Maximising Technology Usage in Research Synthesis of Higher Education Professional Development Research

Maximising Technology Usage in Research Synthesis of Higher Education Professional Development Research

Cherry Stewart (University of New England, Australia), Stefan Horarik (University of New England, Australia) and Keith Wolodko (University of New England, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-3978-2.ch001
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Abstract

Research synthesis, a systematic accumulation, analysis, and reflection on a full body of relevant empirical evidence related to a particular research question, is a time-consuming and arduous task requiring the inclusion of multiple research points of view in the analysis process. LeximancerTM, lexical analysis, and concept mapping software has provided a method for reducing vast pools of research literature down to highly desirable research literature portions. It is not the authors’ intention to provide an analysis of the documents retrieved for the research synthesis, but rather to articulate a method of content analysis that incorporates the use of technology to assist in the initial steps of a research synthesis. This chapter promotes the use of technology tools to enhance the critical review of evidence-based publications to make the identification of relevant articles more efficient and effective.
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Synthesising Literature

An initial research activity was to perform a content analysis, with the prime objective of determining the trends, key issues, and challenges being identified in the research literature. This type of content analysis requires an examination of large volumes of information, scaffolded by a theoretical framework for the identification of themes and concepts that emerge from that data (Zimitat, 2006). Quantitative research studies consider such a content analysis as a meta-analysis. Meta-analysis studies use a statistical technique combining effect sizes reported in each research study. The result of a meta-analysis provides an overall summary of the outcomes of a number of studies by calculating a weighted average of their effect sizes (Ary, Jacobs, Razavieh, & Sorensen, 2009). The social science research paradigm (encompassing education) is largely one of qualitative research, a paradigm that creates problems for conducting meta-analysis. Therefore a systematic review is appropriate for this content analysis task. ‘The systematic review process differs from meta-analysis and research synthesis in that it describes the whole process of identifying all the relevant literature within a given area’ (Torgerson, 2003, p. 29).

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