descriptive research lies in defining the state and characteristics of the research subject being understudied.

Because of its emphasis on the “what” of the situation, descriptive research can be termed an observational research method. In descriptive educational research, the researcher makes use of quantitative research methods including surveys and questionnaires to gather the required data. Typically, descriptive educational research is the first step in solving a specific problem. Here are a few examples of descriptive research:

  • A reading program to help you understand student literacy levels.
  • A study of students’ classroom performance.
  • Research to gather data on students’ interests and preferences.

From these examples, you would notice that the researcher does not need to create a simulation of the natural environment of the research subjects; rather, he or she observes them as they engage in their routines. Also, the researcher is not concerned with creating a causal relationship between the research variables.

Meaning / Characteristics and Classification of Educational Research

Correlational Educational Research

This is a type of educational research that seeks insights into the statistical relationship between two research variables. In correlational research, the researcher studies two variables intending to establish a connection between them. Correlational research can be positive, negative, or non-existent.

Positive correlation occurs when an increase in variable A leads to an increase in variable B, while negative correlation occurs when an increase in variable A results in a decrease in variable B. When a change in any of the variables does not trigger a succeeding change in the other, then the correlation is non-existent.

Also, in correlational educational research, the research does not need to alter the natural environment of the variables; that is, there is no need for external conditioning. Examples of educational correlational research include:

  • Research to discover the relationship between students’ behaviors and classroom performance.
  • A study into the relationship between students’ social skills and their learning behaviors.
Experimental Educational Research

Experimental educational research is a research approach that seeks to establish the causal relationship between two variables in the research environment. It adopts quantitative research methods in order to determine the cause and effect in terms of the research variables being studied. Experimental educational research typically involves two groups – the control group and the experimental group.

The researcher introduces some changes to the experimental group such as a change in environment or a catalyst, while the control group is left in its natural state. The introduction of these catalysts allows the researcher to determine the causative factor(s) in the experiment. At the core of experimental educational research lies the formulation of a hypothesis and so, the overall research design relies on statistical analysis to approve or disprove this hypothesis. Examples of Experimental Educational Research;

  • A study to determine the best teaching and learning methods in a school.
  • A study to understand how extracurricular activities affect the learning process.

Meaning / Characteristics and Classification of Educational Research

Based on functionality, educational research can be classified into fundamental research, applied research, and action research. The primary purpose of fundamental research is to provide insights into the research variables; that is, to gain more knowledge. Fundamental research does not solve any specific problems. Just as the name suggests, applied research is a research approach that seeks to solve specific problems.

Findings from applied research are useful in solving practical challenges in the educational sector such as improving teaching methods, modifying learning curricula, and simplifying pedagogy. Action research is tailored to solve immediate problems that are specific to a context such as educational challenges in a local primary school. The goal of action research is to proffer solutions that work in this context and to solve general or universal challenges in the educational sector.


Fundamental or basic research:

Basic research is an investigation on basic principles and reasons for occurrence of a particular event or process or phenomenon. It is also called theoretical research. Study or investigation of some natural phenomenon or relating to pure science is termed as basic research.

Basic researches sometimes may not lead to immediate use or application. It is not concerned with solving any practical problems of immediate interest. But it is original or basic in character. It provides a systematic and deep insight into a problem and facilitates extraction of scientific and logical explanation and conclusion on it. It helps build new frontiers of knowledge. The outcomes of basic research form the basis for many applied research.

Meaning / Characteristics and Classification of Educational Research

Basic research

  • Seeks generalization
  • Aims at basic processes
  • Attempts to explain why things happen
  • Tries to get all the facts
  • Reports in technical language of the topic

Applied research:

In an applied research one solves certain problems employing well known and accepted theories and principles. Most of the experimental research, case studies and inter-disciplinary research are essentially applied research. Applied research is helpful for basic research. A research, the outcome of which has immediate application is also termed as applied research. Such a research is of practical use to current activity.

Applied research

  • Studies individual or specific cases without the objective to generalize
  • Aims at any variable which makes the desired difference
  • Tries to say how things can be changed
  • Tries to correct the facts which are problematic
  • Reports in common language

Basic and applied research, further divided into three types of research bearing some characteristics feature as follows:

Quantitative research
  • It is numerical, non-descriptive, applies statistics or mathematics and uses numbers.
  • It is an iterative process whereby evidence is evaluated.
  • The results are often presented in tables and graphs.
  • It is conclusive.
  • It investigates the what, where and when of decision making.

Qualitative research

  • It is non-numerical, descriptive, apply reasoning and uses words.
  • Its aim is to get the meaning, feeling and describe the situation.
  • Qualitative data cannot be graphed.
  • It is exploratory.
  • It investigates the why and how of decision–making.

Mixed Research

Mixed research- research that involves the mixing of quantitative and qualitative methods or paradigm characteristics. Nature of data is mixture of variables, words and images.

Exploratory Research

Exploratory research might involve a literature search or conducting focus group interviews. The exploration of new phenomena in this way may help the researcher’s need for better understanding, may test the feasibility of a more extensive study, or determine the best methods to be used in a subsequent study. For these reasons, exploratory research is broad in focus and rarely provides definite answers to specific research issues. The objective of exploratory research is to identify key issues and key variables.

Explanatory research

  • Its primary goal is to understand or to explain relationships.
  • It uses correlations to study relationships between dimensions or characteristics off individuals, groups, situations, or events.
  • Explanatory research explains (How the parts of a phenomenon are related to each other).
  • Explanatory research asks the “Why” question.

Longitudinal Research

Research carried out longitudinally involves data collection at multiple points in time. Longitudinal studies may take the form of:

Trend study- looks at population characteristics over time, e.g. organizational absenteeism rates during the course of a year

Cohort study- traces a sub-population over time, e.g. absenteeism rates for the sales department;

Panel study- traces the same sample over time, e.g. graduate career tracks over the period 1990 – 2000 for the same starting cohort.

Cross-sectional Research

One-shot or cross-sectional studies are those in which data is gathered once, during a period of days, weeks or months. Many cross-sectional studies are exploratory or descriptive in purpose. They are designed to look at how things are now, without any sense of whether there is a history or trend at work.


In conclusion, the current education system needs a transformation and drastic changes are required to be incorporated in the system in order to maintain quality (Rathnakar, G. 2018). In this context, the present paper makes an attempt to sensitize the issue of the importance of research in every sector of the education system.

Research can help us to understand what works and why, what the short and long-term implications are, provide a justification and rationale for decisions and actions, help to deal with the unexpected by identifying problems, and promotes improvement. Hence, effective implementation of research in education is what we need the most.


Best, J.W., & Kahn, J.V. (1998). Research in Education. Retrieved December 20, 2017, from

Ponce, Omar. & Pagán Maldonado, Nellie. (2017). Educational research in the 21st century: challenges and opportunities for scientific effectiveness. International Journal of Educational Research and Innovation. 8. 24-37.

Rathnakar, G. (2018). Research in education its necessity of and importance – a study. ICTACT JOURNAL ON MANAGEMENT STUDIES.4 (1), 675-678.

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