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Methodology Notes

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Psychology unit 1 methodology Social surveys Describe questionnaire (4)

Gather data by asking people what they think or feel about a certain situation or how they think they might behave. Differ from structured interviews in that they are usually paper-based and the participant usually writes their answers down. Often include personal data questions about age, gender and social background so that the researchers can compares responses from different groups of people. Many different formats of questions for example
 Likert scales (where a person has to circle a number to show how strongly they agree or disagree with a statement),
 ratings scales
 Questions where you have to put things into priority order. Often ordered so the more straight forward ones comes first with more indepth or qualitative questions later and personal data questions at the end. Usually start with a set of standardised instructions which also guide the person through the ethical guidelines such as acquiring informed consent and reminding of their right to withdraw.

Evaluate questionnaires (6)

Validity, should be fairly high so long as the questionnaire is not so long as to mean the participant gets bored, the participants are given enough time, the participants are reassured of the confidentiality of their answers, and the researcher is not watching them while they complete the questionnaire. Validity may be threatened if the questions are poorly designed.
 For example, it is important to conduct a pilot study in order to explore the full range of answers that participants might want to give as it is possible that in closed questions where participants have to tick an answer, the researchers may not have proved enough alternatives and the participant is forced to tick an answer which does not really suit what they think or feel.
 Also in open questions where the participant is encouraged to give a longer answer factors such as social desirability , writing speed, ability to express oneself verbally and in writing may all affect how much they write and the validity of the response they provide.

Closed questions which gather quantitative data should provide fairly objective data in that the answers are not subjected to the researcher's interpretation however data collected in response to questions which gather qualitative data may well be subjective as the analysis of this type of data are more open to interpretation. This means that it may be important to have the data coded by a person who is unaware of the hypothesis and checked by more than one person. Easily be replicated in order to check for consistency of the answers. This means it is possible to find out whether the answers provided were reliable. When the study is replicated it is important that participants are approached in the same manner every time, in the sample place and by the same researcher and that standardised instructions ware used otherwise the study may not provide reliable results.

Open question (3)

Open questions allow the participant to state their attitudes and opinions, recall their experiences and so on, in their own words. They enable the researcher to collect rich, qualitative data and are useful when the researcher wants to capture new and unique ideas from the participants. An example of an open question is "How do you feel walking through St Anne's estate?"

Closed question (3)

Also known as fixed response or structured questions and they present the participants with a range of possible answers from which they may be asked to tick a box or circle their answer. They may not be provided with an answer, but in this case, a closed question is one where there is only a fixed number of possible answers, i.e. "have you been called names in the street?" Here the participant can only say "yes" or "no" Another example of a closed question is "how many times have you been called names in the street?", this time the participant can only answer by giving a number. Closed questions can also be used to find out about attitudes and opinions as in Likert scales (Likert 1932) where participant has to circle a number to show the extent to which they agree or disagree with a statement or a semantic differential (Osgoode 1957) where the person has to indicate how they feel about a certain issue by making a mark on a line connecting two polar opposites, e.g.

"How do you feel when walking through St Anne's Estate?



Comfortable - - - - - - - - - -Uncomfortable Terrified

- - - - - - - - - -Relaxed

Qualitative data (4)

Qualitative data is in the form of words rather than numbers and involves ideas, opinions and attitudes; qualitative data often 'tells a story'. Can be collected through asking open ended questions as in an interview or questionnaire. Analysed by generating themes; this can be done by carefully transcribing every word and then arranging quotes into categories; these categories and themes and then turned into models or flow charts to show links and relationships between themes (grounded theory). Often two or more researchers independently analyse the data; their interpretations are compared and the higher the degree of similarity between their analyses, the higher the reliability of the findings and conclusions.

Quantitative data (4)

Quantitative data is numerical data. With regard to questionnaires, it can be generated by counting up the number of people who have responded in a certain way to closed (fixed response) questions and calculating percentages, e.g. 45% of British Asian females aged 17-25 said they had been subjected to racist verbal abuse in the street. Quantitative data can also be generated from completing a 'content analysis' on qualitative data gathered through an interview for example. This means that you listen to the transcript of the interview and count up the number of times certain themes or key words are mentioned. For example, of the 14 interviewee, 100% said they felt 'unwelcome', 70%
said they felt 'terrified' , 89% said they had felt 'threatened', and 15%
said they had been made to feel 'worthless'.

Give two strengths of qualitative data (2+2)

Qualitative data is often said to be a highly valid and rich source of data. This is because participants are allowed to describe how they think or feel in their own words. They are not constrained by the expectations of the researchers which can sometimes be the case in fixed response questions. Qualitative data can allow researchers to capture new ideas that they were not previously aware of and this new information can be used to create more scientific and objective studies with higher validity as the researcher has a much more in-depth working knowledge of the topic area having worked with participants who have fully explained their experiences.

Give two weaknesses of qualitative data (2+2)

The analysis of qualitative data can be an extremely long and laborious exercise and often answers vary so much from each other that they are hard to compare and it may be necessary to collect more data in order to

verify whether themes that have arisen from one respondent are actually the experience of others or whether they are completely unique. This is known as purposive sampling and is common practice for researchers who collect qualitative data. It is sometimes difficult to gather detailed qualitative data as participants often don't want to give detailed answers. This can be compounded by the fact that some participants may find it more difficult to express their thoughts and feelings verbally in writing or orally for a wide range of reasons, including cultural, language and psychological barriers. This means that the data collected may not be generalizable as it only illustrates the views of those who are able to provide more articulate answers. Qualitative data may be hard to replicate as the data collected is a person's unique interpretation of the world and thus truly consistent findings are unlikely even if same person is tested at a later date since interpretation changes with experience, over time and also the evidence divulged is done so within the confines of a relationship between two people, (the participant and the researcher), a different researcher might alter the nature of the information provided and the way in which it is recorded and interpreted. This means it is hard to say whether the results are reliable. This also decreases the generalisability.

Give two strengths of quantitative data (2+2)

Quantitative data is gathered in a structured and controlled manner and it should be possible to replicate by using the same standardised procedure, instructions and questions. This means that it should be possible to replicate studies which collect quantitative data and thus check for reliability (consistency). Quantitative data is fairly easy and quick to analyse using measures of central tendency and dispersion, and a range of graphs and charts such as histograms, bar charts and box and whisker plots. These tables and graphs can be easily communicated to others.

Give two weaknesses of quantitative data (2+2)

One weakness of quantitative data is that fixed response questions can often lead to invalid responses which do not effectively describe the experience of the participants. This can be addressed through a comprehensive pilot study which would allow the researcher to ensure that the alternative answers provided suit a wide range of possible responses from the final sample. When participants simply have to tick boxes it is very easy for them to become disinterested and disengaged from what they are doing, they fall into a response set, simply, ticking the same answer time after time when questions follow a similar format (i.e. circling a number) or they may even simply tick answers which don't really apply to them, they are investing little in answering the questions and therefore may be less inclined to

answer them properly. This could potentially reduce the validity of the answers provided. Describe interview (6)

Interviews involve the gathering data face-to-face with the participants, through asking questions related to a specific research question, and the participants responses either through taking notes or by making an audio recording. The stages of the interview involve establishing rapport, describing the project, obtaining informed consent and sharing the interview schedule, conducting the interview, making process notes, transcribing the interview word for word, analysing the qualitative data using techniques such as grounded theory and discourse analysis, sharing the full transcript and analysis with the interviewees. In an interview questions can be elaborated and expanded upon unlike with the questionnaire and answers can be explored in more detail, and interview schedule (the ordered set of questions) can be modified to suit the participant and his or responses. Interviews usually provide in-depth information about a particular research issue or question and the qualitative data collected tends to forms a story or narrative about a certain topic. Researchers who use interviews use what is called the "hermeneutic method", they try to interpret the relationships between the statements that are made. They search for contradictions and consistencies and try to identify themes within the data, relating individual statements to these themes. Interviewing can be defined as is the art and science of exploring the subjective knowledge, opinions, and beliefs of an individual. The knowledge, opinions, and beliefs of that person ae a "system." The purpose of the interview is to explore that system and all of its elements. Interviewers use interview schedules in order to keep on track and ensure that the research objective is kept in kind throughout the interview. Interviewers have to follow ethical guidelines and include the participants in the planning of the interview schedule. Interviewers record the content of the interview (what is said) as well as the process of the interview (how things are said). Process observations may confirm, enrich, and sometimes even contradict the content of what the person says.

Structured interview (3)

A structured interview involves asking a set of pre-determined questions in a fixed order. The order does not vary and there is no opportunity to follow up interesting responses. It is similar to gathering questionnaire data but it is done face-to-face and orally.

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