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Research designs and methods of data collection

** With each time of research/research design there is an

By Debbie Harris, Contributor
THIS WEEK, I have chosen to focus on the various types of research and methods of data
collection. In addition to the fact that this information is useful for the Expository section it
is imperative for the external examination Paper 01 Section 01. I suggest that you store
this information.
As we have said before, research is a systematic and scientific way of finding out answers to
serious questions that affect life. It is directed toward solving a problem. The ultimate goal
is to discover cause and effect relationships. There are several ways that one can undertake
research. Read the following carefully and discuss them with your friends.
1. Experimental research
As the name suggests experimental research involves conducting an experiment to test a
hypothesis(proposed explanation for a particular phenomenon). There are two types of experimental
research designs: field and lab. Field experiments are usually done in organisations, while lab
experiments are done under rigid conditions in a laboratory. Both types of research require two groups
or two samples. One group is used as a control group, while the other is the experimental group. The
experimental group is that part of the sample to which treatment is administered.
Suppose we wanted to determine whether a variety of teaching methods would improve
performance in Communication Studies at the sixth form level. We would conduct an
experiment in which we would use one group of sixth form students in a special programme
and use a variety of methods on this group.(experimental) Another group of sixth formers
would be observed but they would not get any special treatment(control). At the end of the
programme, we would compare the performance of both and draw our conclusions. In this
case we would have tested our hypothesis. This means that we would have proved or
disproved it.
2. Survey *** Type of Research-questionnaire
This design is used to establish a cause and effect relationship or to gather quantitative
data. In other words, you are trying to establish patterns of relationship between variables.
For example, you want to find out the extent to which transportation affects punctuality at
school or the extent to which socio-economic conditions affect absenteeism at Flower Valley
High School. Your variables would be 'transportation' and 'punctuality' in the first example
and 'socio-economic conditions' and 'absenteeism' in the second example. (You ought to be
able to identify variables in your topics in a similar manner.)
Survey is also referred to as an investigation and is usually theoretical in nature. Unlike the
experimental design, the researcher does not intervene in the organisation and observe the
effects of the intervention. Information is usually collected on a number of variables and
inferences are drawn about the extent to which both variables are correlated. Much of the
research you will be required to do fall in this category. There are two types of surveys.
Social surveys seek to establish cause and effects of a social phenomenon, for example, the
impact of cellular phones on students' relationship to their peers or the impact of chat
rooms on the socialisation of teenagers.
Public Opinion surveys(view on a particular issue) seek to find out what people think about
a particular issue. For example, how do people feel about issuing condoms in high schools?
How do Jamaicans feel about legalising ganja?

3. Qualitative research
The emphasis is on individuals' (ON LIKE A MORE PERSONAL LEVEL REQUIRING MY OWN
INTERPRETATION OF WHAT IS BEING PRESENTED) interpretation of their environment and
of people's behaviour. This type of research cannot be quantified and is often referred to as
social research. They are similar to case studies and require intense study of the behaviour
and careful recording of information gathered. Qualitative research does not use any
hypothesis and does not set out to prove anything, but to carefully examine and interpret
behaviours. In qualitative research questions and problems most often come from real-
world observations, dilemmas and questions. Discuss the examples below:
* Why is the teacher substitution programme working so well at Flower Valley High School
but not at other schools?
* What are the various techniques used by trade union groups as they try to influence
government policy?
* How do school-parent community relations affect the performance of students?
* How effective is capital punishment in deterring crime in Jamaica?
* How do students in grades 7 - 9 react to Mid-year Examinations at Flower Valley High
4. Case Studies
This involves the detailed examination of one, or a small number of cases. It is in fact a
special type of qualitative research. It examines a social unit as a whole. The unit may be a
person, a family, a social group, a social institution or a community. The purpose is to
understand the life cycle or an important part of the life cycle of the unit. The case study
probes deeply and analyses interactions between the factors that explain present status or,
that influence change or growth. Discuss the examples below:
* A study of the life style of a drug don in East Kingston.
* A study on Louise Bennett-Coverley: The woman and her poetry.
* A study of the dance hall phenomenon in Jamaica.
* The Rastafarian movement and its contribution to music in Jamaica.
5. Action research
In action research, the researcher is involved in conjunction with members of the
organisation in dealing with and solving a problem that arises at the organisation. The
problem is identified and all participants set out to investigate the reasons for the problem
and to arrive at solutions to the problem. Discuss the examples given below:
* An investigation into the causes of poor staff morale at Flower Valley High School.
* An investigation into the causes of the high level of staff turnover at Flower Valley High
* An investigation into the causes of high failure rate in Information Technology in rural
high schools.
1. Questionnaires *** CAN BE USED WILL ALL RESEARCH TYPES !!!!
These are a collection of questions that the respondents complete on their own. They are
used when factual information is required. When opinions are required an opinionnaire is
used. This is constructed in a similar manner as a questionnaire. A questionnaire is used
with all research designs. There are approximately three ways in which a questionnaire can
be administered:
* Personally
* Via the telephone
* Via the mail
* Via electronic mail
2. Interviews ** Qualitative research (better in some cases allows the person
being interviewed to be /feel relaxed)
These can either be structured or unstructured. They are a list of questions administered to
the respondent face to face. The structured interviews comprise a set of precisely
formulated questions, which are asked of a respondent. The unstructured interviews allow
the respondent to respond to a stimulus question. It is very informal and allows for the
respondent to speak for as long as he/she wants. These are used in qualitative research and
case studies, but can be useful in surveys- especially social surveys.
3. Observation schedule
The researcher records observations in terms of a predetermined schedule. This is used in
action research as well as case studies.
4. Attitude or Sentiment scales
These are used to measure attitudes, beliefs and opinions of a respondent. They can be
used with all types of research, but more specifically with surveys and action research.
Let us see whether you can apply the appropriate type of research and data collection
method(s). Here is a question. Read the information and answer the questions which follow.
Kishauna is conducting research into the kinds of television programmes students at her
school prefer to watch.
(1). Name two sources from which Kishauna could gather background information on the
research topic. (2 marks) (previous research,magazines) Parents of students,
Cable provider
(2a). State two methods of data collection, other than a questionnaire, that Kishauna could
use in this research. (2 marks) focus group, interviews
(2b). Choose one method of data collection identified in (a) above, and discuss one strength
and one weakness of this method. (4 marks)
Focus groups allow for more personalized responses from individuals without
limiting them.
If the moderator of the focus group is inexperienced then this will inhibit the focus
groups true power.

Interviews allow the person being interviewed to give the true and personal
Persons being interviewed can be intimidated by the interviewer and hence.
(3). Name two sources from which Kishauna could collect data for her research. (2 marks)
Students, Programming Ratings on the internet(that show age group)
Research designs & data collection methods
By Debbie Harris, Contributor
I trust that you have read all the information that I gave you last week.
Do not forget to keep it in a safe place so that during revision time you can find it easily.
This week we will continue studying research by looking at sampling. In addition, we will
analyse the notions of validity and reliability in both argument and research. But first, how
did you manage to apply the appropriate type of research and data collection method(s) in
last week's exercise? Here are the suggested answers. Let s see how you did!
Any TWO of the following are sources from which Kishauna could gather background
information on the research topic:
* Previous similar researches
* Archives at television stations
* Newspaper clippings
* Magazines
Any TWO of the following are methods of data collection which Kishauna could use in her
* Opinionnaires
* Interviews
* Observation schedules
If you chose the opinionnaire then any of the following strengths/weaknesses could be
* It facilitates a survey of a large population
* It is easily administered
* It is easily and reliably scored
* It allows for anonymity
* Limited scope for probing responses
* Inflexibility
* Responses can be misleading
* Limitations posed by the literacy of the respondents
* Respondents cooperation is imperative
If you chose the interview then any of the following strengths/weaknesses could be given:
* It yields in depth information
* It allows the researcher more flexibility
* It can yield a high return of data
* It gathers a lot of unnecessary information
* It can be affected by researcher's biases
* It is not always easy to set up interview sessions
* The respondent s memory can be poor the mind selects only some aspects,
others may be lost.
If you chose observation schedule then any of the following strengths/weaknesses could be
* It allows for the collection of primary data
* It can yield a high return of data
* It allows for researcher flexibility
* It lessens respondents bias and possible interference, which could contaminate the data
* It can be affected by researcher's bias
* Reactions of the respondents may be misinterpreted
* Important and relevant data may be missed as chosen times of observation may not be
appropriate or even significant
Any TWO of the following are sources from which Kishauna could collect her research:
* Students
* Parents
* Any other family members
* Teachers
Well, if you had all the appropriate responses, CONGRATULATIONS! You would have been
awarded the maximum number of marks in the examination.
Let us now turn our attention to the issue of selecting a sample in research. A researcher
who undertakes a survey involving large numbers of people will find it impractical or even
impossible to canvas the views of everyone in that population. He has to then ensure that
he takes a sample of the total population. The sample is a portion or fraction or subset of
the total population. It is assumed that the sample is homogeneous and that the
characteristics found in the sample may reasonably be expected to be found in the whole.
When generalisations are to be made about the total population this sample should
accurately reflect the opinions, beliefs or choices of the population. Therefore it must satisfy
two basic conditions:
* It must be numerically large enough to correctly reflect the views of the whole population
in other words, it must be sufficient or adequate.
* All segments of the population indicated by relevant variables such as sex, age, social
class, occupation etc. are to be proportionately included in the sample in other words, it
must be representative.
There are two types of sampling: probability and non-probability. Probability sampling, also
known as random sampling, is one way of making sure that the sample is representative of
the population and that the procedure used in your research has validity. It ensures that no
member of the sample is likely to be preferred than another in the selection. The selection
cannot be predicted. Here the researcher's bias is eliminated and the procedure becomes
more consistent and efficient. Non-probability sampling, also referred to as convenience
sampling is used when the total extent of the population is not known. The researcher
selects the sample at his discretion not randomly. One cannot guarantee validity and the
absence of bias in this kind of selection and the results gathered using this type of sampling
may not be totally reliable. However it has some advantages; it is less expensive and uses
less time and resources.
For more information on sampling read Introduction to Social Research, Canoe Press
university of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica (1997),Chapter 4 by Ian Boxill et al.
I used the terms VALIDITY and RELIABILITY in the preceding paragraph and they are
commonly used in Module 1 of the syllabus. In this module reference is made to the
methodology used by the researcher and in the evaluation of the argument they refer to
truth and believability. It is important that you understand fully what each term means in
both contexts.
Let us look at validity in research methodology. Validity, to the researcher, refers to the
extent to which the data collection methods or the research instruments, such as the
questionnaire, interview and observation, actually measure what they are supposed to
measure. In the evaluation of the argument, validity of the information which you get from
a source, refers to whether the information is based on good judgement, reasoning and
evidence, as well as if it is sound, logical and incontestable. Validity of the information also
refers to truth, that is whether each statement in an argument is factually accurate and
leads logically to the conclusion.
1. Information should be
* Logical in sequence and relevant; premise should logically lead to conclusion and both
should relate to the same concept. There should be no mixture of fact and opinion.
* Sufficient and complete
* Consistent and agree with what is generally known about the subject matter.
2. There should be no shifts in the meaning of key terms and concepts throughout the
RELIABILITY refers to how accurately and consistently data collection methods or research
instruments perform by measuring the factors for which it was designed.
Now, we have learned much today. Let us see whether you can apply the appropriate
information. Here is the continuation of last week's question. Read the information and
answer the questions which follow.
Kishauna is conducting research into the kinds of television programmes students at her
school prefer to watch.
1 (a) Suggest TWO errors that Kishauna might make that would affect the reliability of her
research. (2 marks)
(b) Explain how EACH error identified in (a) above would affect the reliability of the
research. (2 marks)
2 State TWO considerations that Kishauna should bear in mind as she selects a sample for
her study. (2 marks)
Research designs & methods
By Debbie Harris, Contributor
THIS WEEK as a part of our preparation for the External Examination we will review skills in
research designs and methodology. Here is a possible question that could appear on Paper
01 Section One.
Read the paragraph below and answer the questions which follow.
Carla and Natoya are both doing research. Carla wants to find out the extent to which
parents in her community are informed about the drugs which are abused by some
teenagers living in their community. She has already found some sources and has gathered
very important information for the study. Natoya is doing a critical study of the treatment of
the theme "Parent Absenteeism in the West Indies" in five (5) West Indian novels. Carla
plans to use a questionnaire as her main instrument to collect the data for her study.
Natoya is using the library facilities at her institution to get most of the information that she
needs for study.
a) List two differences between the two types of research referred to above. [2 marks]
b) Name two sources from which Natoya could obtain data for her study. [2 marks]
c) State four considerations that Carla should bear in mind in selecting a sample for her
study. [4 marks]
d) Discuss two strengths and two weaknesses of the questionnaire as a research instrument
used by Carla.[4 marks]
e) Write FIVE (5) different questions that you would ask Carla if you wanted to determine
the soundness of her sources, context and medium of the information gathered. [8 marks]
Here are some suggested answers.
a) Two differences between library facilities {books, newspaper clippings, internet, previous
studies etc.} and a questionnaire are:
1. The library facilities offer more qualitative data and the questionnaire offer more
quantitative data.
2. The library facilities provide secondary data (ie. Second-hand data) and the questionnaire
provides primary data (ie. First-hand data)
b) Some sources from which Natoya could obtain data for her study include:
1. Books
2. Newspaper clippings
3. Internet
4. Previous studies/research
c) Some considerations Carla should bear in mind in selecting the sample for her study:
1. Population - parents from her community
2. They should have common interests
3. Their age
4. Their sex
5. The size of the sample
d) The questionnaire as a research instrument - STRENGTHS:
1. Easily and reliably scored
2. Quick access to information
3. Primary source
4. Facilitates survey of large population
5. Easily administered
6. Allows for anonymity
The questionnaire as a research instrument - WEAKNESSES:
1. Limited scope for the personal and the subjective
2. Limited scope for probing responses
3. Inflexible
4. Responses can be misleading
5. Limitations posed by literal responses
e) Some possible questions are:
1. How many persons comprised your sample?
2. What challenges did you face while conducting your research?
3. Would you regard any of your sources as being reliable and/or valid? Name them and
explain why.
4. Would you regard any of your sources as being unreliable and/or invalid? Name them and
explain why.
5. To what extent did the context within which you administered the questionnaire affect
the responses you received from respondents?
Hope you made these or similar responses.