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Higher Education: Getting Started with your Research project

Resources for Getting Started

When beginning work in a new area, it's often difficult to know just where to start, and to know which resources will be most useful. The following suggestions may help you identify a topic you're interested in and and begin your research.

Watch the following video to hear what leaders in the field recommend and why

Types of Research Questions

Consider the following taxonomy of questions a project may ask and seek to answer:

  1. What does it look like? This is a descriptive question. For example, what is going on in a seminar that distinguishes it from another type of class?
  2. Is it working? For example, you're trying something new (e.g., problem-based learning) and you want to find out if it's working.
  3. What would it look like? For example, what would it look like if I were to teach this course in a way that is not common in the field?
  4. Theory or concept building -- For example, you might theorize about difficulties students experience in the classroom.

Hutchings, P. (2000). Opening lines: Approaches to the scholarship of teaching and learning. Menlo Park, CA: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.  

If you search the Library catalogue or any  Library Education database, many results will come from the following journals (and many more). Alternatively, you can search the Education Databases to get more targeted results and Article link will take you to these journals as well. 

American Education Research Journal, ProQuest JStor Sage

Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, Taylor & Francis. ProQuest. EBSCO

British Journal of Educational Technology, EBSCO Wiley

The Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, Open Access

Curriculum Inquiry, Taylor & Francis, JStor

Educational Researcher, Sage JStor ProQuest Open Access

Educational Technology & Society, JStor EBSCO Gale Open Access

Higher Education Springer, JStor ProQuest EBSCO Gale

International Journal of Inclusive Education, Taylor & Francis

International Journal of Work Integrated Learning, ProQuest

Journal of Effective Teaching in Higher Education, Open Access

Journal of Higher Education, ProQuest EBSCO Gale JStor Taylor & Francis

Learning and Instruction, Science Direct (Elsevier) Research in Higher Education, Springer JStor ProQuest EBSCO

 Review of Educational Research, Sage JStor ProQuest 

Studies in Higher Education,  Taylor & Francis ProQuest EBSCO

Teaching & Learning Inquiry, Taylor & Francis ProQuest EBSCO

Teachers College Record,  Sage and individual journal

Teaching in Higher Education, Taylor & Francis ProQuest EBSCO


Identifying a Research Topic

Start with questions you have about teaching and learning:

“Take a minute to write down what you do well. Next reflect on your students from the past year, did you notice anything different about their approaches to the classroom, their learning, or the subject that made you pause or create a new challenge you did not have before?”

Reference: Qualters, D.  (2013). Six steps for turning your research into scholarship.  Faculty Focus.

To identify a topic of interest, consider the following:

  • a felt sense of difficulty
  • a sense that something is other than what it should be
  • an influencer/shaper of the methodology
  • a 'success' that you want to understand more deeply
  • a 'failure' that you can't get your head around
  • a tacit or invisible learning process that asks for more attention




ReferenceMcMaster Research on Teaching and Learning Guidebook

Nancy E. Fenton & Karen Szala-Meneok, Edited by Beth Marquis, 2011

Updated by Melec Zeadin & Adrianna Michell, 2019

Recommended Sources (including those in the Videos)

Annotated literature database on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

Ambrose, S. A. (2010). How learning works: seven research-based principles for smart teaching (1st ed.). Jossey-Bass.

Also in print  Robertson Library   Books (Uni)   LB1025.3 .H68 2010 

Bass, R.  (1998). The scholarship of teaching: What’s the problem?  Inventio: Creative thinking about learning and teaching, 1, 1-10. 

Bean, J. C. (2011). Engaging ideas: the professor's guide to integrating writing, critical thinking, and active learning in the classroom (2nd ed.). Jossey-Bass. Robertson Library   Books (Uni)   PE1404 .BB63 2011 

Bishop-Clark, C., & Dietz-Uhler, B. (2012). Engaging in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: A guide to the process, and how to develop a project from start to finish. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.

Felten, P. (2013). Principles of good practice in SoTLTeaching and Learning Inquiry: The ISSOTL Journal1(1), 121-125.

Glassick, C. E., Huber, M. T., & Maeroff, G. I. (1997). Scholarship Assessed: Evaluation of the Professoriate. Jossey-Bass 

Huber, M. T., & Morreale, S. P.  (2002).  Disciplinary styles in the scholarship of teaching and learning: Exploring common ground.  Washington, DC: AAHE.  Link to pdf:

Hutchings, P.  (2000).  Opening lines: Approaches to the scholarship of teaching and learning.  Menlo Park, CA: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.  Link to pdf:

McKinney, K. (2010). Enhancing learning through the scholarship of teaching and learning: The challenges and joys of juggling. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons. Robertson Library   Books (Uni)   LB2326.3 .M4273  

McKinney, K.  (2011).  What is the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) in higher education? Retrieved from:

Shulman, L. S. (1993).  Forum: Teaching and community property: Putting an end to pedagogical solitude.  Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 25, 6-7.  Link: 

Shulman, L. S. (2004).  The wisdom of practice: Essays on teaching, learning, and learning to teach.  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 

University of Waterloo Centre for Teaching Excellence Teaching Tips

Wiggins, G. P., & McTighe, J.  (2005).  Understanding by design Alexandria,  VA: ASCD.   Also available in print Robertson Library   Books (Uni)   LB2806.15.WM71 

Selected sources on the field of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: 



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