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					          CHAPTER SEVEN

The research design is the overall ‘blueprint’ that guides
the researcher in the data collection stages.
A number of different research designs exist, including:

• Experimental.
• Cross-sectional.
• Time series.
• Longitudinal.
• Case study.
• Ethnography.
1. Experimental
Test effect of independent variable on dependent variable.
More for science based projects.
For example, interested in influence of crowd on anxiety:

pretest          post-test       effect
anxiety(1)       crowd          anxiety(2)

effect = [anxiety (2)] – [anxiety (1)]
What about any moderating variables?
Learning, increased self-efficacy etc. – all may have an effect.
group ‘a’ − ‘treatment’ (crowd)
group ‘b’ − ‘no treatment’ (control)
All other variables remain constant (to some extent!)
       pretest                     post-test    effect
A: anxiety(1)    crowd           anxiety(2)   x = (2 - 1)
B: anxiety(3)  no treatment  anxiety(4)       y = (4 - 3)

Effect of crowd = x – y
You MUST have a control group wherever possible.
Ethical issues apply to experimental research –
depending on treatment.

Three conditions need to be met:

1. Covariation − As the independent variable changes, then
so does the dependent variable.

2. Time order − It is important to ensure that the
independent variable (i.e. the cause) actually happens
before the effect upon the dependent variable.

3. Non-spuriousness − Some relationships may be due to
the existence of an additional variable. Thus, all variables
need to be accounted for.
2. Cross-sectional
Most common design.
Take a (cross-sectional) sample of your population.
Each subject provides data only once.

Can use this design to approximate an experimental

Q.1 Rate your anxiety at your last performance.
Q.2 Was there a crowd present?
Crowd present              Anxiety
0                          3
10                         5
15                         6
100                        10

Again − need to account for moderating
variables – especially as no control group.
Need to ask questions about moderating
variables – can make questionnaire long!
3. Time series
Extended measures before and after introduction of
independent variable.

Does competing against a particular opponent raise anxiety?
O1    O2      O3   Ind    O4     O5    O6
O = Measure
Ind = treatment (game against team)
Allows you to account for game-by-game fluctuations.
How successful is Town ‘X’s Sport Development
Policy (introduced 2003 for one year)?

Why not measure:
• participation at beginning of year
• participation at end of year?

             2003           2004

Is the policy successful?

            2002      2003        2004

Is the policy still successful?

          2002      2003     2004   2005

Is the policy still successful?
Add a control if possible:


           2002      2003     2004   2005

 Is the policy still successful?
You need to consider the
• time
• resources
required to do such a study.
4. Longitudinal
Same sample measured over an extended time period.

How do sport students develop skills over their degree

Measure skills at start, end of Year 1, end of Year 2 etc.
Can last from 6 months – many years!
Therefore not recommended for student projects!
What if people drop out (attrition)?
If you wanted to do a longitudinal style design, you
can approximate longitudinal with Cross-sectional

Ask people to recall past attitudes or behaviours,

to state their present attitudes and behaviours,

and predict their future attitudes and behaviours.

Obviously not as reliable or valid…
5. Case study

Take one case (group/organisation/team/individual) to
study in depth.

Choose a case that is:
• Typical – greater external validity.
• Extreme – shows theory to greatest extent, e.g. study
on hooliganism may choose case study of Millwall FC.
• ‘Interesting’ – e.g. new surf reef at Bournemouth.
6. Ethnography
• Generally qualitative approach.
• Associated with researching a group.
• Become part of the group.
• Understand the group from the group’s (emic)
perspective rather than your (etic) perspective.
• Collect data using whatever means possible at
whatever time you can.
Ethnographic approaches:


  Interviews          question

                                    Focus groups
What is ethnography?
 Ethnography is the study of people in naturally occurring
   settings or ‘fields’ by methods of data collection which
   capture their social meanings and ordinary activities,
    involving the researcher participating directly in the
setting, if not also the activities, in order to collect data in a
 systematic manner but without meaning being imposed on
             them externally. (Brewer 2000, p.189)
    The ethnographer participates, overtly or covertly, in
    people's daily lives for an extended period of time,
 watching what happens, listening to what is said, asking
 questions; in fact collecting whatever data are available to
throw light on the issues with which he or she is concerned.
             (Hammersley & Atkinson, 1995, p.2)
Could I do an ethnography?
• Am I looking to study one group in depth?
• Am I looking to gain an understanding of that group?
• Can I gain access to the group?
• Will I be able to collect valid and reliable data?

1. Define the population. The population consists of
every individual case that possesses the characteristic
that is of interest to the researcher.

2. The second stage is to determine your sampling
method. A number of sampling techniques can be used.
The most common associated with quantitative research

• Random sampling.
• Stratified random sampling.
• Cluster sampling.
• Systematic sampling.

A random sample is where every member of the population
has an equal probability of being selected.

It is the best technique to obtain a representative sample,
and produce findings that will be generalisable to the
overall population.

The first stage is to define your population.

The next stage is to ensure that each member of this
  population has an equal chance of being selected:

1. Place the names of all the population in a container,
   and pick names until the desired sample size has been

2. Each name can be assigned a number, and a random
   number table or computer software can be used to
   select the sample.

If there are certain subgroups within the population, for
example based on age, sex and so on, then it may be
necessary to ensure that they are adequately
represented in the final sample.

In this case, the population is divided into subgroups.
Random samples are then taken from within these

Thus, you may divide your population into ‘male’ and
‘female’, and randomly select 50 per cent of your
sample from the list of your male participants, and the
remaining 50 per cent from the list of your female

Where groups are randomly selected, rather than

Thus, if the researcher was interested in the attitudes
towards intimidatory behaviour in little league baseball,
then a number of teams could be selected at random,
and all players within those teams questioned.

It is important to select a number of clusters to ensure
generalisability with this method.

Involves selecting every Kth case, for example taking
every fourth name from a list, or every seventh person to
enter a sports facility.

Systematic sampling is best recommended when the list
from which the names are taken is randomly ordered,
otherwise some bias is likely to occur.

There are a range of non-probability sampling methods,
which will be of interest to the qualitative researcher.

The term ‘sample’ is perhaps less appropriate here, with
‘selection’ more reflective of the process, as
generalisability is not the prime concern of the qualitative

The focus is more upon a sample who can describe,
explain and illuminate the phenomena that is being

Locate your initial participants, and these initial participants
identify further potential participants themselves.

Thus, you may find access to a ‘gatekeeper’, or influential
member of your population. They can then introduce you to
other participants, who themselves will be able to give you
access to further participants.

One potential advantage of this is that by being introduced by
a known member of the population, you may be able to
engender greater trust between researcher and subject, with
subsequent improvement in the quality of your data.

Identify cases that demonstrate a particular theory
particularly well.

Use where a random sample would be unlikely to
demonstrate the theory or concept under investigation.

Your sample is chosen on the basis that they are ‘typical’ of
a particular theory.

You choose cases that are extreme cases of a theory.

An example of this would be an investigation into the
personality characteristics of elite athletes. You may wish to
sample Olympic medal winners as extreme cases.

You select samples as they arise, taking advantage of
unexpected opportunities.

For example you may be introduced to a particular key
informant at an unexpected time.

The sample is chosen as it is convenient in terms of
location, accessibility, etc.

Try to avoid convenience samples as far as you can – it is
always tempting to hand out questionnaires to those you
are in day to day contact with, or interview people that you

Individuals are chosen on the basis of specific knowledge
that they possess, for example they may have a particular
role or responsibility within an organisation.

Some of the common errors made in sampling include:
• Selecting individuals who are convenient, or readily
available, for example individuals that are already known to
the researcher.
• Selecting individuals who volunteer to take part as well as
those who are more randomly selected without reference to
the potential differences between these.
• Introducing bias through selecting a non-random sample.
• Using a random sample when other sampling methods
would be more appropriate.
• Not obtaining a large enough sample for the purposes of
the project.

Make sure you read the codes of conduct laid down by your
specific discipline (e.g. American Psychological Association or
the British Psychological Society). Such codes generally
include the following key requirements:

• Risks to participants are outweighed by the benefits of the
research programme.
• Participation should be voluntary.
• Risks to participants are eliminated or minimised as far as
possible, including psychological and social, as well as
physical risks.
• All information should be treated as strictly confidential.
• The participants have the right to be informed of the
purpose of the study.
• Participants may withdraw at any time.
• Participants should be debriefed after the research
• Ensure that you gain ethical approval from the relevant
committee at your institution before any research
programme involving ethical issues commences.

1. You should have a carefully considered approach to the
collection of your data, in terms of who you will collect
data from, when such data will be collected, and how such
data will be collected. This is your research design.

2. We have identified six research designs: experimental,
cross-sectional, time series, longitudinal, case study and
3. Whatever research design you adopt, it is unlikely that
you will be able to collect data from the entire population.
Thus you will have to collect data from a smaller group
within that population – your sample.

4. You will also have to choose the methods by which
you are going to collect data from that sample.
5. It may be possible to increase the validity of your
research by undertaking some form of triangulation.
Triangulation means collecting data from more than one
perspective; for example it may involve collecting
qualitative, as well as quantitative data.

6. You will also need to consider the ethical issues involved
in your research. If in doubt, you should gain approval from
the committee responsible for ethical issues at your