Starting your Research Project

Approaching your research project

As a researcher, you will need to decide what method(s) might be the most appropriate for approaching your research project. For example, you might need to consider quantitative data analysis or your project may involve more of a qualitative approach.  Either way, you will need to demonstrate a rigorous approach to your research, and set out your research question from an early stage.

Ethical considerations

Research that involves children involves important ethical, legal and social considerations.  There are three main objectives of ethics in research:

  • to protect your participants
  • to ensure that research is conducted in a way that protects the privacy of individuals or groups
  • the management of risk, protecting confidentiality and ensuring informed consent.

bera-2011-logoThe British Educational Research Association (BERA) is a member-led charity that exists to encourage educational research and its application for the improvement of practice and the public benefit.

BERA publishes a framework for best practice in the field of educational research.

BERA’s Ethical Guidelines for Educational Research are designed to offer guidance on conducting research to the highest ethical standards.  These guidelines highlight key considerations such as confidentiality, voluntary informed consent, disclosure, and sponsor and community responsibility.  Not only will compliance ensure that research is carried out to the highest ethical standard, but the guidance given is a valuable tool to define key considerations at the inception of any educational research project.

It is teachers who in the end will change the world of the school by understanding it.
Lawrence Stenhouse, Teacher as Researcher, 1975

Guiding questions to provide a framework for research activity:



  • What do we want to find out? (the research question)
  • What information do we need?
  • How will we obtain the information?
  • How will we check that the information gathered is sound and the methods used for gathering are effective and ethical?
  • How will we make sense of, and use, the information?
  • How do we draw secure conclusions?
  • What are the recommendations for changed practice?
  • How can learning be disseminated?

Finding your Voice

Kathy Brodie interviews Guy Roberts-Holmes for this SAGE Early Years Masterclass and discusses how you can tune into your inner voice to identify your research interest, which will not only help you to identify your research question, but  also help  drive and sustain your project as it progresses.  As part of this interview, Guy Roberts-Holmes discusses various aspects of undertaking a research project in early years, including listening to the voice of the child and practitioner, identifying problems/barriers, personal reflection and ethical considerations.


Useful guidance from Guy Roberts-Holmes, author of ‘Doing your Early Years Research Project’


Developing a Research-Focused Culture

The following article by Professor Graham Handscomb explores the concept of teacher/ practitioner researcher, highlighting the conditions necessary to embed a culture of researchful practice. A good think piece for introducing research-based practice.

Empowering Teachers through Practitioner Research


We are building a bank of resources to support your early years research project.  Links to suggested further reading in each of the key research hubs can be found below.  Or contact us and let us know how we can make this website more relevant to you and your practice.

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