of two classrooms of students, a researcher may hope to say something useful about how well other students in other schools will likely profit from a similar style of history instruction.
The importance of distinguishing between description and inference lies in the fact that investigators who choose to extend their conclusions beyond the group they have directly appraised are obliged to offer evidence of why such an extension is warranted. They are obligated to suggest how much faith readers can place in the belief that the people they studied represent an accurate sample of the broader population to which the conclusions are being applied. The key question is: To what extent are judgments drawn about the sample likely to be in error when those judgments are extended to a greater range of people or events? Techniques for answering this question are offered in Chapter 9.
Later in this book, descriptions of many styles of interpretation are offered in the three chapters that comprise Stage IV.
The final phase of a research project consists of reporting the results to an appropriate audience. Reports can assume many forms, including master's-degree theses, doctoral dissertations, books, chapters within books, articles in academic journals, articles in popular periodicals (magazines, newspapers), inhouse publications, microfiche or microfilm reproductions, and documents on the computer Internet. Each of these outlets has its own advantages and limitations, as illustrated in a comparison between theses and journal articles in terms of the length of a report, its chance of acceptance, its cost to the author, the publishing time lag, and breadth of dissemination (Table 1-3).
In the closing sections of this book, the two chapters that comprise Stage V identify the advantages and limitations of a variety of other forms of disseminating research, and they offer guidelines for designing and submitting reports for publication. When researchers are preparing reports, they should have in mind the type of publishing outlet they hope to use, since the way research is written up is influenced by the requirements of the publication medium for which it is intended.
The purpose of this opening chapter has been to introduce a typical sequence of tasks that investigators perform when conducting comparative education research. Then Chapters 2 through 15 describe the research tasks in detail. The final portion of each of those chapters offers a "Research Project Checklist" that consists of a list of questions identifying key elements of the chapter that researchers can profitably consider when designing their own projects.