Research Methods in Applied Settings
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Research Methods in Applied Settings

An Integrated Approach to Design and Analysis, Third Edition

Jeffrey A. Gliner, George A. Morgan, Nancy L. Leech

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eBook - ePub

Research Methods in Applied Settings

An Integrated Approach to Design and Analysis, Third Edition

Jeffrey A. Gliner, George A. Morgan, Nancy L. Leech

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About This Book

This text teaches readers how to plan, conduct, and write a research project and select and interpret data through its integrated approach to quantitative research methods. Although not a statistics book, students learn to master which technique to use when and how to analyze and interpret results, making them better consumers of research. Organized around the steps of conducting a research project, this book is ideal for those who need to analyze journal articles. With teaching experience in various departments, the authors know how to address the research problems faced by behavioral and social sciences students. Independent sections and chapters can be read in any order allowing for flexibility in assigning topics.

Adopters applaud the book's clarity and applied interdependent approach to research. The book emphasizes five research approaches: randomized experimental, quasi-experimental, comparative, associational, and descriptive. These five approaches lead to three kinds of research designs which lead to three groups of statistics with the same names. This consistent framework increases comprehension while avoiding confusion caused by inconsistent terminology. Numerous examples, diagrams, tables, key terms, key distinctions, summaries, applied problems, interpretation questions, and suggested readings further promote understanding.

This extensively revised edition features:

  • More examples from published research articles to help readers better understand the research process.

  • New Research in the Real World boxes that highlight actual research projects from various disciplines.

  • Defined key terms in the margins and interpretation questions that help readers review the material.

  • More detailed explanations of key concepts including reliability, validity, estimation, ethical and bias concerns, data security and assumptions, power analysis, and multiple and logistic regression.

  • New sections on mediation and moderation analysis to address the latest techniques.

  • More coverage of quasi-experimental design and qualitative research to reflect changing practices.

  • A new appendix on how to write about results using APA guidelines to help new researchers.

  • Online resources available at that provide instructors with PowerPoints, test questions, critical thinking exercises, a conversion guide, and answers to all of the book's problems and questions. Students will find learning objectives, annotated links to further readings and key concepts, and key terms with links to definitions.

Intended for graduate research methods or design or quantitative/experimental research methods courses in psychology, education, human development, family studies, and other behavioral, social, and health sciences, some exposure to statistics and research methods is recommended.

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Part I
Introductory Chapters

Definitions, Purposes, and Dimensions of Research

In this chapter, we discuss definitions and several purposes of research. Then, we describe important dichotomies or dimensions along which research studies vary. Next, we provide an overview of our general framework for describing types of quantitative research that we call approaches. Finally, we briefly describe five studies that serve as examples for each of the five research approaches. The sample studies will be used in this and several later chapters to illustrate research concepts and how to evaluate research.

Definitions of Research

What is research? Many definitions have been given. Two examples are (1) a systematic method of gaining new information and (2) a persistent effort to think straight. The definition utilized by government agencies for the purpose of federal regulation and the protection of human participants is the systematic collection of data that develops or contributes to generalizable knowledge. Such data are intended to be published, are part of a thesis or dissertation, are presented to the public, or are developed for others to build on. (The ethical and practical issues of the review of human research are discussed in Chapters 14 and 15.)
Disciplined method of gaining new information, building knowledge, or answering questions; also called disciplined inquiry; implies a systematic investigation with underlying guidelines regardless of the particular research paradigm.
Knowledge (producing)
Research which builds on or adds to the knowledge-base of the profession.
Smith (1981), in an old but still useful definition, suggests that the term research be equated to disciplined inquiry, which
must be conducted and reported so that its logical argument can be carefully examined; it does not depend on surface plausibility or the eloquence, status, or authority of its author; error is avoided; evidential test and verification are valued; the dispassionate search for truth is valued over ideology. Every piece of research or evaluation, whether naturalistic, experimental, survey, or historical must meet these standards to be considered disciplined. (p. 585)
Disciplined inquiry
See Research.
Smith’s definition of disciplined inquiry is worth considering in some detail. The term inquiry implies a systematic investigation, which is certainly a part of any definition of research. Regardless of the particular research paradigm to which the investigator adheres, there must be underlying guidelines for how the research is to be carried out. The focus of this book is on quantitative methods, so most of our discussion will be about that research strategy.
A systematic investigation by seeking information and/or knowledge.
Notice that Smith’s (1981) definition of disciplined inquiry states that the research must be conducted and reported so it can be carefully examined. The conducted part of the definition implies that the research must be carried out. Designing research serves no useful purpose if it is not actually performed. Also, the research must be reported—that is, published in a journal or at least delivered as a talk at a professional meeting. This dissemination function is important if the research is to be examined by others in some detail. Unless the research is conducted and reported, it cannot be evaluated or replicated to determine whether, given similar circumstances, others would come to the same conclusion as the investigators.
Finally, this definition refers to the fact that the research must stand on its own merit. It should not matter who performed the research, how eloquently it might be described, or even the nature of the problem. If the research has been carried out systematically, following guidelines within a particular research paradigm, and disseminated within a particular discipline, then that research could be tested or verified by others. While there have been numerous attempts to define research, we feel that this definition includes the key elements of the concept.

Purposes of Research

Why do we do research? What is it that we want to find out? Some questions from education that have been addressed with research studies are as follows:
  • Does class size affect student outcomes?
  • Is cooperative learning more successful than individualized learning?
  • Do students with special needs do better if mainstreamed into the school system?
Some questions that need to be addressed in allied health fields are as follows:
  • Does a particular treatment work?
  • Are certain characteristics of therapists more effective than others?
  • Is supported employment more successful for community integration than sheltered work?
There are many purposes for carrying out research. The rationale for learning about research will be divided into two general purposes: (1) increasing the knowledge base of the discipline; and (2) increasing your self-knowledge as a professional consumer of research to understand new developments within the discipline.

Increasing the Knowledge Base of the Discipline

This purpose of research, discovery of new knowledge, can take many directions; three of them are discussed here.

Theory Development

Research can support the theoretical basis of the discipline. A theory presents interrelated concepts, definitions, and propositions that provide a systematic view of phenomena and identify relationships among variables. For example, purposeful activity is a construct within the theory of occupation in the field of occupational therapy. The theory states that if the activity is “purposeful,” the individual performing the activity will be more invested in the activity and perform better. Studies to test this theory might use the following research design. Two groups are formed through random assignment, which means that a table of random numbers, or perhaps a coin toss, is used to assign each participant to either the experimental or comparison group. One group (comparison group) receives a condition of exercise (e.g., jumping in place). The other group (experimental group) also jumps in place, but this is done with a jump rope and the goal or purpose of doing it well. At the end of some given time period, the two groups are measured on performance, satisfaction, or motivation. If, as the theory predicted, the exercise-with-purpose condition was better than the exercise-without-purpose condition, the result would provide some support for the theory.
Theory development
One purpose of research, to support the theoretical basis of the discipline.
A statement or group of statements that explains and predicts relationships among phenomena; a set of interrelated concepts, definitions, and postulations that present a systematic view of phenomena by specifying relations among variables.
Random assignment
A random table of numbers (or other similarly random process) is used to assign each participant to a group.

Practical Application

A second approach to increasing knowledge within the discipline involves providing evidence for the efficacy of a curriculum, a therapeutic technique, or administrative change when there may not be a theory that would predict the results. For example, one could compare the effectiveness of two approaches to teaching students. After randomly assigning students to one of two curriculums, both groups are assessed on several outcome measures such as achievement tests. This type of study is typically used to test the effectiveness of different therapeutic or curricular interventions. Notice that the design of this study and the prior one are similar, but the purposes are somewhat different.

Development of Research Tools

A third approach to increasing knowledge within the discipline involves creating methods to assess behaviors. For example, researchers could develop a new standardized testing procedure and set of tasks to assess mastery motivation in young children. The procedure could be designed to be useful for typically developing children and also for children who are at risk for developmental problems. To compare children with different ability levels, an individualized approach to measuring mastery motivation could be developed. This approach could vary the difficulty of the task in accordance with the child’s ability level so that each child is given tasks that are moderately difficult. Each child’s motivation is assessed with tasks, from several graded sets of similar tasks that are found to be challenging but not too difficult or too easy. Evidence for the validity or usefulness of these mastery task measures could be confirmed in several ways. For example, groups of children (e.g., those who are at risk) who had been predicted to score lower on mastery motivation measures could be compared with a group of typically developing children.

Increasing Your Self-Knowledge as a Professional

For most students and professionals, the ability to understand and evaluate research in one’s discipline may be more important than personally making a research contribution to the profession. Dissemination of new knowledge occurs for the professional through an exceptionally large number of journals, workshops, and continuing education courses as well as popular literature such as daily newspapers. Today’s professional cannot simply rely on the statements of a workshop instructor or newspaper to determine what should or should not be included for future intervention in the classroom, clinic, or community. Even journal articles need to be scrutinized for weak designs, inappropriate data analyses, or incorrect interpretation of these analyses. The current professional must have the research and reasoning skills to be able to make sound decisions and to support them. In addition, research skills can make the professional in education or therapeutic sciences a better provider because she knows how to examine her own school, classroom, or clients and note whether improvement in various areas has occurred.
Because conducting research (making a contribution to the profession) and understanding the research of others are important, this book provides a framework and advice for doing both. Suggestions for designing a study, collecting data, analyzing data, and writing about the results are spread throughout the book. A framework for understanding and evaluating research is introduced later in this chapter and amplified in Chapters 2324.

Research Dichotomies

Now, we discuss briefly six contrasts or dichotomies that can be used to describe research: (1) theoretical versus applied; (2) laboratory versus field; (3) participant report versus researcher observation; (4) quantitative/ postpositivist versus qualitative/constructivist philosophical or theore...

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