Question 1: What is questionnaire? Discuss the main points that you will take into
account while drafting a questionnaire?
A questionnaire is a research instrument consisting of a series of questions and other prompts
for the purpose of gathering information from respondents. Although they are often designed
for statistical analysis of the responses, this is not always the case. The questionnaire was
invented by Sir Francis Galton.
Questionnaires have advantages over some other types of surveys in that they are cheap, do
not require as much effort from the questioner as verbal or telephone surveys, and often have
standardized answers that make it simple to compile data. However, such standardized
answers may frustrate users. Questionnaires are also sharply limited by the fact that
respondents must be able to read the questions and respond to them. Thus, for some
demographic groups conducting a survey by questionnaire may not be practical.
As a type of survey, questionnaires also have many of the same problems relating to question
construction and wording that exist in other types of opinion polls.
Questionnaires may be classified as:
Structured/ Standardized Questionnaire:
Structured questionnaires are those in which there are definite, concrete and preordained
questions with additional questions limited to those necessary to clarify inadequate answers or
to elicit more detailed responses. The questions are presented with exactly the same wording
and in the same order to all the respondents.
In unstructured questionnaires the respondent is given the opportunity to answer in his own
terms and in his own frame of reference.
Points to take into account while drafting a questionnaire:
Writing an effective questionnaire is not a task for novices. At the very least it requires an
understanding of four basics. These are:
Considering the differences that exist when writing a questionnaire that respondent’s
will fill out themselves as opposed to when a professional interviewer administers the
questionnaire to the respondent.
Knowing what questions should be asked early on in the questionnaire,
in the middle or toward the end.
Understanding how to phrase questions.
Being sensitive to questionnaire length.
There are some basic differences in how the questionnaire should be constructed if it is to be
filled out personally by the respondent or if an interviewer is going to administer it. These are:
Self-administered questionnaires should be simple, straightforward and logical. Question
2 should follow question 1. Question 3 should follow question 2, and so forth. Further,
the going-in assumption with self-administered questionnaires should be that
respondents will not complete a questionnaire when there are complex skip patterns,
when pages are crowded or hard to read or when instructions for completion are overly
It has been estimated that as many as 50% of respondents who start a self-
administered questionnaire will not complete it because they become irritated and
annoyed at the way it is constructed. When writing a self-administered questionnaire,
then, every care must be taken to ensure that it is easy to complete in that it almost
Self-administered questionnaires should be written with an eighth grade mentality in
mind while interviewer-administered questionnaire can be quite complex. Because
interviewers are trained in the flow of the questionnaires they administer and will
conduct a number of practice interviews prior to confronting a respondent, developing a
complex questionnaire that is interviewer-administered does not present a problem for
Keep the respondent in one mind-set at a time. If at all possible, complete all your
questions about one topic before moving on to the next. For example, don’t ask about a
favorite place to shop, then about brands used and then go back to additional
questioning on favorite place to shop.
Save sensitive questions for the end. Again, this might not always be possible, but when
it doesn’t matter, be aware that sensitive questions such as race or income can alienate
respondents and turn them off to the entire interview process. If asked at the end,
respondents are more likely to answer as they are wholly invested in the questionnaire.
Biased question: What do you like about the last airline flight you took? Assumption
here is that respondent liked something and the question tends to push for a positive
Unbiased question. What, if anything, do you like the last airline flight you took? By
simply using if anything as part of the question phrasing, the respondent is not put on
the spot to find something to like.
When conducting telephone interviews, it’s relatively easy to keep respondents on the
phone and answering questions for 15, 20 or 25 minutes if the questionnaire has a good
flow and is thoughtfully written. But try keeping a respondent on the phone for 3
minutes with a questionnaire that is the least bit confusing, seems redundant or is
insensitive to sensitive issues.
Question 2: What do you mean by primary data? What are the various methods of
collecting primary data?
Primary Date is data that has not been previously published, i.e. the data is derived from a new
or original research study and collected at the source, e.g., in marketing, it is information that
is obtained directly from first-hand sources by means of surveys, observation or
Data observed or collected directly from first-hand experience. Published data and the data
collected in the past or other parties are called secondary data. Primary data are directly
collected by the researcher from their original sources. In this case, the researcher can collect
the required date precisely according to his research needs, he can collect them when he wants
them and in the form he needs them. But the collection of primary data is costly and time
consuming. Yet, for several types of social science research required data are not available
from secondary sources and they have to be directly gathered from the primary sources.
In such cases where the available data are inappropriate, inadequate or obsolete, primary data
have to be gathered. They include: socio economic surveys, social anthropological studies of
rural communities and tribal communities, sociological studies of social problems and social
institutions. Marketing research, leadership studies, opinion polls, attitudinal surveys,
readership, radio listening and T.V. viewing surveys, knowledge-awareness practice (KAP)
studies, farm managements studies, business management studies etc.
Primary data are always collected from the source. It is collected either by the investigator
himself or through his agents. There are different methods of collecting primary data. Each
method has its relative merits and demerits. The investigator has to choose a particular
method to collect the information. The choice to a large extent depends on the preliminaries to
data collection some of the commonly used methods are discussed below.
1) Direct Personal observation:
This is a very general method of collecting primary data. Here the investigator directly contacts
the informants, solicits their cooperation and enumerates the data. The information are
collected by direct personal interviews.
The novelty of this method is its simplicity. It is neither difficult for the enumerator nor the
informants because both are present at the spot of data collection. This method provides most
accurate information as the investigator collects them personally. But as the investigator alone
is involved in the process, his personal bias may influence the accuracy of the data. So it is
necessary that the investigator should be honest, unbiased and experienced. In such cases the
data collected may be fairly accurate. However, the method is quite costly and time-
consuming. So the method should be used when the scope of enquiry is small.
2) Indirect Oral Interviews:
This is an indirect method of collecting primary data. Here information is not collected directly
from the source but by interviewing persons closely related with the problem. This method is
applied to apprehend culprits in case of theft, murder etc. The information relating to one's
personal life or which the informant hesitates to reveal are better collected by this method.
Here the investigator prepares 'a small list of questions relating to the enquiry. The answers
(information) are collected by interviewing persons well connected with the incident. The
investigator should cross-examine the informants to get correct information.
This method is time saving and involves relatively less cost. The accuracy of the information
largely depends upon the integrity of the investigator. It is desirable that the investigator
should be experienced and capable enough to inspire and create confidence in the informant to
collect accurate data.
3) Mailed Questionnaire method:
This is a very commonly used method of collecting primary data. Here information is collected
through a set of questionnaire. A questionnaire is a document prepared by the investigator
containing a set of questions. These questions relate to the problem of enquiry directly or
indirectly. Here first the questionnaires are mailed to the informants with a formal request to
answer the question and send them back. For better response the investigator should bear the
postal charges. The questionnaire should carry a polite note explaining the aims and objective
of the enquiry, definition of various terms and concepts used there. Besides this the
investigator should ensure the secrecy of the information as well as the name of the
informants, if required.
Success of this method greatly depends upon the way in which the questionnaire is drafted. So
the investigator must be very careful while framing the questions. The questions should be:
Short and clear
Few in number
Simple and intelligible
Corroboratory in nature or there should be provision for cross check
Impersonal, non-aggressive type
Simple alternative, multiple-choice or open-end type
a) In the simple alternative question type, the respondent has to choose between alternatives
such as ‘Yes or No’, ‘right or wrong’ etc.
For example: Is Adam Smith called father of Statistics? Yes/No
b) In the multiple choice type, the respondent has to answer from any of the given
Example: To which sector do you belong?
Tertiary or Service Sector
c) In the Open-end or free answer questions the respondents are given complete freedom in
answering the questions. The questions are like –
What are the defects of our educational system?
The questionnaire method is very economical in terms of time, energy and money. The method
is widely used when the scope of enquiry is large. Data collected by this method are not
affected by the personal bias of the investigator. However the accuracy of the information
depends on the cooperation and honesty of the informants. This method can be used only if the
informants are cooperative, conscious and educated. This limits the scope of the method.
4) Schedule Method:
In case the informants are largely uneducated and non-responsive data cannot be collected by
the mailed questionnaire method. In such cases, schedule method is used to collect data. Here
the questionnaires are sent through the enumerators to collect information. Enumerators are
persons appointed by the investigator for the purpose. They directly meet the informants with
the questionnaire. They explain the scope and objective of the enquiry to the informants and
solicit their cooperation. The enumerators ask the questions to the informants and record their
answers in the questionnaire and compile them. The success of this method depends on the
sincerity and efficiency of the enumerators. So the enumerator should be sweet-tempered,
good-natured, trained and well-behaved.
Schedule method is widely used in extensive studies. It gives fairly correct result as the
enumerators directly collect the information. The accuracy of the information depends upon the
honesty of the enumerators. They should be unbiased. This method is relatively more costly
and time-consuming than the mailed questionnaire method.
5) From Local Agents:
Sometimes primary data are collected from local agents or correspondents. These agents are
appointed by the sponsoring authorities. They are well conversant with the local conditions like
language, communication, food habits, traditions etc. Being on the spot and well acquainted
with the nature of the enquiry they are capable of furnishing reliable information.
The accuracy of the data collected by this method depends on the honesty and sincerity of the
agents because they actually collect the information from the spot. Information from a wide
area at less cost and time can be collected by this method. The method is generally used by
government agencies, newspapers, periodicals etc. to collect data.
Information is like raw materials or inputs in an enquiry. The result of the enquiry basically
depends on the type of information used. Primary data can be collected by employing any of
the above methods. The investigator should make a rational choice of the methods to be used
for collecting data because collection of data forms the beginning of the statistical enquiry.
a. Analyse the case study and descriptive approach to research.
b. Distinguish between research methods & research Methodology.
a) Case Study and descriptive approach to research:
Descriptive research, also known as statistical research, describes data and characteristics
about the population or phenomenon being studied. Descriptive research answers the questions
who, what, where, when and how...
Although the data description is factual, accurate and systematic, the research cannot describe
what caused a situation. Thus, Descriptive research cannot be used to create a causal
relationship, where one variable affects another. In other words, descriptive research can be
said to have a low requirement for internal validity.
The description is used for frequencies, averages and other statistical calculations. Often the
best approach, prior to writing descriptive research, is to conduct a survey investigation.
Qualitative research often has the aim of description and researchers may follow-up with
examinations of why the observations exist and what the implications of the findings are.
In short descriptive research deals with everything that can be counted and studied. But there
are always restrictions to that. Your research must have an impact to the lives of the people
around you e.g. finding the most frequent disease that affects the children of a town. The
reader of the research will know what to do to prevent that disease thus; more people will live
a healthy life.
Descriptive research does not fit neatly into the definition of either quantitative or qualitative
research methodologies, but instead it can utilize elements of both, often within the same
study. The term descriptive research refers to the type of research question, design, and data
analysis that will be applied to a given topic. Descriptive statistics tell what is, while inferential
statistics try to determine cause and effect.
A case study is a research method common in social science. It is based on an in-depth
investigation of a single individual, group, or event. Case studies may be descriptive or
explanatory. The latter type is used to explore causation in order to find underlying principles.
They may be prospective, in which criteria are established and cases fitting the criteria are
included as they become available, or retrospective, in which criteria are established for
selecting cases from historical records for inclusion in the study.
Rather than using samples and following a rigid protocol (strict set of rules) to examine limited
number of variables, case study methods involve an in-depth, longitudinal (over a long period
of time) examination of a single instance or event: a case. They provide a systematic way of
looking at events, collecting data, analyzing information, and reporting the results. As a result
the researcher may gain a sharpened understanding of why the instance happened as it did,
and what might become important to look at more extensively in future research. Case studies
lend themselves to both generating and testing hypotheses.
Another suggestion is that case study should be defined as a research strategy, an empirical
inquiry that investigates a phenomenon within its real-life context. Case study research means
single and multiple case studies, can include quantitative evidence, relies on multiple sources of
evidence and benefits from the prior development of theoretical propositions. Case studies
should not be confused with qualitative research and they can be based on any mix of
quantitative and qualitative evidence. Single-subject research provides the statistical
framework for making inferences from quantitative case-study data
b) Distinction between research methods and research Methodology:
Research Methods Research Methodology
Research methods are the various Research methodology is a systematic
procedures, schemes, algorithms, etc. way to solve a problem. It is a science of
used in research. All the methods used by studying how research is to be carried
a researcher during a research study are out. Essentially, the procedures by which
termed as research methods. They are researchers go about their work of
essentially planned, scientiﬁc and value- describing, explaining and predicting
neutral. They include theoretical phenomena are called research
procedures, experimental studies, methodology. It is also deﬁned as the
numerical schemes, statistical approaches, study of methods by which knowledge is
etc. Research methods help us collect gained. Its aim is to give the work plan of
samples, data and ﬁnd a solution to a research.
problem. Particularly, scientiﬁc research
methods call for explanations based on
collected facts, measurements and
observations and not on reasoning alone.
They ac- cept only those explanations
which can be veriﬁed by experiments.
Question 4: Explain the important concepts in Research design?
The research designer understandably cannot hold all his decisions in his head. Even if he
could, he would have difficulty in understanding how these are inter-related. Therefore, he
records his decisions on paper or record disc by using relevant symbols or concepts. Such a
symbolic construction may be called the research design or model. A research design is a
logical and systematic plan prepared for directing a research study. It specifies the objectives
of the study, the methodology and techniques to be adopted for achieving the objectives. It
constitutes the blue print for the plan is the overall scheme or program of research. A research
design is the program that guides the investigator in the process of collecting, analysing and
interpreting observations. It provides a systematic plan of procedure for the researcher to
follow elltiz, Jahoda and Destsch and Cook describe, “A research design is the arrangement of
conditions for collection and analysis of data in a manner that aims to combine relevance to the
research purpose with economy in procedure.”
Components of Research Design:
It is important to be familiar with the important concepts relating to research design. They are:
1. Dependent and Independent variables:
A magnitude that varies is known as a variable. The concept may assume different quantitative
values, like height, weight, income, etc. Qualitative variables are not quantifiable in the
strictest sense of objectivity. However, the qualitative phenomena may also be quantified in
terms of the presence or absence of the attribute considered. Phenomena that assume different
values quantitatively even in decimal points are known as “continuous variables. But, all
variables need not be continuous. Values that can be expressed only in integer values are
called” non-continuous variables. In statistical term, they are also known as „discrete variable.
For example, age is a continuous variable; whereas the number of children is a non-continuous
variable. When changes in one variable depends upon the changes in one or more other
variables, it is known as a dependent or endogenous variable, and the variables that cause the
changes in the dependent variable are known as the independent or explanatory or exogenous
variables. For example, if demand depends upon price, then demand is a dependent variable,
while price is the independent variable.
And if, more variables determine demand, like income and prices of substitute commodity, then
demand also depends upon them in addition to the own price. Then, demand is a dependent
variable which is determined by the independent variables like own price, income and price of
2. Extraneous variable:
The independent variables which are not directly related to the purpose of the study but affect
the dependent variable are known as extraneous variables. For instance, assume that a
researcher wants to test the hypothesis that there is relationship between children’s school
performance and their self-concepts, in which case the latter is an independent variable and
the former, the dependent variable. In this context, intelligence may also influence the school
performance. However, since it is not directly related to the purpose of the study undertaken
by the researcher, it would be known as an extraneous variable. The influence caused by the
extraneous variable on the dependent variable is technically called as an „experimental errors
Therefore, a research study should always be framed in such a manner that the dependent
variable completely influences the change in the independent variable and any other
extraneous variable or variables.
One of the most important features of a good research design is to minimize the effect of
extraneous variable. Technically, the term control is used when a researcher designs the study
in such a manner that it minimizes the effects of extraneous independent variables. The term
control is used in experimental research to reflect the restrain in experimental conditions.
4. Confounded relationship:
The relationship between dependent and independent variables is said to be confounded by an
extraneous variable, when the dependent variable is not free from its effects.
When a prediction or a hypothesized relationship is tested by adopting scientific
methods, it is known as research hypothesis. The research hypothesis is a predictive
statement which relates a dependent variable and an independent variable. Generally, a
research hypothesis must consist of at least one dependent variable and one
independent variable. Whereas, the relationships that are assumed but not be tested
are predictive statements that are not to be objectively verified are not classified as
Experimental and control groups:
When a group is exposed to usual conditions in an experimental hypothesis-testing
research, it is known as „control group. On the other hand, when the group is exposed
to certain new or special condition, it is known as an „experimental group. In the afore-
mentioned example, the Group A can be called a control group and the Group B an
experimental one. If both the groups A and B are exposed to some special feature, then
both the groups may be called as „experimental groups. A research design may include
only the experimental group or the both experimental and control groups together.
Treatments are referred to the different conditions to which the experimental and
control groups are subject to. In the example considered, the two treatments are the
parents with regular earnings and those with no regular earnings. Likewise, if a research
study attempts to examine through an experiment regarding the comparative impacts of
three different types of fertilizers on the yield of rice crop, then the three types of
fertilizers would be treated as the three treatments.
An experiment refers to the process of verifying the truth of a statistical hypothesis
relating to a given research problem. For instance, experiment may be conducted to
examine the yield of a certain new variety of rice crop developed. Further, Experiments
may be categorized into two types namely, absolute experiment and comparative
experiment. If a researcher wishes to determine the impact of a chemical fertilizer on
the yield of a particular variety of rice crop, then it is known as absolute experiment.
Meanwhile, if the researcher wishes to determine the impact of chemical fertilizer as
compared to the impact of bio-fertilizer, then the experiment is known as a comparative
Experimental units refer to the predetermined plots, characteristics or the blocks, to
which the different treatments are applied. It is worth mentioning here that such
experimental units must be selected with great caution.
Question 5: What are the differences between observation and interviewing as
methods of data collection? Give two specific examples of situations where either
observation or interviewing would be more appropriate.
Observation vs. interviewing as Methods of Data Collection:
Collection of data is the most crucial part of any research project as the success or failure of
the project is dependent upon the accuracy of the data. Use of wrong methods of data
collection or any inaccuracy in collecting data can have significant impact on the results of a
study and may lead to results that are not valid. There are many techniques of data collection
along a continuum and observation and interviewing are two of the popular methods on this
continuum that has quantitative methods at one end while qualitative methods at the other
end. Though there are many similarities in these two methods and they serve the same basic
purpose, there are differences that will be highlighted in this article.
Observation, as the name implies refers to situations where participants are observed from a
safe distance and their activities are recorded minutely. It is a time consuming method of data
collection as you may not get the desired conditions that are required for your research and
you may have to wait till participants are in the situation you want them to be in. Classic
examples of observation are wild life researchers who wait for the animals of birds to be in a
natural habitat and behave in situations that they want to focus upon. As a method of data
collection, observation has limitations but produces accurate results as participants are
unaware of being closely inspected and behave naturally.
Interviewing is another great technique of data collection and it involves asking questions to
get direct answers. These interviews could be either one to one, in the form of questionnaires,
or the more recent form of asking opinions through internet. However, there are limitations of
interviewing as participants may not come up with true or honest answers depending upon
privacy level of the questions. Though they try to be honest, there is an element of lie in
answers that can distort results of the project.
Though both observation and interviewing are great techniques of data collection, they have
their own strengths and weaknesses. It is important to keep in mind which one of the two will
produce desired results before finalizing.
Observation vs. interviewing:
Observation requires precise analysis by Interviewing is easier but suffers from the
the researcher and often produces most fact that participants may not come up
accurate results although it is very time with honest replies.
Interviews take many different forms. It is a good idea to ask the organisation in advance what
format the interview will take.
Competency/criteria based interviews:
These are structured to reflect the competencies or qualities that an employer is seeking for a
particular job, which will usually have been detailed in the job specification or advert. The
interviewer is looking for evidence of your skills and may ask such things as: µGive an example
of a time you worked as part of a team to achieve a common goal.
If you have applied for a job or course that requires technical knowledge, it is likely that you
will be asked technical questions or has a separate technical interview. Questions may focus on
your final year project or on real or hypothetical technical problems. You should be prepared to
prove yourself, but also to admit to what you do not know and stress that you are keen to
learn. Do not worry if you do not know the exact answer - interviewers are interested in your
thought process and logic.
These are used for further study or research positions. Questions are likely to centre on
your academic history to date.
The interviewer has a set list of questions, and asks all the candidates the same
Some interviews may be very formal, while others will feel more like an informal chat
about you and your interests. Be aware that you are still being assessed, however
informal the discussion may seem.
Portfolio based interviews:
If the role is within the arts, media or communications industries, you may be asked to
bring a portfolio of your work to the interview, and to have an in-depth discussion about
the pieces you have chosen to include.
Senior/case study interviews:
These ranges from straightforward scenario questions (e.g. µWhat would you do in a
situation where to the detailed analysis of a hypothetical business problem. You will be
evaluated on your analysis of the problem, how you identify the key issues, how you
pursue a particular line of thinking and whether you can develop and present an
appropriate framework for organising your thoughts.
Specific types of interview
The Screening Interview:
Companies use screening tools to ensure that candidates meet minimum qualification
requirements. Computer programs are among the tools used to weed out unqualified
candidates. (This is why you need a digital resume that is screening-friendly. See our resume
centre for help.) Sometimes human professionals are the gatekeepers. Screening interviewers
often have honed skills to determine whether there is anything that might disqualify you for
the position. Remember they do not need to know whether you are the best fit for the position,
only whether you are not a match. For this reason, screeners tend to dig for dirt. Screeners will
hone in on gaps in your employment history or pieces of information that look inconsistent.
They also will want to know from the outset whether you will be too expensive for the
Some tips for maintaining confidence during screening interviews:
Highlight your accomplishments and qualifications.
Get into the straightforward groove. Personality is not as important to the screener as
verifying your qualifications. Answer questions directly and succinctly. Save
your winning personality for the person making hiring decisions!
Be tactful about addressing income requirements. Give a range, and try to avoid giving
specifics by replying, "I would be willing to consider your best offer."
If the interview is conducted by phone, it is helpful to have note cards with your vital
information sitting next to the phone. That way, whether the interviewer catches you
sleeping or vacuuming the floor, you will be able to switch gears quickly
The Informational Interview:
On the opposite end of the stress spectrum from screening interviews is the informational
interview. A meeting that you initiate, the informational interview is underutilized by job-
seekers who might otherwise consider themselves savvy to the merits of networking.
Jobseekers ostensibly secure informational meetings in order to seek the advice of someone in
their current or desired field as well as to gain further references to people who can lend
insight. Employers that like to stay apprised of available talent even when they do not have
current job openings, are often open to informational interviews, especially if they like to share
their knowledge, feel flattered by your interest, or esteem the mutual friend that connected you
to them. During an informational interview, the jobseeker and employer exchange information
and get to know one another better without reference to specific job opening.
This takes off some of the performance pressure, but be intentional nonetheless:
Come prepared with thoughtful questions about the field and the company.
Gain references to other people and make sure that the interviewer would be
comfortable if you contact other people and use his or her name.
Give the interviewer your card, contact information and resume.· Write a thank you note
to the interviewer.
The Directive Style:
In this style of interview, the interviewer has a clear agenda that he or she follows
unflinchingly. Sometimes companies use this rigid format to ensure parity between interviews;
when interviewers ask each candidate the same series of questions, they can more readily
compare the results. Directive interviewers rely upon their own questions and methods to tease
from you what they wish to know. You might feel like you are being steam-rolled, or you might
find the conversation develops naturally. Their style does not necessarily mean that they have
dominance issues, although you should keep an eye open for these if the interviewer would be
your supervisor. Either way, remember:· Flex with the interviewer, following his or her lead.·
Do not relinquish complete control of the interview. If the interviewer does not ask you for
information that you think is important to proving your superiority as a candidate, politely
The Meandering Style:
This interview type, usually used by inexperienced interviewers, relies on you to lead the
discussion. It might begin with a statement like "tell me about yourself," which you can use to
your advantage. The interviewer might ask you another broad, open-ended question before
falling into silence. This interview style allows you tactfully to guide the discussion in a way that
best serves you. The following strategies, which are helpful for any interview, are particularly
important when interviewers use a non-directive approach:
Come to the interview prepared with highlights and anecdotes of your skills, qualities
and experiences. Do not rely on the interviewer to spark your memory-jot down some
notes that you can reference throughout the interview.
Remain alert to the interviewer. Even if you feel like you can take the driver's seat and
go in any direction you wish, remain respectful of the interviewer's role. If he or she
becomes more directive during the interview, adjust.
Ask well-placed questions. Although the open format allows you significantly to shape
the interview, running with your own agenda and dominating the conversation means
that you run the risk of missing important information about the company and its needs.
Question 6: Strictly speaking, would case studies be considered as scientific
research? Why or why not?
Case studies are a tool for discussing scientific integrity. Although one of the most frequently
used tools for encouraging discussion, cases are only one of many possible tools. Many of the
principles discussed below for discussing case studies can be generalized to other approaches
to encouraging discussion about research ethics.
Cases are designed to confront readers with specific real-life problems that do not lend
themselves to easy answers. Case discussion demands critical and analytical skills and, when
implemented in small groups, also fosters collaboration (Pimple, 2002). By providing a focus for
discussion, cases help trainees to define or refine their own standards, to appreciate alternative
approaches to identifying and resolving ethical problems, and to develop skills for analyzing
and dealing with hard problems on their own. The effective use of case studies is comprised of
many factors, including:
appropriate selection of case(s) (topic, relevance, length, complexity)
method of case presentation (verbal, printed, before or during discussion)
format for case discussion (Email or Internet-based, small group, large group)
leadership of case discussion (choice of discussion leader, roles and responsibilities for
outcomes for case discussion (answers to specific questions, answers to general
questions, written or verbal summaries)
Research methods don't seem so intimidating when you're familiar with the terminology. This is
important whether you're conducting evaluation or merely reading articles about other studies
to incorporate in your program. To help with understanding, here are some basic definitions
Variable: Characteristics by which people or things can be described. Must have more
than one level; in other words, to be able to change over time for the same
person/object, or from person to person, or object to object. Some variables, called
attributes, cannot be manipulated by the researcher (e.g., socioeconomic status, IQ
score, race, gender, etc.). Some variables can be manipulated but are not in a particular
study. This occurs when subjects self-select the level of the independent variable, or the
level is naturally occurring (as with ex post facto research).
Manipulation: Random assignment of subjects to levels of the independent variable
Independent variable: The treatment, factor, or presumed cause that will produce a
change in the dependent variable. This is what the experimenter tries to manipulate. It
is denoted as "X" on the horizontal axis of a graph.
Dependent variable: The presumed effect or consequence resulting from changes in
the independent variable. This is the observation made and is denoted by "Y" on the
vertical axis of a graph. The score of "Y" depends on the score of "X."
Population: The complete set of subjects that can be studied: people, objects, animals,
Sample: A subset of subjects that can be studied to make the research project more
manageable. There are a variety of ways samples can be taken. If a large enough
random samples are taken, the results can be statistically similar to taking a census of
an entire population--with reduced effort and cost.
A case study is conducted for similar purpose as the above but is usually done with a smaller
sample size for more in-depth study. A case study often involves direct observation or
interviews with single subjects or single small social units such as a family, club, school
classroom, etc. This is typically considered qualitative research.
Purpose: Explain or Predict
Type of Research to Use: Relational Study
In a relational study you start with a research hypothesis, that is, is what you're trying to
Examples of research hypotheses for a relational study:
The older the person, the more health problems he or she encounters.
4-H members attending 4-H summer camp stay enrolled in 4-H longer.
The greater the number of money management classes attended, the greater the
amount of annual savings achieved.
Types of relational studies include correlational studies and ex post facto studies.
A correlational study compares two or more different characteristics from the same group of
people and explains how two characteristics vary together and how well one can be predicted
from knowledge of the other.
A concurrent correlational study draws a relationship between characteristics at the same point
in time. For example, a student's grade point average is related to his or her class rank.
A predictive correlational study could predict a later set of data from an earlier set. For
example, a student's grade point average might predict the same student's grade point
average during senior year. A predictive correlational study could also use one characteristic to
predict what another characteristic will be at another time. For example, a student's SAT score
is designed to predict college freshman grade point average.
Ex Post Facto (After the Fact) Study:
An ex post facto study is used when experimental research is not possible, such as when
people have self-selected levels of an independent variable or when a treatment is naturally
occurring and the researcher could not "control" the degree of its use. The researcher starts by
specifying a dependent variable and then tries to identify possible reasons for its occurrence as
well as alternative (rival) explanations such confounding (intervening, contaminating, or
extraneous) variables are "controlled" using statistics.
This type of study is very common and useful when using human subjects in real-world
situations and the investigator comes in "after the fact." For example, it might be observed that
students from one town have higher grades than students from a different town attending the
same high school. Would just "being from a certain town" explain the differences? In an ex post
facto study, specific reasons for the differences would be explored, such as differences in
income, ethnicity, parent support, etc. It is important to recognize that, in a relational study,
"cause and effect" cannot be claimed. All that can be claimed is that that there is a relationship
between the variables.
For that matter, variables that are completely unrelated could, in fact, vary together due to
nothing more than coincidence. That is why the researcher needs to establish a plausible
reason (research hypothesis) for why there might be a relationship between two variables
before conducting a study. For instance, it might be found that all football teams with blue
uniforms won last week. There is no likely reason why the uniform color had any relationship to
the games' outcomes, and it certainly was not the cause for victory. Similarly, you must be
careful about claiming that your Extension program was the "cause" of possible results.