Within the realm of educational planning, many things are always changing: the structure of the education system, curriculum and textbooks, modes of teaching, methods of teacher training, the amount and type of provisions to schools such as science laboratories, textbooks, furniture, classroom supplies, and so on. These changes may lead to an improvement, or a worsening, in the quality of an educational system.
Sometimes they may result in no impact upon quality – in which case major government expenditures on such changes have been wasted. The educational planner working within this kind of environment must be able to undertake assessments of the effects of major changes and then provide policy advice that will consolidate and extend the post productive courses of action, and also intercept and terminate existing practices that are shown to be damaging and wasteful.
An exploratory study is undertaken in situations where there is a lack of theoretical understanding about the phenomena being investigated so that key variables, their relationships, and their (potential) causal linkages, are the subject of conjecture. In contrast a confirmatory study is employed when the researcher has generated a theoretical model (based on theory, previous research findings, or detailed observation) that needs to be tested through the gathering and analysis of field data.
The review of literature aims to describe the ‘state of play’ in the area selected for study. That is, it should describe the point reached by the discipline of which the particular research study will form a part. An effective literature review is not merely a summary of research studies and their findings. Rather, it represents a ‘distillation’ of the essential issues and inter-relationships associated with the knowledge, arguments, and themes that have been explored in the area. Such literature reviews describe what has been written about the area, how this material has been received by other scholars, the major research findings across studies, and the major debates in terms of substantive and methodological issues.