‘Just Google It?’: Pupils’ perceptions and experience of research in the secondary classroom

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While numerous studies examine perceptions of research held by university researchers, studies examining perceptions held by school pupils are rare. To address this gap and following analysis of questionnaire data (N = 2634, KS3/4/5 pupils), we conducted 11 group interviews with 100 pupils in England to investigate their experiences of research during schooling and their perceptions of how research is conceived, conducted and where its utility and significance lie. Thematic analysis of the interview data – informed by Angela Brew’s 4-tier descriptor of perceptions of research (domino, trading, layer, journey), Jenni Stubb's and colleagues' elaboration of this descriptor, Jan Meyer's and colleagues' conceptions of research inventory (CoRI) and Diane Bills’ distinction between Research and research – led to seven themes. Here we elaborate the most significant of these themes: fact finding as research; who formulates and owns a research question; and the friction between uninformed opinion and informed view. We conclude that secondary pupils’ experiences and perceptions of research, while overall relatively rich, vary across different disciplines. We also conclude that pupils would benefit substantially from more comprehensive engagement with research processes, and we observe the role that qualifications such as the Extended Project Qualification can play in fostering said engagement.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-305
Number of pages25
JournalBritish Journal of Educational Studies
Issue number3
Early online date3 Apr 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • perceptions of research
  • secondary education
  • Kolb’s learning cycle
  • conceptions of research inventory (CoRI)
  • domino
  • trading
  • layer
  • journey 4-tier descriptor of research

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