Week two came and went and we are already over 100 pages into the book. This week, we wrapped up our preliminary considerations for our research, covering “Chapter 3: The Use of Theory” and “Chapter 4: Writing Strategies and Ethical Considerations.”
The author starts out by saying that theories are what situates your research. So, if you are doing quantitative research, you will “test theories as an explanation for answers to questions.” (p. 51) Qualitative research relies on theories to discuss final outcomes or provide a lens for looking at the study. Mixed methods, as you would guess, mix up the use of theory. He then goes on to review the use of theory across all three perspectives.
In quantitative studies, the theory is used to predict relationships across variables. Standard to the scientific method, a hypothesis is formed based on the theory. Mostly, they are situated at the beginning of the study because they are more explanatory. However, they can be placed in a separate section, if the researcher so desires. Most helpful, was the author created ‘scripts’ for the students to read through that would allow them to walk through theory development based on the particular method. For example, if I were to discuss my theoretical perspective for a research proposal, I would follow the following steps:
- Identify a theory for my study.
- Describe the theory.
- Describe the use of the theory in the study.
- Explain the variables in the theory.
- Apply the theoretical concepts to my study.
- Conclude with relating independent variables to dependent variables in my study.
Seems easy enough; but, it’s one thing to read this stuff, another to apply it.
Because qualitative research is more emergent, theory is used more as a broad explanation, a theoretical lens, or even an endpoint, such as a broad pattern or generalization. Some may not even use any explicit theory. Because of this, theory may appear at the beginning or may even be modified by the end. Depending on its use, the qualitative approach may be greatly varied.
Mixed methods researchers use theory as a framework to inform the research design. (p. 75) The framework could be a social science framework, which is placed early in the study as an explanation that informs findings and results, or it could be a transformative framework that looks at a problem and helps improve people and society. The author provides more scripts that allow the reader to walk through questions that help formulate the theoretical statement in the research process.
Trying to digest, learn, and stay on top of all these definitions, options, and placements is going to be trying in such a short span of time.
Chapter 4 was an easier read as it covered writing strategies and ethical considerations.
As a writer, I’m not sure if I put all my faith in the writer’s opinion on how to be a good writer, especially when this book has some serious editing issues. However, his samples of formats and research tips are useful. He discusses writing as thinking, which I kind of agree with. It helps to get your thoughts out on paper. However, he moves on to talk about the habit of writing. While I agree with the general concepts, being a working adult in a full-time university position, I don’t have the luxury to schedule writing, let alone do warm-ups or practice writing. You are reading my practice right here, and you’re lucky to get this much!
The rest of the tips are standard: be consistent, be well-organized and logical in your flow of narration, be coherent. He describe a process called the hook-and-eye technique. Not to keen on his description of that, but basically it says you need key ideas to connect and stay connected throughout your writing. Writers should also use the active voice, as opposed to passive, and make sure they get their tenses right, which again, was a little confusing. And finally, something I fight with constantly, trim the ‘fat’ from your content. Sorry. In 10th grade, Kirsten Hill got an A on a 3 page book report. My book report was 15 pages long. I tried to work on this. I joined a writing site a long time ago called “The 60-Second Novelist on AOL” to participate in challenges where you had to write a story in 500-words or less. It didn’t work. I’m already pushing 725 words now….
The second half of the chapter focuses on ethical issues to anticipate. Thankfully, Penn State is on top of that. All graduate students and anybody who participates in research must acquire certification by participating in training on the protection of human research participants. I just re-upped for another three years, so I am good. The author did set up the potential ethical issues in line with different parts of the study…for example, ethical issues you may face at the beginning of a study or as you are analyzing data, which was helpful. Also in class, we read “The Case of the Amazing Gay-Marriage Data: How a Graduate Student Reluctantly Uncovered a Huge Scientific Fraud,” where a grad student really rocked the ethical boat. The article highlights how challenging it was to bring the unethical research to light.
On my own research front, I am venturing into the classroom this week to introduce myself to a group of students in Physics 211. We are getting them to sign off on consent forms and sign out the IOLab tool. Unfortunately, I won’t have my own tool to explore, but hopefully, I’ll be able to collect some good data on how students interact with the tool and use it in the Physics lab. Have a great week!
Creswell, J. W. (2013). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches (4th edition). Thousand Oak, CA: Sage.
(Originally posted on my work blog on September 9, 2015)