WEEK 4

PART1- Interview questionnaires:Read the “Test Yourself” section on p. 199 in Ch. 9 of Exploring Research.Discuss your response with your classmates.PART2-CORRELATION DISCUSSION:Read the “Test Yourself” section on p. 207 in Ch. 9 of Exploring Psychology.Discuss your response with your classmates.PART3- LITERATURE REVIEW:Summarize what you have learned about the Literature Review process, this week.Respond to one or more of the following prompts in one to two paragraphs1.      Provide citation and reference to the material(s) you discuss. Describe what you found interesting regarding this topic, and why.2.      Describe how you will apply that learning in your daily life, including your work life.3.      Describe what may be unclear to you, and what you would like to learn.PART5-STEPS FOR CREATING METHODOLOGY:Using Figure 1.2 in Ch. 1 of Exploring Research, create a flowchart using Microsoft® Word or a similar program that helps you identify what research design to use for your research question.RESOURCES FOR ASSIGNMENT 1 THROUGH 3:Chapter 9 Nonexperimental Research: Descriptive and Correlational MethodsWHAT YOU’LL LEARN ABOUT IN THIS CHAPTER:• What survey research is as well as some of its advantages and disadvantages• The development and use of surveys• The value and validity of survey research• The importance and use of follow-up studies• The purpose and use of correlational research• How correlational studies are used• How to compute and interpret a correlation coefficientIn some ways, your work on the first eight chapters of Exploring Research has been done to prepare you for the next four, all of which deal with particular types of research designs or research methods. In this chapter, you will learn about nonexperimental research methods, which are ways of looking at research questions without the direct manipulation of a variable. Chapter 10 discusses another nonexperimental approach: qualitative methods. Why a separate chapter? Because the whole area of qualitative methods stands alone as a somewhat unique approach to asking and answering social and behavioral science research questions.So, let’s turn our attention to the techniques we will deal with here.For example, if you wanted to understand the factors that may be related to why certain undergraduates smoke and why others do not, you might want to complete some type of survey, one of the descriptive techniques that will be covered in this chapter. Or, if you were interested in better understanding the relationship between risk-taking behavior and drug abuse, perhaps the first (but not the last) step would be to conduct a correlational study in which you would learn about questions of a correlational nature. You would be examining the association between variables and learning about the important distinction between association (two things being related since they share something in common) and causality (one thing causing another).This chapter focuses on descriptive research questions, how they are asked and how they are answered. It’s the first chapter on methods before we move on to qualitative, true experimental, and quasi-experimental methods.Descriptive ResearchAlthough several factors distinguish different types of research from one another, probably the most important factor is the type of question that you want to answer (see the summary chart on page 00 in Chapter 1). If you are conducting descriptive research, you are trying to understand events that are occurring in the present and how they might relate to other factors. You generate questions and hypotheses, collect data, and continue as if you were conducting any type of research.Descriptive research describes the current state of some phenomenon.The purpose of descriptive research is to describe the current state of affairs at the time of the study. For example, if you want to know how many teachers use a particular teaching method, you could ask a group of students to complete a questionnaire, thereby measuring the outcome as it occurs. If you wanted to know whether there were differences in the frequency of use of particular types of words among 3-, 5-, and 7-year-olds, you would describe those differences within a descriptive or developmental framework.The most significant difference between descriptive research and causal comparative or experimental research (discussed in detail in Chapter 11) is that descriptive research does not include a treatment or a control group. You are not trying to test the influence of any variable upon another. In other words, all you are doing for readers of your research is painting a picture. When people read a report that includes one of the several descriptive methods that will be discussed, they should be able to envision the larger picture of what occurred. There may be room to discuss why it occurred, but that question is usually left to a more experimental approach.Although there are many different types of descriptive research, the focus of this discussion will be on survey research, and correlational studies in which relationships between variables are described.Survey ResearchThe best application of sampling in theory and practice can probably be found in survey research. Survey researchers attempt to study directly the characteristics of populations through the use of surveys. You may be most familiar with the types of surveys done around election time, wherein relatively small samples of potential voters (about 1,200) are questioned about their voting intentions. To the credit of the survey designers, the results are often very close to the actual outcomes following the election.Survey research, also called sample surveys, examines the frequency and relationships between psychological and sociological variables and taps into constructs such as attitudes, beliefs, prejudices, preferences, and opinions. For example, a sample survey could be used to assess the following:• Parents’ attitudes toward the use of punishment in schools• Voting preferences• Neighborhood residents’ attitudes toward new parking restrictions• Adolescents’ perceptions of curfew enforcement• Use of drugs in high schools• A legislator’s views on capital punishmentThe InterviewThe basic tool used in survey research is the interview. Interviews (or oral questionnaires) can take the form of the most informal question-and-answer session on the street to a highly structured, detailed interaction between interviewer and interviewee. In fact, many of the points that were listed for questionnaires also apply to interviews. For example, although you need not be concerned about the physical format of the questions in an interview (because the respondent never sees them), you do need to address such issues as transitioning between sections, being sensitive to the type of information you are requesting, and being objective and straightforward.Interviews are much more challenging and difficult to do well than just discussing a topic with someone.Most interviews begin with what is called face-sheet information, or neutral information, about the respondent such as age, living arrangements, number of children, income, gender, and educational level. Such information helps the interviewer accomplish several things.First, it helps establish a rapport between the interviewer and the interviewee. Such questions as “Where did you go to college?” or “How many children do you have?” are relatively nonthreatening.Second, it establishes a set of data that characterizes the person being interviewed. These data can prove invaluable in the analysis of the main focus of the interview which comes later on in the survey.Interviews contain two general types of questions: structured and unstructured questions. Structured or closed-ended questions have a clear and apparent focus and call for an explicit answer. They are comprehensible to the interviewer as to the interviewee. Such questions as “At what age did you start smoking?” and “How many times have you visited this store?” call for explicit answers. On the other hand, unstructured or open-ended questions allow the interviewee to elaborate upon responses. Such questions as “Why were you opposed to the first Persian Gulf War?” or “How would you address the issue of teenage pregnancy?” allow for a more broad response by the interviewee. In both cases, the interviewer can follow up with additional questions.Interviews can be especially helpful if you want to obtain information that might otherwise be difficult to come by, including firsthand knowledge of people’s feelings and perceptions. For example, in a study conducted by M. L. Smith and L. A. Shepard (1988), interviews with teachers and parents were part of a multifaceted approach to understanding kindergarten readiness and retention. In this study, interviewing was combined with other techniques such as in-class observations and the analysis of important documents. These researchers put the interview results to good use when they examined these outcomes in light of other information they collected throughout the study.On the positive side, interviews offer great flexibility by letting you pursue any direction (within the scope of the project) with the questions. You could also note the interviewee’s nonverbal behavior, the setting, and other information that might provide valuable information. Another advantage of interviews is that you can set the general tone and agenda at your own convenience (to a point, of course).There is also a downside to interviews. They take time, and time is expensive. Interviewing 10 people could take 20–30 hours including travel time and such. Also, because interviews have less anonymity than, for example, a questionnaire, respondents might be reluctant to come forward as honestly as they might otherwise. Other disadvantages are your own biases and the lack of a standardized set of questions. A good interviewer will probe deeply for additional information, perhaps of a different type, than would another interviewer who started with the same questions. Asking follow-up questions is an excellent practice, but what do you do about the interview where probing did not lead to the same information and thus produced different results?TEST YOURSELFWhat do you think a primary advantage of an interview is over a more structured tool such as a questionnaire, and when might you want to use the interview technique?Developing an InterviewThe development of an interview begins much like that for any proposal for a research project. Your first step is to state the purpose of the interview by taking into account your goals for the project. Then, as before, you review the relevant literature to find out what has been done in the past and whether other interview studies have been conducted. You may even find an actual interview that was previously used and be able to use parts of that in your own research. This is a very common practice when researchers use the same interview, say, 10 years later to look for changes in trends.Second, select a sample that is appropriate for your study, both in characteristics and in size. If you want to know about feelings regarding racial unrest, you cannot question only white citizens—you need to address all minorities. Similarly, even if interviews take lots of time and effort, you cannot skimp on sample size with the thought that what is lost in sample size can be made up in richness and detail. It does not work that way.Next, the interview questions need to be developed. As you know by now, questions, whether structured or unstructured, need to be clear and concise without any hidden agenda, double negatives, 75-cent words that cannot be understood, and so forth. One of the best ways to determine the appropriateness of your interview is by field-testing it. Use it with people who have the same characteristics as the intended audience. Listen to their feedback and make whatever changes you find necessary.After the interview form is (more or less) finished, it is time to train the interviewers. Most of the traits you want in an interviewer are obvious: They should be polite, neatly dressed, uncontroversial in appearance, and responsible enough to get to the interview site on time. These qualities, however, are not enough. Interviewers must learn how to go beyond the question should the need arise. For example, if you are asking questions about racial discrimination, the respondent might mention, “Yes, I sometimes feel as if I am being discriminated against.” For you not to ask “Why?” and to follow up on the respondent’s answer would result in the loss of potentially valuable and interesting information. The best way to train is to have an experienced interviewer watch the trainees interview a practice respondent and then provide feedback.Finally, it is time to conduct the actual interviews. Allow plenty of time, and go to it. Do not be shy, but do not be too aggressive either.The Ten Commandments of InterviewingIf you have worked hard at getting ready for the interview, you should not encounter any major problems. Nonetheless, there are certain things you should keep in mind to make your interview run a bit more smoothly and be more useful later, when it comes time to examine the results of your efforts.No one is perfect, but you should strive to adhere to these 10 guidelines about interviewing as well as you can.With that in mind, here are the 10 commandments of interviewing (drumroll, please). Keep in mind that many, if not all of these, could also be classified as interviewer effects, in which the behavior of the interviewer can significantly affect the outcome.1. Do not begin the interview cold. Warm up with some conversation about everything from the weather to the World Series (especially if there is a game that night and you know that the interviewee is a fan). Use anything you can to break the ice and warm up the interaction. If you are offered coffee, accept (and then do not drink all of it if you don’t want to). If you do not like coffee, politely refuse or ask for a substitute.2. Remember that you are there to get information. Stay on task and use a printed set of questions to help you.3. Be direct. Know your questions well enough so that you do not have to refer constantly to your sheet, but do not give the appearance that you are being too casual or uninterested.4. Dress appropriately. Remove five of your six earrings if you feel wearing six would put off respondents. No shorts, no shirt, no interview, got it?5. Find a quiet place where you and the interviewee will not be distracted. When you make the appointment for the interview, decide where this place will be. If a proposed location is not acceptable (such as “in the snack bar”), then suggest another (such as the lounge in the library). Call the day before your interview to confirm your visit. You will be amazed at how many interviewees forget.6. If your interviewee does not give you a satisfactory answer the first time you ask a question, rephrase it. Continue to rephrase it in part or in whole until you get closer and closer to what you believe you need.7. If possible, use a tape or digital recorder. If you do, you should be aware of several things. First, ask permission to tape the session before you begin. Second, the tape recorder should not be used as a crutch. Do not let the tape run without your taking notes and getting all the information you can while the interview is underway.8. Make the interviewee feel like an important part of an important project, not just someone who is taking a test. Most people like to talk about things if given the chance. Tell interviewees you recognize how valuable their time is and how much you appreciate their participation. Be sure to promise them a copy of the results!9. You become a good interviewer the same way you get to Carnegie Hall: practice, practice, practice.Your first interview, like everyone else’s, can be full of apprehension and doubt. As you do more of these, your increased confidence and mastery of the questions will produce a smoother process which will result in more useful information.10. Thank the interviewee and ask if he or she has any questions. Offer to send (or call) the interviewee a summary of the results of your work.Other Types of SurveysHave you ever been at home during the dinner hour and the phone rings, and the person on the other end of the line wants to know how often you ride the bus, recycle your newspaper, use a computer, or rent a car?Those calls represent one of several types of survey research, all of which are descriptive in nature. In addition to interviews—the primary survey research method—and telephone surveys, surveys include panels or focus groups (in which a small group of respondents is interviewed and reinterviewed) and mail questionnaires.How to Conduct Survey ResearchSurvey research starts out with a general plan (a flow plan) of what activities will occur when. The plan begins with the objective of the study, leads into the various methods that may be used to collect the data, and finishes with a final report and a summary of the findings.1. Clarifying the objectives. The first step is to clarify the objectives of the survey research. For example, let’s say that a researcher is asked by a small school system to study attitudes toward the use of punishment in public schools. As part of the research plan, the researcher needs to consider the nature of the question being asked. Is the concern over the effectiveness of punishment? The way punishment is administered? The type of punishment (physical or other)?Defining the nature of the objectives may require some preliminary interviewing of respondents who might be interviewed in depth later in the project. One of the primary goals in this step of the project is to define the variables, such as punishment and attitudes, which are to be studied. Both of these terms, which are fairly vague by themselves, need further clarification and definition if the questions that are eventually asked by the researcher are to yield information of any importance.2. Identifying a sample. After the objectives have been specified, the next step is to define a sampling plan and obtain a sample of individuals who will participate in the study. Will all teachers and parents be included? Probably not, because they would be too large a sample, and it would be inefficient to survey such a large group. But how can one fairly represent the community?Back to Chapter 4—how about taking a stratified random sample of three parents from each grade from four schools in the district, and a random sample of administrators from each of two administrative levels, building and central administration? If children are involved, the researcher may want to devise a plan that takes into account how frequently these children have been punished themselves and for what reason. Including only children who are rarely punished or only children who are always punished would skew the characteristics of the sample and, thus, the results.3. Defining a method. Now that the objectives and the sampling plan are clear, exactly what will happen during the interview or panel study? Here are some of the questions about which a researcher may be concerned:• Will the questions be primarily open-ended, closed-ended, or a combination of both? How will each question sample content, opinions, or attitudes?• How will the sample of respondents be defined? Will it include parents, teachers, administrators, or all three? What about students?• How will the data be collected? Will interviews be used? Mail surveys?• What types of questions will be asked? What factual information will be included?These questions will be answered, in part, by the types of information the researcher needs to meet the objectives that were defined early in the project.4. Coding and scoring. Survey research can result in anything from lengthy responses that have to be analyzed to a simple yes–no response, depending on the format and the content of the question. After the data have been collected, the researcher needs to code them (1 for male; 2 for female, for example) and then score the responses in an organized fashion that lends itself to easy tabulation.A simple example is shown in Table 9.1, which shows a breakdown of parents who regularly use physical punishment and those who do not and the judgments of both groups as to effectiveness of physical punishment.Some type of analysis of the frequencies of these responses can be performed to answer the question about parents’ attitudes toward punishment.The Validity of Survey DataCollecting survey data is hard work. It means constantly seeking subjects and dealing with lots of extraneous sources of variance that are difficult to control. It is somewhat of a surprise, however, how relatively easy it is to establish the validity of such data. For example, one way to establish the validity of the data gained from an interview is to seek an alternative source for confirmation. Public records are easy to check to confirm such facts as age and party affiliation. Respondents can even be interviewed again to confirm the veracity of what they said the first time. There is no reason why people could not lie twice, but a good researcher is aware of that possibility and tries to confirm factual information that might be important to the study’s purpose.Table 9.1 An example of how data can be collected and scored in a survey settingPhysical Punishment Is Cruel and IneffectivePhysical Punishment Is Harsh and UnnecessaryPhysical Punishment Can Work Under Certain ConditionsPhysical Punishment Is a Useful Deterrent for Poor BehaviorPhysical Punishment Is the Most Effective Method for Dealing with Poor BehaviorParents Who Use Punishment1214152332Parents Who Don’t Use Punishment461314 7 6Evaluating Survey ResearchLike all other research methods, survey research has its ups and downs. Here are some ups. First, survey research allows the researcher to get a very broad picture of whatever is being studied. If sampling is done properly, it is not hard to generalize to millions of people, as is done on a regular basis with campaign polling and such. Along with such powers to generalize comes a big savings in money and time.Second, survey research is efficient in that the data collection part of the study is finished after one contact is made with respondents and the information is collected. Also, minimal facilities are required. In some cases, just a clipboard and a questionnaire is enough to collect data.Third, if done properly and with minimal sampling error, surveys can yield remarkably accurate results.The downs can be serious. Most important are sources of bias which can arise during interviews and questionnaires. Interviewer bias occurs when the interviewer subtly biases the respondent to respond in one way or another. This bias might take place, for example, if the interviewer encourages (even in the most inadvertent fashion) approval or disapproval of a response by a smile, a frown, looking away, or some other action.On the other hand, the interviewee might respond with a bias because he or she may not want to give anything other than socially acceptable responses. After all, how many people would respond with a definite “yes!” to the question, “Do you beat your spouse?”These threats of bias must be guarded against by carefully training interviewers to be objective and by ensuring that the questions neither lead nor put respondents in a position where few alternatives are open.Another problem with survey research is that people may not respond, as in the case of a mail survey. Is this a big deal? It sure can be. Nonresponders might constitute a qualitatively distinct group from responders. Therefore, findings based on nonresponders will be different than if the entire group had been considered. The rule? Go back and try to get those who didn’t respond the first time.TEST YOURSELFYou read about ethics and some guidelines in Chapter 3B. What might be some conflicts that can arise with those ethical principles and the use of the various survey methods we discussed earlier?Correlational ResearchCorrelational research describes the linear relationship between two or more variables without any hint of attributing the effect of one variable on another. As a descriptive technique, it is very powerful because this method indicates whether variables (such as number of hours of studying and test score) share something in common with each other. If they do, the two are correlated (or co-related) with one another.In Chapter 5, the correlation coefficient was used to estimate the reliability of a test. The same statistic is used here, again in a descriptive role. For example, correlations are used as the standard measure to assess the relationship between degree of family relatedness (e.g., twins, cousins, unrelated) and similarity of intelligence test scores. The higher the correlation, the higher the degree of relatedness. In such a case, you would expect that twins who are raised in the same home would have more similar IQ scores (they share more in common) than twins raised in different homes. And they do! Twins reared apart share only the same genetic endowment, whereas twins (whether monozygotic [one egg] or dizygotic [two eggs]) reared in the same home share both hereditary and environmental backgrounds.The Relationship Between VariablesThe most frequent measure used to assess degree of relatedness is the correlation coefficient, which is a numerical index that reflects the relationship between two variables. It is expressed as a number between 21.00 and 11.00, and it increases in strength as the amount of variance that one variable shares with another increases. That is, the more two things have in common (like identical twins), the more strongly related they will be to each other (which only makes sense). If you share common interests with someone, it is more likely that your activities will be related than if you compared yourself with someone with whom you have nothing in common.For example, you are more likely to find a stronger relationship between scores on a manual dexterity test and a test of eye–hand coordination than between a manual dexterity test and a person’s height. Similarly, you would expect the correlation between reading and mathematics scores to be stronger than that between reading and physical strength. This is because performances on reading and math tests share something in common with each other (intellectual and problem-solving skills, for example) than a reading test and, say, weight-lifting performance.Correlations can be direct or positive, meaning that as one variable changes in value, the other changes in the same direction, such as the relationship between the number of hours you study and your grade on an exam. Generally, the more you study, the better your grade will be. Likewise, the less you study, the worse your grade will be. Notice that the word “positive” is sometimes interpreted as being synonymous with “good.” Not so here. For example, there is a negative correlation between the amount of time parents spend with their children and the child’s level of involvement with juvenile authorities. Bad? Not at all.Positive correlations are not “good” and negative ones are not “bad.” Positive and negative have to do with the direction of the relationship and nothing else.Correlations can also reflect an indirect or negative relationship, meaning that as one variable changes in value in one direction, the other changes in the opposite direction, such as the relationship between the speed at which you go through multiple-choice items and your score on the test. Generally, the faster you go, the lower your score; the slower you go, the higher your score. Do not interpret this to mean that if you slow down, you will be smarter. Things do not work like that, which further exemplifies why correlations are not causal. What it means is that, for a specific set of students, there is a negative correlation between test-taking time and total score. Because it is a group statistic, it is difficult to conclude anything about individual performance and impossible to attribute causality.The two types of correlations we just discussed are summarized in Table 9.2.Interestingly, the important quality of a correlation coefficient is not its sign, but its absolute value. A correlation of 2.78 is stronger than a correlation of 1.68, just as a correlation of 1.56 is weaker than a correlation of 2.60.What Correlation Coefficients Look LikeThe most frequently used measure of relationships is the Pearson product moment correlation, represented by letter r followed by symbols representing the variables being correlated. The symbol rxyrepresents a correlation between the variables X and Y.To compute a correlation, you must have a pair of scores (such as a reading score and a math score) for each subject in the group with which you are working. For example, if you want to compute the correlation between the number of hours spent studying and test score, then you need to have a measure of the number of hours spent and a test score for each individual.The absolute value of the correlation coefficient, not the sign, is what’s important.As you just read, correlations can range between ?1.00 and +1.00 and can take on any value between those two extremes. For example, look at Figure 9.1, which shows four sets of data (A, B, C, and D) represented by an accompanying scattergram for each of the sets.Table 9.2 Two types of correlations: positive or direct, and negative or indirectIf X . . .and Y . . .The Correlation IsExampleIncreases in valueIncreases in valuePositive or directThe taller one gets (X), the more one weighs (Y)Decreases in valueDecreases in valuePositive or directThe fewer mistakes one makes (X), the fewer hours of remedial work (Y) one participates inIncreases in valueDecreases in valueNegative or indirectThe better one behaves (X), the fewer in-class suspensions (Y) one hasDecreases in valueIncreases in valueNegative or indirectThe less time one spends studying (X), the more errors one makes on the test (Y)The scattergram is a visual representation of the correlation coefficient of the relationship between two variables.A scattergram is a plot of the scores in pairs. In set A, the correlation is +1.70. (You will see how to compute that value in a moment.)To draw a scattergram, follow these steps:1. Using graph paper, set up an X-axis (horizontal) and a Y-axis (vertical).2. Indicate which variable from the pair will be X and which will be Y. The first in a pair is usually designated as the X value.3. For participant 1, enter the coordinates for the X and Y values. In this example (data set A in Figure 9.1), the X score is 3 and the Y score is 3, so a data point corresponding to (3, 3) was entered.4. Repeat step 3 for all the data points, and you will see the scattergram as shown in Figure 9.1 for data set A.Now look at data set B, where the correlation is only .32, which is substantially weaker than .70. You can see that the stronger correlation (set A) is characterized in the following ways:• The data points group themselves closer and closer along a straight line as the correlation increases in strength.• As the slope of this grouping approaches a 45° angle, the correlation becomes stronger.The data in set A show a high positive correlation (.70), whereas the data in set B show a much lower one (.32). The data in set C show a high negative correlation (? .82) and, just as with a high positive correlation, the coordinates that represent the intersection of two data points align themselves along a diagonal (in this case, from the upper left-hand corner to the lower right, approaching a 45° angle). The last data set, set D, shows very little relationship (? .15) between the X and the Y variables, and the accompanying plot of the coordinates reveals a weak pattern. In other words, a line drawn through these points would be almost flat or horizontal.In summary, the stronger the formation of a pattern and the more the pattern aligns itself in a 45° angle (either from the lower left-hand corner of the graph to the upper right-hand for positive correlations, or from the upper left-hand corner of the graph to the lower right-hand corner for negative correlations), the stronger the visual evidence of the existence of a relationship between two variables.TEST YOURSELFCorrelations can be negative or positive, but give an example of how negative does not carry a pejorative meaning and positive outcomes are not always good.Computing

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