Discuss about the Research and Methods for the Behavioral Sciences.
Research methods are fundamental in studying of social and economic behaviours as well as developing scientific studies, which opens the window for specific analysis based on the methodology that the researcher is applying. In practice, the researcher usually selects the research method that is suitable for the situation under analysis. First segment of the paper provides an overview on focus group research method. Second section of the paper discusses how researcher should select respondents for study to provide benefits for using probability and non-probability sampling. The subsequent parts addresses research design, merits and demerits of qualitative and quantitative research techniques, and differences between probability and non-probability sampling.
Focus Group refers to “an exploratory research method used to help researchers gather in-depth, qualitative information of their participants' attitudes and perceptions relating to concepts, products, services, or programs” (Portland State University, 2015, p.1). Ideally, one of the rationale for conducting focus group is to generate new idea. An open discussion with participants provides a springboard to evaluate the service delivery of the organization and stakeholder’s satisfaction. It also enables the researcher to explore the members’ reactions to the new systems of subscriptions. More importantly, conducting focus groups enhances formulation of hypotheses to be tested for quantitative surveys (Portland State University, 2015). The exercise also enables the researcher to conceptualize previously collected quantitative data. Some of the factors incorporated in the process of conducting focus group include confidentiality, location, time, budget, accuracy, moderator, accuracy, homogeneity, and specification of users’ needs.
Carey and Asbury (2012) identify nine steps that should be followed during development and implementation of focus groups. The first step conducting focus group is establishment of research agenda. I would develop topics of discussions using outline (Green and Thorogood, 2018). I would prepare the outline by consulting with participants to be included in the study. Through consultations with the union members, it would be easy to develop a plan of action. Myers (2013) asserts that the plan should encompass identification of research questions and objectives, features of the sample to include, budget, and the timeline for the entire research process. According to (McBurney and White, 2013), the problem definition should capture specific information on topic of interest and well-defined objectives.
The second step is identification of the sample characteristics. Green and Thorogood, (2018) acknowledge that effectiveness of the focus group vests on recruitment of participants. However, the researcher needs to be careful on matters of group composition since “quality and the direction of the discussion determine” relies on the interaction of the participants within groups (Portland State University, 2015). Four factors must be taken into consideration when assessing the sample of participants to be employed. The first factor is the element of group homogeneity. Myers (2013) maintains that the homogeneity of the group is fundamental. However, it must have some sufficient variations to provide room for contrasting opinions. In this context, I would seek homogeneity in terms of education level, age, family characteristics, gender, and age. Another factor that should be given priority during determining of sample of participants is intrapersonal characteristics. This involves using aspects of personality, geographic, and physical features in determining the reaction and group behaviour. On the size of the focus group, I would consider 6 to 10 participants. Queirós et al (2013) observe that larger groups reduce chances of participants contribute while smaller ones limits range of experiences to be shared. Moreover, representativeness of the group is vital when considering sample of participants. The selected group should be a representation of a target population.
The next step is selection of focus group moderator. The moderator should have adequate experience and not a participant in the organization that is conducting the focus group. The moderator can be outside consultant that is knowledgeable in matters of focus group work. The selected moderators should have the capability to conceptualize objectives, communicate clearly, develop a relaxed atmosphere, and “keep the discussion on track” (Portland State University, 2015).
Planning for focus group is the next step. Planning involves arranging locations where the focus group will be hosted, in terms of refreshments and audio or visual equipment. Some of the factors that should be considered during planning include physical location, spatial arrangements, personal space, and material space. According to Creswell (2015), it is appropriate to organize focus group in a location where participants can easily find. The room in where focus group is hosted should not have auditory or visual distractions. The room should be comfortable to the participants and have proper lighting and ventilation systems. Additionally, sitting arrangements should consider personal and interpersonal space. McBurney and White (2013), acknowledge that a proper spatial arrangement enables participants to be active in conversations with one another as well as with the moderator.
The fifth step is generating and pretesting interview guide. According to Portland State University (2015), “interview guide sets the agenda for the focus group discussion by establishing the research questions to be addressed in the focus group.” The moderator and the client can collaborate to develop the interview guide. There are number aspects that need to be considered when developing interview guide. One of the main factor in this stage is the magic number to use in determining number of questions that need to be addressed to the focus group. Another factor is structure of questions. Myers (2013) holds that the structure of the questions should not limit participants’ feedback or leading respondents to a particular answer. Rather, the questions should be general to allow participants to give wide range of responses. In order to narrow down discussion, it is advisable to “move from less structure questions to more structured questions” (Portland State University, 2015). Additionally, the type of questions to be asked during focus group is a significant factor. Essentially, all the questions asked have to be in language best understood by participants. Besides, the questions need to be clear, precise, and concise. Myers (2013) asserts that the questions should be asked with aim of eliciting responses and not to beleaguer the respondent or cause withdrawal from the focus group. Ideal questions should take the form “how” or “what,” and not “why” since the latter is problematic since participants consider it as a command to defend their answers.
The next step should be recruitment of participants. A number of strategies need to be considered during this process. First, recruitment of qualified participants should be done through telephone screening. In addition, the list should include clients, members, employees, and customers (Portland State University, 2015). Some of the techniques that can be used during recruitment include snowball sampling, nominations, and screening services. After identifying appropriate participants, they are contacted in person through a call or email, after which they are invited to participate in focus group. The next process is asking them qualifying questions. Those who qualify are taken through the description of focus group topics and providing them with incentives to motivate their participation. Individuals that agree to participate are contacted after few days to confirm their selection. After one day, a call is made to the focus group to remind them of importance of commitment and accurate information.
After recruitment process, conducting focus group follows. According to Gravetter and Forzano (2015), the focus group should be “conducted in a comfortable and relaxed setting.” The meeting time should not exceed 2 hours. The moderator directs the focus group by explaining the aim of the group, establishing rules for communication, and facilitating participation and exchange of ideas. Audio or video are used to record the session. Before recording and transcription, it is important to assure the respondents confidentiality of the process. The moderator then allows the participants to introduce themselves. After the introduction, the moderator introduces the topic of discussion and acknowledges importance of participant’s contributions (McBurney and White, 2013). During the process, the moderator has to keep the participants at tsk and manage time. At the end of the process, the moderator should seek if there is additional comment and then thank the participants for their feedback.
The next stage would be analysing and interpreting focus group findings. The moderator has to follow a well-planned and systematic procedure during the analysis of qualitative data. The procedures help to minimize errors in the results (McBurney and White, 2013). During the focus group, the researcher should record data while someone takes notes about participants’ responses. In addition, the researcher should also verify participant’s responses (Carey and Asbury, 2012. The researcher should then conduct a debriefing between note-taker and the moderator for purposes of clarity. In addition, the draft report should be shared with focus group members in order to verify analyst’s description. Gravetter and Forzano (2015), assert that the ideal data should be verifiable. The analysis should focus on important questions only. Essentially, the interpretation of data should be manageable and practical to the analyst. The interpretation of data should also be in a continuous structure. One end with raw data, which capture raw data; middle section with descriptive data, which has summary of data by analyst; and the other end is for final interpretation.
The final step is writing and presentation of report. Myers (2013) argues that rationale for reporting and audience should be considered during reporting. The report should address research questions and the user’s expectation. Gravetter and Forzano (2015), holds that “the main purpose of reporting is to communicate results. Nevertheless, the report should be a reflection of participant’s feedback and focus group procedure.
The most suitable way to identify the respondents for questionnaire is by employing sampling method. According to Martínez-Mesa et al (2016), sampling should not contain lesser individuals than the minimum requirement to avoid compromising the representativeness of the sample. Census-based approach is the best approach but there are certain factors that could limit a researcher from using the method (Terhanian and Bremer, 2017). One of these factors is ethical issues. Unethical issue occurs when the number of individuals selected for the survey exceeds the effectively required number. Other factors include budget and time constraint, logistic issues, and infinite population size of the population (Nix and Hall, 2016). These are the reasons why I would choose sampling method to select respondents for the study.
I would then develop sampling frame. Sampling frame refers to a “group of individuals that can be selected from the target population given the sampling process used in the study” (In Mallinson et al., 2018). For instance, if the study is about causes of skin cancer, then the target population should be medical practitioners. This is because they represent a portion of what I may need for the study. Essentially, I will examine if the sample frame is consistent with hypotheses or objectives. Other items that I will include in the sampling frame are list of phone numbers of the selected samples, their emails, school lists, and courses (Terhanian and Bremer, 2017).
Based on the nature of the research, I would use both non-probabilistic and probabilistic sampling. Although non-probabilistic sampling is biased and it does not represent the target population, it is important for specific research objectives and generation of research hypotheses (Check, 2011). I would employ convenience sampling because I need to survey only individuals that I can easily access. In addition, there is need to save time. I would also employ purposive sampling because— in this context— I need only expert’s opinion on statistical field. Another technique would be quota sampling, by classifying the population in terms of age, gender, and experience. I would then select sampling unit to represent each quota. For instance, based on this research, I would identify 10 higher learning institutions and then select 20 respondents from each institution. Moreover, I would apply snowball sampling. Snowball sampling is sampling technique where the researcher identifies the potential respondents to take part in the study (In Mallinson et al., 2018). In this context, it would be appropriate to include students and lecturers with background information in the area of study.
According to ACSM (2015), non-probabilistic sampling does not represent the population and therefore I would complement the aforementioned techniques with probabilistic sampling. In this research, I would apply stratified sampling. The first step of stratified sampling is dividing the population into separate strata. Thereafter, I would select samples from every stratum through systematic or simple sampling. Based on this case, the total number of individuals I will select will be fixed. The fixed technique employs the use of “sampling weights in the statistical analysis” (Check, 2011). I will give each person selected an equal opportunity to participate in the study. According to Nix and Hall (2016), the sampling sizes should be increased by 10 percent to contain potential non-responsiveness. After identifying and selecting respondents through sampling, I would inform them via telephone conversation and emails about the research to ascertain their willingness to participate in the study.
Research design refers to “a basic plan that guides the data collection and analysis phases of the research project” (Myers, 2013, p.242). Research design is a blueprint for the study that ensures the research is relevant. For this study, exploratory research will be applied in judgemental sampling since the information about NTUC is limited. Research objective will adopt descriptive and qualitative research since the objectives need to communicate the reason for the study. The research questions will be framed in accordance to the research objective. The next step will be formulation of research methodology, selection of sampling procedures, and data collection. This will be followed by data analysis (Adams and Lawrence, 2018).
Advantages and Disadvantages of Qualitative and Quantitative Research Techniques
Qualitative research is underpinned on the aspect of realism and focuses on the aspects of conceptualizing social relation dynamism (Myers, 2013). Unlike qualitative research, quantitative research can be quantified. This is due to the large nature sample and the need to provide the actual representation of the population. Quantitative research emphasizes on objectivity and is suitable in cases where there is possibility gathering “quantifiable measures of variables and inferences of the sample population” (Nix and Hall, 2016). In quantitative research method, the researcher collects data systematically and objectively.
Examples of qualitative methodologies include observation, focus groups, field research, and case studies Queirós et al (2017). Observation allows the researcher to collect data simultaneously during occurrence of events. The method is also flexible, reliable, and unobtrusive. However, it is time consuming and requires a lot of preparedness. In addition, the analysis of data depends on viewer’s discretion. Ethnography method allows the researcher to have deep understanding of the situation in analysis. However, it is also time consuming. Field research enables the researcher to gin in-depth knowledge about the people’s behaviour and their experiences (Queirós et al., 2017) However, documentation and generalization o information about the people is difficult. Focus groups enable the researcher to collect data in situations that involve complex behaviours and there is need to interact with participants. The main disadvantages of focus group are that it is difficult to control the group and encourage individuals to participate in the study. Case studies provide springboard for the researcher to re-examine “current theoretical assumptions” and enhance innovation. However, it is difficult comprehend relationship between cause and effect (Queirós et al., 2017). In addition, it is not easy to develop a case study that is suitable for all subjects (Yin and Campbell, 2018).
Differences between Probability and Non-Probability Sampling
Martínez-Mesa et al (2016) define probability sampling as “sampling method in which all the members of the population has a pre-specified and an equal chance to be a part of the sample. Probability sampling is underpinned on the randomization principle, which involves designing procedure that guarantees each member in the population an equal opportunity during selection. The technique helps to minimize the possibility of biasness. Probability sampling enables the researcher to make statistical inferences by generalizing the information obtained from the sample. Examples of probability sampling include cluster sampling, simple random sampling, stratified sampling, and systematic sampling (Martínez-Mesa et al., 2016). On the other hand, non-probability sampling is a sampling techniques that does not afford all individuals within the population an “equal opportunity of becoming members of the sample” (Check and Schutt, 2011) Since the method does not attach probability to the unit of population, the selection is based on the researcher’s subjective judgement. Hence, the sampler’s reference in this context cannot be used to generalize the whole population. Methods of non-probability sampling include convenience sampling, snowball sampling, judgement/purposive sampling, and quota sampling.
Besides differences in according opportunity to the sampling units, probability and non-probability sampling also differ on basis of randomization. Probability sampling provides room for randomization. On the other hand, in non-probability sampling, there is no application of randomization (ACSM, 2015). In addition, in probability sampling, the researcher has the researcher can randomly choose the representative to be part of the sample while in non-probability sampling, the researcher the researcher chooses the subject to be include in the sample arbitrarily. Another difference between the two techniques is that in probability sampling, chances of selection are known and fixed. In non-probability sampling, the subject is not specified and the probability of selection is zero. Moreover, unlike probability sampling, the results obtained from the non-probability sampling are quintessentially biased. Ideally, non-probability sampling generates hypothesis whereas probability sampling tests it (ACSM, 2015).
The two research methods, quantitative and qualitative research techniques remain significant and entrenched in scientific community. Practically, focus group, case studies, and field search are the most used qualitative methods. On the other hand, correlation studies are the most common quantitative methods. Although the method used relies on resources available resources and time, the researcher should weigh pros and cons of every research method by reflecting on the underlying situation.
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