May 4, 2016

William J. Mathis, (802) 383-0058,
Daniel Quinn, (517) 203-2940,

Key Elements of Reading Qualitative Education Policy Research

What questions should readers be asking?

EAST LANSING, Mich. (May 4, 2016) – Research-Based Options for Education Policymaking is a multipart brief that takes up a number of important policy issues and identifies policies supported by research.  The fifth section, released in two parts, seeks to provide guidance regarding the reading and usefulness of education policy research.

Last week, Holly Yettick identified tips for recognizing higher-quality research studies and making better use of education policy research. Yettick's Five Simple Steps to Reading Policy Research focused on quantitative research methods.  In Reading Qualitative Educational Policy Research, William J. Mathis, managing director of the National Education Policy Center, explores key elements of evaluating a qualitative study.

According to Mathis, both quantitative and qualitative research methods have the ability to inform policymaking. In particular, qualitative research can fill in gaps in our understanding that quantitative methods cannot capture.

As such, Mathis says, "Regardless of the research method used, readers should insist on high-quality work."

Mathis suggests readers ask the following key questions of qualitative research studies:

  • Was the study conducted with rigor?
  • Are the data sources appropriate for its conclusions?
  • Was the study placed in a larger body of research?
  • Did the study display signs of quality, such as: independent peer-review, source integrity, and absence of obvious bias? and
  • Are the methods clearly explained?

These key elements can help readers identify signs of quality and usefulness with a qualitative study.

Find the concise brief on the GLC website:

This concise brief, fifth in a series, is published by the National Education Policy Center, housed at the University of Colorado Boulder, and is made possible in part by funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

This brief is also found on the NEPC website at:

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The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

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