Methodology is important in SoTL. It explores and justifies the way you go about answering your research questions, or testing your hypothesis. One of the biggest weaknesses in SoTL projects is if people go straight from their research question to the research methods (data collection tools, such as questionnaires, interviews etc).
A way to ensure good quality SoTL projects is to engage in methodology, to reason, and justify–with the help of literature–how you are planning on answering your question. Unfortunately, you need to be careful with terminology–some people argue that Case Study, Ethnography, Autoethnography are methods. They are not. Methods are the actual tools with which you collect data, so for instance in ethnography that could be observations, conversation, fieldnotes–Ethnography is the methodology. Which is a way of thinking about your educational inquiry, and usually comes with a set of suggested methods.


Case Study

Usually refers to a specific cohort this can be at person but also at community or institutional level. Practical Examples:

  • So for instance if you want to explore the effect of a teaching intervention, that does not involve a significant number of students. This would lend itself well to a case study methodology.
  • If you want to explore one specific aspect of Learning, Teaching or Assessment in your School or College a case study approach might be appropriate.

A starting point: Duesbery, L. & Twyman, T. (2020). What is a case study?. In 100 questions (and answers) about action research (pp. 72-72). SAGE Publications, Inc.,

Reflexive Practice

Kipar, Nicole (2020): Reflection as Product. figshare. Online resource. 

Kipar, Nicole (2020): Reflection in Practice. figshare. Online resource. 

A book about the topic: May, T. & Perry, B. (2017). Reflexive practice. In reflexivity (pp. 149-172). SAGE Publications Ltd,

Action Research

Action research is a cyclical approach that can be used (next to many other things) to evaluating the implementation of teaching methods, interventions, or new education technologies. It traditionally follows a particular structure:
1. Planning
2. Action
3. Analysis
4. Conclusion the key is that usually the conclusion is then integrated into the next round of planning and the cycle can start over again. If expanded is can look similar to the heuristic spiral and recognises that in developing and improving learning, teaching and assessment there is not really an endpoint to achieve but it is an iterative process of becoming and evolving.
This book has several chapters on different forms of Action Research:
Coghlan, D., & Brydon-Miller, M. (2014). The SAGE encyclopedia of action research (Vols. 1-2). London, : SAGE Publications Ltd doi: 10.4135/9781446294406


This is a blog post summarizing the principles behind Autoethnography

This is a brilliant webinar providing an introduction to AE and also addresses questions around ethics:

Writing a Methodology Chapter

While this aims at PGT dissertations it explains the purpose of methodology as we would expect it for SoTL projects:

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