UNDERSTANDING RESEARCH METHODS

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UNDERSTANDING RESEARCH METHODS

by Mildred Patten

WHY STUDY RESEARCH METHODS?

Leaders rely on research to make decisions

Must be able to sort/evaluate info

Often conduct research in job

Lifestyle decisions based on research

Need to read/report research for classes

Empirical Research

Simple observations can be misleading

Plan systematic observation (so not misled)

Why observe - need for study (purpose/significance)

Who observe - population or a sample of one, not biased against any subgroup (subjects)

How observe - tests, interviews, surveys, direct observation (measurement in numbers or words)

When observe - existing groups or experimental ones (descriptive or cause and effect research design)

Process is to describe existing situation (literature), produce new data (empirical data collection), draw conclusions

Experimental Versus Non-Experimental Studies

Experiments – treat then observe changes in behavior – to establish cause and effect

Two groups assigned at random (equal chance to be in either group)

Treatment group (experimental group) behavior observed versus control group behavior

Quasi-experimental (causal-comparative) has no randomization

Randomization essential in TRUE experiments!!!

Non-Experimental Research

No treatments given

Observe and describe

Often called descriptive research

The type of measurement used does not indicate whether or not research is experimental

Cause and effect determined by true experiments, only suggested by quasi

Experimental Versus Causal Comparative Studies

Experiments establish cause and effect

Often unable to experiment due to legal, ethical, physical, financial reasons

Alternatives ► Quasi-Experimental

See an effect that has occurred

Look at past to determine cause

(ex post facto research)

Use controls such as matching

Dangers in Quasi-Experimental Studies (aka Causal-Comparative)

Common cause for both the cause and the effect being investigated

stress causes smoking and cancer

Difficult to establish that experimental and control groups are equivalent

Essentially observational or descriptive, BUT goes a step further to explore causality

Types Of Non-Experimental Research

Causal Comparative (quasi-experimental) – describe existing differences, try to identify cause

Survey/poll (descriptive) – observe and describe attitudes, opinions, behaviors (can be self-observation)

Case study – in depth study of one case (individ/group)

Longitudinal research – observe same subjects over a long time period

Correlational – observe relationships, make predictions

Historical – examine existing data to test hypotheses

Topics 1-4

REVIEW QUESTIONS

What does empirical research mean?

What is the purpose of experimental research?

What is the difference in experimental and causal comparative (or quasi-experimental) research?

What is the difference between experimental and non-experimental research?

If I conduct a study of students to determine their attitudes toward tuition rates, what type of study is this?

Variables In Non-Experimental Research

Variable – A trait that can vary/change

Categorical variables (gender)

Mutually exclusive (no overlapping categories)

Exhaustive (all possible choices provided)

Quantitative (grade point average)

Measure in real numbers

Independent versus dependent (in causal investigations)

Cause is independent

Variables In Experimental Studies

Experiments have AT LEAST one independent variable (IV) and one dependent variable (DV)

Experiments investigate how a change in the IV affects the DV

IV is manipulated and change in the DV is measured

Non-experimental studies have no manipulation

Simple experiment = one IV and one DV

Complex = more than one IV or DV

Topics 5-6

REVIEW QUESTIONS

What type of variable (Categorical or Quantitative) is gender? test score? race? times logged on to the library site?

Gender test score race times logged

What is an independent variable (IV)?

What is a dependent variable (DV)?

If I want to examine whether incentives affect productivity, what variable is the IV (and DV)?

Research Hypotheses, Purposes, And Questions

Research hypothesis predicts the outcome of a study

Directional (one group will score higher)

Direction is based on previous research

Null hypothesis tested statistically

Non-directional (a difference will be found)

Research purpose or research question often used here

Research questions should be interesting

(how groups differ, not simply do they differ)

Operational Definitions

Conceptual or constitutive – dictionary meaning

Operational – specific steps used to measure the variable

A matter of degree

Strive to allow replication of the study

Replication by other researchers enhances confidence in results

Topics 7-8

REVIEW QUESTIONS

What is a research hypothesis?

It is hypothesized that athletes will have higher GPAs than non-athletes. Is this a research question or a hypothesis?

Explain the difference between operational and conceptual or constitutive definitions.

If I define intelligence as the number of minutes it takes a person to solve a puzzle, is this a conceptual or operational definition?

Quantitative v. Qualitative Research (Part I)

Quantitative

Deductive (read literature, deduce hypothesis, test)

Structured measures (surveys use numbers)

Large sample (subjects); generalize to population

Researcher removed from process

Qualitative

Inductive (observe local situation, propose theory)

Unstructured data collection (words/themes)

Small sample; limit conclusions to group studied

Researcher involved (participants); individual quotes

Quantitative v. Qualitative Research (Pt. II)

Research Questions (RQ) dictate type

If RQ unclear or little is known in literature, may need qualitative

Time/Money/Subject availability

Limited subject availability means quantitative

Qualitative takes more time and money

Often combine both

Initial qualitative investigation leads to quantitative

Topics 9-10

REVIEW QUESTIONS

If I want to determine how much people tend to pay for new cars, is this likely to be quantitative or qualitative research?

If I want to see why police officers fail to give DUI tickets to drivers who are obviously impaired, is this better suited to qualitative or quantitative?

Surveys tend to what kind of research?

What type of research has the greatest potential for researcher bias?

Program Evaluation

Evaluation Research (not usually experimental)

Applied (not basic) research

Includes needs assessment (of those served)

Formative – evaluate (modify) during program

Process is evaluated (how implementing)

Progress is evaluated (goal attainment)

Summative – end of program goal attainment (may have comparison group)

Ethical Considerations in Research

Standards followed in research community

Protect subjects from physical/psychological harm

Review committees used for legal protection

Subjects have rights (privacy, confidentiality, knowledge of purpose)

Informed consent required (tell general purpose/benefits; procedures used; potential harm; right to withdraw/refuse without penalty)

Debriefing needed after study (review purpose; offer to share results; assure confidentiality)

Hidden purpose often needed (ethical dilemmas)

Role of Theory in Research

Theory – unified explanation for discrete observations

Researchers test theories

Deduce hypotheses from theories and test with observations (confirm/reject hypothesis – quantitative mainly)

Induce theory from observations (called grounded theory – used in qualitative)

Topics 11-13

REVIEW QUESTIONS

What is the difference between formative and summative evaluation?

What are the rights of subjects in research?

Explain the concept of informed consent:

Deducing hypotheses to test theories is done in quantitative or qualitative research?

PART B- REVIEWING LITERATURE

(first step in planning research)

Start with broad problem area

Review both theoretical and research literature

Helps narrow scope and develop research questions or hypotheses to test

Can replicate other studies (mimic original)

Modified replication (new/modified population/instrument)

Focus on conflict identified in literature

Benefits to Reviewing Literature

Identify measurement instruments to use

Avoid dead-ends and wasted efforts

Learn how to write research reports

Cite relevant literature in the Introduction

provides context for reader and justifies doing study

Reviewing literature demonstrates your expertise (located it, used it in planning, cited it correctly)

Locating Literature Electronically

Articles are more up-to-date than books

ERIC, PsychLit, SocioFile (discussed in textbook)

Infotrac I (OneFile), ABI-Inform (our library)

Each article is a record, made of fields (title, author, date, descriptors)

Best searching requires good descriptors (use a thesaurus to find them)

Use of Boolean Operators (AND, OR, NOT) helps to narrow searches

Organizing a Literature Review

Describe broad problem area and define major terms

Establish importance of topic by

Citing other research that shows it is important enough to study

Citing statistics showing broad application of topic

Write topic-by-topic description (w/ headings/subhds)

Group references together when about a common topic

Include both methods used and results found in previous studies

Sometimes need to trace the history of topic

Summarize the topic at the end and indicate relevance to your study

Move from least related to most related topics

Preparing to Write a Critical Review

(Note that this is NOT a series of reports on articles/books)

The lit. review is a CRITICAL assessment of literature on a topic

Your assessment of the studies reviewed should show through in your discussion of them

Discuss both weak and strong points of studies reviewed (incl. sampling/instrument/limitations)

See Examples in textbook

Creating a Synthesis (in writing Lit. Review)

Provide a whole picture of what is known about the topic

An outline of subtopics is useful

Move from subtopic to subtopic…each paragraph should be organized around a topic (first sentence of each paragraph is the topic sentence!)

Cite together numerous authors making the same point

Might devote a whole paragraph to important and central sources

Give limited details on research methods to explain differences in findings, but criticize such things as small or biased samples

Provide specific definitions for technical terms

Use quotations sparingly

Use transitional terms/phrases (As a consequence…; therefore…)

Follow style manual for citing references carefully and consistently (APA)

Citing References

Harvard method (using author, date referencing) is the most common

APA uses it and gives guidelines in APA manual

Key characteristics (see text Examples 1-5)

Last name can be subject of sentence (emphasizes authorship)

Content can be subject (authors not emphasized)

Use authors as subject when compare/contrast

Reference list includes only those cited in text!

Topics 14-18 REVIEW QUESTIONS

What’s the first step in reviewing the literature?

What are the benefits of reviewing the literature

What purpose do citations serve?

Why are refereed articles so important in reviewing the literature?

Explain the difference between an annotated bibliography and a written literature review:

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