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For Syed Zubair Haider1 The Islamia University of Bahawalpur, Pakistan
The objective of correlational studies is to analyze the relationship between two or more variables; it means to see whether they co-vary, correlate, or are associated with each other. Such studies are also called passive observation or naturalistic studies because it does not have any experimental manipulation. Passive observation should not be confused with participant observation which is a data-gathering method. In correlational research, researchers measure a number of variables for each partaker, with the aim of studying the affiliation among these variables. However, the term ‘‘correlational design’’ is slightly deceptive, as it suggests that the rapport between the variables will be judged using a correlation coefficient. The drawback of correlation coefficients is that they measure only one type of association between variables, that is, a linear association. Nonlinear associations between variables also come under this caption (although they are discussed once in a blue moon by most researchers, who tend to confine their attention only to linear models), and thus the term relational designs is perhaps more suitable.
Design means the logical framework of the study. Research designs can be classified into two basic types: experimental and non-experimental designs. Experimental designs require an active intercession by the researcher, such as giving one type of therapy to some clients and a second type to others, whereas non-experimental designs simply involve measurement, without changing the observable fact or situation to be measured. They can be classified into descriptive and correlational designs, according to the type of analysis performed. While it is apparent from their names, descriptive designs usually aim simply to describe, whereas correlational designs intend to examine associations in order to make forecasts or deal with causal linkages. The principle is ‘‘correlation does not equate causation”.
Lecturer (M. Phil, Education), Department of Educational Training, Rahim Yar Khan Campus. (Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org)
M. Ed (1st ) SESSION: 2011-2012
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATIONAL TRAINING
Nature of Correlational Studies
Types of Correlations Positive and negative Correlation: A positive correlation means high scores on the one variable have a propensity to be associated with high scores on other variable. A negative correlation means high score on the one variable is related with low scores on the other variable and low scores on the one are associated with high scores on the either. Linear and Non Linear Correlation: The correlation between two variables is believed to be linear if be consistent to a unit change in one variable, there is constant change in other variable over entire array of values. The relationship between two variables is thought to be non-linear if corresponding to a unit change in first variable, but the other variable does not change at a constant rate, but at varying rate. Types of Correlational Designs There are many methods for correlational studies with their own strengths and weaknesses. One trendy method is called naturalistic observation, which necessitates a researcher to observe and record the natural environment without interference. One benefit of naturalistic observation is that the researcher is observing variables in a natural state. Some limitations are that it can be difficult to control the variables or to avoid outside influences from faking the results. Another type of correlational research is called the survey method. Surveys are easy on the pocket and swift, and can be used to gather information from very large sample size. However, poorly written survey questions can distort results. Another hitch is that survey results are also dependent on survey respondents, who are not always trustworthy. A third method for correlational design is archival research, which analyzes historical records. An improvement in this method is that it’s a workable way to analyze large amounts of data without expending a lot of money. A lapse of this particular research method is that the researcher has no way of knowing if the original data collection methods were reliable. Correlational studies are a helpful tool for conducting research. However, it must be kept in mind that no study method is perfect. Researchers must take into consideration the limitations of both their preferred research method and correlational studies as a general rule. Correlational designs may be cross-sectional, in which all observations are made at the same point with context to time, or they may be longitudinal, in which calculations are made at two or more different time points.
Importance of Correlational Research • • • • Many scientific hypotheses are stated in terms of correlation or lack of correlation, so that such studies are directly applicable to these hypotheses. Correlation does not show any causation; even then causation does reveal correlation. This means a correlational study cannot definitely prove a causal hypothesis, even then it may rule out one. Correlational studies are more helpful than they may seem, because some of the recently developed complex correlational designs permit for some very limited causal inferences. Some studies cannot be employed for ethical reasons (for instance manipulation of human malnutrition or physical disabilities). Some variables, such as birth order, sex, and age are innately correlational because they cannot be manipulated, and, therefore, the scientific knowledge with regard to them must be based on correlation proof. If correlation has been developed it can be used to make predictions. The stronger the relationship among variables the more accurate the prediction will be (Predictor and Criterion Variables). In practical life, evidence from correlation studies can lead to testing that evidence under controlled experimental conditions. Correlational can not verify theory but it can negate a theory. Correlational studies are a stepping-stone to the more powerful experimental method, and with the use of complex correlational designs (path analysis and cross-lagged panel designs), correlation allow for very limited causal inferences.
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Conditions for Casual Comparative Research Scientists have agreed upon a set of conditions for concluding a causal relationship. Some of them are: Covariation: the two variables must appear together. Time Precedence: the hypothesized causal variable must precede the effect variable (directionality). Exclusion of alternative explanations: other explanations for the observed covariation must be reasonably disqualified (third-variable problem). Logical mechanism: there must be a conceivable description for the hypothesized causal relation. Relationship: the variables must show a relationship. To determine the relationship between two variables, it must be confirmed that is there any possibility that the relationship could occur by chance. Amateur observers are not good judges of the presence of relationships, thus, statistical methods are used to measure and test the existence and strength of relationships. Non-spuriousness: (spuriousness meaning ‘deceptiveness’): The final condition for a causal relationship is nonspuriousness. If a relationship between X and Y is nonspurious, there must not be a Z that can affect the relationship between X and Y if Z is controlled.
M. Ed (1st ) SESSION: 2011-2012
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATIONAL TRAINING
Basic Steps in Correlation Research
Problem Selection The variables to be included in a correlational study should be chosen based on a sound rationale growing out of experience of theory. The researcher should have some rationale for thinking variables under study are related. The clarity in defining variables will avoid many problems later on. Sample The sample for a correlational study should be selected carefully and if possible sampling should be random. The sample should meet the requirements of the research and it must be convenient to collect data from each of the variables of interest. The minimum acceptable sample size for a correlational study is considered by most researchers to be not less than 30. Sample size larger than 30 is much more likely to provide meaningful results. Instruments The instrument used are Rating Scale, Interview tally sheets, flowcharts, performance checklists, Anecdotal records etc. These instruments give statistical results. Whatever instruments are used, they must yield reliable results. Data Collection In relationship study, all the data on both variables will usually be collected within a fairly short time. For example, if the researcher is interested in increasing the relationship between verbal aptitude and memory, a test of verbal aptitude and another of memory would be administered closely together in time to the same group of subjects. Data Analysis and Interpretation Negative Correlation: r scores range from -1 to +1. If r = -1, there exist a perfect negative relation. No Correlation: If r = 0, no relationship exists. Positive Correlation: When r = +1, there exists a perfect positive relation.
Correlational studies may use simple statistical measures of associations for interpretations of result like chi-square and correlation coefficients, or they may also use more advanced methods, which aim to map the underlying structure of complex data sets.
Improving Correlational Studies
A. Cross-lagged-panel correlation 1) It resolves directionality problem in correlational research 2) It requires longitudinal study with two sets of correlations. B. Partial Correlation Remove the influence of a potential third variable. C. Multiple Correlations Estimate the relation between variables, taking into account several additional (third) variables. Simple linear correlation: y = mx + b Multiple correlation: y = m1x1 + m2x2 + m3x3 + . . .
A correlational study is a casual comparative scientific study in which a researcher investigates relationships between two or more variables without any endeavor to influence them. The art of research design is to collect data and examine the influence of third variables and of mediator and moderator variables, and evaluate for conceptual confounding, in order to derive the strict logical consequences about the relationships between the variables under study. Experimental designs systematically manipulating one or more variables through cross sectional design to do the same task. Correlations studies have a number of restrictions. Since there are many population’s characteristics that can be a matter of interest, they often tell us about the beliefs of the investigators. It does not pay attention to information about individuals within a population. In
M. Ed (1st ) SESSION: 2011-2012
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATIONAL TRAINING
addition, there may be other differences between the populations that are associated with the exposure under study that may play a more important role in the distorting the results. Correlational studies are useful for the synthesis of hypotheses. When there is more than one predictor variable, the technique of multiple regression analysis helps to develop a multiple correlation that is used for prediction and to validate the results.
References and Resources
1. Jamie Hale. The Importance of Correlational Studies. Psych Central. ( http://psychcentral.com/) 2. Samuel Lee. (Thursday, January 05, 2006). Research Design: Correlational. Research Online. ( http://researchonline.blogspot.com/) 3. Brittany Olivarez. (Nov 28th, 2009). Psychological Research: Understanding Correlational Studies. Helping Psychology. (http://helpingpsychology.com/?s=Psychological+Research %3A+Understanding+Correlational+Studies) 4. Kendra Cherry. Psychology Research with Correlational Studies. About.com, Psychology. ( http://psychology.about.com/od/researchmethods/a/correlational.htm) 5. Stephen R. Schimidt. Correlational Research: Making Sense of Observation. Research Methods for the Digitally Inclined. (http://frank.mtsu.edu/~sschmidt/methods/correlational.html) 6. Mike Raulin. (August 30, 1999). Correlational Research Methods. Correlational and Differential Research Methods. ( http://www.abacon.com/graziano/ch07/index.htm) 7. Ismael Thamarasseri. (2009). Correlational Research. Introduction to Educational Research (53-56). Kanishka Publishers. ( email@example.com) 8. John W. Best, J. V. (2007). Descriptive Reseach. Research in Education (9th Ed, 143148). Pearson Prentice Hall. 9. Robert L. Linn, N. E. (2005). Coefficient of Correlation. Measurement and Assessment in Teaching (8th Ed., 541-544). Singapore: Pearson Education. ( www.prenhall.com/linn) 10. Munirruddin Quereshi. (2005). Descriptive Type. Educational Research (134-147). Anmol Publications (Pvt) Ltd. ( www.anmolpublications.com)
11. Burke Johnson, L. C. (2008). Classifying Non-experimental Research Methods by Research Objective. Educational Research (3rd Ed., 377-378). Sage Publications, Inc. ( http://www.sagepub.com/bjohnsonstudy)