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Non-experimental

Research Designs

NURSING 503
Week 5, October 5, 2005

Dr. K KovacsBurns 1
Overview – Main topics
 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

Experimental Quasi-experimental Non-experimental


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Reasons for Undertaking
Nonexperimental Studies
 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

 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. Dr. K KovacsBurns 5
Classification of
NonExperimental designs:

 Descriptive/exploratory survey studies


 Interrelationship/difference
 Correlational studies
 Ex post facto studies
 Prediction studies
 Developmental studies
 Cross-sectional & longitudinal studies
 Retrospective & prospective studies
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Descriptive/Exploratory Survey
 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
 prevalence
 distribution
 interrelations of variables within a population
 Census vs. sample surveys
 Self-reporting
 Flexibility and broadness
 Superficiality – extensive vs. intensive
analysis
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Two aspects about surveys:
Survey Content Survey Administration
 Direct questioning  Different data
 Answering how, collection methods
what,and to what  Personal interviews
extent questions  Telephone interviews
 Usually focus on what
 Self-administered
was done and what questionnaires
people plan to do in (SAQs)
the future  Mixed-mode strategy
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How surveys inform practice
 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
 observe, describe, & document aspects of a
situation as it naturally occurs
 serve as a starting point for hypothesis
generation or theory development
 Types:
 Descriptive Correlational Studies
 Univariate Descriptive Studies
 Prevalence Studies
 Incidence Studies

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Descriptive Correlational Studies

 Describes the relationship among


variables rather than infer cause-and-
effect relationships

 Are usually cross-sectional

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Univariate Descriptive Studies
 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:
 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
 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)

 Advantage:
 large amount of information can be
obtained from a large population in an
economical manner which is “surprisingly” accurate
 Disadvantages
 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
 Examines if variables covary
 Quantifies the strength or relationship between the variables (not cause &
effect)
 +ve or –ve direction relationship determined
 Advantages:
 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.
 Disadvantages:
 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
 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:
 Allows for establishment of a differential effect
 Similar to correlational designs
 Offers a higher level of control

 Disadvantages:
 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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Others

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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