This is a summary of the key concepts in scientific research and an attempt to erase some common misconceptions in science. Steps of the scientific method are shaped like an hourglass - starting from general questions, narrowing down to focus on one specific aspect , and designing research where we can observe and analyze this aspect. At last, we conclude and generalize to the real world. Researchers organize their research by formulating and defining a research problem.
This helps them focus the research process so that they can draw conclusions reflecting the real world in the best possible way. In research, a hypothesis is a suggested explanation of a phenomenon. A null hypothesis is a hypothesis which a researcher tries to disprove. Research methodology involves the researcher providing an alternative hypothesis, a research hypothesis , as an alternate way to explain the phenomenon.
The research hypothesis is often based on observations that evoke suspicion that the null hypothesis is not always correct. In the Stanley Milgram Experiment , the null hypothesis was that the personality determined whether a person would hurt another person, while the research hypothesis was that the role, instructions and orders were much more important in determining whether people would hurt others. A variable is something that changes. It changes according to different factors.
Some variables change easily, like the stock-exchange value, while other variables are almost constant, like the name of someone. Researchers are often seeking to measure variables. The variable can be a number, a name, or anything where the value can change. An example of a variable is temperature. The temperature varies according to other variable and factors. You can measure different temperature inside and outside.
If it is a sunny day, chances are that the temperature will be higher than if it's cloudy. Another thing that can make the temperature change is whether something has been done to manipulate the temperature, like lighting a fire in the chimney.
In research, you typically define variables according to what you're measuring. The independent variable is the variable which the researcher would like to measure the cause , while the dependent variable is the effect or assumed effect , dependent on the independent variable.
These variables are often stated in experimental research , in a hypothesis , e. In explorative research methodology, e. They might not be stated because the researcher does not have a clear idea yet on what is really going on.
Confounding variables are variables with a significant effect on the dependent variable that the researcher failed to control or eliminate - sometimes because the researcher is not aware of the effect of the confounding variable. The key is to identify possible confounding variables and somehow try to eliminate or control them. Higher response rates; responses can be gathered more quickly Disadvantage: More expensive than mail surveys Face-to-face Advantages: Highest response rates; better suited to collecting complex information Disadvantage: Very expensive Visit the following website for more information about survey administration: What is a Survey?
Glossary terms related to survey administration: Four sampling techniques are described here: Simple Random Sampling Simple random sampling is the most basic form of sampling Every member of the population has an equal chance of being selected This sampling process is similar to a lottery: In this procedure, telephone numbers are generated by a computer at random and called to identify individuals to participate in the survey Cluster Sampling Cluster sampling is generally used when it is geographically impossible to undertake a simple random sample Cluster sampling requires that adjustments be made in statistical analyses For example, in a face-to-face interview, it is difficult and expensive to survey households across the nation.
Stratified Sampling Stratified samples are used when a researcher wants to ensure that there are enough respondents with certain characteristics in the sample The researcher first identifies the people in the population who have the desired characteristics, then randomly selects a sample of them Stratified sampling requires that adjustments be made in statistical analyses For example, a researcher may want to compare survey responses of African-Americans and Caucasians.
Nonrandom Sampling Common nonrandom sampling techniques include convenience sampling and snowball sampling Nonrandom samples cannot be generalized to the population of interest. Consequently, it is problematic to make inferences about the population In survey research, random, cluster, or stratified samples are preferable Visit the following websites for more information about sampling procedures: Systematic Error Systematic error is more serious than random error Occurs when the survey responses are systematically different from the target population responses For example, if a researcher only surveyed individuals who answered their phone between 9 and 5, Monday through Friday, the survey results would be biased toward individuals who are unemployed Sources of bias include Nonobservational error -- Individuals in the target population are systematically excluded from the sample, such as in the example above Observational error -- When respondents systematically answer surveys question incorrectly.
For example, surveys that ask respondents how much they weigh will probably underestimate the population's weight because respondents are likely to underreport their weight Random Error Random error is an expected part of survey research, and statistical techniques are designed to account for this sort of measurement error Occurs because of natural and uncontrollable variations in the survey process, i.
Visit the following website for more information about measurement error: Reducing Measurement Error Glossary terms related to measurement error: Informed Consent Respondents should give informed consent before participating in a survey. In order for respondents to give informed consent, The researcher must inform the respondents of the study's purpose, content, duration, and potential risks and benefits The researcher must inform the respondents that they do not have to answer all the survey questions The researcher must inform the resondents that they can stop participating in the study at any point Confidentiality and Anonymity It is absolutely imperative that researchers keep respondents' identities confidential.
Anonymity Anonymity is an even stronger safeguard of respondent privacy. Visit the following websites for more information about anonymity: What if that person is unwilling to be interviewed but someone else in the house is willing? How do you deal with multi-family households? Similar problems arise when you sample groups, agencies, or companies. Can you survey any member of the organization? Or, do you only want to speak to the Director of Human Resources?
What if the person you would like to interview is unwilling or unable to participate? Do you use another member of the organization? If you have an incomplete list of the population i. Lists of various groups are extremely hard to keep up to date. People move or change their names. Even though they are on your sampling frame listing, you may not be able to get to them. And, it's possible they are not even on the list. Even if you are able to solve all of the other population and sampling problems, you still have to deal with the issue of response rates.
Some members of your sample will simply refuse to respond. Others have the best of intentions, but can't seem to find the time to send in your questionnaire by the due date. Still others misplace the instrument or forget about the appointment for an interview. Low response rates are among the most difficult of problems in survey research.
They can ruin an otherwise well-designed survey effort. Sometimes the nature of what you want to ask respondents will determine the type of survey you select. Are you going to be asking personal questions? Are you going to need to get lots of detail in the responses? Can you anticipate the most frequent or important types of responses and develop reasonable closed-ended questions?
Sometimes you are dealing with a complex subject or topic. The questions you want to ask are going to have multiple parts. You may need to branch to sub-questions. A screening question may be needed to determine whether the respondent is qualified to answer your question of interest. For instance, you wouldn't want to ask someone their opinions about a specific computer program without first "screening" them to find out whether they have any experience using the program.
Sometimes you have to screen on several variables e. The more complicated the screening, the less likely it is that you can rely on paper-and-pencil instruments without confusing the respondent. Is your survey one where you can construct in advance a reasonable sequence of questions? Or, are you doing an initial exploratory study where you may need to ask lots of follow-up questions that you can't easily anticipate?
If your subject matter is complicated, you may need to give the respondent some detailed background for a question. Can you reasonably expect your respondent to sit still long enough in a phone interview to ask your question? If you are asking people about the different computer equipment they use, you may have to have a lengthy response list CD-ROM drive, floppy drive, mouse, touch pad, modem, network connection, external speakers, etc.
Clearly, it may be difficult to ask about each of these in a short phone interview. The content of your study can also pose challenges for the different survey types you might utilize.
If the respondent does not keep up with the news e. Or, if you want to do a study of family finances and you are talking to the spouse who doesn't pay the bills on a regular basis, they may not have the information to answer your questions. Even if the respondent understands what you're asking about, you may need to allow them to consult their records in order to get an accurate answer.
For instance, if you ask them how much money they spent on food in the past month, they may need to look up their personal check and credit card records.
In this case, you don't want to be involved in an interview where they would have to go look things up while they keep you waiting they wouldn't be comfortable with that. People come to the research endeavor with their own sets of biases and prejudices.
Sometimes, these biases will be less of a problem with certain types of survey approaches.
The essence of survey method can be explained as “questioning individuals on a topic or topics and then describing their responses” (Jackson, , p).
This third definition of survey is a specific type of survey research. Here are the three specific techniques of survey research: Questionnaires - a series of written questions a participant answers.
Survey Research Survey research is one of the most important areas of measurement in applied social research. The broad area of survey research encompasses any measurement procedures that involve asking questions of respondents. Survey research is a commonly used method of collecting information about a population of interest. There are many different types of surveys, several ways to administer them, and many methods .
In survey research, independent and dependent variables are used to define the scope of study, but cannot be explicitly controlled by the researcher. Before conducting the survey, Fundamentals of Survey Research Methodology. The different types of surveys are mainly classified into the survey methods according to instrumentation and according to the span of time involved in conducting the survey, Home Research.