Research Components

10 The Significance

The story continues…

If only Physicus and Harry could answer their research questions. Harry and Physicus decided to sleep on it. The next morning, Harry called Physicus with the thoughts he had. Harry explained that perhaps finding out how to get Pickles to catch mice could help other cat owners with a similar problem.  Harry also said that they might learn something new about Siamese cats.

After Physicus listened to Harry, he replied, “This warrants an investigation, and it is my scientific responsibility to help.”

“We need to get answers to help solve my problem, and to make the world a better place by keeping cheese safe from mice,” Harry said.

Physicus laughed. “Harry, you just presented the merit for our investigation. Knowledge is power and knowing how to apply the knowledge is even more powerful! Think of how much cheese could be saved for cheese lovers like you. Who knows what else we will find out as we explore this I am so excited! I will think about how to do it and get back to you shortly. Very shortly!”

Before Harry could say anything, Physicus hung up the phone.  Clearly, Physicus’ mind was racing and he was excited. Harry felt excited too. He felt he was on the verge of bringing something of significance into the lives of others as well as himself. Harry looked forward to enjoying his cheese again someday soon.

Interpreting the Story

Harry determined that investigating the problem could produce information others would find useful. Education research should be applicable to practice. Finding out something nice to know, has little value in the daily life of an educator. Educators need tested, founded, and significant information to guide their practice. Harry discovered the merit, or significance, of his investigation and its usefulness beyond his current problem.

The Significance

The Significance heading explains the importance of the study for select audiences and within the context of research literature. The writing answers the question: “Why is this research project important? The writing should:

    • describe the benefits of the project and explain how it will realize the Purpose;
    • provide reasons as to how the project adds to the published research, improves practice or policy;
    • discuss the expected impact on the field of education.

The Significance heading shows how the project is supported by current statistics and the major findings from the research literature. It is often easier to write this section after completing the Literature Review because key research findings to support your project will emerge during your review. The Significance builds the case to warrant an investigation of the problem using the theoretical frame to fulfill the purpose of the project. The statistics and research findings cited must prove to the reader your research project was worthy of investigation and benefits the field of education.



In the Venn diagram above, consider how the Problem, Background, Theoretical Frame, and Purpose relate to each other. Four themes emerge in the overlap of these components: relevance, context, support, and goal.  The writing in this heading includes a discussion of the four themes (relevance, context, support, and goal) to help build the case for significance. The order of the presentation of the themes in your writing can vary, but all must be included in the heading in a logical way.

It is important to develop knowledge through your research that can be applied by others. Simply finding out interesting facts can be engaging, but educational research is much more. Since research is time-consuming and may also be expensive, your efforts must be limited to what can be applied  by others in the field.  This is what makes research significant. Another factor that adds to significance is the possibility of identifying areas of future research.

The Significance heading must address the question of merit thoroughly. How the project will contribute to current practice and how the project connects to other research are presented. The evidence provides the reader with compelling evidence of the value of the research project and creates a sense of urgency for the investigation.


Telling the Research Story

The Significance is part of the rising tension in the research story. It conveys to the reader the value and urgency of conducting the research. Most authors find this to be one of the easiest parts of the story to tell because it provides opportunities for articulating the need. The narrative expresses why the story has a place in the research literature.

At times, the author’s passion surrounding the issue comes through the writing of the Significance. However, passionate statements without cited support convey a biased and personal story rather than a research story. Caution is required when making emotive statements even when properly supported. The key to telling the value of the project is supporting your story with evidence from current statistics and published literature.

The Significance heading appears in Chapter 1 of the thesis and dissertation. Theses and dissertations share the Significance part of the story in the context of education broadly. A literature review project does not have this heading, though the value and importance of the topic are conveyed in the introduction and conclusion headings.


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Graduate Research in Education: Learning the Research Story Copyright © 2022 by Kimberly Chappell and Greg I. Voykhansky is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.