Research Methods & Statistics
When research method could be used (with example and reason for choice)
Limitations of the research method (how and why it could be less effective) with explanation based on example
A questionnaire is a structured technique for collecting data. It is generally a series of written questions for which the respondents have to provide the answers (Bell 1999).
Questionnaires are used for both quantitative and qualitative research for collecting data, from all subjects or a sample of subjects.
They are constructed in a variety of ways including tick boxes, open & closed ended questions and are constructed to improve the accuracy of responses i.e the order of the questions.
Responses are not guaranteed, and there is no average response rate, as the average rate varies dependent on the type of study.
Questionnaires are used for a wide range of research I believe the most commonly known/used would be the census survey.
Census statistics are used to gain an in site of how the nation lives. It provides a view of the population and its characteristics. One of the outcomes is to identify where to allocate funding and provide public services.(www.ons.gov.uk)
Adequate questionnaire construction is critical to the success of a survey. Inappropriate questions, incorrect ordering of questions, incorrect scaling, or bad questionnaire format can make the survey valueless, as it may not accurately reflect the views and opinions of the participants. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Questionnaire_construction) Ethical issues must be addressed with sensitivity and a knowledge and understanding of other cultures is vital for analysing outcomes of the survey as the participants do not usually have an opportunity to explain or provide additional information.
Interviews involve collecting data via direct verbal interaction between the researcher and the respondents (Cohen and Manion, 1997).
Fraenkel and Wallen (1990) consider interviews as the most effective means of gaining cooperation from respondents, as rapport can be established between the researcher and the interviewee. In this way it may be possible to get sensitive information that would not be easy obtain otherwise (Gall et al,. 1996).
Interviews, provide in-depth data, and, because they allow both the respondents and the researcher to ask for clarification, increasing the chance of obtaining valid information from the respondents.
The NHS undertook research into what matters to patients. This research was done via interviews across the NHS.
identified areas for improvement and best practice has been implemented across the health service this could not have been done as accurately by any other method as the results are based on personal experience. (http://www.institute.nhs.uk)
As this research method is based on personal experiences all answers will be different and therefore analysis is time consuming. This can result in long gaps between data collection and
feedback of reports. (http://www.institute.nhs.uk) Interviewing large numbers of people can also be time consuming and therefore only a sample of patients are included in the research. This is often the best method when considering ethical issues as the researcher can gain a greater understanding of culture and experience by asking questions face to face and giving the participant the opportunity to give any additional information.
The aim of the study was to test whether children who are told they will perform well, perform better than those who are not. The dependent variable is the subject test scores.
The Hypothesis for this experiment would be “Subjects that are told they would do well, perform significantly better than those who are not”. The hypothesis is directional as we will find out which subjects perform better and not just that there is a difference (in that case it would be non-directional). Because we are expecting one set of results to be significantly higher than the other the hypothesis is one tailed.
The control group are the subjects who have not been told they will perform well. The purpose of the control group is to act as a measuring stick to gauge the other subjects test scores to see if the hypothesis is correct.
The independent variable is whether the children have been told or have not been told they will perform well.
Repeated Measures Design
Independent Group Design
Repeated measures, is the method of using the same participants in different experimental manipulations (Field, 2011). The method is popular as researchers don’t have to worry about inconsistencies and personal differences across conditions of the experiment, because all participants are their own control. This design is often more accurate than the independent measures design as Participants can be tested on more than 2 occasions on more than 1 subject. It also requires fewer participants, making recruiting quicker and easier and therefore more convenient. The final advantage is that it may be the only design that answers the question of interest.
Independent measures only require one set of participants and one test for each condition of the independent variable. This saves time and is a lot quicker than using a repeated measures design.
Participant variables can be reduced in an independent group design, by having a large sample and randomly allocating participants to the experimental and control groups. This is due to the individual differences between participants; for example, personality, age, sex, attention span, etc.
Another advantage is that more participants are used in the overall experiment, compared to repeated measures design, increasing the external validity.
•The main disadvantage of repeated measures designs is practice effects. Practice effects arise because people change as they are repeatedly tested. As participants complete the dependent variable measures after each condition, they may get better with practice, or they may become tired or bored. The range of potential uses is smaller than for the independent groups design.
The potential for error is higher, resulting from the individual differences of the participants, because they don’t match those in other groups, this could affect the results and the validity and reliability. The participants no longer become a control variable because two different groups of people are used. This means results could be manipulated by other factors present to each group before the experiment had even took place.
Through observational method, A true idea of the behaviours and the event is created as they manifest in natural settings. Systematic and unbiased observation can produce a true picture of an individual’s character.
Certain phenomena can be accessed and properly understood through observation. Crowd behaviour, behaviours of animals, and mother-child interaction at home are some exemplary situations, which can only be assessed, and understood only through observation.
Experiments are the only means by which cause and effect can be established. By changing one variable and measuring another, this method draws a conclusion with far higher certainty than any non-experimental method. If the IV is the only thing that has changed then it must be responsible for any change in the dependent variable.
Experiments can be replicated to confirm the results. The more often an experiment is repeated, with the same results obtained, the more confident we can be that the theory is valid.
In many cases the observer has to wait until the appropriate event takes place. For example to study crowd behaviour, the observer would have to wait until a crowd is formed in a natural setting. Therefore, some types of observations are time-consuming, and labour-intensive.
Observer-bias is one of the important problems in observational research. The attitudes, beliefs, convictions, and personal interests of the observer can impact perceptions of the event and may be reflected in the report. Therefore, the description may not reflect the true details of the event.
Finally, the presence of the observer may influence the event itself. For instance the subjects who are observed may change their activities in the presence of the observer. As a result, the observation would be invalid as it would not be a true account of the subject’s behaviours if the observer would not have been present.
Human input can be a disadvantage in these studies as humans have their own thoughts and can manipulate the results also it can be difficult to tell whether their answers or reaction are true. People can be influenced by what they see around them and may give answers that they think the researcher wants to hear rather than how they think and feel on a subject.
The experiment is not typical of real life situations. Most experiments are conducted in laboratories which are strange environments to most people therefore people may act in a different way to when in their normal environment. Therefore it should be difficult to generalise findings from experiments because they may not be true to real life.
Total word count, 1000
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NHS Institute of Innovation & Improvement,2013. Policies[online] Available at:
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Angel LesterResearch Methods & Statistics