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 Capacity building resources

Resources from RCBN and Journal: foundations

Chris Taylor

Chris is a senior lecturer at the School of Social Sciences at the University of Cardff and co-director of the NCRM node Qualiti in Cardiff

How to reference this page

This guide, draws heavily on resources developed by the Research Capacity Building Network (RCBN), and its journal, Building Research Capacity, between 2000 and 2005, supplemented with other material.

Getting Research Funding
A key aspect of any successful empirical and applied research study is in obtaining the resources necessary to undertake that research fully. There are a wide range of sources of funding in the UK available to education researchers, ranging from small grants for particular research activities to large grants to fund a series of large-scale research projects. The main funding sources for education research are the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the various governments of the UK. Other sources include charities, local authorities, businesses and other government bodies. In many respects each different funder tends to prioritise different research activities. So, for example, the ESRC tends to fund more “blue skies” research, whereas government departments and agencies tend to fund policy and practice evaluations. The TLRP RCBN commissioned a number of presentations that provide guidance on getting research funding on different scales. Since the number of funding sources for education research is quite broad these presentations have tended to focus on the main funding sources. However, they are distinct in terms of the scale of the funding being pursued. The first presentation by Andrew Pollard (Director of the Teaching and Learning Research Programme) and Teresa Rees (Pro-Vice Chancellor at Cardiff University) offers their suggestions for preparing large-scale ESRC programme and centre research proposals. In their presentation they also provide an application check-list to follow when preparing such proposals, including some of the common mistakes or misjudgements that they have seen when reviewing such proposals in the past. This presentation can be viewed in MS Powerpoint: Developing ESRC Centre and Programme Bids (Andrew Pollard and Teresa Rees 2003)

Two further presentations are available that offer guidance in getting smaller-scale research funding, particularly oriented to new research staff in education. The first by Stephen Gorard (University of Birmingham) lists the range of funding sources available and provides references to more detailed guides for funding sources. Gorard’s presentation also lists the key questions you should ask of your own proposal before submitting plus some additional tips to consider when preparing your proposal. The second presentation, by Dylan William (Institute of Education, University of London) offers similar guidance with additional information on the refereeing process and resubmissions.

Getting grant-funding: an introduction (Stephen Gorard 2003)

Writing Research Proposals (Dylan William 2002)

Paradigms, ethics and politics of research
The resources below contain a number of recommended references from colleagues within the education research community on the following topics:

Quality and Relevance of Education Research
There have been several high profile critiques of education research over the past decade. Indeed, a major response to these has been the establishment of and investment in the ESRC Teaching and Learning Research Programme. Not only has there been a significant response to the organisation of education research in the UK, there have also been a series of important methodological debates about the nature and approach of education research.
At its inception the TLRP Research Capacity Building Network undertook an extensive consultation exercise with members of the education research community, including academic researchers, funders, and users of education research. As a result of that consultation a detailed report was written outlining the main concerns amongst members of the community about the quality and relevance of education research.

Taylor, C. (2002) The RCBN Consultation Exercise: Stakeholder Report , Cardiff University School of Social Sciences Occasional Paper 50
Executive Summary:

One key debate has been about the need for education research studies and their chosen methodological approaches and methods to be ‘fit for purpose'. In the following two articles, Stephen Gorard (University of Birmingham ), discusses the need for the choice of research methods to be ‘fit for purpose' in response to these growing concerns about the quality and relevance of education research.

Gorard, S. (2001) The way forward for educational research? Cardiff University School of Social Sciences Occasional Paper 42 , Cardiff : Cardiff University School of Social Sciences

Gorard, S. (2002) How do we overcome the methodological schism (or can there be a 'compleat' researcher)?, Cardiff University School of Social Sciences Occasional Paper 47 , Cardiff : Cardiff University School of Social Sciences

See also:

Gorard, S. (2002) Political control: A way forward for educational research?, British Journal of Educational Studies , 50, 3, 378-389

In response to the call for research methods to be ‘fit for purpose', Martyn Hammersley (Open University) reminds us in his short article of the difficulties that this poses, particularly as it implicitly requires knowledge of a wide range of research methods and techniques. By drawing upon the hermeneutic tradition Hammersley goes on to suggest that this project underestimates the transformation in approach that is required, before concluding that such a shift is not possible in the short-term.

Hamersley, M. (2003) Making educational research fit for purpose? A hermeneutic response, Building Research Capacity, 5, 2-5

Similar critiques and subsequent calls for change have emerged in the US. In a short article, William Firestone (Rutgers University), discusses the growing politicisation of research methods in education that is embedded within the No Child Left Behind legislation. Firestone begins to identify the consequences of this ‘new' science of education in the US .

Firestone, W. A. (2003) The culture wars affect research methods: A report from the USA, Building Research Capacity , 5, 5-6

The recent call for more ‘scientific' approaches to education research, particularly by politicians and policy-makers, heralds some kind of return to positivism. In his article, Tom Steele ( University of Glasgow ), reminds us of the progressive past of Positivist approaches to education research.

Steele, T. (2003) Positivism's progressive past, Building Research Capacity, 5, 6-9

In 2005-06 the TLRP funded a seminar series to consider the quality of (UK ) educational research in detail. As a result of that seminar series, the main organisers, Natasha Macnab and Gary Thomas (both University of Birmingham ) consider the debate on quality, and, in particular, critique the general criteria or warrants most often employed by funders of research. As a result of this critique the authors argue that a significant way research quality can be assessed is through social or community assessment – communities of practice in research and inquiry.

Macnab, N. and Thomas, G. (2007) Quality in educational research: community assessment, Building Research Capacity, 12, 1-2
[hyperlink required]

Research Ethics
There have been numerous discussions and debates about the changing landscape on research ethics in recent years. Increasingly researchers are formulating contracts with their research participants in order to meet institutional ethical frameworks. However, the use of contracts is not entirely new, and in this short article by Matt Bradshaw (University of Tasmania, Australia) he discusses the past use of research contracts in education. Furthermore, Bradshaw usefully outlines to the reader the circumstances when formulating research contracts may be appropriate or inappropriate.

Bradshaw, M. (2002) Contracts with research participants: degrees of appropriateness, Building Research Capacity , 4, 4-6

Applied Research
In a short article John Elliott (University of East Anglia ) discusses what applied research is in the field of education. In it he discusses the importance of generating actionable knowledge. Elliott goes on to briefly outline the development of such an approach in education before addressing a number of challenges, such as the place of practitioner research.

Elliott, J. (2002) What is applied research in education? Building Research Capacity , 3, 7-10

Researching Contexts
In 2005-06 the TLRP funded a seminar series to explore the conceptualisation of context in relation to learning. As a result of this seminar series the main organiser, Professor Richard Edwards (University of Stirling ) reviews some of the positions and issues that arose, and, in particular, asks what is a learning context and how best the relationship between learning and context be best conceptualised.

Edwards, R. (2006) Conceptualising, categorising, contextualising – it's the name of the game, Building Research Capacity , 11, 4-6
[hyperlink required]

Theory in Educational Research
A provocative article by Peter Tymms and Carol Taylor Fitz-Gibbon argues that theory, and the over-reliance on theory, is holding back educational research. Not everyone will necessarily agree with this but the short article by Tymms and Taylor Fitz-Gibbon will certainly stimulate and provoke debate.

Tymms, P. and Taylor Fitz-Gibbons, C. (2002) Theories, hypotheses, hunches and ignorance, Building Research Capacity , 2, 10-11

How to reference this page: Taylor, C. (2007) Resources from the Research Capacity Building Network and Journal. London: TLRP. Online at (accessed )

Creative Commons License TLRP Resources for Research in Education by Teaching and Learning Research Programme is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License




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