When conducting research, collecting original data has significant advantages:
However, there are also some drawbacks: data collection can be time-consuming, labor-intensive and expensive. In some cases, it’s more efficient to use secondary data that has already been collected by someone else, but the data might be less reliable.
An experimental group, also known as a treatment group, receives the treatment whose effect researchers wish to study, whereas a control group does not. They should be identical in all other ways.
Individual Likert-type questions are generally considered ordinal data, because the items have clear rank order, but don’t have an even distribution.
Overall Likert scale scores are sometimes treated as interval data. These scores are considered to have directionality and even spacing between them.
The type of data determines what statistical tests you should use to analyze your data.
A Likert scale is a rating scale that quantitatively assesses opinions, attitudes, or behaviors. It is made up of 4 or more questions that measure a single attitude or trait when response scores are combined.
To use a Likert scale in a survey, you present participants with Likert-type questions or statements, and a continuum of items, usually with 5 or 7 possible responses, to capture their degree of agreement.
In scientific research, concepts are the abstract ideas or phenomena that are being studied (e.g., educational achievement). Variables are properties or characteristics of the concept (e.g., performance at school), while indicators are ways of measuring or quantifying variables (e.g., yearly grade reports).
The process of turning abstract concepts into measurable variables and indicators is called operationalization.
There are various approaches to qualitative data analysis, but they all share five steps in common:
There are five common approaches to qualitative research:
Operationalization means turning abstract conceptual ideas into measurable observations.
For example, the concept of social anxiety isn’t directly observable, but it can be operationally defined in terms of self-rating scores, behavioral avoidance of crowded places, or physical anxiety symptoms in social situations.
Without a control group, you can’t know whether it was the treatment or some other variable that caused the outcome of the experiment. By including a control group, you can eliminate the possible impact of all other variables.
Data collection is the systematic process by which observations or measurements are gathered in research. It is used in many different contexts by academics, governments, businesses, and other organizations.
There are several methods you can use to decrease the impact of confounding variables on your research: restriction, matching, statistical control and randomization.
In restriction, you restrict your sample by only including certain subjects that have the same values of potential confounding variables.
In matching, you match each of the subjects in your treatment group with a counterpart in the comparison group. The matched subjects have the same values on any potential confounding variables, and only differ in the independent variable.
In statistical control, you include potential confounders as variables in your regression.
In randomization, you randomly assign the treatment (or independent variable) in your study to a sufficiently large number of subjects, which allows you to control for all potential confounding variables.
A confounding variable is closely related to both the independent and dependent variables in a study. An independent variable represents the suppose cause, while the dependent variable is the supposed effect. A confounding variable is a third variable that influences both the independent and dependent variables.
Failing to account for confounding variables can cause you to wrongly estimate the relationship between your independent and dependent variables.
Yes, but including more than one of either type requires multiple research questions.
For example, if you are interested in the effect of a diet on health, you can use multiple measures of health: blood sugar, blood pressure, weight, pulse, and many more. Each of these is its own dependent variable with its own research question.
You could also choose to look at the effect of exercise levels as well as diet, or even the additional effect of the two combined. Each of these is a separate independent variable.
No. The value of a dependent variable depends on an independent variable, so a variable cannot be both independent and dependent at the same time. It must be either the cause or the effect, not both!
You want to find out how blood sugar levels are affected by drinking diet soda and regular soda, so you conduct an experiment.
If properly implemented, simple random sampling is usually the best sampling method for ensuring both internal and external validity. However, it can sometimes be impractical and expensive to implement, depending on the size of the population to be studied,
If you have a list of every member of the population and the ability to reach whichever members are selected, you can use simple random sampling.
There are three key steps in systematic sampling:
Yes, you can create a stratified sample using multiple characteristics, but you must ensure that every participant in your study belongs to one and only one subgroup. In this case, you multiply the numbers of subgroups for each characteristic to get the total number of groups.
For example, if you were stratifying by location with three subgroups (urban, rural, or suburban) and marital status with five subgroups (single, divorced, widowed, married, or partnered), you would have 3 x 5 = 15 subgroups.
You should use stratified sampling when your sample can be divided into mutually exclusive and exhaustive subgroups that you believe will take on different mean values for the variable that you’re studying.
Using stratified sampling will allow you to obtain more precise (with lower variance) statistical estimates of whatever you are trying to measure.
For example, say you want to investigate how income differs based on educational attainment, but you know that this relationship can vary based on race. Using stratified sampling, you can ensure you obtain a large enough sample from each racial group, allowing you to draw more precise conclusions.
There are three types of cluster sampling: single-stage, double-stage and multi-stage clustering. In all three types, you first divide the population into clusters, then randomly select clusters for use in your sample.
Determining cause and effect is one of the most important parts of scientific research. It’s essential to know which is the cause – the independent variable – and which is the effect – the dependent variable.
Blinding is important to reduce bias and ensure a study’s internal validity.
If participants know whether they are in a control or treatment group, they may adjust their behavior in ways that affect the outcome that researchers are trying to measure. If the people administering the treatment are aware of group assignment, they may treat participants differently and thus directly or indirectly influence the final results.
Discrete and continuous variables are two types of quantitative variables:
Longitudinal studies are better to establish the correct sequence of events, identify changes over time, and provide insight into cause-and-effect relationships, but they also tend to be more expensive and time-consuming than other types of studies.
Longitudinal studies and cross-sectional studies are two different types of research design. In a cross-sectional study you collect data from a population at a specific point in time; in a longitudinal study you repeatedly collect data from the same sample over an extended period of time.
|Longitudinal study||Cross-sectional study|
|Repeated observations||Observations at a single point in time|
|Observes the same group multiple times||Observes different groups (a “cross-section”) in the population|
|Follows changes in participants over time||Provides snapshot of society at a given point|
There are eight threats to internal validity: history, maturation, instrumentation, testing, selection bias, regression to the mean, social interaction and attrition.
Internal validity is the extent to which you can be confident that a cause-and-effect relationship established in a study cannot be explained by other factors.
A confounding variable is related to both the supposed cause and the supposed effect of the study. It can be difficult to separate the true effect of the independent variable from the effect of the confounding variable.
In your research design, it’s important to identify potential confounding variables and plan how you will reduce their impact.
Longitudinal studies can last anywhere from weeks to decades, although they tend to be at least a year long.
Quantitative variables are any variables where the data represent amounts (e.g. height, weight, or age).
Categorical variables are any variables where the data represent groups. This includes rankings (e.g. finishing places in a race), classifications (e.g. brands of cereal), and binary outcomes (e.g. coin flips).
In an experiment, you manipulate the independent variable and measure the outcome in the dependent variable. For example, in an experiment about the effect of nutrients on crop growth:
Defining your variables, and deciding how you will manipulate and measure them, is an important part of experimental design.
Experimental design means planning a set of procedures to investigate a relationship between variables. To design a controlled experiment, you need:
When designing the experiment, you decide:
Experimental design is essential to the internal and external validity of your experiment.
External validity is the extent to which your results can be generalized to other contexts.
The validity of your experiment depends on your experimental design.
Reliability and validity are both about how well a method measures something:
If you are doing experimental research, you also have to consider the internal and external validity of your experiment.
A sample is a subset of individuals from a larger population. Sampling means selecting the group that you will actually collect data from in your research. For example, if you are researching the opinions of students in your university, you could survey a sample of 100 students.
In statistics, sampling allows you to test a hypothesis about the characteristics of a population.
Methodology refers to the overarching strategy and rationale of your research project. It involves studying the methods used in your field and the theories or principles behind them, in order to develop an approach that matches your objectives.
In shorter scientific papers, where the aim is to report the findings of a specific study, you might simply describe what you did in a methods section.
In a longer or more complex research project, such as a thesis or dissertation, you will probably include a methodology section, where you explain your approach to answering the research questions and cite relevant sources to support your choice of methods.
Cross-sectional studies are less expensive and time-consuming than many other types of study. They can provide useful insights into a population’s characteristics and identify correlations for further research.
Sometimes only cross-sectional data is available for analysis; other times your research question may only require a cross-sectional study to answer it.
The external validity of a study is the extent to which you can generalize your findings to different groups of people, situations, and measures.
The two types of external validity are population validity (whether you can generalize to other groups of people) and ecological validity (whether you can generalize to other situations and settings).
There are seven threats to external validity: selection bias, history, experimenter effect, Hawthorne effect, testing effect, aptitude-treatment and situation effect.
Samples are used to make inferences about populations. Samples are easier to collect data from because they are practical, cost-effective, convenient and manageable.
A statistic refers to measures about the sample, while a parameter refers to measures about the population.
A sampling error is the difference between a population parameter and a sample statistic.
Sampling bias is a threat to external validity – it limits the generalizability of your findings to a broader group of people.
Some common types of sampling bias include self-selection, non-response, undercoverage, survivorship, pre-screening or advertising, and healthy user bias.
In non-probability sampling, the sample is selected based on non-random criteria, and not every member of the population has a chance of being included.
Common non-probability sampling methods include convenience sampling, voluntary response sampling, purposive sampling, snowball sampling, and quota sampling.
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