Advice to Young Educational Researchers
Gene V Glass
Arizona State University

(Appeared in the Educational Researcher, cica 1992.)

     Jim Popham carried a great idea away from a symposium at
AERA in 1991 where Lee Shulman shared career-shaping advice with
junior researchers; and Michael Kirst and Bill Russell recognized
an idea worth supporting when they authorized this series of
columns that present "guidelines for beginning educational
researchers, developers, and/or evaluators" as seen by "senior
members of the profession." 

     Following Jim's (Popham, 1991) lead, I shall list my
guidelines in bullet form. But, what follows are guidelines only
in the sense that a question might guide. I have no simple
answers to these questions. For Jim and myself and the others of
our generation, these questions never arose; or if they did, the
answers were presupposed and not debatable. I have a strong sense
that today's "juniors" will have to answer them for themselves,
and their individual success and the success of our larger
enterprise will depend on the answers they give.

Questions that Junior Researchers Will Have to Answer.

1. With which intellectual tradition would I be wise to
affiliate? The social sciences, as we have known them these many
decades since the end of WW II? The tradition of "critique," as
it evolved in Europe under the threat of nationalism and spread
to American universities? Or none of these traditions at all?

2. Is the best inquiry basic? Is it theoretical; does it
contribute to the elaboration of hypothetico-deductive theory--
law-giving and quantitative? Dare I generalize? (Cronbach, 1975,
1978) Or am I wasting my time chasing the current hot theory of
cognitive mediation or role expectation? (Meehl, 1978, 1990). 

3. Shall I choose to do my work primarily in a quantitative style
or should I train myself in the qualitative tradition? Is the
work that will most help schools that which is pursued with the
experimenatlist's intent ("Do this and you shall enjoy this happy
consequence.") or with the naturalist's intent ("This is what you
are doing; this is what you believe.")?

4. How should I relate to the world of the practice of education?
Should I do my research in the library and the laboratory and
send my findings out to the world to be read and obeyed? Or shall
I become a partner with teachers and educators, and let them
guide me as I attempt to guide them?

5. Is all educational research political, and must I make
political choices as a researcher? Or am I, as a seeker of the
truth, apolitical and above the grubby squabbling of narrow
interest groups? Or am I merely a part of another interest group?
(Papagiannis, 1982)

6. Do our journals repesent an obsolete form of narrow
"careerism" that has little to do with the health of education
but much to do with university personnel policies? Can I reach my
true colleagues better through media other than the printed page?
Should I write more to broaden my own grasp of education, my own
understanding than to lay another tiny brick on the edifice of
the Journal of Unread Research?

     As senior members of our profession  incidentally answer
these questions in the coming issues, readers are well advised to
remember to whom they are listening. To have been invited to
offer advice to junior colleagues, older researchers had to
succeed according to the norms of the profession as they were
applied from about 1965 to about 1980. Hence, those whose advice
you will read are primarily persons who believed that educational
researchers are experimentalists working in the nomothetic
tradition of the behavioral and social sciences (particularly,
psychology), in the apolitical pursuit of truth that is recorded
in the archival journals of educational research. In large part
(Jim Popham being a noteworthy exception), they opposed what they
saw as troubling alternative movements in AERA that sought to
broaden the acceptance of qualitative research, practitioner-
oriented endeavors such as evaluation and policy analysis, and
political action (such as affirmative action and multi-
culturalism in its many forms). As they read these slices of
advice, junior researchers might well reflect on La
Rochefoucauld's aphorism: "Old people like to give advice, as
solace for no longer being able to provide bad examples." (1678,


Cronbach, L.J. (1975). Beyond the two disciplines of scientific
     psychology. American Psychologist, 30, 116-127.

Cronbach, L.J. (1978). Designing evaluations of educational and
     social programs. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 

Meehl, P.E. (1978). Theoretical risks and tabular asterisks: Sir
     Karl, Sir Ronald, and the slow progress of soft psychology.
     Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. 46, 806-834.

Meehl, P.E. (1990). Why summaries of research on psychological
     theories are often uninterpretable. Psychological Reports.
     66, 195-244.

Papagiannis, G.J., Klees, S.J., and Bickel, R.N. (1982). Toward a
     political economy of educational innovation. Review of
     Educational Research, 52, 245-290. 

Rochefoucauld (Francois duc de La) (1678) Paris: Reflections.