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Reviewing Education Research Papers
Why Mathematics Education Research Papers
are Accepted or Rejected


by Annie and John Selden
November, 1998
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This annotated bibliography provides information on what
mathematics education journal editors and reviewers
(i.e., referees) look for in research papers. It was
prepared as a supplement to our talk "Where's the Theorem?
Where's the Proof? An Analysis of Why Math Ed Research
Papers Get Rejected" given at the RUMEC Conference on
Research in Mathematics Education, South Bend, Indiana,
September 1998.

Donmoyer, R. (1996). Educational research in an era of
paradigm proliferation: What's a journal editor to do?
Educational Researcher, 25(2), 1925.

Musings of a newlyappointed journal editor regarding the
wide variety of research paradigms used in education
today and the fact that peer reviews often provide
conflicting recommendations.

Hanna, G. (1997). Evaluating research papers in
mathematics education. In A. Sierpinska & J. Kilpatrick
(Eds.), Mathematics Education as a Research Domain:
A Search for Identity, An ICMI Study, Vol. 2 (pp.
399407). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic
Publishers.

Written by an editor of Educational Studies in
Mathematics, this chapter gives questions reviewers
are often asked to address. E.g., What was the
theoretical framework? How is this paper related to
others? What does it add? Was the data gathering
systematic? Was the analysis appropriate? Do the
conclusions follow? Is this paper likely to interest
readers? Of special interest are quotes taken from
actual reviews regarding originality (highly valued),
usefulness, readability, etc.

Hart, K. (1997). Basic criteria for research in
mathematics education. In A. Sierpinska & J. Kilpatrick
(Eds.), Mathematics Education as a Research Domain: A
Search for Identity, An ICMI Study, Vol. 2 (pp.
409413). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic
Publishers.

Written by the director of the Shell Center, this chapter
gives and elaborates on a PME (Int'l Group for the
Psychology of Mathematics Education) discussion group's
list of essential and minimum criteria for research
(a.k.a. disciplined inquiry): 1. There is a problem. 2.
There is evidence/data. 3. The work can be replicated.
4. The work is reported. 5. There is a theory.

Henson, K. T. (1997). Writing for publication: Some
perennial mistakes. Phi Delta Kappan (June 1997),
781784.

While very general, this article has some good advice:
Resist the temptation to send your manuscript to the
most prestigious journal. Inquire about a journal's
acceptance rate, backlog, and turnaround time. Consider
submitting to theme issues (where competition is less
intense). Don't automatically assume all refereed
journals are better than all nonrefereed journals.
Adhere to the journal's specific reference style (often
APA for education journals). Do revise and resubmit 
chances of acceptance are much greater the second time
round.

Lester, F. K., Jr., Kehle, P. E., & Birgisson, G. (1996).
In pursuit of practical wisdom in mathematics education
research. A revised version of a paper presented by the
first author at the NCTM research presession at the
annual meeting in San Diego on April 23, 1996. (Available
from Frank K. Lester, Jr., Faculty of Education, Indiana
University, Bloomington, Indiana.)

While ostensibly about communication between researchers
and practitioners, this paper also considers how claims
are justified in mathematics education research. It
points out that data do not speak for themselves, that the
researcher's assumptions should be made clear, and there
should be a reasoned argument from (both of) these to the
conclusions drawn.

Lester, F. K., Jr. & Lambdin, D. V. (1997). The ship of
Theseus and other metaphors for thinking about what we
value in mathematics education research. In A. Sierpinska
& J. Kilpatrick (Eds.), Mathematics Education as a
Research Domain: A Search for Identity, An ICMI Study,
Vol. 2 (pp. 415425). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer
Academic Publishers.

Written by a former editor of JRME, this chapter
discusses criteria useful in evaluating "all aspects of
the research process (conceptualization and design,
question formulation, conduct of the study, data analysis
and interpretation of reports, etc.)." These include:
worthwhileness, coherence, competence, openness, ethics,
credibility, as well as originality, conciseness, and
connections with existing research.

Smith, M. U., Wandersee, J. H., & Cummins, C. L. (1993).
What's wrong with this manuscript?: An analysis of the
reasons for rejection given by Journal of Research in
Science Teaching reviewers. Journal of Research
in Science Teaching, 39(2), 209211.

Twenty rejected manuscripts received during 1990 by
JRST were randomly selected and analyzed using
content analysis. Major reasons for rejection included:
poor research design, weak literature review, and weak
discussion/implications. An additional 36 manuscripts
were rejected outright by the editor without going to
reviewers for the following reasons: too general and not
related to science, not research, and the theory base was
missing.
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