How do I determine if the research
is designed to support these claims?
To conclude that software or technology was the cause of
certain results, researchers need to design a study according to
certain standards. Two important design standards are to use a comparison
group and to recruit a large enough sample.
In a comparison group design, researchers attempt to compare the
performances of students with the technology to performances of
students without the technology or a different type of technology
to find out the impacts of the treatment. However, to do so reliably,
researchers need to recruit a large enough sample to make inferences
based upon statistical methods (see inferential
statistics). Generally speaking, there should be at least 30
members in each group that you are studying, but this number is
a bare minimum, and larger numbers improve accuracy.
Consider these questions when reviewing a study:
Where can you find this information?
You can find information about study design and sample size in a
study's Methods section. Sometimes, the size of the sample
can be found in tables in the Results section or in the Appendix.
Academic achievement was compared between 1,300 students
enrolled in 20 schools participating in Computer Reading
Fun and 500 students in 10 nonparticipating schools.
The students in the participating and nonparticipating
schools were of similar ethnic composition and socioeconomic
Students in schools with more experience using Computer
Reading Fun reported average gains in math achievement
of 6.65 NCE points and a 10-point increase in students'
percentile rank, which was significantly higher than
the changes in the nonparticipating schools.