This information is
intended to help students who are studying or researching
the topic of bullying in schools. Before 1990, this was not
an issue which had attracted much attention in Scotland or
other parts of the UK, but since then numerous studies have
been carried out. These have ranged from government-funded
projects, through PhD theses to surveys carried out by young
people in individual schools. These studies have increased
our knowledge and understanding of the nature and extent of
bullying and have helped to create the climate of concern
which is needed if effective Anti-Bullying strategies are
to be developed.
should carry out studies into bullying?
carry out research into bullying?
can do this. You do not have to be an 'expert'. Some school
students have helped to raise awareness of the problem in
their own schools by carrying out questionnaire surveys. Others
have found out about different anti-bullying
strategies by reading books and sending away for information.
Students in further and higher education have carried out
comparative studies in a number of schools and have used statistical
techniques to check the validity of their results. Students
of Psychology have studied the behaviour of bullies, victims
and of others in the community who may be affected by bullying.
Some student teachers and teachers undertaking in-service
courses have been able to carry out action research: implementing
particular anti-bullying strategies during their teaching
practice and then evaluating the results of their intervention.
are motivated to find out more about bullying for a number of
reasons including the following:
may have personal experience of it which has prompted them
to become involved in its study.
may be engaged on a course which requires them to carry
out a piece of research.
may be teachers or psychologists who are expected to deal
with the consequences of bullying as part of their work.
may wish to increase knowledge about the nature, extent
and consequences of bullying.
all research into bullying is likely to be aimed at either
helping people to understand its causes or helping school
communities to tackle it more effectively.
can bullying be studied?
are a number of ways of finding out more about bullying and
books, articles and other sources of information, such as
the Internet, is an excellent way of finding out what has
already been achieved. The first research into bullying
in Scottish schools used material which had been developed
in Scandinavia, thereby saving a lot of time and shortcutting
the process of developing anti-bullying strategies. Sheets
giving details of useful references and web sits have been
case studies of episodes of bullying are a useful way of
helping us to understand the nature of the problem, although
it can be difficult to gain access to all the sources of
information needed if you are going to produce a truly impartial
piece of research. If you decide to use this method, try
to obtain information from as many people as possible, including
bullies as well as victims, by-standers, parents, teachers
and anyone else involved. Remember that an episode of bullying
can continue for months or years and that it may be wise
to chose another method if your time is short.
and questionnaire surveys are excellent ways of gathering
a lot of information in a shot time but careful planning
is needed. Advice about using questionnaires is included
in Spotlight 43 Finding out about Bullying
which is available on-line from SCRE here.
research is needed if the level of bullying in schools is
to be reduced. Good teachers constantly try to find better
ways of doing their jobs. They go through a process of identifying
a problem, trying to understand it, discussing possible
solutions with colleagues, implementing new strategies and
evaluating them. Although few teachers would call this process
research it has much in common with action research.
If it were analysed, recorded and made available to others
then it could be called just that. Students and pupils have
fewer opportunities to initiate such research but young
people always take part in the process (they are the subjects
of it) so there is no reason why they should not be more
actively involved. More and more schools are establishing
student or pupil councils. These provide an opportunity
for young people to identify problems in their schools and
to initiate changes. They can also help to evaluate and
report on the success of these interventions.
information on action research see:
Investigate their Work: An Introduction to the Methods of
Action Research, Altrichter H, Posch P, Somekh
B (1993), London: Routledge
Action Research, McKernan J (1996), London: Kogan
also The International Journal of Education Action
also the following publications available from SCRE:
You Want to Do Research?: A guide for teachers on how to
formulate research questions, by Ian Lewis and
Observations in Small-Scale Research: A Beginners
Guide, by Mary Simpson and Jennifer Tuson
Questionnaires in Small-Scale Research, by Pamela
Munn and Eric Drever
Semi-Structured Interviews in Small-Scale Research: A Teachers
Guide, by Eric Drever.
the hardest part of a piece of research is finding suitable
questions to ask. Developing clear research questions is a
key stage in any research. Some of the questions which are
frequently asked about bullying cannot be answered. For example,
"Is the level of bullying worse than it was in 1960?"
would be a reasonable question to ask if there were studies
of the level of bullying in our schools which had been carried
out in 1960 (there are not) and if there were any reliable
way of measuring the actual, rather than the perceived, level
of bullying in schools.
studies have used observation techniques while others rely
on interviews of diary-keeping by a sample of pupils. Most
studies which have attempted to measure levels of bullying
have actually measured peoples perceptions of what has
happened. A question such as "have you been bullied?"
will produce only the answers that children are prepared to
admit to you and to themselves. Another problem with
such a seemingly simple question relates to definitions: the
word "bullying" means different things to different
people. Great care must be taken to ensure that young people
completing a questionnaire understand the definition which
is being used. It must be written in a style that is unambiguous
and easy to understand. (See Spotlight
can be posed at different levels and for a range of purposes:
should be done with the findings of studies?
"where is bullying most common?" can help to identify
problem areas in a school, and
"who would you tell if you were being bullied?"
can point to whether or not a school has an ethos of openness.
"what are the characteristics of bullies and victims?"
can help us understand why people bully.
carefully how you intend to disseminate (let other people know
about) the findings of your study. Here are some questions to
sources of help or information
who have helped you by answering questions or completing
a questionnaire have trusted you with confidential and sensitive
information about themselves. How can you inform them of
the results of your survey in an appropriate way?
study of an individual school may identify strengths and
weaknesses in the way that the school tackles bullying.
How can you ensure that your findings are discussed openly
in a way that acknowledges successes and addresses problems
your findings suitable for a wider audience? Do not assume
that because you are not a professional researcher your
findings are of no value outside your own school or college.
The study of bullying is still in its infancy. Nobody has
all the answers.
not send a copy of your findings to the Anti-Bullying Network?
You could help us by adding to our database.
you are reading this you have probably already contacted the
Anti-Bullying Network but you are free to contact us again if
you have further questions. Students in further or higher education
should seek advice from their own supervisors and use the libraries
in their own institutions in the first instance. Students in
Scottish schools should ask their teachers for the Anti-Bullying
materials which have been distributed freely by the Scottish
Executive. These include most of the materials produced by the
Scottish Council for Research in Education (SCRE) and by Moray
House Institute of Education.
about government policy should be directed to the Scottish
Executive, Victoria Quay, Edinburgh, EH6 6QQ.
available from the Anti-Bullying Network includes
leaflet describing Discipline and Anti-Bullying materials
published by SCRE
leaflet describing Discipline and Anti-Bullying materials
published by Moray House Institute of Education
23 and Spotlight
leaflet about the Ethos Network [their website is here]