Research Methods

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Major Characteristics of Survey Research
* Most surveys possess three basic characteristics: (1) the collection of information (2) from a sample (3) by asking questions, in order to describe some aspects of the population of which the sample is a part. The Purpose of Survey Research

* The major purpose of all surveys is to describe the characteristics of a population. * Rarely is the population as a whole studied, however. Instead, a sample is surveyed and a description of the population is inferred from what the sample reveals. Types of Surveys

* There are two major types of surveys: cross-sectional surveys and longitudinal surveys. * Three longitudinal designs commonly employed in survey research are trend studies, cohort studies, and panel studies. * In a trend study, different samples from a population whose members change are surveyed at different points in time. * In a cohort study, different samples from a population whose members do not change are surveyed at different points in time. * In a panel study, the same sample of individuals is surveyed at different times over the course of the study. * Surveys are not suitable for all research topics, especially those that require observation of subjects or the manipulation of variables. Steps in Survey Research

* The focus of study in a survey is called the unit of analysis. * As in other types of research, the group of persons that is the focus of the study is called the target population. * There are four basic ways to collect data in a survey: by direct administration of the survey instrument to a group, by mail, by telephone, or by personal interview. Each method has advantages and disadvantages. * The sample to be surveyed should be selected randomly if possible. * The most common types of instruments used in survey research are the questionnaire and the interview schedule. Questions Asked in Survey Research

* The nature of the questions, and the way they are asked, are extremely important in survey research. * Most surveys use some form of closed-ended question.
* The survey instrument should be pretested with a small sample similar to the potential respondents. * A contingency question is a question whose answer is contingent upon how a respondent answers a prior question to which the contingency question is related. Well-organized and sequenced contingency questions are particularly important in interview schedules. The Cover Letter

* A cover letter is sent to potential respondents in a mail survey explaining the purpose of the survey questionnaire. Interviewing
* Both telephone and face-to-face interviewers need to be trained before they administer the survey instrument. * Both total nonresponse and item nonresponse are major problems in survey research that seem to be increasing in recent years. This is a problem because those who do not respond are very likely to differ from respondents in terms of how they would answer the survey questions. Threats to Internal Validity in Survey Research

* Threats to the internal validity of survey research include location, instrumentation, instrument decay, and mortality. Data Analysis in Survey Research
* The percentage of the total sample responding for each item on a survey questionnaire should be reported, as well as the percentage of the total sample who chose each alternative for each question.

The Nature of Qualitative Research
* The term qualitative research refers to the quality of relationships, activities, situations, or materials. * The natural setting is a direct source of data, and the researcher is a key part of the instrumentation process in qualitative research. * Qualitative data are collected mainly in the form of words or pictures and seldom involve numbers. Content analysis is a primary method of data analysis. * Qualitative researchers are especially interested in how things occur and particularly in the...
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