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Educational Research

Chapter 6
Descriptive Research
Gay, Mills, and Airasian

Topics Discussed in this

Descriptive research
Designing and conducting
descriptive research
Self-report data collection methods


Descriptive Research


Determines and describes the way things are
Compares how sub-groups view issues and


Frequently used in research studies
Used to influence opinion
Useful for investigating a variety of
educational problems
Obj. 1.1, 1.2, 1.3

1.Differences from Qualitative Research  Descriptive Research   Uses observations and interviews Studies the topic from the researcher’s perspective  Qualitative Research   Uses observations and interviews Studies the topic from the participant’s perspective Obj.4 .

1 .Method  Six steps in conducting descriptive research       Identify problem Review literature Select participants and instruments Collect valid and reliable data Analyze data Report conclusions Obj. 2.

2.2 & 2.Common Errors  Lack of participant response    Low response rates are common Difficulties interpreting the findings without the data representing nonrespondents’ views Unclear/ambiguous items  Researcher needs to develop recording forms that collect the data objectively and reliably Obj.3 .

Classifications of Descriptive Research • Classified by how data are collected • Self-report • • Individuals respond to statements or questions about themselves Observation • Data is collected by the researcher watching participants Obj. 3.1 & 3.2 .

1 . 4.Survey Data Collection Methods  Surveys represent the most common type of self-report measures    Questionnaires Interviews Advantages of conducting surveys    Less time is required Less expenses are incurred Larger samples can be used Obj.

Survey Data Collection Methods  Five (5) types of surveys  School surveys    Information collected by a school Information collected about a school Sample surveys  Use of samples representing relevant subgroups of interest Obj 3.3 .

and secondary teachers at the same time Obj. 3.3 & 3.4 .Survey Data Collection Methods  Developmental surveys   Examining variables that differentiate children at different developmental stages Cross-sectional surveys   Collecting data from several samples at one point in time Surveying samples of elementary. middle.

3.8 .6. 3. 3. 3. & 3.7.Survey Data Collection Methods  Longitudinal surveys   Collecting data at two or more times to measure change Four types     Trend – samples from succeeding groups are studied over time Cohort – separate samples from a single group are studied over time Panel – a single sample from a group is studied over time Follow-up – a sample is studied after the formal study is complete Obj.

Conducting Survey Research  State the problem   The topic must be of sufficient significance to motivate a respondent and justify the research effort Select the participants   Must be able to provide the desired information Must be willing to participate Obj. 4.2 .

4.Conducting Survey Research  Constructing the questionnaire  Appearance    Visually attractive – use of white space Brief Carefully planned content and item formats    Clearly identify sub-topics Use structured items if possible Use responses that can be checked or circled rather than written Obj.5 .

efficient. easily standardized. respondents might not have access to e-mail Obj. 4. easy to score. easily standardized. inexpensive.4 . inexpensive.Conducting Survey Research  Methods to collect data  Mailed surveys    Advantages – efficient. easy to score Disadvantages – can only assure confidentiality. anonymous or confidential Disadvantages – low response rate. inability to probe E-mailed surveys   Advantages – quick.

4 . efficient Disadvantages – requires lists of telephone numbers. expensive. requires training Personal interview   Advantages – rich complete responses Disadvantages – little standardization. 4. allows for probes Disadvantages – time consuming.Conducting Survey Research  Telephone surveys    Personal administration    Advantages – high response rates. expensive Obj. takes time to administer. requires training Advantages – efficient if respondents are in close proximity to the administrator.

supply  Two disadvantages are that respondents will not take the time to respond and the responses are difficult to score objectively Specific types     Scales  Likert  Semantic differential Rankings Checklists Free responses Obj. 4.6 & 4.Conducting Survey Research  Types of items  Two approaches to writing an item    Structured items – closed-ended. selection Unstructured – open-ended.7 .

8 . 4.Conducting Survey Research  Qualities of good items          Address single concept Avoid jargon Include point of reference Avoid leading questions Avoid sensitive questions Do not assume facts not necessarily true Pretested Provide information on how to respond Questionnaire design    Do not crowd items Number pages and items Do not put important questions at the end Obj.

4.7 .Conducting Survey Research  Constructing a cover letter   Explains what is being asked and why Content      A brief description of the study Contact information Organizational endorsements and support Deadline for responding Stamped self-addressed return envelope Obj.

Conducting Survey Research  Cover Letter Characteristics      Is brief. and personalized Gives reason to respond Gives means to respond Promises anonymity or confidentiality Anonymity and confidentiality   Anonymity means no one can trace the respondent to his or her responses Confidentiality means the researcher knows who responded but promises not to divulge that information   Used to track respondents and non-respondents Usually ensured by coding names when the data is entered Obj.10 .9 & 4. neat. 4.

Conducting Survey Research  Pretest the questionnaire    Reviews by three (3) or four (4) individuals Provides information about deficiencies and suggestions for improvement Follow-up activities    Reminder postcard Second survey with a cover letter politely requesting a response Telephoning a small sample of non-respondents Obj. 4.11 & 4.13 .

4.Conducting Survey Research  Two types of non-responses  Respondents not returning the survey    First mailings usually result in 30% .13 .50% response rate Follow-up postcards usually add about 20% Sending a second survey with a polite cover letter requesting participation usually adds about 10% Obj.

12 .Conducting Survey Research  Respondents not returning the survey (cont. 4.)  Concerns with generalizing from the results of the respondents given the lack of information from the non-respondents  Use of telephone interviews to collect responses from a few non-respondents  Comparing these responses to those of the respondents  Comparing respondents and nonrespondents on demographic variables to ascertain any systematic differences Obj.

Conducting Survey Research  Two types of non-responses (cont.12 . 4.)  Respondents not completing items    Be certain this is taken into account when summarizing scores Simply adding scores will not reflect the true score of a participant if he or she has left some items blank Averaging those items to which a participant has responded takes into account his or her blank responses Obj.

g. 4..g.. SPSS-Windows) Open-ended items  Code answers according to perceived patterns Obj.14 . Excel) Statistical software (e.Conducting Survey Research  Tabulating responses  Closed-ended items     Scantrons Electronic spreadsheets (e.

14 .Conducting Survey Research  Analyzing results   Total sample size and return rate Responses to each item   Subscale scores   Average score and percentage of the sample responding Average score of items on the subscale Total score  Average score of all items Obj. 4.

in-person administration of a questionnaire to each member of a sample. Obj.1 .Conducting Interviews  An interview is the oral. 5.

Interview Studies  Advantages     More in-depth Flexible Gives opportunity to establish rapport Allows immediate follow-up  Disadvantages    May be biased by interviewer Time-consuming and expensive Requires skill Obj.2 . 5.

4 & 5. 5.Conducting Interview Research    Define the problem Identify potential interviewees Construct an interview guide  A written protocol that indicates what questions are to be asked.5 . in what order. and how much prompting and probing is permitted Obj.

Conducting Interview Research Interview Guide (continued)    Assures that all interviews will be conducted in the same manner Generally uses semi-structured and unstructured items Pretest the interview  Identifies deficiencies and suggests improvements Obj.6 . 5.5 & 5.

Conducting Interview Research  Administer the interview   Conducting an interview effectively requires training. and good interpersonal skills Guidelines     Be as brief as possible Explain terms that the interviewee might not understand Do not use leading questions Do more listening and less talking Obj. effective communication skills.3 . 5.

5. if not all.7 . of the information Permits reviewing of the information Causes potential discomfort on the interviewee’s part Can malfunction Obj.Conducting Interview Research  Record the responses  Manually recording    Cumbersome and slow Likely to miss important information Mechanical recording      Cassette tapes and videos Captures most.