Unit I RCH Methods Discussion Board

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Please make sure that it is your own work and not copy and paste. Please watch out for spelling errors and grammar errors. Please read the study guide and Use the APA 7 edition.

Book Reference: 

  • Prerequisites: ORI 7100: Doctoral Orientation, RCH 7301: Critical Thinking for Doctoral Learners, RCH 7302: Doctoral Writing and Inquiry Into Research
  • Textbook: Roberts, C., & Hyatt, L. (2019). The dissertation journey: A practical and comprehensive guide to planning, writing, and defending your dissertation (3rd ed.). Corwin. https://online.vitalsource.com/#/books/9781506373331

 

Part I: Introduce yourself to your classmates with your name, location, current employment, and future goals.

Part II: In one sentence, provide a specific business problem on which your dissertation is likely to be based. Describe your personal worldview. Also, using the study guide information and readings for this unit, identify the paradigm that most likely applies to your study. Explain how this paradigm fits or does not fit within your personal worldview.

BUS 8304, The Doctoral Research Study Journey 1

Course Learning Outcomes for Unit I

Upon completion of this unit, students should be able to:

1. Examine the components required to write a doctoral research study/dissertation.
1.1 Identify a research method and design that is appropriate to use in solving business problems.

5. Explain the role of the concept paper and proposal.

5.1 Examine the components of a concept paper/prospectus.
5.2 Categorize the components of a concept paper/prospectus using a business problem and

potential research methodology.

7. Explain how research results can influence business decisions.
7.1 Demonstrate how research results impact business decisions.

Course/Unit
Learning Outcomes

Learning Activity

1.1, 5.1, 5.2, 7.1

Unit Lesson
Chapter 2
Chapter 10
Unit I Topic Selection

Required Unit Resources

Chapter 2: What Exactly Is a Dissertation?

Chapter 10: Selecting and Describing the Methodology

Unit Lesson

Note: Please be aware that there will be an all-day instructional event held on the first Saturday of the course.
Attendance is crucial to build a foundation for successful completion of your doctoral study/dissertation. Also,
note that you will receive your chair assignment after successful completion of this course. This chair
assignment will allow time for early communication in order to build a successful mentor/mentee relationship.

Research Terminology

Research terminology can be confusing. Many students have been confused by the terminology and concepts
associated with research. Terms like method, methodology, and paradigm may be used to describe similar
concepts. Also, the components or elements of research can be confusing. There are several terms that are
commonly used in the research world, and it is essential that you can recognize and speak in research terms.
Also, note that most researchers or theorists will describe the theoretical underpinnings of research in similar
ways, even if the terminology is not exactly the same.

UNIT I STUDY GUIDE

Research Methods and Paradigms

BUS 8304, The Doctoral Research Study Journey 2

UNIT x STUDY GUIDE

Title

(Fantasista, n.d.)

For example, some researchers say that the four elements of any research process are epistemology,
theoretical perspective, methodology, and methods. Some may describe a hierarchy of research that includes
the research paradigm, methodology, method, technique, and instrument. Regardless of the exact
terminology, each of these elements connects with the next, and the concepts help build a framework for an
effective research project. To plan and execute an effective, rigorous research project, the researcher should
evaluate the theoretical foundation, purpose and procedures, validity issues, and strengths and weaknesses
of each methodology to determine how each of these concepts factor into the selection of an appropriate
methodology based on the research questions and goals.

Hint: It is also important to note that the confusing nature of research terminology is exactly why researchers
must use precise language so as not to be confusing.

Research Paradigm

A paradigm can be described as a model, example, or pattern for something. It can also be described as a set
of ideas for something. It is essential to understand the connection between the philosophical paradigms and
practical research concepts. Some theorists will say that the three major research paradigm associations are
interpretivist thinking with qualitative research, positivist thinking with quantitative research, and postpositivist
thinking with mixed methods research. Other theorists claim that positivism and postpositivism are associated
with quantitative research, constructivism with qualitative research, and pragmatism with mixed methods
research. The listed paradigms are generally, though not absolutely, associated with specific research
approaches. Also, consider that we all have our own worldview. A worldview can be described as your own
philosophy of life. You might also think of it as “a collection of attitudes, values, stories, and expectations
about the world around us, which inform our every thought and action” (Gray, 2011, para. 5).

Regardless, the research paradigms are worthy of closer examination, as are the elements of theoretical
stances that inform the research paradigms. Please review the table below to better understand the common
research assumptions associated with the research paradigms.

BUS 8304, The Doctoral Research Study Journey 3

UNIT x STUDY GUIDE

Title

Paradigm Methodology Designs Methods Meaning

Positivism Quantitative Experiment
Observation,
comparison

Scientific, hard
sciences

Postpositivism Quantitative
Correlational,
causal-comparative

Survey instrument
Causal
relationship, soft
sciences

Constructivism/
Interpretivism

Qualitative
Phenomenology,
Ethnography, case
study

Interviews, focus
groups, document
review, observation

Meaning is
constructed

Pragmatism Mixed methods Mix, action research Mix
Focus on the
outcomes

In Chapter 10 of the eTextbook, there is a great summary of the differences between the qualitative and
quantitative methodologies.

Possible Research Designs

There are many, many types of research designs, but only a few are used at Columbia Southern University
(CSU). The eTextbook mentions a few of them based on the methodology used.

Quantitative designs might include correlation, causal-comparative, and experimental designs. Which
paradigm is commonly associated with these designs? The positivist belief lends itself to those laws that can
be established scientifically, such as observation, experimentation, and comparison. In more current and
practical terms, positivism is closely linked with empirical research and is conducive to a unity of science.
Similarly, postpositivism developed from positivism and is still a logical scientific approach to research with a
cause-and-effect orientation and an emphasis on empirical data collection.

Consider a qualitative design, such as a case study or phenomenology. Intuitively, we might say that
qualitative designs are the opposite of quantitative designs. Many researchers use the terms interpretivism
and constructionism interchangeably when discussing qualitative research. Interpretivism involves interpreting
meaning from a phenomenon. In constructivism, meaning is constructed as the researcher engages with the
world. Researchers tend to associate an interpretivist paradigm for a phenomenological study and a
constructionist paradigm for a case study.

Very few doctoral student researchers use a mixed methods design for their research study. At CSU, we try to
steer students away from mixed methods research because they can take double the time to complete. Still, it
is helpful to note that pragmatism is generally, but not always, associated with mixed methods research. The
focus of pragmatism is on the problem or on the best way to answer research questions. In other words, the
focus of pragmatist researchers is on the outcome of the research. Mixed methods designs are commonly
used to create an outcome: for example, an implementation plan.

Strategy of Inquiry for Each Paradigm

A strategy of inquiry can be described as a specific direction for procedures in a research design. It can also
be simply described as your research strategy. In many cases, the strategy of inquiry would include the
paradigm or worldview, the methodology, the research design, and methods.

For example, a typical scenario that would illustrate a research strategy of inquiry as it contributes to a
quantitative methodology might include a postpositivist worldview, a correlational design, and a survey
instrument with closed-ended questions.

A typical scenario that would illustrate a research strategy of inquiry as it contributes to a qualitative
methodology might be a constructionist worldview, a multiple case study design, and data collection
techniques (e.g., interviews, document review).

A typical scenario that would illustrate a research strategy of inquiry as it contributes to a mixed methods
methodology might include a pragmatic worldview, a sequential design, and mixed methods data collection
methods of interviews and a survey instrument.

BUS 8304, The Doctoral Research Study Journey 4

UNIT x STUDY GUIDE

Title

Beyond the philosophical, there are other differences between qualitative and quantitative methodologies. For
example, qualitative research is considered to be subjective, while quantitative research is considered to be
objective. Qualitative research can be reasonably flexible, but quantitative research is rigid and controlled.
Please review the table below for a summary of differences between qualitative and quantitative
methodologies.

Type of Knowledge
Qualitative Research
Subjective

Quantitative Research
Objective

Aim • Exploratory, Observational • Generalizable, Testing

Characteristics

• Flexible

• Contextual

• Dynamic, Continuous View of
Change

• Fixed, Controlled

• Independent and Dependent
Variables

• Pre-/Post-Measurement of Change

Sampling • Purposeful • Random

Data Collection • Semi-Structured or Unstructured • Structured

Nature of Data
• Narratives, Quotations,

Descriptions

• Values Uniqueness, Particularity

• Numbers, Statistics

• Replication

Analysis • Thematic • Statistical

As you can see, developing a strategy of inquiry for a research study is not a simple task. Careful
consideration must be given to the methodology, design, and methods you will use to answer your research
question(s). Soon, you will be an expert in these concepts!

References

Gray, A. J. (2011, August). Worldviews. International Psychiatry, 8(3), 58–60. https://www-ncbi-nlm-nih-

gov.libraryresources.columbiasouthern.edu/pmc/articles/PMC6735033/

Fantasista. (n.d.). ID 23899445 [Graphic]. Dreamstime. https://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photo-

concept-scientific-research-image23899445

Suggested Unit Resources

Chapter 1 in your eTextbook offers insight into what you can expect during your dissertation journey.

Chapter 1: Do You Have What It Takes?

Learning Activities (Nongraded)

Nongraded Learning Activities are provided to aid students in their course of study. You do not have to submit
them. If you have questions, contact your instructor for further guidance and information.

Find two peer-reviewed journal articles in the CSU Online Library that are similar to a topic in which you are
interested. You can choose either a qualitative or quantitative article. Create a table in Microsoft Word that
compares the two articles. Comparison criteria might be the title, methodology, design, theoretical/conceptual
framework, data collection methods, data analysis methods, findings, and limitations.

chapter 2 What Exactly Is a Dissertation?

Any successful mountain climb, whether actual or metaphorical, requires knowledge of the terrain and the environment. The more knowledge, the better the chance of success. No mountaineer would begin a major ascent without a solid understanding of the unique nature of the mountain, its challenges, characteristics, and vagaries. So, too, must a dissertation writer fully understand the nature of the doctoral dissertation. This chapter describes the essence of the dissertation—its component parts, major steps in the dissertation process, and the roles and responsibilities of those involved.

What Is a Doctoral Dissertation?

A doctoral dissertation is a formal document that demonstrates your ability to conduct research that makes an original contribution to theory or practice. It is a partial fulfillment of the requirements for a doctoral degree (e.g., an EdD, DBA, PhD, PsyD, etc.). The term original, according to the Council of Graduate Schools (1991), “implies some novel twist, fresh perspective, new hypothesis, or innovative method that makes the dissertation project a distinctive contribution” (p. 15).

Several types of doctoral degrees exist, such as a DBA, DPA, EdD, PhD, PsyD, and so on. Historically, the PhD was seen as having a greater emphasis on research, whereas various other doctoral degrees were viewed as professional degrees. In recent years, depending on the university and the field of study, these distinctions have become somewhat blurred. The contemporary doctorate in the United States and internationally is structured as education that includes rigorous research experiences in the form of a dissertation that requires students to “generate new knowledge and to develop as individuals who use the power of scholarly inquiry to advance society” (Council of Graduate Schools, 2016, p. 20). It should also be noted that there are doctorate degrees (e.g., JD and MD) that don’t require research in the form of a dissertation.

Increased globalization, proliferation of technology, big data, and the need to be agile in a rapidly changing world has given rise to new conversations about the nature, design, and products of the doctorate degree. There are a number of interested groups studying and debating how the doctorate degree should evolve in the coming years. These discussions are likely to result in a combination of new and current features of a doctorate degree, including research that connects scholarship to a greater sense of purpose within a larger context.

The dissertation document may vary in format, depending on the type of study, but essentially, all researchers define a problem with researchable questions, conduct an exhaustive review of the literature, choose an appropriate methodology, collect and analyze data, and present the findings and conclusions.

The length of dissertations can also vary. No set number of pages is required. It helps to follow the rule of thumb illustrated by this apocryphal story: A young boy, after meeting the towering Abraham Lincoln, asked the president, “How long should a man’s legs be?” Lincoln answered, “Long enough to reach the ground.” It’s the same way with dissertations. The appropriate length depends on the degree to which you can responsibly and comprehensively answer your study’s research questions and adhere to the policies of your institution.

Completing a dissertation represents the pinnacle of academic achievement. It requires high-level skills of discernment and critical analysis, proficiency in at least one research method, and the ability to communicate the results of that research in a clear, coherent, and concise manner. No previous writing experiences prepare you for such a challenging and rigorous task. Basically, it’s a learn-and-grow-as-you-go process.

One efficient way to learn the dissertation terrain is to familiarize yourself with dissertations previously published in your chosen field of study. This helps you understand the format and style of accepted dissertations. Also read dissertations chaired by those individuals you are considering for advisors. In this way, you can obtain insight into that person’s expected level of scholarship.

Typical Dissertation Structure

A dissertation’s structure varies with the academic discipline and the methodology used. Chapter names may be different, but in one way or another, the questions displayed as follows are answered. 
Figure 2.1
 is an overview of a typical dissertation’s basic structure.

Most researchers try to resolve a specific problem and advance learning by answering the questions posed in 
Figure 2.1
. Regardless of academic discipline, research usually follows the scientific method and has a similar basic format, with some variations. To conceptualize your study, determine what the overall format will be. We ask our students to create an electronic file identifying the dissertation’s major sections. This serves as an outline for the entire study. Students insert their writings into the individual sections within the file.

The following are sample formats of studies using quantitative and qualitative methodologies and some alternative formats. A quantitative study generally adheres to a standard found in statistical research studies, although the order of the various sections may vary.

Figure 2.1 Typical Dissertation Structure

Studies Using Quantitative Methodology: General Sample Format

· Chapter 1 Introduction/Problem statement

· Purpose of the study

· Research questions/null hypotheses/hypotheses

· Significance of the study

· Delimitations/assumptions

· Definition of terms

· Chapter 2 Review of the literature

· Topics/Subtopics

· Summary

· Chapter 3 Methodology

· Type of research

· Protection of human subjects

· Population and sample (analysis unit)

· Instrumentation

· Data collection procedures

· Statistical analysis procedures, including validity and reliability

· Limitations

· Chapter 4 Results

· Findings

· Chapter 5 Summary

· Implications

· Conclusions

· Recommendations for further research

Varied structures can be seen in qualitative studies. However, they should exhibit a line of logic consistent with the assumptions inherent in the qualitative approach.

Studies Using Qualitative Methodology: General Sample Format

· Chapter 1 Introduction

· Topic and research problem

· Rationale/Purpose of the study

· Guiding questions

· Theoretical/Conceptual framework

· Significance of the study

· Delimitations

· Definitions

· Chapter 2 Review of the literature

· Topics/Subtopics

· Summary

· Chapter 3 Methodology

· Rationale and assumptions for the qualitative design

· Type of design

· Researcher’s role

· Protection of human subjects

· Site and sample selections

· Data collection techniques

· Instrument

· Managing, recording, and transcribing or presenting data

· Data analysis procedures, including credibility and dependability

· Limitations

· Chapter 4 Methods for verification/trustworthiness

· Coding process

· Themes

· Chapter 5 Results/Outcome of the study

· Discussion

· Connections to previous research

· Implications

· Recommendations for future research

· Conclusions

Alternative Formats

· Model-Building Studies

· Chapter 1 Problem and purpose

· Chapter 2 Literature review

· Chapter 3 Methodology

· Chapter 4 Analysis of data

· Chapter 5 Conclusion and model

· Case Studies

· Chapter 1 Problem and purpose

· Chapter 2 Literature review

· Chapter 3 Methodology

· Chapter 4 Case studies

· Chapter 5 Analysis of themes

· Chapter 6 Conclusions, implications, and recommendations

Components of a Typical Dissertation

Your university likely has a format that you are required to follow. The following are some general items in each component.

Title Page

The title page, the first page of your dissertation, includes the title, author, the degree requirements that the dissertation fulfills, and the date. The title of the dissertation is a succinct summary of the topic and generally should not exceed 15 words. Avoid unnecessary words, such as A Study of. The title includes key terms that readily identify the scope and nature of your study.

Copyright Page

Copyrighting the dissertation, although highly desirable, is optional. Unless your institution requires it, you don’t have to formally register your dissertation with the U.S. Copyright Office in order to obtain copyright protection, but it is highly desirable to do so in case of any copyright litigation. Regardless of whether you formally register with the U.S. Copyright Office, a notice of copyright should appear on the page immediately following the title page. This informs others that your dissertation is not available for unrestricted use.

Committee Approval Page

This page contains the date of approval and the original signatures of your dissertation committee, the outside reader (if one is appointed), and the dean. By signing this page, they attest to the fact that they have read and approved your work.

Abstract of the Dissertation

The abstract is a brief summary of the dissertation that includes the problem, purpose, research questions, methodology, conclusions, and recommendations for action and future research. The abstract should be well organized, concise, and self-contained because it is often printed separately. A copy of the abstract is usually bound in the dissertation.

Table of Contents

The table of contents is essentially a topic outline of your dissertation, including all headings and subheadings, with accompanying page numbers. The following are generally included: acknowledgments, dedication, statement of the problem, review of the literature, methodology, analysis of the data, conclusions and recommendations, appendixes, and references. Each table of contents entry must correspond exactly to the title in the text. Consider preparing your table of contents ahead of time as a tentative outline for your study. It provides a good checklist for what needs to be done in writing the dissertation.

List of Figures, Illustrations, and Tables

Separate lists should be created for figures, illustrations, and tables. These lists should include the number and  full name of each figure, illustration, or table as they are stated in the text. In addition, they should be listed in order of appearance in the text, followed by the number of the page on which the figure, illustration, or table appears.

Acknowledgment Page

Acknowledgments give credit to others for their guidance and assistance throughout the dissertation process. It generally recognizes the contributions of such individuals as committee members, other significant faculty, helpful colleagues, technical consultants, typists, or family and friends. Acknowledgments may also express gratitude for the use of copyrighted or other restricted materials.

Dedication Page

You may choose to dedicate your dissertation to a person or persons who have had a significant impact on your work. It gives you the opportunity to give special tribute to those who provided extraordinary support and encouragement. The dedication tribute may be placed at the end of the acknowledgment section or it may be a separate section.

Chapter 1: Introduction or Problem Statement

This section of the dissertation gives you an opportunity to grab readers’ attention and bring them on board with interest. It presents the problem addressed by the research, and it supplies a brief summary of the most relevant research and theory pertaining to the subject of the study. The problem statement should tell the story behind the research intent. It should provide the background to the purpose statement and research questions. In addition to the introductory problem statement, this section usually contains the purpose statement, research questions or hypotheses, the significance of the study, a definition of terms, delimitations/assumptions, and organization of the study. As an option, a brief summary of the introduction may appear at the end of the chapter. In addition, summaries may be used to conclude the subsequent chapters.

Chapter 2: Review of the Literature

The review of literature is a summation of pertinent literature directly related to your study. It provides a background for the important variables or concepts in your study and describes the similarity and difference between your work and that of other authors and researchers in the field. This review of the literature is traditionally your second chapter.

Chapter 3: Methodology

The methodology section describes in detail how the study was conducted. This chapter usually consists of the following sections: the type of research, sample and/or population, instrumentation, data collection procedures, data analysis, and limitations of the study.

Chapter 4: Results or Findings

This section summarizes the data collected and details the statistical treatment of those data, if any. Tables, figures, or illustrations are used to report data clearly and economically. Findings are usually summarized at the end of the chapter. A qualitative study usually consists of narrative descriptions embodied in themes and patterns generated from the data.

Chapter 5: Conclusions And Recommendations

This section describes what the findings mean and what conclusions you drew from the research questions that guided your study. It details how your findings compare with those in the literature and with your conceptual framework. Included in this chapter are practical implications for professional practice as well as recommendations for further research.

References, Endnotes, or Bibliographies

A reference section at the end of the dissertation should list all works cited in the dissertation. A bibliography includes related material that you reviewed and studied but did not cite directly in the text. This helps the reader determine the scope of the research behind your dissertation. However, it should not include every article or book you read. There are distinct formats for citing references (including endnotes) that you may use, depending on your university’s preference. Once a format is selected, be consistent and follow it throughout the dissertation.

Appendixes

Materials that document important components of the dissertation that would be too lengthy, awkward, or distracting to include within the text should be included as appendixes. These materials might be raw data, letters of introduction to participants, long or complex tables, and questionnaires. Such detail is useful to anyone trying to replicate your study in the future. Place items in the appendixes in the order they appear in the text. When more than one appendix is used, each must be designated by a letter (e.g., Appendix A, Appendix B) as well as by a title.

Major Steps in the Dissertation Process

The following is a brief description of the major steps needed to complete a dissertation. Procedures vary from university to university, and most universities distribute specific directions to their dissertation writers. Be sure to become familiar with these procedures as early as possible.

1. Select a Dissertation Topic

Deciding if a particular topic has the potential for becoming a dissertation is one of the biggest challenges faced by doctoral students. There are no hard-and-fast rules in selecting a topic; however, the following are some criteria that will help in making your decision:

a. It needs to hold your interest over a long period of time.

b. It must be manageable in size.

c. It must have the potential to make an original and significant contribution to knowledge.

d. It should be doable within your time frame and budget.

e. It must be based on obtainable data.

f. It should be of interest to an advisor or committee.

2. Prepare a Prospectus

A prospectus is a 3- to 5-page overview of your study. It is basically a research concept paper that includes (1) background information about the topic with a brief commentary on pertinent literature, (2) a purpose statement, (3) research questions, and (4) appropriate methodology. This paper provides the basis for development of the proposal itself. It can also be used for discussions with potential dissertation advisors and committee members. Discussing your prospectus with a potential advisor or with potential committee members helps you obtain advice early in the dissertation process about the suitability of your topic as a worthwhile study and determine if the research questions and methodology are appropriate. A formal proposal expands on the prospectus and includes most of the components found in Chapters 12, and 3.

3. Select an Advisor

Spend time getting to know those individuals who are available to be your advisor or committee members. Present your prospectus to those with whom you might like to work and get their views about the topic and proposed methodology. Once you select your advisor, work with him or her to focus and refine your topic into a manageable study.

4. Choose Committee Members

In consultation with your advisor, select your committee members. They should possess earned doctorates from an accredited institution, be considered outstanding in their field, are interested in your topic, have expertise in your topic or methodology, and be willing to spend time reviewing your dissertation document.

5. Complete and Present the Proposal

The proposal is usually written in several drafts in response to feedback from committee members. The proposal varies according to university guidelines and expectations. An acceptable proposal generally consists of Chapters 12, and 3; the proposed research instrument(s) to be used in the study; and a reference list. Whether or not the proposal is written in the future or past tense depends on the requirements of your institution and the preference of your advisor. Generally, when all committee suggestions have been incorporated and your advisor concurs, a formal proposal meeting (also known as a prelim) may be held. In most instances, approval of your proposal becomes a contract between you and your committee. You are to satisfactorily conduct the study as described in the proposal, and the committee signs off on the proposal.

6. Conduct the Research

In this phase of the dissertation, you refine your instrument(s) per the recommendations of the committee and conduct, for example, a pilot test for a quantitative study to determine reliability and validity or a beta interview for a qualitative study. You collect, analyze, and interpret your data.

7. Write the Dissertation

The dissertation requires a high level of scholarly writing. You must be able to express yourself logically, clearly, and precisely. If you have difficulty with academic writing, consider hiring an editor. This can save you considerable time and make life easier for your committee by lessening the number of revisions needed. It enables your committee’s comments to be directed toward substance rather than style. Editorial assistance for a dissertation is encouraged, but only in matters of style, not content.

8. Schedule the Final Defense

Your advisor typically leads the final defense meeting in which you present and defend your dissertation in the presence of the committee and other individuals permitted by your university. A final defense is usually considered a public meeting. At most universities, following the final defense, the committee certifies one of the following:

a. pass with no revisions,

b. pass with minor revisions,

c. pass with major revisions,

d. defense to be continued, or

e. fail.

9. Make Corrections and Resubmit the Dissertation

Incorporate all the changes resulting from the input provided at the final defense. Then, follow the special procedures outlined at your university.

10. Graduate and Become a Doctor!

Roles and Responsibilities

Doctoral Candidate

doctoral candidate is usually defined as a student, accepted by the dissertation committee, who has successfully passed the proposal/preliminary meeting and who the dissertation committee then advances to candidacy. Becoming a doctoral candidate is a big step in the dissertation process, as it represents the committee’s approval for you to begin collecting your data. It is the candidate’s responsibility to get all forms signed in the proper sequence and to submit them to the appropriate individuals.

Dissertation Advisor

The dissertation advisor (also known as the dissertation chair) is the doctoral candidate’s primary advisor during all phases of the dissertation process. The advisor is the leader of the dissertation committee and usually conducts both the proposal and final defense meetings. In conjunction with other committee members, the advisor is responsible for providing technical and content advice and assistance.

Dissertation Committee

Individuals who hold earned doctoral degrees from an accredited institution are invited to serve as members of the dissertation committee. The dissertation committee generally has three to five members, including the advisor. The committee’s role is to provide different lenses through which to view your work. It is an opportunity to broaden your perspective by seeing your study from various vantage points. Candidates first select the dissertation advisor and, in consultation with him or her, select the other committee members. It is recommended that committee members reflect the range of expertise pertinent to the topic under study and the methodology likely to be used. Committee members are called on to advise the candidate throughout the process in areas appropriate to their expertise and interests. They also comment on written materials developed by the doctoral candidate. Committee members are responsible for evaluating and approving the proposal and the completed dissertation.

The Institutional Review Board or Human Subjects Review Committee

This committee is composed of a group of faculty members who review each research proposal for the purpose  of safeguarding the rights of human subjects used for research purposes.

Additional Roles

There are a variety of different roles within each university related to the dissertation process. One important role is played by the department that processes the dissertation forms and makes sure that appropriate procedures are followed. Also, there may be university reviewers responsible for editing and reviewing the dissertation document for the proper style and format.

Summary

The doctoral dissertation is a formal document that demonstrates your ability to conduct original research that contributes to theory and/or practice. Although variations exist, typical dissertations consist of chapters that provide background to the topic, a literature review, a description of the methodology, findings, conclusions, and recommendations for action and future research. Major steps in the dissertation process include selecting a topic, preparing a prospectus, selecting an advisor and committee members, successfully completing presenting a proposal, conducting the research, writing the dissertation, participating in the final defense, making corrections, and graduating.

Now that you know the dissertation terrain, it’s time to consider the ethical issues in research. It is vital to be aware of the variety of ethical issues that arise in all phases of the dissertation process. The next chapter describes ethical issues, such as the rights of human subjects, the ethics of data collection and analysis, reporting findings, writing up research, and copyright law.

Resources

· Core (https://core.ac.uk/dataproviders) harvests and aggregates research papers from data providers globally. The website states the Core currently has 77,313,143 open access articles from over 6,000 journals collected from over 2,524 repositories around the world.

· LexisNexis Academic (http://www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/lnacademic/) contains many sources for researchers, including academic news organizations.

· Purdue Owl (https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/) offers resources for writing style guides and more.

· Research Buzz (https://researchbuzz.me) has been writing about search engines, databases, and how to build search strategies since 1998. It ranges from information about data mapping to The Simpsons. The site has a handy feature called the Research Buzz Firehose that provides bite-sized information.

Chapter 10 Selecting and Describing the Methodology

As for the search for truth, I know from my own painful searching, with its many blind alleys, how hard it is to take a reliable step, be it ever so small, towards the understanding of that which is truly significant.

—Albert Einstein

The Methodology of Research

Beginning the climb on the dissertation mountain involves choosing a dissertation topic, conducting a review of the literature, and selecting and describing a research methodology. These are not linear processes; they undulate back and forth and often go on simultaneously. Reviewing the literature grounds you in understanding what is known and not known about your study’s topic and helps provide the basis for selecting an appropriate method. Whatever methodology you choose, you need to understand the techniques and processes specific to that method.

Research methodology can be classified under three broad generic categories: quantitative, qualitative, or multiple methods (also called mixed methods). Multiple/mixed methods contains quantitative and qualitative methods; however, either quantitative or qualitative methods is generally more prominent. Within the broad categories of quantitative, qualitative, or multiple methods, a variety of designs exist with their own protocol for collecting and analyzing data. The information presented here focuses on quantitative and qualitative methods, since multiple/mixed methods includes both.

Methodology Selection Considerations

Students frequently ask, “How do I go about selecting a methodology for my study?” The answer isn’t simple; it is possible to identify several different methodological approaches for a single topic. Methodology selection rests primarily on the (1) problem and research question to be investigated, (2) purpose of the study, (3) theory base (including prior research), and (4) nature of the data. We recommend that at least one of your dissertation committee members possesses the expertise in the methodology you select. How comfortable are you with statistics? Do you have the required complex abstract thinking skills necessary for qualitative research? It is essential for a quality dissertation that you are able to write clearly and precisely. As you begin this process, it’s common to feel a bit uncomfortable with your level of knowledge about research methodology or with the skills required to conduct a research study. In our experience, few students remember well all of the content from their research methodology courses or come to the dissertation process confident about their ability to apply research skills. Students often find that learning by doing plays a large role in the process. With guidance from your committee, your learning evolves over time as you proceed through each stage of the dissertation. It is important that the design provide a vehicle for informing the research. In other words, don’t try to make your study fit a predetermined research methodology.

The research approach you select for your study will be quantitative, qualitative, or a combination of the two, referred to as multiple or mixed methods. In this section, we present considerations related to the qualitative and quantitative paradigms. This book, however, is not a methodology text, and we suggest that, along with discussing the appropriate method for your study with your dissertation advisor, you revisit the books and articles from your research courses. You can also refer to the Resource section at the end of this chapter for additional sources related to methodology.

Differences Between Quantitative and Qualitative Research

What is the difference between qualitative and quantitative research? Staindack and Staindack (1988) explained it this way: “Qualitative research differs from quantitative research in its theoretical/philosophical rationale” (p. 4). In philosophical terms, the quantitative approach is referred to as logical positivism.

In quantitative research, inquiry begins with a specific plan—a set of detailed questions or hypotheses. Researchers seek facts and causes of behavior and want to know about the variables so differences can be identified. They collect data that are primarily numerical using mathematical, statistical, and computational procedures through surveys, tests, experiments, and so on. Quantitative approaches manipulate variables and control the research setting. Common quantitative designs include experimental research, quasi-experimental research, nonexperimental research, ex-post facto/causal comparative research, and correlational research.

The qualitative approach focuses on people’s experience from their perspective and is based on the following philosophical constructs: ontology—the nature of reality, epistemology—how the researcher knows what they know, axiology—values, rhetoric—the research language, and methodology—the research procedures (Creswell, 2007; Denzin & Lincoln, 2011). Inquiry begins with questions about the area under investigation. Researchers seek an inclusive picture—a comprehensive and complete understanding of the topic they are studying. They may make observations; conduct in-depth, open-ended, or semi-structured interviews; or review written documents, photographs, videos, performances, or cultural objects such as art. Rather than numbers, the data are mainly words and can also be audible or visual objects that describe people’s knowledge, opinions, perceptions, and feelings as well as detailed descriptions of people’s actions, behaviors, activities, and interpersonal interactions. Qualitative research may also focus on organizational processes.

Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood.

—Marie Curie

Researchers can go into a setting or use technology to collect data. Qualitative researchers look at the essential character or nature of something, not necessarily the quantity. This approach is sometimes called naturalistic inquiry because the research involves real-world issues and settings. Researchers are interested in the meanings people attach to the activities and events in their world and are open to whatever emerges. Similar to quantitative research, qualitative research is the general term that includes several research designs, such as case study research, historical research, ethnography, grounded theory, and narrative research.

The most salient differences between qualitative and quantitative approaches are listed in Table 10.1.

Both research orientations play an important role in extending knowledge. Whichever you select for your study, be sure to read widely in that methodological area so you are knowledgeable about the data collection and analysis procedures necessary to conduct your study. Remember, in the end, you must justify your choice of method and clarify why it was the best way to conduct your study. Because there are no inferential statistics to be performed in qualitative research, some students mistakenly believe it to be easier to conduct than a quantitative study. This is not true! Analyzing large amounts of qualitative data into meaningful themes and patterns can be a sizable task requiring considerable time and effort.

Table 10.1 Comparing Research Methodologies

Table 10.1 Comparing Research Methodologies

Qualitative

Quantitative

• Naturalistic designs

• Observations/interviews/images

• Inductive (can also be deductive) analysis

• The researcher is the instrument

• Credibility

• Depth and breadth of data

• Dependability

• Small samples

• Discovering/exploring/examining/ substantiating concepts

• Extrapolations

• Making meaning

• Experimental designs

• Explanatory

• Deductive analysis (test hypotheses)

• Standardized measures

• Validity depends on careful instrument construction

• Reliability

• Large samples (random sampling)

• Breadth (limited set of variables measured)

• Testing/verifying/quantifying

• Generalizations

Multiple Methods (Also Known as Mixed Methods)

Although qualitative and quantitative approaches are grounded in different paradigms, it is possible to combine them in the same study. The multiple methods approach is a viable method in the social and human sciences, evidenced by a variety of books and journals reporting and promoting this type of research. In the past two decades, there has been an increase in the number of articles and texts about procedures for conducting multiple methods studies (Creswell, 2009; Tashakkori & Teddlie, 2003).

If appropriate for the research, you can incorporate both qualitative and quantitative approaches into a single study. Generally, researchers select quantitative methodology or qualitative methodology as the primary method in multiple methods study design. For example, in a study that is mainly quantitative, you can gather numerical data from a large sample using a survey instrument to get a broad perspective and then select a few participants to study by observing and recording their behaviors. If you select a qualitative method as the primary design, you can gather data through participant interviews and then collect numerical data, such as a Likert scale questionnaire, to add another dimension to the results.

As in any design choice, it’s important to present a rationale for combining methods. Qualitative and quantitative approaches in a single study can complement each other by providing results with greater breadth and depth. Combining what with a possible why can add support for your findings. With quantitative methods, you can summarize large amounts of data and reach generalizations based on statistical projections. In contrast, qualitative research recounts the lived experience of a smaller sample in an effort to provide rich descriptive detail.

Gay and Airasian (2003) offer a practical resource for understanding how to combine qualitative and quantitative methods. They offered three models of multiple methods research:

1. The QUAL–Quan model, where qualitative data are collected first and are more heavily weighted than quantitative data.

2. The QUAN–Qual model, where quantitative data are collected first and are more heavily weighted than qualitative data.

3. The QUAN–QUAL model, where qualitative and quantitative data are equally weighted and are collected concurrently. (pp. 184–185)

Whichever design you select for your study, research studies generally proceed with the introduction, problem, questions, literature support, methods (including data collection and analysis), and interpretation and reporting of results, implications, and conclusions.

Describing the Methodology

The methodology chapter of a dissertation describes the design and the specific procedures used in conducting your study. It is vital that this section is clear, comprehensive, and sufficiently detailed so that other researchers can adequately judge the results you obtain and can validly replicate the study. In a quantitative study, the methodology chapter usually contains the following sections: introduction, purpose and research questions and/or hypotheses and null hypotheses, research design and reasons for selecting it, protection of human subjects, population and sample, sampling procedures, instrumentation, validity and reliability, data collection procedures, data analysis, data display (e.g., charts, tables, graphs, etc.), and limitations.

Qualitative studies typically use different terminology in describing the methodology section. For example, in a qualitative study, the methodology sections often include the following: the introduction and context of the study, purpose and research questions, rationale for the qualitative design, type of design, ethical considerations (such as protection of human subjects), researcher’s role and related issues, site selection, data sources (e.g., population and sample), sampling procedures, data collection techniques, procedures for managing and recording data, data analysis procedures, types of data display (e.g., text, graphics, etc.), strategies to establish credibility, dependability, and limitations. Following is a description of the common sections of a study.

Introduction

You may introduce the methodology chapter several ways, depending on the style preference of your advisor and committee. Generally, there is an opening paragraph introducing the study and stating the chapter’s organization. In qualitative studies, this is followed by a brief description of the problem, a restatement of your study’s purpose, and research questions. Quantitative research also includes the purpose and research questions and/or null hypotheses and hypotheses. A brief description of the problem would also be included.

Research Design

In this section, state the type of research and design used for the study as well as the rationale for your selection. The research design you select is based on the purpose, research question(s), and nature of your study.

There are several types of qualitative or quantitative method designs to choose from, depending on the goal of your study. Some possible quantitative designs are correlational, ex-post facto, case study, true experimental, and quasi-experimental. Qualitative designs include but are not limited to ethnography, grounded theory, historical, and narrative. Some designs lend themselves to multiple methods, such as case studies or Delphi studies.

Research Ethics and Human Subjects Protection

Human Subjects Protection

In 1974, Congress enacted the National Research Act in response to a number of events that indicated human subjects were being harmed or exploited. The National Research Act of 1974 created the National Commission for Protection of Human Subjects, who subsequently developed a system requiring institutional review board (IRB) approval for human subjects research. The IRB procedures increase autonomy and respect and safeguard those who are vulnerable (Amdur & Bankert, 2002; Creswell & Poth, 2018; Patton, 2015). These policies became known as the Code of Federal Regulations (United States Department of Health and Human Services, 2010). In 1978, the Commission produced the Belmont Report, outlining three main ethical principles and the corresponding IRB requirements for conducting research that involve human subjects, as noted in Table 10.2.

Universities and other research institutions such as think tanks have established an IRB charged with reviewing and approving human subjects research according to standards that align with the Code of Federal Regulations. It is important to factor in time for this process because you cannot move forward to collect data until the IRB has approved you to do so. Generally, following a successful proposal meeting and with approval of the dissertation advisor, the researcher is expected to complete an application with information specific to the research study and submit it to the IRB, along with all required forms, including a copy of the certificate indicating the researcher has successfully completed training to protect human subjects. Check with your institution about these requirements, as each university has established policies and procedures for completing this process.

Table 10.2 Main Ethical Principles for Conducting Research With Human Subjects

Table 10.2 Main Ethical Principles for Conducting Research With Human Subjects

Main Principles

Corresponding IRB Requirements

1. Respect for Persons

1a. Voluntary consent to participate

1b. Informed consent

1c. Privacy and confidentiality

1d. The right to withdraw from participating without penalty

2. Beneficence

2a. Risks justified by potential benefits

2b. Study design minimizes risks

2c. Conflicts managed to reduce bias

3. Justice

3a. The study doesn’t exploit vulnerable persons

3b. The study doesn’t exclude people who may benefit from participation

3c. Participation is borne equally by society

Source: Belmont Report, National Commission for Protection of Human Subjects (1978).

Ethics and the Researcher

Guidelines for ethical practices in conducting research are available from professional academic associations such as the American Psychological Association (APA), the American Educational Research Association (AERA), and so on. In addition to respect for participants, respect should be shown for the research site(s), including gaining permission to collect data at the site, if appropriate.

Researchers are expected to include a discussion regarding any conflicts of interest or biases they may have. As researchers, we bring a certain level of education and experiences that help prepare us to conduct a study; however, those same experiences can alter our perspectives when collecting and or analyzing data. Therefore, it’s important to recognize and acknowledge these areas and to include strategies for mitigating any biases. Doing so demonstrates transparency and builds trust with those who will read your study.

Population and Sample

The population and sample (or data sources) section includes a description of the individuals who participated in your study and the procedures used to select them. There are differences between quantitative and qualitative standards regarding sample size. Ideally, in a quantitative study, an entire population would be used to gather information. However, this is usually not feasible, as most groups of interest are either too large or are less accessible for varied reasons. In qualitative research, the sample size is often smaller, due to the depth and breadth of data collected. When you don’t have an opportunity to study a total group, select a sample as representative as possible of the total group in which you are interested. Gay and Airasian (1996) provided a clear definition of the terms sampling and population to help to distinguish between the two:

Sampling is the process of selecting a number of individuals for a study in such a way that the individuals represent the larger group from which they were selected. The individuals selected comprise a sample and the larger group is referred to as a population. (pp. 111–112)

Note About Qualitative Research Sampling

1. Qualitative research participant sample size is smaller than quantitative studies, often limited to single- or double-digit numbers of participants. Literature is available that addresses sample size considerations, depending on the specific method (e.g., ethnography verses grounded theory).

2. In qualitative research, there is less concern for large sample size and more emphasis placed on details of the setting and or situation, the participants, and rich descriptions of the participant’s experiences.

3. Rather than generalizing information, the intent of qualitative research is to discover and illuminate the lived experience associated with the study topic.

Note About Quantitative Research Sampling

1. The bigger your sample, the more it represents the total population and sample and supports your findings.

2. Before deciding how many to select for your sample, you must know the size of your population so that you can reliably draw the appropriate sample size.

3. Your sample size represents the number of individuals to be contacted for their participation in your study. It does not represent the number of individuals who must respond. However, in quantitative studies, there is literature that supports a certain percentage range for an acceptable sample size response, depending on the field of study, type of research, and population to be studied.

Sampling Procedures

The credibility of your study relies on the quality of the procedures you used to select the sample. These procedures should be described in detail as this contributes to the strength of your findings. Some examples of quantitative sampling are probability sampling, random, or systematic studies. Qualitative sampling examples include purposeful, criterion based, maximum variation, or expert studies. Your description should include the following:

1. The number of individuals included and where they are located

2. Why you selected this particular number

3. The criteria you used for inclusion in the sample

4. A step-by-step account of exactly how you went about selecting your sample

Instrumentation

This section includes a description of instruments used to collect data—surveys, questionnaires, interview questions, observation forms, and so on. Each instrument used should be described in detail in the methodology chapter. The following is a description of relevant information needed for quantitative and qualitative studies.

For quantitative studies, provide the following information (as relevant):

1. Appropriateness of the instrument for your population and setting

2. The validity and reliability of the instruments (Validity is the degree to which your instrument truly measures what it purports to measure. In other words, can you trust that findings from your instrument are true? Reliability is the degree to which your instrument consistently measures something.)

3. How the instrument is administered and scored

4. Type(s) of statistical methods to be applied and software used (e.g., SPSS)

5. Interrater reliability—measuring the consistency between raters or between a rater and an expert

6. Type(s) of response categories—rating scales, check lists, ranking, and so on

For qualitative studies, provide the following information (as relevant):

1. The alignment of the instrument relative to participants, setting, interviews, documents, artifacts, and or observations that will inform the research questions

2. The appropriate type of questions that are best suited for your study (e.g., open-ended questions or semi-structured questions). You can also develop follow-up questions, if needed, to increase the depth and breadth of the responses

3. The credibility and dependability of the instrument (Credibility is the degree to which your instrument truly measures what it purports to measure. This can be accomplished by engaging an expert panel to review and comment on the interview questions and/or by conducting a pilot test of a few people that meet the same criteria as the anticipated participants. Dependability demonstrates support for the conclusions.)

4. Strategies you will use to collect the interview responses and/or observation or other data (e.g., note taking, recording, online—written or audio, video, photographs, performance, behaviors, individually, focus group, artifacts, documents, etc.). Develop an interview protocol

5. How data will be analyzed for themes

6. Dependability process, such as using a second reviewer who independently reviews the responses for consistency using the same coding process as the researcher

Note

Whether the method is qualitative, quantitative, or multiple methods, all sample forms of instruments, protocol, assessment forms, and so on should be included as appendices. Copyrighted instruments cannot be reproduced in a dissertation without written permission. If you wish to use copyrighted instruments, permission should be obtained in writing from the holder of the copyright.

Developing Your Own Instrument

You can use an established instrument (see Resources at the end of this chapter) or you can develop your own instrument. If you are unable to locate a satisfactory instrument that adequately measures your study’s variables or concepts, you may either modify an existing validated instrument or create your own instrument. It is appropriate to change the wording or eliminate questions when modifying an instrument for a different population. However, keep in mind that the changes you make may affect the reliability and validity of the instrument. If you modify an instrument, it is your responsibility to justify the changes made and to provide information about the reliability and validity of the revised instrument. Written permission must be obtained from the copyright holder.

Should you choose to develop a new instrument, recount how it was developed and include a detailed description of the pilot tests that you conducted and the subsequent revisions. Place a copy in the appendix of all the instruments used.

Note

When developing items for your instrument, it is critical that you align the items with your research questions to ensure that all research concepts or variables are adequately covered in your instrument. A good technique is to create a matrix in which you display your research questions on the left side and the survey (or other instrument) questions/items on the right (see Table 10.3).

Table 10.3 Matrix Questionnaire Form

Table 10.3 Matrix Questionnaire Form

Research Question

Corresponding Item/Question

Research Question 1

Part I: Survey Questions 1–5

Question 1:

Question 2:

Question 3:

Question 4:

Question 5:

Research Question 2

Part II: Survey Questions 6–10

Question 6:

Question 7:

Question 8:

Question 9:

Question 10:

Research Question 3

Part III: Survey Questions 11–15

Question 11:

Question 12:

Question 13:

Question 14:

Question 15:

When describing your instrument(s), it is important to explain your rationale for selection. The following is a dissertation example.

Example

In an exhaustive review of the literature, the research supporting the use of the SACQ far outweigh Describing the Methodology

The methodology chapter of a dissertation describes the design and the specific procedures used in conducting your study. It is vital that this section is clear, comprehensive, and sufficiently detailed so that other researchers can adequately judge the results you obtain and can validly replicate the study. In a quantitative study, the methodology chapter usually contains the following sections: introduction, purpose and research questions and/or hypotheses and null hypotheses, research design and reasons for selecting it, protection of human subjects, population and sample, sampling procedures, instrumentation, validity and reliability, data collection procedures, data analysis, data display (e.g., charts, tables, graphs, etc.), and limitations.

Qualitative studies typically use different terminology in describing the methodology section. For example, in a qualitative study, the methodology sections often include the following: the introduction and context of the study, purpose and research questions, rationale for the qualitative design, type of design, ethical considerations (such as protection of human subjects), researcher’s role and related issues, site selection, data sources (e.g., population and sample), sampling procedures, data collection techniques, procedures for managing and recording data, data analysis procedures, types of data display (e.g., text, graphics, etc.), strategies to establish credibility, dependability, and limitations. Following is a description of the common sections of a study.

Introduction

You may introduce the methodology chapter several ways, depending on the style preference of your advisor and committee. Generally, there is an opening paragraph introducing the study and stating the chapter’s organization. In qualitative studies, this is followed by a brief description of the problem, a restatement of your study’s purpose, and research questions. Quantitative research also includes the purpose and research questions and/or null hypotheses and hypotheses. A brief description of the problem would also be included.

Research Design

In this section, state the type of research and design used for the study as well as the rationale for your selection. The research design you select is based on the purpose, research question(s), and nature of your study.

There are several types of qualitative or quantitative method designs to choose from, depending on the goal of your study. Some possible quantitative designs are correlational, ex-post facto, case study, true experimental, and quasi-experimental. Qualitative designs include but are not limited to ethnography, grounded theory, historical, and narrative. Some designs lend themselves to multiple methods, such as case studies or Delphi studies.

Research Ethics and Human Subjects Protection

Human Subjects Protection

In 1974, Congress enacted the National Research Act in response to a number of events that indicated human subjects were being harmed or exploited. The National Research Act of 1974 created the National Commission for Protection of Human Subjects, who subsequently developed a system requiring institutional review board (IRB) approval for human subjects research. The IRB procedures increase autonomy and respect and safeguard those who are vulnerable (Amdur & Bankert, 2002; Creswell & Poth, 2018; Patton, 2015). These policies became known as the Code of Federal Regulations (United States Department of Health and Human Services, 2010). In 1978, the Commission produced the Belmont Report, outlining three main ethical principles and the corresponding IRB requirements for conducting research that involve human subjects, as noted in Table 10.2.

Universities and other research institutions such as think tanks have established an IRB charged with reviewing and approving human subjects research according to standards that align with the Code of Federal Regulations. It is important to factor in time for this process because you cannot move forward to collect data until the IRB has approved you to do so. Generally, following a successful proposal meeting and with approval of the dissertation advisor, the researcher is expected to complete an application with information specific to the research study and submit it to the IRB, along with all required forms, including a copy of the certificate indicating the researcher has successfully completed training to protect human subjects. Check with your institution about these requirements, as each university has established policies and procedures for completing this process.

Table 10.2 Main Ethical Principles for Conducting Research With Human Subjects

Table 10.2 Main Ethical Principles for Conducting Research With Human Subjects

Main Principles

Corresponding IRB Requirements

1. Respect for Persons

1a. Voluntary consent to participate

1b. Informed consent

1c. Privacy and confidentiality

1d. The right to withdraw from participating without penalty

2. Beneficence

2a. Risks justified by potential benefits

2b. Study design minimizes risks

2c. Conflicts managed to reduce bias

3. Justice

3a. The study doesn’t exploit vulnerable persons

3b. The study doesn’t exclude people who may benefit from participation

3c. Participation is borne equally by society

Source: Belmont Report, National Commission for Protection of Human Subjects (1978).

Ethics and the Researcher

Guidelines for ethical practices in conducting research are available from professional academic associations such as the American Psychological Association (APA), the American Educational Research Association (AERA), and so on. In addition to respect for participants, respect should be shown for the research site(s), including gaining permission to collect data at the site, if appropriate.

Researchers are expected to include a discussion regarding any conflicts of interest or biases they may have. As researchers, we bring a certain level of education and experiences that help prepare us to conduct a study; however, those same experiences can alter our perspectives when collecting and or analyzing data. Therefore, it’s important to recognize and acknowledge these areas and to include strategies for mitigating any biases. Doing so demonstrates transparency and builds trust with those who will read your study.

Population and Sample

The population and sample (or data sources) section includes a description of the individuals who participated in your study and the procedures used to select them. There are differences between quantitative and qualitative standards regarding sample size. Ideally, in a quantitative study, an entire population would be used to gather information. However, this is usually not feasible, as most groups of interest are either too large or are less accessible for varied reasons. In qualitative research, the sample size is often smaller, due to the depth and breadth of data collected. When you don’t have an opportunity to study a total group, select a sample as representative as possible of the total group in which you are interested. Gay and Airasian (1996) provided a clear definition of the terms sampling and population to help to distinguish between the two:

Sampling is the process of selecting a number of individuals for a study in such a way that the individuals represent the larger group from which they were selected. The individuals selected comprise a sample and the larger group is referred to as a population. (pp. 111–112)

Note About Qualitative Research Sampling

1. Qualitative research participant sample size is smaller than quantitative studies, often limited to single- or double-digit numbers of participants. Literature is available that addresses sample size considerations, depending on the specific method (e.g., ethnography verses grounded theory).

2. In qualitative research, there is less concern for large sample size and more emphasis placed on details of the setting and or situation, the participants, and rich descriptions of the participant’s experiences.

3. Rather than generalizing information, the intent of qualitative research is to discover and illuminate the lived experience associated with the study topic.

Note About Quantitative Research Sampling

1. The bigger your sample, the more it represents the total population and sample and supports your findings.

2. Before deciding how many to select for your sample, you must know the size of your population so that you can reliably draw the appropriate sample size.

3. Your sample size represents the number of individuals to be contacted for their participation in your study. It does not represent the number of individuals who must respond. However, in quantitative studies, there is literature that supports a certain percentage range for an acceptable sample size response, depending on the field of study, type of research, and population to be studied.

Sampling Procedures

The credibility of your study relies on the quality of the procedures you used to select the sample. These procedures should be described in detail as this contributes to the strength of your findings. Some examples of quantitative sampling are probability sampling, random, or systematic studies. Qualitative sampling examples include purposeful, criterion based, maximum variation, or expert studies. Your description should include the following:

1. The number of individuals included and where they are located

2. Why you selected this particular number

3. The criteria you used for inclusion in the sample

4. A step-by-step account of exactly how you went about selecting your sample

Instrumentation

This section includes a description of instruments used to collect data—surveys, questionnaires, interview questions, observation forms, and so on. Each instrument used should be described in detail in the methodology chapter. The following is a description of relevant information needed for quantitative and qualitative studies.

For quantitative studies, provide the following information (as relevant):

1. Appropriateness of the instrument for your population and setting

2. The validity and reliability of the instruments (Validity is the degree to which your instrument truly measures what it purports to measure. In other words, can you trust that findings from your instrument are true? Reliability is the degree to which your instrument consistently measures something.)

3. How the instrument is administered and scored

4. Type(s) of statistical methods to be applied and software used (e.g., SPSS)

5. Interrater reliability—measuring the consistency between raters or between a rater and an expert

6. Type(s) of response categories—rating scales, check lists, ranking, and so on

For qualitative studies, provide the following information (as relevant):

1. The alignment of the instrument relative to participants, setting, interviews, documents, artifacts, and or observations that will inform the research questions

2. The appropriate type of questions that are best suited for your study (e.g., open-ended questions or semi-structured questions). You can also develop follow-up questions, if needed, to increase the depth and breadth of the responses

3. The credibility and dependability of the instrument (Credibility is the degree to which your instrument truly measures what it purports to measure. This can be accomplished by engaging an expert panel to review and comment on the interview questions and/or by conducting a pilot test of a few people that meet the same criteria as the anticipated participants. Dependability demonstrates support for the conclusions.)

4. Strategies you will use to collect the interview responses and/or observation or other data (e.g., note taking, recording, online—written or audio, video, photographs, performance, behaviors, individually, focus group, artifacts, documents, etc.). Develop an interview protocol

5. How data will be analyzed for themes

6. Dependability process, such as using a second reviewer who independently reviews the responses for consistency using the same coding process as the researcher

Note

Whether the method is qualitative, quantitative, or multiple methods, all sample forms of instruments, protocol, assessment forms, and so on should be included as appendices. Copyrighted instruments cannot be reproduced in a dissertation without written permission. If you wish to use copyrighted instruments, permission should be obtained in writing from the holder of the copyright.

Developing Your Own Instrument

You can use an established instrument (see Resources at the end of this chapter) or you can develop your own instrument. If you are unable to locate a satisfactory instrument that adequately measures your study’s variables or concepts, you may either modify an existing validated instrument or create your own instrument. It is appropriate to change the wording or eliminate questions when modifying an instrument for a different population. However, keep in mind that the changes you make may affect the reliability and validity of the instrument. If you modify an instrument, it is your responsibility to justify the changes made and to provide information about the reliability and validity of the revised instrument. Written permission must be obtained from the copyright holder.

Should you choose to develop a new instrument, recount how it was developed and include a detailed description of the pilot tests that you conducted and the subsequent revisions. Place a copy in the appendix of all the instruments used.

Note

When developing items for your instrument, it is critical that you align the items with your research questions to ensure that all research concepts or variables are adequately covered in your instrument. A good technique is to create a matrix in which you display your research questions on the left side and the survey (or other instrument) questions/items on the right (see Table 10.3).

Table 10.3 Matrix Questionnaire Form

Table 10.3 Matrix Questionnaire Form

Research Question

Corresponding Item/Question

Research Question 1

Part I: Survey Questions 1–5

Question 1:

Question 2:

Question 3:

Question 4:

Question 5:

Research Question 2

Part II: Survey Questions 6–10

Question 6:

Question 7:

Question 8:

Question 9:

Question 10:

Research Question 3

Part III: Survey Questions 11–15

Question 11:

Question 12:

Question 13:

Question 14:

Question 15:

When describing your instrument(s), it is important to explain your rationale for selection. The following is a dissertation example.

Example

In an exhaustive review of the literature, the research supporting the use of the SACQ far outweigh

Instrument Test

Testing the instrument is important to establish whether the instrument will provide the data that will inform your research questions. This process is referred to variously as a pilot test, beta test, or field test. For the purposes of this discussion, we will refer to it as a pilot test. Whether you create your own instrument or modify an existing one, it should be tested prior to distributing it to your study participants. One way to accomplish this is to select a small group of people who aren’t involved in your study but who match the criteria of the participants in your study. The people that are testing your instrument provide valuable information regarding the validity or the instrument as well as illuminating any design issues, such as:

· ➲ Understandable instructions

· ➲ Clear wording

· ➲ Adequate answers

· ➲ Sufficient information

· ➲ Length

· ➲ Convenience

Following the pilot test, it may be necessary to revise your instrument to reflect the various recommendations provided by the test respondents. Be sure to include pilot testing in the instrument section in your methods chapter. Describe the testing process and indicate any revisions that were made to your instrument as a result of the pilot test.

Data Collection Procedures

This section describes the steps you will take to conduct your study and the order in which they occurred. It is important that your writing is clear and precise so that readers understand and other researchers can replicate your study. Your description should state how and when the data were collected.

Note

To help you efficiently deal with organizing the data collection, create a Data Source Chart. This chart assists you in tracking the data process (e.g., who received the instrument, when they received the instrument, who completed the instrument, and what/how/when data analysis was performed). Data sources can also be arranged by research questions or hypotheses.

Best Time to Collect Data

When to collect data is a critical issue because it can greatly affect your response rate. It is important for you to consider the availability of your population. For example, there are several windows of opportunity when people are more likely to be available. In many fields, such as education, government, health care, nonprofit, and for profit, potential participants are generally less available near and during holidays.

Data collection always takes longer than you realize. It takes time for participants to respond to surveys, schedule interviews, and engage in follow-up when necessary. Plan ahead to arrange for the best opportunity to successfully collect data.

Data Analysis

This section includes an explanation of how you analyzed the data as well as your rationale for selecting a particular analysis method. If your study is quantitative, for example, report the statistical tests and procedures you used, how they were treated, and the level of statistical significance that guided your analysis. Since statistical tests may vary by research question, you should explain your tests and procedures for each question. An example follows:

Research questions four through nine focused on the differences in students’ attitudes in looped and conventional classrooms. Composite means and standard deviations were computed for each of the attributes: self-concept, motivation, instructional mastery, and sense of control. The data were analyzed using t-test computations to determine if a significant difference existed between students in looped and conventional classrooms on each of the attitudes assessed. (Johnston, 2000, p. 72)

If your study is qualitative, display the data and identify the coding processes used to convert the raw data into themes or categories for analysis. Your description should include specific details about how you managed the large amount of data associated with qualitative analysis. Include information about the use of software, notes, or other processes. This helps readers understand how you reduced and analyzed the data.

There are a variety of approaches that researchers can choose from to code data. There is no one right way to code qualitative data. One example to help you understand the coding process is provided by Creswell (2004). He described five steps for analyzing qualitative text as data:

1. Initially read though the text data

2. Divide the text into segments of information

3. Label the segments of information with codes

4. Reduce the overlap and redundancy of codes

5. Collapse codes into themes (p. 238)

A variety of qualitative software products are available for analyzing qualitative data; however, they do take time to learn how to use them well. A book titled Using Software in Qualitative ResearchA Step by Step Guide by Silver and Lewins (2014) is a useful source for information about various software programs.

Validating the Findings

In this section on data analysis, it is important to include how you addressed the issue of validity. Qualitative researchers often use the terms credibility to refer to the concept of validity and dependability to refer to reliability (Lincoln & Guba, 1986; Patton, 2015). Validity in quantitative research or credibility in qualitative research indicates that a research process was used to establish the accuracy of your instrument(s). It’s the dependability factor that helps the reader trust your data analysis. There are multiple tactics for establishing reliability related to quantitative research (e.g., interrater reliability) and qualitative research (e.g., using a second reviewer). It’s important that you select one that is appropriate to your study and describe it clearly.

Limitations

Limitations are particular features of your study that you know may affect the results or your ability to generalize the findings. Limitations can involve areas over which you have little or no control. Some typical limitations include population, sample size, regional and cultural differences, constraints associated with methods design, and response rate.

All studies have some limitations, and it is important that you state them openly and honestly so that those reading your dissertation understand them and, most importantly, know that you are aware of them and are being transparent in your willingness to address them.

Methodology Chapter Elements—A Checklist

As you write your first draft of the methodology chapter, consider the following elements. You may find it useful to develop a checklist, such as the example in Table 10.4 and to note each of the elements and the date of completion.

Table 10.4 Example Methods Chapter Checklist

Table 10.4 Example Methods Chapter Checklist

Section

Notes

Date Completed

Introduction

 

 

 

Topic and Context

 

 

 

Chapter Organization

 

 

 

Purpose and Research Question/Hypotheses and Null Hypotheses

 

 

 

Purpose Statement

 

 

 

Research Question and/or Hypotheses/Null Hypotheses

 

 

 

Research Design

 

 

 

Design Type (e.g., qualitative/quantitative/mixed methods)

 

 

 

Specific method (e.g., experimental, ethnography, etc.)

 

 

 

Rationale for Choice

 

 

 

Research Ethics and Human Subjects Protection

 

 

 

Importance of Protecting Human Subjects

 

 

 

* Researcher Training and Certification

 

 

 

Steps to Protect Human Subjects and Increase Equity

 

 

 

* Approval by IRB

 

 

 

* Consent Process (Letter, Forms, etc.)

 

 

 

Discuss Researcher Bias

 

 

 

Describe Strategies to Mitigate Researcher Bias

 

 

 

Population and Sample

 

 

 

Description of Population and Sample

 

 

 

Sampling Strategies

 

 

 

Inclusion Criteria

 

 

 

Number of Participants

 

 

 

* Procedures to Identify and Recruit Participants

 

 

 

Instrumentation

 

 

 

Detailed Description of Instruments and Protocol

 

 

 

* Copy of Instruments and Protocol

 

 

 

Alignment With Study

 

 

 

* Written Permission of Instrument Author

 

 

 

Strategies for Quantitative Validity and Reliability and/or

Strategies for Qualitative Credibility and Dependability

 

 

 

Pilot Test/Expert Panel Process Description

 

 

 

Indicate Revisions Due to Beta Test or Expert Panel

 

 

 

Data Collection

 

 

 

Describe All Procedures Used to Collect Data

 

 

 

Data Analysis

 

 

 

Explain Statistical Tests or Qualitative Analysis

 

 

 

Describe Software Used

 

 

 

Note How Data Analysis Will Be Reported and Displayed

 

 

 

Limitations

 

 

 

List Limitations

 

 

 

Describe Impact of Limitations on the study

 

 

 

* Check with your university and dissertation advisor for any documents required to be included in the Appendix

Summary

Selecting a methodology requires understanding the two major research paradigms: qualitative and quantitative approaches. Which one you select depends primarily on the problem investigated, the purpose of your study, and the nature of the data. Qualitative studies generate words that describe people’s actions, behaviors, and interactions, whereas quantitative studies generate numerical data derived from surveys, tests, and experiments. Often, both approaches are combined in a single study as multiple/mixed methods.

By describing your methodology clearly and precisely, you will increase confidence in your findings as well as make it possible for other researchers to understand and to replicate your study. You must include detailed descriptions about your research design, protection of human subjects, population and sample, sampling procedures, instrumentation, data collection procedures, data analysis, and limitations.

Now that you have completed your introductory and methodology chapters, it is time to meet with your advisor and committee to discuss and critically analyze your proposed study. The next chapter provides some guidelines for holding the proposal meeting.

Resources

· Academy of Management Ethics (http://aom.org/Content.aspx?id=798)

· American Anthropological Association Code of Ethics (http://www.americananthro.org/ParticipateAndAdvocate/Content.aspx?ItemNumber=1895)

· AERA Ethics (https://www.aera.net/About-AERA/AERA-Rules-Policies/Professional-Ethics)

· APA Ethics (https://www.apa.org/ethics/code/index)

· American Psychological Association Style Manual (http://www.apastyle.org/manual/index.aspx)

· American Sociological Association (http://www.asanet.org/membership/code-ethics)

· Copyright information (https://www.copyright.gov/)

· Mental Measurement Yearbook. (2017). Available at http://buros.org/mental-measurements-yearbook

· Office for Human Research Protections (https://www.hhs.gov/ohrp/regulations-and-policy/regulations/45-cfr-46/index.html)

· Office of Research Integrity (https://ori.hhs.gov/)

· Qualtrics (http://www.qualtrics.com/blog/determining-sample-size) is a platform for research. Qualtrics has a page on the site to help students determine sample size. The site also provides information on how to discuss sample size within the body of the dissertation.

· SAGE Research Methods (http://methods.sagepub.com/?utm_source=srm&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=SRMjanFac&utm_content=promo-email)

· Using Software in Qualitative ResearchA Step by Step Guide by Silver & Lewins (2014). Available at http://methods.sagepub.com/book/using-software-in-qualitative-research-2e

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