Survey Methods Used in Research

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Using one or more social work research reports as an example, discuss critically one of the applied research methods addressed in the course. This includes: describing the method in detail, appraising its strengths and weaknesses and assessing the circumstances in which this method should – and should not – be used.


This essay focuses on a piece of research undertaken by Pagoto et al (2008), which seeks to evaluate the effectiveness of an intervention for co morbid major depressive disorder and obesity. The research is evaluative and summative by nature and is positioned in a quantitative paradigm relying heavily on yielding statistical information to confirm a stated hypothesis. An orientation to the study itself and the specific methods and techniques it employs is outlined in what follows and consideration is given to the characteristics and features of survey methods in general. Treatment is also given to how these methods are contextualised in terms of administration. This paper finds that for the stated purposes of the research being examined, it has adopted an appropriate range of methods to provide the answers it sought. By its very nature however, statistically heavy results prohibit the understanding of this social phenomenon in a meaningful way that captures how the participant understood or made sense of what is essentially a very subjective experience. This critical issue is explored further with particular regard to the chosen methods this study has employed. Because research is inextricably linked to social work theory and practice, practitioners need to understand how to critically read, interpret and choose applied research methods in their work. This knowledge is foundational in terms of providing evidence based interventions as well as contributing at large to the professions’ body of knowledge (Smith, 2001).

Introducing the Featured Research

This piece of quantitative evaluative research aims to assess the feasibility and efficacy of using behavioural activation (a type of cognitive behavioural therapy) and nutrition counselling for weight loss, with people who experience co morbid major depressive disorder (MDD) and obesity. As an initial investigation, it aims to establish conditions towards justifying a full strength randomized clinical trial. Participants have been recruited from advertising at a university medical. Convenience samples like this introduce elements of sampling bias and error, as respondents do not necessarily reflect the general population of people with co morbid obesity and depression (Davies, 2007). Given the site of recruitment, those responding to this study may demonstrate significant features or characteristics that cannot be generalized, for example, they may all demonstrate particularly high motivation for change or maybe they are all medical graduate students with social and economic advantages. Of 85 responses, 79% were female, 86% were identified as Caucasian and the mean age was 45.46 years old. To reduce confounding variables which could make the targeted intervention appear more or less effective than it actually is, 61 people who responded to the advertisement were excluded (Weinbach, 2005). After a careful screening process, a relatively small sample size of 14 people were accepted to participate in the research study, a number the researchers justified as valid by citing other feasibility and acceptability studies which have also been a small in size. All 14 participants positively demonstrated features of MDD and had a body mass index (BMI) of greater than 30 to establish an obesity diagnosis.

This study relies almost entirely on questionnaires to evaluate feasibility and efficacy of the targeted interventions. Direct observational recording using instruments which measure the dependent variables under examination are also employed (Walliman, 2005). This involves recording BMI by measuring weight and height, and noting...
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