Non-experimental Research Designs

NURSING 503 Week 5, October 5, 2005
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Overview – Main topics

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Non-experimental vs experimental designs When to use non-experimental designs The types of non-experimental designs Advantages & disadvantages Studies using surveys Epidemiologic research designs
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A continuum of quantitative research design





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Reasons for Undertaking Nonexperimental Studies

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Number of human characteristics/ independent variables are not subject to experimental manipulation or randomization Some variables cannot ethically be manipulated For some research, it is not practical to conduct a true experiment/manipulate variables For some situations, it is more realistic to explore phenomena in more natural manner Nonexperimental research is often needed to scope out the experimental one
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Key Characteristics

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A research design in which a researcher observes a phenomenon without manipulating the independent variables(s) No manipulation Independent variables have already occurred, so no control over them Clear, concise problem statement that is based on a theoretical framework, or natural phenomenon.
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Classification of NonExperimental designs:
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Descriptive/exploratory survey studies Interrelationship/difference
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Correlational studies Ex post facto studies Prediction studies Developmental studies
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Cross-sectional & longitudinal studies Retrospective & prospective studies
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Descriptive/Exploratory Survey
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Broadest category Detailed observations, descriptions & documentation of existing variables Little is known about the phenomenon Justifies, assesses current conditions/practice Variables of interest: opinions, attitudes or facts Determines differences between variables Data collected by questionnaire or interview Researchers only relate one variable to another, no attempt to determine causation
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Exploratory Survey Research

Designed to obtain information about
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prevalence distribution interrelations of variables within a population

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Census vs. sample surveys Self-reporting Flexibility and broadness Superficiality – extensive vs. intensive analysis
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Two aspects about surveys:
Survey Content  Direct questioning  Answering how, what,and to what extent questions  Usually focus on what was done and what people plan to do in the future Survey Administration  Different data collection methods
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Personal interviews Telephone interviews Self-administered questionnaires (SAQs) Mixed-mode strategy

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How surveys inform practice

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Needs assessment – estimate needs of a group, community or organization; & make recommendations for priorities Face-to-face interviews using surveys yields quality data about the person being interviewed & the question posed Delphi surveys for short-term forecasting based on panel of experts’ opinions, predictions, and judgment about a topic Secondary analysis of surveys yields more details Meta-analysis of similar studies to integrate large body of findings & observations
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Descriptive Research

Purpose is to
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observe, describe, & document aspects of a situation as it naturally occurs serve as a starting point for hypothesis generation or theory development Descriptive Correlational Studies Univariate Descriptive Studies
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Prevalence Studies Incidence Studies
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Descriptive Correlational Studies

Describes the relationship among variables rather than infer cause-andeffect relationships

Are usually cross-sectional

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Univariate Descriptive Studies
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Could focus on one or more variables Undertaken to describe the frequency of occurrence of a behavior or condition or each variable rather than relationships between or among them Types:
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Prevalence Studies Incidence Studies
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Prevalence Studies

Done to determine the prevalence rate of some condition at a specific point in time Data is obtained from the population at risk for the condition – cross sectional design
Prevalence Rate (PR) = # cases with condition X K # in population at risk
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Incidence Studies
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Used to measure the frequency of developing new cases Need longitudinal designs

Incidence Rate (IR)= # new cases with condition over given period X K # at risk of becoming a new case

Relative Risk: an estimate of risk of “caseness” in one group vs. another; contribution of risk factors

E.g. males vs females for acquiring depression
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Descriptive/Exploratory Survey (cont’d)

large amount of information can be obtained from a large population in an economical manner which is “surprisingly” accurate

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Info tends to be superficial as breadth is emphasized Expertise in: sampling techniques, questionnaire construction, interviewing and data analysis to produce a reliable and valid study. Time-consuming & sometimes costly
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Interrelationship/Difference Studies: Correlational Studies
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Examines if variables covary Quantifies the strength or relationship between the variables (not cause & effect) +ve or –ve direction relationship determined Advantages:
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Increased flexibility when investigating complex relationships among variables Efficient and effective method of collecting a large amount of data Potential for practical application in clinical settings Potential foundation for future, experimental studies Framework for exploring relationships that are not manipulated. Unable to manipulate variable of interest No randomization in sampling Generalizability decreased as dealing with preexisting groups Unable to determine a causal relationship because of the lack of manipulation, control and randomization.
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Interrelationship/Difference Studies: Ex Post Facto Studies
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Literally means ‘from after the fact’ Also known as causal-comparative studies or comparative studies Explores differences/relationships between variables (similar to quasi-experimental designs) Advantages:
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Allows for establishment of a differential effect Similar to correlational designs Offers a higher level of control

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Lack of control on variables Unable to draw causal linkage Problem of alternative hypothesis
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Interrelationship/Difference Studies: Developmental Studies

Not only concerned with existing status & interrelationship of phenomena but also with changes from elapsed time. Cross sectional (one/more time points, perhaps different groups) vs Longitudinal (several time points with same group over extended period) Retrospective (dependent variable has already been affected by independent variable, link present events to past events) vs Prospective (link present events to presumed future effect, less common, considered stronger design)
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Natural Experiments: study of a group exposed to natural or other phenomenon that have health or other consequences, compared with a nonexposed group; people are affected at random Path Analytic Studies: using a technique called path analysis, nonexperimental data is tested against a hypothesized causal inference
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Epidemiologic Research Designs

Cohort studies: trend study in which specific subpopulations (eg age specific) are examined over time for generational differences  prospective & retrospective Case-control study: comparison of cases/subjects (with specific condition), with controls (without condition); only difference should be exposure to presumed cause Cross-sectional design: phenomena under study are captured during one period of data collection; one point in time
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Continuum of designs for inferring causality

Non Experimental Designs

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Strongest Design

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Dr. K KovacsBurns