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Flashcards in Research Methods Deck (85):

Three purposes of research

Explanatory: experiments, hypothesis testing.
Exploratory: to investigate new area
Descriptive: Describe the situation


Types of survey instrument

Questionnaires. Structured interviews


Informed consent

accurately informing your subject as to the nature of the research, information on questionnaire, covering letter or interview consent form, written consent to participate or verbal consent.


Implied consent

Inform subject about research, implied consent given by return of form, e.g. short postal questionnaire



All data treated as confidential, no information published will identify persons or organisations without their permission. Code umber included in right top corner of questionnaire



Not the same as confidentiality, can only be promised in some circumstances, no code numbers, no method of sending reminders.


A good response rate



Response rate =

(number completed/ number in sample) x 100


Closed questions

Easier to analyse, good if questionnaire is long, better if motivation is low, quick and easy to answer, creates false options.bias if not all options included, good design is vital, loss of spontaneity


Open questions

Elicit a wide variety of responses, good for exploring, does not superimpose answers/expectations, difficult to summarise/analyse, response must be reported accurately, unpopular if used a lost in a postal questionnaire.


Avoid in questions

jargon/abbreviations, vague terms, leading questions, double-barrelled, double negative, presumptions, complex questions, boring questions, filter questions, social desirability effects, other peoples' influence.


Include in questions

Common concepts, simple and short questions


Likert scale

A 5 point scale, sometimes 3 point. Scales with no mid-point do not allow respondents to be noncommittal, can lead to missing responses. Mid point = neither agree nor disagree


Semantic differential

pair of opposite statements


Visual scales

e.g. put a cross on line which corresponds with your pain (usually 10 cm)


Postal questionnaire design

Instructions, double sided (ensure that it is not cramped), good use of white space, avoid all capital letter, return date and address at the end, thank you at the end.


Interview design

Instructions, single sided helps interviewer keep rapport


General questionnaire design

Indicate whether it's confidential/anonymous, sections, number all questions, demographic info at the end, avoid small type face, limited number of type faces, don't split question across pages, boxes or lines for open questions.


Increases response rate of postal questionnaires

Advance warning, letter of introduction, address envelope to respondent, incentive, stress confidentiality, make questionnaire look pleasant, do not make it longer than 8 sides, link questions and sections, include and return envelope and postage, contact phone number for queries, put a return date so that reminders can be sent.


Questionnaire covering letters

Aim of the questionnaire, stress confidentiality/anonymity, convey importance of study, encourage recipients to reply, signed by researchers and job titles, if sponsored mention this, used personalised approach, explain how and why sample was generated, reply by date included (2/3 weeks), no more than one side of A4


Questions to consider at pilot

How long did it take to complete, instructions clear, questions ambiguous, questions objectionable, layout clear and easy to follow, any topics omitted?


Quantitative research methods

self-administered questionnaire, structures or semi structures interviews, structures observation (non-participant)


Self administered questionnaire

A collection of questions administered and answered by respondents without the aid of an interviewer. E.g. postal questionnaire, e-mail surveys, web surveys, researcher handing out surveys to a class and collecting them and the end.


Advantages of self administered questionnaires

Low cost of data collection and processing, quick to administer, absence of interviewer bias, access to respondents who live at widely dispersed addresses or abroad, contact people who are rarely at home, convenient for respondents, used to screen a population for subsection who can then be interviewed.


Disadvantages of self administered questionnaire

need accurate and up to date list of population, low response rates, unsuitable for some respondents e.g. poor literacy, visually impaired, children. Cannot correct misunderstanding, no control over order of questions answered, do not know who answers questionnaire, cannot collect additional data, e.g. observation. greater risk of missing data, rely on respondent to complete questionnaire aided only by written instruction and covering letter


Structured interview

A research interview in which all respondents are asked exactly the same questions in the same order with the aid of a formal interview schedule.


Semi-structured interview

The researched has a series of general questions that are in the form of an interview guide but is able to vary the sequence on the questions. The interveiwer usually has some latitude to ask further questions in response to what are seen as significant replies.


Advantages of interviews

Used for samples where there are no complete sits, interview schedules can be longer and more complete, obtain more detailed information, good response rates, used for people who are not literate, use prompts to explain what question means, interviewer has control over question order, useful for sensitive subjects, face to face allows collection of observational data.


Disadvantages of interviews

Expensive, difficult to use with diffuse samples, interviewer bias, acquiescence, social desirability, evaluation apprehension, respondents cannot consult records.


Interviewer bias

Where the interviewer influences the responses given, e.g. by how they are dressed or respond to comments



say yes to everything irrespective of what is asked


social desirability

interviewee gives the socially acceptable answer rather than their own opinion


Evaluation apprehension

interviewee alters their views, beliefs or opinions because they want to give you what they think you need.


Structured observation

A technique in which the research employs explicitly formulated rules for the observation and recording of behaviour. These rules are articulated in an observation schedule.


Non-participant observation

The researcher observed but does not participate in the activities under investigation.


Advantages of structured/non participant observation

Allows the investigation of individuals' behaviour, identification, counting and characterising of events, more reliable and valid that self resorting.


Disadvantages of structured/non participant observation

Hawthorne effect


Hawthorne effect

people when the know they are being watched will alter their behaviour as a result of being observed. As an observation continues, the effect diminishes, the length of time does vary and depends on the type of observation.


Observation schedules

User friendly data collection form clearly indicating what events/behaviours are to be observed, identification, counting and characterising of event, what events/behaviours are to be recorded. Ensure categories of behaviour/events do not overlap. Ensure it is easy for record behaviour/events on observation schedule.


Qualitative research methods

unstructured/ethnographic interviews, focus groups, observation, free response replies to interviews, free response replies to questionnaires


Unstructured interviews

A guided conversation ether the interviewer has more power than the informant.


Advantages of unstructured interviews

Good for detailed information, people can expand on their opinion/behaviour, useful for sensitive subjects


Disadvantages of unstructured interviews

Bias, expensive and time consuming, hard to access subjects


Focus groups

A carefully planned series of discussions designed to obtain perceptions on a defines area of interest in a permissive, non-threatening environment.
Purpose is to understand how people feel or think about an issue, product or service. Involves 3-15 homogenic participants. Small groups: more details as everyone can contribute, discussion may dry up. Large groups: more interaction, group fragmentation and lack of contribution


Advantages of focus groups

Ideal for exploring factors that involve behaviour, natural social environment, quick results, cheaper than interviews, unanticipated themes may emerge.


Disadvantages of focus groups

Skilled moderator required, researched has less control, problems with group dynamics, groups are small so unrepresentative of general population, complex data.


Moderator of focus group

Welcomes participants to group, explains background to research, uses topic guide consisting of general open ended question to stimulate discussion. Uses specific questions once discussion develops. Group exercises to encourage interaction and explain views.


Assistant moderator of focus group

Takes care of recorders. Makes notes on the discussion and group dynamics.


Participants of focus group

Discuss their experiences and common on other's perspectives


Unstructured observation

Aim is to record in as much detail as possible the behaviour of participants with the aim of developing a narrative account of that behaviour.


Advantages of unstructured observation

Does not rely on reports by others


Disadvantages of unstructured observation

Not possible for large samples, Hawthorne effect, triangulate to determine observer effect, labour intensive


Validity of qualitative research

Inherently high. Reduced by preconceptions of researcher or external influences. Improve through triangulation (use different data collection techniques to collect the same data)


Reliability of qualitative research

Low. Data is context specific - may get different results every time you visit people.


Generalisabilty of quantitative data.

Low. Aim of data is to explore not generalise.


Quantitative data processing

Consists of coding data using a developed coding framework


Coding framework

A specification of codes for all variables (e.g. questions in a questionnaire) and values (i.e. potential responses to) these variables in the dataset.


Reason for numerical coding

Statistical databases use numerical codes to analyse data.


Coding a data collection form

a uniques code should be assigned to each respondent or case for identification.


Coding closed questions

Usually have a limited number of responses. Easily coded. Muse include code for missing data.
E.g. male = 1, female = 2, not completed = 99.


Coding multi-response questions

Some questions may require the respondent to provide more than one response. For these questions, each possible response may need to be coded as if a separate variable. E.g. 1a, b, c, d, e, f all need to be coded


Coding open questions

Respondents can answer these questions in any way they want, frame is based on the actual responses by listing different responses, grouping them and assigning codes to the identified groups.


Qualitative data analysis

Process where effort is used to identify themes and construct hypothesis from the data.


Process of qualitative data analysis

Organising noticing themes, common features with regard to a topic, marking segments of text to show data which cover the same topic and note when they are in original text, linking together text segments with common themes (=coding), de-contextualisation (taking text segments out of original context), re-contextualisation (putting data of a common topic together).\



A computer package for coding qualitative data


Manual method of coding qualitative data

Cut up and put into a folder method



The attempt to derive generalisable new knowledge by addressing clearly defined questions with systematic and rigorous methods.


Quantitative research

hypothesis testing, e.g. evaluating/comparing interventions


Qualitative research

Identidies/explores themes



Quality improvement process that seeks to improve patient care and outcomes through systematic review of care against explicit criteria and the implementation of change.


Service Evaluation

A set of procedures to judge a pilot's merit by providing a systematic assessment of its aims, objectives, outputs, outcomes and costs.
Mesures current service without reference to a standard. Does NOT require REC review


Experimental research design

Treatment vs placebo


cross-sectional research design

data collected from sample o a single occasion


Longitudinal research design

Data collected from a sample on more than one occasion


Case study research design

Detailes and extensive analysis of a case


Comparative research design

Comparison of two or more cases


Primary research

Researcher collects their own data


Secondary research

Analyse data obtained by someone else


Quantitative sampling

Sample size calculations. Random sample - each person has an equal chance of being chosen.


Qualitative sampling

No sample size calculation.
Convenience - ask people because they are easily accessible/ you know them
Purposive - you select a group of peoples on purpose because they have a particular characteristic of interest.
Snowball - recruiting individuals and asking them if they know anyone else who would like to participate, and repeat.



Get the same result every time



Is the group being studied typical of others in the same situation


Internal Validity

Does you data collection measure what it is intended to measure?


External validity

Are the research findings generalisable to the wider population of interest?



Using different researchers, types of data and research methods to test the same findings.