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Introduction to Design

Introduction to Design

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Published by Rashmi Bhatia

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Rashmi Bhatia on Jan 30, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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05/23/2013

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Introduction to Design
What is Research Design?
Research design can be thought of as the
structure
of research -- it is the "glue" that holds allof the elements in a research project together. We often describe a design using a concisenotation that enables us to summarize a complex design structure efficiently. What are the"elements" that a design includes? They are:
y
 
Ob
servations or Measures
 
These are symbolized by an '
O
' in design notation. An
O
can refer to a single measure (e.g., ameasure of body weight), a single instrument with multiple items (e.g., a 10-item self-esteemscale), a complex multi-part instrument (e.g., a survey), or a whole battery of tests or measuresgiven out on one occasion. If you need to distinguish among specific measures, you can usesubscripts with the
O
, as in
O
1
,
 
O
2
, and so on.
y
 
T
reatments or Programs
 
These are symbolized with an '
X
' in design notations. The
X
can refer to a simple intervention(e.g., a one-time surgical technique) or to a complex hodgepodge program (e.g., anemployment training program). Usually, a no-treatment control or comparison group has nosymbol for the treatment (some researcher¶s use
X+
and
X-
to indicate the treatment andcontrol respectively). As with observations, you can use subscripts to distinguish differentprograms or program variations.
y
 
G
roups
 Each group in a design is given its own line in the design structure. If the design notation hasthree lines, there are three groups in the design.
y
 
A
ssignment to
G
roup
 
 Assignment to group is designated by a letter at the beginning of each line (i.e., group) thatdescribes how the group was assigned. The major types of assignment are:
 
y
 
R
 = random assignment 
y
 
N
 = nonequivalent groups 
y
 
C
 
= assignment by cutoff  
y
 
T
ime
:Time moves from left to right. Elements that are listed on the left occur beforeelements that are listed on the right.
 
Design
N
otation Examples
It's always easier to explain design notation through examples than it is todescribe it in words. The figure shows the design notation for a
 p
retest- 
 p
osttest (or before-after) treatment versus com
 p
arison grou 
 p
randomized ex 
 p
erimental design
. Let's go through each of the parts of the design. There aretwo lines in the notation, so you should realize that the study has two groups.There are four 
O
s in the notation, two on each line and two for each group. Whenthe
O
s are stacked vertically on top of each other it means they are collected atthe same time. In the notation you can see that we have two
O
s that are takenbefore (i.e., to the left of) any treatment is given -- the pretest -- and two
O
s takenafter the treatment is given -- the posttest. The
R
at the beginning of each linesignifies that the two groups are randomly assigned (making it an experimentaldesign). The design is a treatment versus comparison group one because the topline (treatment group) has an
X
while the bottom line (control group) does not.You should be able to see why many of my students have called this type of notation the "tic-tac-toe" method of design notation -- there are lots of 
X
s and
O
s!Sometimes we have to be more specific in describing the
O
s or 
X
s than justusing a single letter. In the second figure, we have the identical

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