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Research as a Process of Inquiry

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  1. Research as a Process of Inquiry Chapter 2+ June 27

  2. Scientific research Pose a question Rationally interpret the empirical observations Develop procedures to answer the question Plan for & make empirical observations

  3. Phases of research • Idea-generating phase • Problem-definition phase • Procedures-design phase • Observation phase • Data-analysis phase • Interpretation phase • Communication phase

  4. Idea-generation phase • Developing a vague question of interest • Common sources of inspiration: • One’s own interests • The work of others

  5. Problem-definition phase • The researcher systematically develops and refines initial ideas/questions • Begin with a review of the literature • Develop a theory & a model

  6. Scientific theory • Theory - An explanatory framework for understanding complex phenomena • Or – A formalized set of concepts that organizes observations and inferences and predicts and explains phenomena

  7. Scientific theory • Inductive thinking: reasoning from the particular to the general • Deductive thinking: reasoning from the general to the particular

  8. Conceptual models • Model: simplified representation of relationships in the real world • Point-to-point correspondence • Convenient, manageable, compact • Incomplete, tentative, analogical • Allows improved rationalism and empiricism • Models and theories should be testable!

  9. Constructs • Constructs: ideas constructed by the researcher to explain events observed in a particular situation • Facts: those events that can be directly, empirically, and repeatedly observed • Inference: process in which conclusions are derived from observed facts or from other ideas

  10. Constructs • CONSTRUCTS ARE NOT FACTS!! • Reification of a construct: confusing a construct for a fact

  11. Procedures-design phase • Researcher systematically determines what observations are to be made and exactly how they are to be made • Includes: • Determination of the level of constraint • Development of a research hypothesis • Ethical considerations

  12. Levels of constraint • Constraints – limits or controls imposed by the researcher on the research process • Research methods vary in their level of constraint • Naturalistic observation • Case-study method • Correlational research • Differential research • Experimental research

  13. Low constraint research • Naturalistic observation • No constraints on behavior of participants • No effort by researcher to interfere with behavior • Case-study method • The researcher does intervene in participants’ behavior

  14. Intermediate constraint research • Correlational research • Deliberate effort to measure some aspects of behavior • No manipulation of variables • Differential research • Deliberate selection of participants who belong to different populations • The preexisting variable is not controlled

  15. High constraint research • Experimental research • Control over all aspects of the research • At least one variable is deliberately manipulated by the researcher • Design of the research can grow quite complex

  16. High constraint vs. low constraint • High constraint research permits stronger conclusions than low constraint research • High constraint research is less subject to extraneous biases • High constraint research presents practical and sometimes ethical difficulties • High constraint research tends to be more artificial • Trade-off between the two

  17. Research hypothesis • A precise and formal statement of a research question • Its construction involves: • The identification of research variables • The operational definition of constructs

  18. Variables in Research • A variable is something that varies • Variables have two or more “levels” • Variables defined by their use in research • Independent variable • Dependent variable • A constant

  19. Variables defined by their use in research • Independent variable • The variable that is manipulated by the research in experimental research • The presumed cause of behavior

  20. Variables defined by their use in research • Dependent variable • Variable, measured by the researcher, which is expected to change as a result of the independent variable manipulation • The presumed effect produced by the independent variable • Constant variable • A variable that is prevented from varying • Thus, prevented from having multiple levels

  21. Operational Definitions • The specific procedures by which the researcher measures and/or manipulates a variable • EACH VARIABLE SHOULD BE OPERATIONALLY DEFINED • Careful and complete operational definition = precise measurement of the variable

  22. How to Recognize an Operational Definition • Example: which of these is the more operational? • “Love” is a feeling of commitment • “Love” is an elevated pulse rate in the presence of another person • It will not look like a dictionary definition (Why not?) • It may appear to be very limited • It will be precise

  23. Example of an operational definition: Disruptive behavior is any observed, sudden change in a child’s behavior from calm, quiet, cooperative, and appropriate behavior to explosive, loud, screaming, and tantrums, including sudden attacks on people, smashing and throwing objects, throwing oneself into walls or on the floor, self-abuse such as head-banging, biting, scratching, picking sores, and so on, all carried out in rapid, near “frenzied” manner. Each disruptive behavior incident will be considered to have ended when the child has returned to the previous level of calm, appropriate behavior for at least three consecutive minutes.

  24. Research Ethics • Ethical principles apply to all activity, including research • Ethical guidelines • For human research • Focused on protecting the rights of participants • For animal research • Focused on proper care and minimizing pain

  25. Human Research Ethics • Formalized guidelines that must be followed in any research with humans • All research proposals must be approved by an Institutional Review Board (IRB) • First safeguard is “informed consent” • The greater the potential risk to participants, the more responsibility the researcher has to protect participants from harm

  26. Phases of research • Idea-generating phase • Problem-definition phase • Procedures-design phase • Observation phase • Data-analysis phase • Interpretation phase • Communication phase