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[Catherine, Dr. Dawson] Introduction to Research M(Bookos.org)

[Catherine, Dr. Dawson] Introduction to Research M(Bookos.org)

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Nominal scales

To move beyond frequency counts, it is important to understand

how data is measured. In nominal scales the respondent answers

a question in one particular way, choosing from a number of

mutually exclusive answers. Answers to questions about marital

status, religious affiliation and gender are examples of nominal

scales of measurement. The categories include everyone in the

sample, no one should fit into more than one category and the

implication is that no one category is better than another.

Ordinal scales

Some questions offer a choice but from the categories given it is

obvious that the answers form a scale. They can be placed on a

continuum, with the implication being that some categories are

better than others. These are called ordinal scales. The occupa-

tionally based social scale which runs from ‘professional’ to

‘unskilled manual’ is a good example of this type of scale. In this

type of scale it is not possible to measure the difference between

the specific categories.

Interval scales

Interval scales, on the other hand, come in the form of numbers

with precisely defined intervals. Examples included in this type of

scale are the answers from questions about age, number of

130 Chapter 11 . How to Analyse Your Data

children and household income. Precise comparisons can be

made between these scales.

Arithmetic mean

In mathematics, if you want to find a simple average of the data,

you would add up the values and divide by the number of items.

This is called an arithmetic mean. This is a straightforward

calculation used with interval scales where specific figures can be

added together and then divided.

However, it is possible to mislead with averages, especially when

the range of the values may be great. Researchers, therefore, also

describe the mode which is the most frequently occurring value,

and the median which is the middle value of the range. The mode

is used when dealing with nominal scales, for example it can show

that most respondents in your survey are Catholics. The median is

used when dealing with both ordinal and interval scales.

Quantitative data analysis can involve many complex statistical

techniques which cannot be covered in this book. If you wish to

follow this route you should read some of the data analysis books

recommended below.







Chapter 11 . How to Analyse Your Data 131


& The methods you use to analyse your data will depend upon

whether you have chosen to conduct qualitative or quantita-

tive research.

& For quantitative data analysis, issues of validity and reliability

are important.

& Qualitative data analysis is a very personal process. Ask two

researchers to analyse a transcript and they will probably come

up with very different results.

& After having conducted an interview or a focus group, it is

useful to complete a summary form which contains details

about the interview. This can be attached to the transcript and

can be used to help the analysis.

& Qualitative data analysis methods can be viewed as forming a

continuum from highly qualitative methods to almost quanti-

tative methods, which involve an element of counting.

& Examples of qualitative data analysis include thematic analysis,

comparative analysis, discourse analysis and content analysis.

& The analysis of large-scale surveys is best done with the use of

statistical software, although simple frequency counts can be

undertaken manually.

& Data can be measured using nominal scales, ordinal scales or

interval scales.

& A simple average is called an arithmetic mean; the middle

value of a range is called the median; the most frequently

occurring value is called the mode.

132 Chapter 11 . How to Analyse Your Data

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