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Doing Research: A New Researcher's Guide

James Hiebert, Jinfa Cai, Stephen Hwang, Anne K. Morris, and Charles Hohensee
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
Research in Mathematics Education
[Reviewed by
Annie Selden
, on
This slim 133-page, conversational, easy-to-read, practical volume is intended for new mathematics education researchers, whether these be graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, or faculty beginning to conduct research in mathematics education. The authors are a former editorial team for the Journal for Research in Mathematics Education; this gave them the advantage of knowing what reviewers/referees are likely to say—something not likely to be found in a graduate research methods course. Not every current mathematics education researcher began intending to conduct such research. Some have begun as mathematicians very interested in their undergraduate teaching. Certainly, if such a book had been available to John and me when we began transitioning from mathematics research to undergraduate mathematics education research more than 30 years ago, we would have benefited from the advice contained therein.  
This volume contains five chapters on what is mathematics education research, formulating an informed hypothesis for a research study, building and using theoretical frameworks, testing your study hypothesis, and evaluating the significance of your study--each chapter has many subsections labeled as parts. As the authors state in the beginning, this volume can be used as a  supplemental textbook for a graduate research methods course or as a self-study guide for individuals or small groups. It contains exercises to engage readers as they work their way through the book. The exercises appear along the way—they are clearly labeled and set off in light gray boxes. For example, in Chapter 2 on formulating a hypothesis to test in a study, after  six sets of questions to ask oneself, Exercise 2.1 begins
Brainstorm some answers to each set of questions. Record them. … Write out, as clearly as you can, the topic that captures your primary interest, at least at this point. We will give you a chance to update your responses as you study this book.  (p. 18). 
There are bits of advice, centered and set off by solid blue lines and in light blue print, so one can’t possibly miss them. For example, in Chapter 1, this advice appears: 
Even before collecting data, scientific inquiry requires cycles of making a prediction,  developing a rationale, refining your predictions, reading and studying more to strengthen your rationale, refining your predictions again and so forth. (p. 10). 
The volume also has tips for researchers and recommendations for sources to consult. A helpful  tip in Chapter 2, which is set off with a yellow-ringed lightbulb so one can’t possibly miss it,  states: 
You can search for chapters or literature reviews related to your research topic in recent research handbooks and compendia or in journals. Reading these will inform your predictions and provide helpful reference lists of other sources. (p. 21). 
All this is good advice if one is a beginner to research in mathematics education.  
Annie Selden is now retired. She is Professor Emerita of Mathematics from Tennessee  Technological University, and was until recently, Adjunct Professor of Mathematics at New  Mexico State University. In 2002, she was recipient of the Association for Women in  Mathematics 12th Annual Louise Hay Award for Contributions to Mathematics Education. In  2003, she was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  She continues to review/referee manuscripts for mathematics education research journals and also occasionally writes Media Highlights abstracts on mathematics education research for  MAA’s College Mathematics Journal.