PAA black holes, Khan, and Quora: mapping understanding of isotopes through existing data sources†
Publicly available, learner-generated questions were used to develop a methodology for advancing the exploratory stages of science education research. Data from four complementary online sources were collected, analyzed, and compared to the extant research literature on the science education topic of isotopes, a challenging concept for many chemistry learners. Data from People Also Ask features on a popular search engine, questions in response to two videos (n = 770), and questions posted to two question and answer websites (n = 600 and n = 29 213) were analyzed. Multiple findings not present in the literature were detected across all data sources in this study. Findings suggest that these online sources can serve to inform research in science education by providing a rich, ecologically valid, and accessible source of data. Implications include the use of existing online data prior to initiating research, writing assessments, and developing curriculum for science topics as a means to achieve more robust and generalizable findings and instructional resources.