What is the latest educational research we can use?

1. Your Ed Research Checklist

  • We have someone on our team with pedagogical expertise

  • We have read up on some of the latest education research related to my idea

  • We understand how to to find and use data to help us better understand the problem we aim to improv

  • We have a sense of teaching and learning best practices to inform our idea/solution


2. What data do we need?

Data is not only necessary for you to be able to evaluate your own idea, but it is also necessary when communicating with investors, advisors and other potential champions of your idea. The data you present is key to you generating a hype around your idea and its potential. Data is necessary for you to convince any skeptical folks out there.

If you are in the ideation phase of your venture, one of the most crucial data points that you would need is relevant research to back up the problem you have identified and why your solution to it may have potential. This data could be quantitative, qualitative or both. Having quantifiable data would generally support your concept better. So, what data do you need? These are some questions to address when trying to answer this question along with a case example:


  • What is the problem? (In numbers)

  • How large is this problem? How many people are affected or impacted by it right now?

  • Is there anyone working on this problem? If there is, what data do they have? What are they missing out on that you will be able to offer?


Example: In the US, 1 in 5 young adults suffer from mental illness – an estimated 23 million people or around 9% of the total population. Current solutions to solving mental illness center around offering counseling and guidance to patients, which is generally expensive. A recent study published in Journal XB identified that young adults with mental illness feel that they do not have a safe space to express their concerns with others who are similar to them. To try to solve for this problem, we propose this new platform solution.


If you are in the consumer development or testing phase, you may be gathering more information to support your idea by running focus groups, interviews or surveys. This data could be quantitative, qualitative or both. You can simply quantify some of your qualitative data by using scales from 1-5, etc. The type of data here includes


  • What do people think of this concept idea? 

  • What do people view the problem as?

  • How large is the market? (Here you can rely on public data or you can calculate it on your own – a quick way to calculate is addressed here link)

  • How are the competitors performing?


Example: We ran a focus group with 30 teenagers and young adults and found that 90% of them found access to venue to express their concerns to be a problem. 95% found the idea of an anonymous platform to express and share advice on experiences to be something that they would certainly use and find useful. 95% wish they had such a platform earlier. Furthermore, right now the global market size for mental illness is $1.84 billion and around $200 million just in the US. 


If you are in the product launch or beyond phase, you will be primarily concerned about gathering data around your product. The data questions to address include:

  • How many users in total? How many active users? How often do users access or use this product? 

  • How many are using the X features of this product?

  • What is the predicted revenue/growth to sustain the business? 


Example: January 1st, 2019 marked the day we first launched the mental illness social media app. In the first 3 months of us launching the product on campus, we attracted around 1000 users to the platform. Approximately 300 users have been currently active. Active users use the platform for around 4 hours every week. Most users have been active in the discussion board and Q&A features of the platform. During this period we attracted around 5 companies to advertise on the platform generating an advertisement revenue of $2,000. 


Assessing validity of data:

The sources above are known as reliable and valid sources of information. Be careful with regards to when this data is published, for example is you are addressing a problem in 2019, then going for data and research metrics done in 2009 is probably something you want to avoid, unless that is the only data you have. When using journals, you can look at their impact factor to get a sense of the reach and validity of that data. Large public resources such as the UN, UNESCO, major think tanks and government organizations are superior. 

Questions to ask yourself:

  • What can I quantify about the problem we are addressing? 

  • How can we leverage existing data and research to better understand the problem/support our theory or change?

  • What are the best sources of data for us to use? 

  • If data doesn't exist, how can I collect or analyze quantifiable information to inform our strategy and solution? 

3. What can we learn from the experts - and where can we find them?

We are fortunate to be situated in the middle of incredible research and researchers who can help your team.  Take a few minutes to find relevant faculty who may be able to give you some pointers on researcher that may be helpful for your team. One way to identify faculty is to browse Harvard's Syllabus Explorer by key term to see faculty who are teaching topics that are closely related to your idea.  You'll need a Harvard Key to use this tool. 

Your team will also want to anticipate and avoid risks by validating which regulations, policies, liabilities, and laws could impact your product design, got-to-market strategy, intellectual property claims, collection/use of data, and more. The research librarians at Gutman https://asklib.gse.harvard.edu/faq/114387

and Baker libraries https://www.library.hbs.edu/Services/Baker-Library-Services/Research

as well as the research guides https://www.library.hbs.edu/Find/Guides are very helpful. 


Consider taking one of these courses:
  • John Kim (HBS) provides an indepth look the K12 US education landscape at the state, district and school levels.

  • Fernando Reimers (HGSE) offers a perspective on the international education landscape and avenues for innovation across cultures and geographies.

  • John Richard (HGSE) covers business fundamentals and understanding of the dynamics of education marketplace

  • Louisa Rosenheck (HGSE) provides design and development introduction for technology in education, including design thinking for educators.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Have we done a span to understand who is considered an expert in this field/area? 

  • Have we read experts' research - or contacted them to learn from them? 


Resources at Harvard

Harvard sources of data:

  1. Center for the Developing Child – IDEAS Framework 

  2. Faculty – Researchers and faculty working on your topic of interest

  3. Ask a librarian – The librarians at the Harvard are a great resource to help you in conducting literature reviews and accessing archives and datasets that are not readily available outside the Harvard community

  4. HOLLIS – Using your Harvard Key, HOLLIS is an online database that offers you access to multiple journals and databases 

  5. DASH – Allows you public and open-access to Harvard based research and dissertations

  6. Harvard DATAVERSE – Access to valid research.

​Public sources of data and their validity:​

  1. General education data: National Center for Education StatisticsOECDUNSECO archivesdata.govUS Department of EducationWorld Bank.

  2. Early-childhood: Early Childhood Data Collaborative

  3. K-12 data: US Department of Education

  4. Ed-Tech data: US Office of Education TechnologyBrookings Institute

  5. Higher-education data: Higher Education Data Sharing ConsortiumCarnegie Foundation

  6. Healthcare-related data: National Institute of Health (NIH)

  7. Public opinion: Pew Research Center

Know of more resources?