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Jinfa Cai, Anne Morris, Charles Hohensee, Stephen Hwang, Victoria Robison, Michelle Cirillo, Steven L. Kramer and James Hiebert

In our recent editorials (Cai et al., 2019a, 2019b), we discussed the important roles that research questions and theoretical frameworks play in conceptualizing, carrying out, and reporting mathematics education research. In this editorial, we discuss the methodological choices that arise when one has articulated research questions and constructed at least a rudimentary theoretical framework. Just as the researcher must justify the significance of research questions and the appropriateness of the theoretical framework, we argue that the researcher must thoroughly describe and justify the selection of methods. Indeed, the research questions and the theoretical framework should drive the choice of methods (and not the reverse). In other words, a sufficiently well-specified set of research questions and theoretical framework establish the parameters within which the most productive methods will be selected and developed.

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Jinfa Cai, Anne Morris, Charles Hohensee, Stephen Hwang, Victoria Robison, Michelle Cirillo, Steven L. Kramer and James Hiebert

Although often asked tactfully, a frequent question posed to authors by JRME reviewers is “So what?” Through this simple and well-known question, reviewers are asking: What difference do your findings make? How do your results advance the field? “So what?” is the most basic of questions, often perceived by novice researchers as the most difficult question to answer. Indeed, addressing the “so what” question continues to challenge even experienced researchers. All researchers wrestle with articulating a convincing argument about the importance of their own work. When we try to shape this argument, it can be easy to fall into the trap of making claims about the implications of our findings that reach beyond the data.