BECOMING A CRITICAL READER OF QUANTITATIVE RESEARCH
methodical investigation to seek answers that involve explanation and understanding Positivism – falsification and replication all research has flaws limited resources & ‘the least worst option’ is research ‘fit for purpose?’ research is presented as if ‘fit for purpose’ facts, findings and critical reading
Tim Hartford – but there are more Ben Goldacre (Guardian), Seife (Proofiness)
WHY BE A CRITICAL READER?
The seduction & authority of numbers “Proofiness” (Siefe 2010) the dark arts of mathematical deception Potemkin numbers dis-estimation fruit packing & cherry picking
WHY BE A CRITICAL READER?
numbers can clarify but also confuse or misdirect?
Examples 1. Fish oil mothers depression and child intelligence 2. School-age drinking and social networking sites
3. Improvements in re-offending
? Some possibly deliberately falsify?
e.g. Sir Cyril Burt’s study of intelligence in twins & 2 tiered education system & 11+
BE A CRITICAL READER…..
Look for potential flaws in the statistical analysis
But do not assume that all studies are equal (research design) Randomised control trails (experiments) Longitudinal studies One-time cross sectional surveys
e.g. Fish oil mothers depression and child intelligence http://www.straightstatistics.org/article/fishingsignificance
Several reports * The Times. The Daily Telegraph, the Guardian, the Daily Mail, The Sun, the Independent and the Daily Mirror • Lancet published 2007 • eat less than 340g fish a week & children in lowest quartile One report only in British Newspapers (daily telegraph) * randomised control trail *Journal of the American Medical Association, October 2010
CRITICAL READING (NOT JUST BEING NEGATIVE)
What are the arguments? Where do they come from? What data have they got to support them? plus data transparency What is the data? Is it fit for purpose? i.e. measured well? How was the data collected? i.e. who is it from (sample) What is the research design & analysis – it is reported in detail? Can you evaluate it? • What is not reported? • • • • Note: You will need to demonstrate transparency in your dissertation studies – so start practicing and evaluating what others studies do.
Usually associated with philosophy of positivism Associated with ‘survey’, standardised information, & large scale (sample)
OFFICE OF NATIONAL STATISTICS (ONS) SURVEYS
– There is a world ‘out there’ that exists prior to, and independent of the research and the researcher – It is possible to discover, know or find out something about this world (through certain types of research practice) – It is possible to discover causal relationships in social phenomena – Theories about the world must be tested using evidence in order for them to be accepted or trusted
CAN RESEARCHERS BE ‘NEUTRAL’?
• to be as objective and value-free as possible. • to find out how the world really is, value judgements about whether these findings are good or bad is for others (you) to debate and decide • researchers need to ensure their research has – Validity – we need to be as sure as possible that a research method actually measures (without bias) what it claims to measure – Reliability – we need to ensure and check that results are stable and consistent
Descriptive or Explanatory Sometimes exploratory
Expressed numerically & analysed statistically
BUT - Is a number always a number?
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