In this talk I outline a series of challenges faced in research higher education access and participation in a range of contexts from the perspective of research design and analytical approaches, including: under-powered analysis, limited external validity even in the presence of otherwise rich and large data, the implications of experimental and quasi-experimental designs for analytical choices, and the communication of findings from varied quantitative designs and analytical approaches to relevant stakeholders. I illustrate these challenges with examples from work around higher education access and participation using cross-sectional surveys, cohort studies, RCTs, and quasi-experimental designs. I think about complexity (in research and beyond) from a variety of perspectives and outline the approaches that have worked, and those that have not, in addressing these challenges and communicating them comprehensively.
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