Research Methods Game

students in a lecture


Description of SOTL game

Do you get your theoretical perspectives and your epistemologies in a twist? Perplexed by the seemingly millions of research methods out there? How about your students? Still in development, ‘SOTL’ (Scholarship of Learning and Teaching) is a learning and teaching game played in pairs or groups to create fictional research designs. Players must prove their plan is well thought through in order to win the approval of their peers.


SOTL! was developed for use on the 'Researching Higher Education' accredited unit on the Masters in Higher Education offered as academic CPD by MMU CELT. This unit uses Crotty's (1998) social science research framework as an introductory reading. This framework attempts to structure research design into four layers: epistemology, theoretical perspective, methodology, and methods. As there are many other frameworks for research, the game is adaptable (see Adaptations).

In the sections below you will find a descriptions of the rules of play and game extentions. There are designed as pre-game and post-game activities to help blend the game into your teaching.


photograph of the board and cards for SOTL Research Design Game


Click on a title for further information about each strand.


The rules for this game have had several iterations.

  1. There should be 2-3 teams of 1-4 people. Each team picks a research question.
  2. Each team has a game board with six spaces on it. There are cards, which are piled face down in the centre of the table.
  3. Decide who goes first: youngest player, oldest player, best outfit, brightest socks, toss of the coin – you decide.
  4. The first team takes a card from the pile. They can decide whether to keep, trade, or discard it.
  5. Kept cards go in the appropriate space on their game board. A kept card may replace
    an existing card, which should then be put in a face-up pile next to the original pile.
  6. To trade cards you team most bargain with another team for the desired card. A trade can only be initiated on your turn
  7. Discarded cards are put on the face-up pile.
  8. The next team may take a new card from the face-down pile, or the card which is showing on the face-up pile. They decide whether to keep, trade, or discard, and so the turns continue.
  9. After the alloted time, play will be frozen.

You need:

One ‘Epistemology’ card, one ‘Theoretical Perspective’ card, one ‘Methodology’ card, and up to three ‘Method’ cards to complete your set.

Peer Review

Peer reviewers should consider:

  • the alignment of epistemology, theoretical perspective and methodology
  • the appropriateness of the choosen method/s
  • whether the research design fits their research question
  • how convincing they are!

Peer reviewers may award reward cards for a good research designs.

Alternative Rules

If you want to introduce more competitiveness into the game you could swap the "Trade" option for a "Donate" option. Donated cards must be accepted by the player they are given to, and placed in the appropriate space on the game board, even if this means discarding an existing card.


The game is intended as a learning and teaching resource. In addition to the game, there are various ways to extend the learning for your students. Here are some suggestions:

Before playing the game

  • Give teams a topic. Ask them to decide on a research question that they will then use as their focus in the game. For example, a topic could be 'personal tutoring' and a possible question would be 'What do students perceive as effective personal tutoring?'.
  • Ask students to create a context for their question that will form part of the rationale for their research design. For instance, from whose perspective is the question being asked? What is the political context?
  • Instead of research questions, create short case studies for students to respond to in the form of research proposal.

After playing the game

  • Ask students to select the cards that represent how they would choose to do the research. This is an effective follow up activity to allow students to apply their learning without the randomised aspect of the game.
  • Discuss the issues that playing the game raised about the research design process.
  • Introduce the game as still in development (a 'playtest') and invite students to feedback to you how they felt the game worked as a learning and teaching activity. This process can help you make further adaptions, but also helps the students reflect on their learning. Often, participants identify that the area of the game they found hardest was also the biggest gap in their knowledge.



The developers (Eleanor Hannan and Charles Neame) made the game available under a Creative Commons License as an Open Education Resource (OER) so that academics in all disciplines can use and adapt it for their own teaching. The game is licensed under a Creatve Commons Attribution-NonCommerical 4.0 license (CC BY NC 4.0). This allows you to use and adapt the game for your own purposes provided you credit the creators of the game and use it for non-commercial purposes.

We have provided templates of the game for you to download so that you can add your own content. We suggest using a Mailmerge tool to do this.

Download Templates



  1. Crotty, M. 1998, The foundations of social research: meaning and perspective in the research process, SAGE, London.
  2. SAGE Research Methods - An online resource with detailed information about research process. It includes quick definitions of research methods, data sets, case studies, and full texts on research issues. This resource could be valuable to those seeking to adapt the game by adding their own cards.


"SOTL Research Methods Game" by Eleanor Hannan and Charles Neame is licensed under a Creatve Commons Attribution-NonCommerical 4.0 license (CC BY NC 4.0)

the game captured the process of planning a research project in a deeper way
thumbnail image of the board game

Download the game

SOTL! Includes printable board, instructions, and playing cards. Download here

Game Templates for adaptions. Download Templates

Collaborate or Playtest

We are conducting an evaluation of the SOTL! Research Design Game to investigate the impact of the game on learning. If you would like to be part of this research project and test the game with your students, please get in touch.

We are also very interested to hear if you plan to try this game in your teaching or any feedback you receive about it. Please get in touch if you have any questions regarding this game. We are happy to advise on creating adaptions for your context or about facilitating the game with students.

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