RESEARCH METHODS Essay Example
The primary aim of this paper is to demonstrate my understanding of research methods and how they are applied actual research. The discussions are given on various topics covered during the research process such as research design and ethics, sampling strategies and participants, data collection and materials, data analysis and the limitations to the research. Also given is my personal evaluation and contribution to the research process. The main aim of the research was to explore the ways in which SU can increase the footfall within the premise. This was the primary research question that the research sought to address. Other questions sought to establish the frequency of visit to SU. Qualitative and quantitative research methods were used. A total of 50 questionnaires were administered but only 35 were useable. The data collected was analysed through qualitative means and the results used to draw recommendations for SU.
Design and ethics
Qualitative research and quantitative research methodologies exhibit some differences in terms of analytical objectives, the types of data they generate, the forms of questions they pose as well as the degree of flexibility that is built into the study design (Somekh & Lewin, 2005). The characteristics of the two methodologies are as described below:
Quantitative research methodology
Quantitative research seeks to confirm the hypotheses concerning a phenomenon under study. Therefore, it uses highly-structured methods such as observations, surveys and the use of questionnaires to collect data. In terms of analytical objectives, it uses numerical data to quantify variations. Numerical values are assigned to the response. The nature of questions asked is close-ended implying that study design is dependent on statistical conditions and assumptions (Vogt et al., 2012).
Qualitative Research Methodology
It seeks to explore the phenomenon by using semi-structured methods of data collection like direct observations, participations, focus groups and in-depth interviews. Unlike quantitative research, it describes variations, individual relationships and experiences in relation to the topic under study (Gebremedhin, & Tweeten, 2014). The nature of questions asked is open-ended and the study design is uses research questions and data collection are adjusted according to learning outcome. In our research, quantitative and qualitative research methodologies ware used to analyse the number of students using social media platforms as well as the amount of time they spent on social media respectively.
Like any other scientific research, there are ethical guidelines that must be adhered to when carrying out a social science research. These are;
Respect for persons/participants- this requires the researcher to uphold the autonomy of those involved in research in order to protect the research participants from their vulnerabilities. Respecting the dignity of people is very important to this principle. Adherence to this ethical guideline implies that he researcher should not simply use people as a way of achieving the objectives of his research (Marshall, 2007). To achieve this ethical principle, we began by educating the participants on the need for our research and how they would benefit from it. Moreover, we asked them to feel free to respond to the questions they would be asked without being forced. Is means that they were at liberty to give a response or decline to do so.
Justice- this requires one to ensure fair and equal distribution of benefits and risks that resulted from the research. Those who were engaged in the research process should at least share in the benefit knowledge and experience gained (Marshall, 2007).After completion of the research process, we identified that the research participants were eager to share on the benefits acquired from the research. We also realized that the issue could be unethical if we didn’t distribute the benefit to them. Therefore, we ensured that the result of the study was used to improve the social and academic welfare of the students who participated in the research. The information would be used also to make necessary adjustments in the curricula of tertiary institutions of learning in regard to students’ use of social media to improve performance.
Beneficence- this means being committed to reducing the social and psychological risks that comes with the research and making good use of the benefits resulting from the research for the benefit of the research participants (Marshall, 2007).
Sampling strategies and participants
When carrying out social research, collecting data from everybody in a community is not necessary in order to obtain valid results. Qualitative research uses sample of a population as a representation of the whole population being studied. The number of people to be selected depends on their characteristics and the objectives of the research objectives Babbie, 2010). There are three major sampling strategies that are used in social research. These are:
Purposive sampling- it is the most common form of sampling strategy where by the participants are grouped according to a pre-determined criteria. The sample size in purposive sampling is determined basing on theoretical saturations. This is the point in which collection of new data does not cause any new insights to the questions under research. Therefore, the success of this type of strategy can be achieved if the review and analysis of data is done in combination with data collection.
Quota sampling- It is almost similar to purposive sampling. The difference is that the number of people and their characteristics is decided when deciding the study. Some of the characteristics considered include: gender, place of residence, age, profession and class and they allow the researchers to focus on specific population with the stated characteristics (Marshall, 2007).
Snowball sampling- This strategy utilizes the referrals to connect with potential people who can form part of the study. The researcher gets connected to the potential participants through social networks of the participants whose contact has initially been established (Marshall, 2007). This method is commonly used to recruit populations from groups that are not accessible at ease.
Basically, there are two forms of sampling strategies, non-probability and probability sampling strategies. Non-probability sampling is based on the researcher’s judgement. The researcher deliberately selects the items for the sample. This type of sampling is subject to bias because the researcher may choose a sample that may produce results that favour his point of view. Examples of non-probability sampling include; judgement sampling and quota sampling. On the other hand, probability sampling is a form of strategy where by individual items have an equal chance of being included in the sample. The selection of a sample is based on a mechanical process rather than deliberate process. It is also refereed to random sampling. Examples of random sampling techniques include; stratified sampling, cluster sampling and systematic sampling.
The research team worked together with the chief investigator, in consultation with the relevant authorities to create a plan for identifying and recruiting potential participants. Recruitment strategy was determined based on the characteristics of the population.
Data collection methods and materials
Questionnaire is a type of data collection technique. It uses structured questions to obtain information from the population sample. The nature of questions asked in the questionnaires can be either open-ended or closed-ended. Open-ended questions are relatively direct and the response is either a “Yes” or “No”. On the other hand, closed-ended questions are relatively trickier as they require the respondent to give more details to his or her response in order to elaborate it. The main aim of data collection was to carry out a group research that explored how social media affected University students. In our research, we used anonymous questionnaires to collect data. We administered 50 questionnaires. However, only 35 of them were usable (N=35). The survey involved 18 males (n=18) and 17 females (n=17). 45% of the participants were undergraduates and 55% were graduate students presently pursuing different courses at BSU 21% of the participants work on part-time basis while 19% work full-time. 60% were unemployed. The information above was generated based on the questions that were asked regarding gender, level of education and employment statuses.
Other questions in the questionnaire concerned the students’ lives at SU and the frequency with which they visited the Newton Park premise. For example, “How often do you visit the Newton Park?” “Are the food prices affordable in Newton Park?”
Every questionnaire also had two general questions at the end. The open questions aimed at getting the advantages and disadvantages of use of using the new premise by university students. For example, “What is greatest and advantage and disadvantage of the premise to the university students?”
Two forms of qualitative methods were used to collect data. These are; in-depth interviews and focus groups qualitative research methods. The choice of the two methods was guided by the fact that in-depth interviews are essential in collecting data that is largely based on individual perspectives and experiences. Focus groups are useful in collecting information concerning cultural norms of groups hence, helping in formulating broad perspectives of particular issues.
The team solicited the participants for focus groups through email list serves that focused on issues concerning the use Newton Park by SU students. The criterion for screening the focus group participants was basically on the level of education.
4. Data analysis
Measure of association is a combination of coefficients that measure the degree of statistical strength on the relationships among variables of a particular interest. Depending on the analysis, the measure of association can be described in different ways. The assumptions made on the measure of significance include:
It assumes continuous and categorical type of level of data. It assumes either asymmetrical or symmetrical types of causal directions. The measure of association that determines the relationships in relation to strict monotonicity, will achieve single values provided that they are from the same marginal distribution (Healey, 2009). The columns and rows are ignored if they have null values.
Bi-variate analysis tests the hypotheses of association and those of causality. It is basically analysis of the relationship between two variables. The analysis is done through tabulation of the variables in a two way format referred to crosstab in SPSS (Lindeman et al., 2009). The process of recording variables are takes two steps , determining the values that are to be put into each category and then manipulating them in SPSS.
The basic meaning of statistics is the science or practice that involves collection and analysis of numerical figures in large quantities (Chow, 2006). The analysis is meant for inferences of proportions from representative sample. It also refers to a discipline that is concerned with describing scientific experiments, data collection, analysis and summary of information in order to draw a useful conclusion that can be used for predicting or estimating the future. Statistics uses probability, a concept that is based on mathematical modelling of chance, to make future predictions.
In the present world, statistics has become a very significant tool to many academic fields such as psychology, engineering, sociology and medicine. Due to the increased use of statistics in business, society and government, it has become necessary to understand them and put into use the concept of statistical thinking.
Statistical significance is a concept in statistics that is used in statistical testing of hypothesis. In any experiment that involves sampling, an observed effect is as a result of the sampling error. Given that the null hypothesis is true, the probability of observing an effect is dented as p-value. Statistical significance is achieved when the p-value is lower than the level of significance. Significance level is normally determined before data collection process begins. It is normally set to 5% (0.05). However, other significance can be used depending on the area or field of study. If the p-value is lower than the significance, a researcher may conclude that the effect observed is actually a reflection of the characteristics of the population. For example, if p=0.02<0.05, then it can be inferred that the results achieved a statistical significance.
From the data collected, from the questionnaires, majority of SU students would prefer to visit the Newton Park premise if there a social benefit attached to it. While 77% of the students interviewed would not prefer attending a poetry concert, 90% of students showed their intention of visiting and the new premise frequently if entertainment and recreational facilities were provided o them. 36% of them were interested in the type of food available in SU. They also expressed their interest to increase their visits if more food varieties were provided in the premise. 85% of them said they would visit the place if food prices were going to be set lower to make them affordable to them.
Conclusion and Recommendations
Our research showed that BSU students were likely to respond positively if changes were made on the services and facilities at the new premise at SU. The premise is a good place that will attract more footfalls and act as an avenue for interaction and relaxing.
I strongly recommend that SU should come up with policies and programs that govern access to the new premise. It should consider creating more attractive facilities in the newly built Newton Park. Since it is situated at a strategic position, SU should consider opening more facilities like banking halls, more restaurants and any other facility that would pull people to the facility.
There are limitations associated with qualitative research methods. To begin with, the study used a sample of the overall population. The sample may not have been represented with adequately in terms of ethnic and racial factors. Also the validity of information cannot be established since it relies heavily on the accuracy of the respondents. This implies that the outcome of the research process depends on the judgement of the respondents. Therefore, the information is subject to bias. The accuracy of response in given in the questionnaires determines the accuracy and usefulness of the final results as well as the degree in which the research findings addresses the research questions. In terms of reliability, qualitative research method cannot be relied on entirely as it is subjected to manipulation and replication. This is because it is highly dependent on secondary sources to obtain data. Third parties can change the meaning of information to suit their objectives making the findings irrelevant.
In some sampling strategies like the quota sampling, the researcher has to make decisions concerning the type of people to be involved as participants and their characteristics. This means that the research process cannot commence until the researcher finds the people who meets his criteria, or the prescribed quotas. It also makes difficult to assess participants with the desired characteristics needed for study. In random sampling it is often difficult to find sample elements with the same uniformity. This causes biasness of information and difficulties in analysing it due to variations.
A total of 50 questionnaires were administered but only 35 of them were used. This means that the results obtained may not give a true picture of the actual situation for the entire population. Also, the psychological state of the students was not considered by the study. That is, the influences and motivation for visiting SU. Lastly, the time for collecting data was not enough thereby causing a rush in data collection process.
Self-evaluation of your contribution to the project
Group meeting attendance was quite good. Members showed their concern, cooperation and respect to each other by engaging actively and positively. Despite the challenges encountered during the research process, members were persistent throughout. This was a show of moral support that was required to undertake the research process successfully. As part of the team, I contributed greatly to the success of the research study by facilitating the process of data collecting in the field. I liaised with the relevant authorities to seek permission for the team to conduct the research study in their premises. The workload was distributed equally among team members. No one was overburdened since responsibilities assigned to every member. This even made the entire process smooth and saved more time. Everyone was satisfied with the responsibilities assigned to them. I would like to recommend the team for their solidarity in the way they performed their responsibilities. It was encouraging to see members who completed their responsibilities earlier helping few members complete theirs.
Being a quick learner and very inquisitive are my core strengths. Moreover, my ability to interact with people makes it easy for me to collect data from different types of population in the field. Having participated in this research process, I have gained an insight and knowledge of what is expected of me even as I prepare to write my dissertation in the future. The process has helped me learn the significance of social scientific research. The techniques of formulating research questions, data collection and analysis of findings will be of great help to my future studies.
However, there is need is need to improve on some key areas of research as shown in the plan below.
Action Plan X
To master the basic steps of formulating a comprehensive research topic and hypotheses, data collection and analysis.
Steps to achieve the goal
1 week duration
Healey, J. F. (2009). The essentials of statistics: a tool for social research. Australia, Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.
Babbie, E. R. (2010). The practice of social research. Belmont, Calif, Wadsworth Cengage.
Marshall, P. L. (2007). Ethical challenges in study design and informed consent for health research in resource-poor settings. Geneva, Switzerland, World Health Organization.
Vogt, W. P., Gardner, D. C., & Haeffele, L. M. (2012). When to use what research design. New York, Guilford Press.
Somekh, B., & Lewin, C. (2005). Research methods in the social sciences. London, SAGE Publications.
Gebremedhin, T. G., & Tweeten, L. G. (2014). Research methods and communication in the social sciences. Westport, Conn. u.a, Praeger.
Chow, S. L. (2006). Statistical significance: rationale, validity and utility. London, Sage.
Lindeman, H., Merenda, F., & Gold, Z. (2009). Introduction to bivariate and multivariate analysis. Glenview, Ill, Scott, Foresman.
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