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Developing a research plan

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1 Developing a research plan
Chapter 4 Action Research: Improving Schools and Empowering Educators (4/e) Craig A. Mertler SAGE Publications, 2014

2 Research Questions First, decide whether you plan to use a qualitative or quantitative approach and data Decision-making table (Table 4.1) can help Research question—fundamental question inherent in research topic under investigation Purpose is to guide the study; goal is to be able to answer the question at the end of the study Can guide both qualitative and quantitative studies Review examples

3 Research Questions Important characteristics of research questions:
Qualitative questions should be more open-ended than quantitative questions Questions should not be stated in a manner that assumes an answer even before data are collected Ensure the question is neither too broad nor too specific Questions should be based in the body of literature on the topic Must be answerable (based on data) Must follow ethical practices Should be both important and feasible to answer

4 Research Questions Hypothesis—tentative, but intelligent and informed, guess as to outcome of study (made before study begins) Typically, less appropriate for action research studies Used only when design calls for use of inferential statistical analysis (i.e., some, but not all, quantitative studies) Three types of hypotheses: Null hypothesis—no effect, change, or relationship Nondirectional research hypothesis—some sort of effect (etc.), but no prediction of direction of effect Directional research hypothesis—some effect with direction specified

5 Research Questions Important characteristics of hypotheses:
Review examples Important characteristics of hypotheses: Hypotheses cannot be proven Data can only support a stated hypothesis Research hypotheses are supported only when analysis of data statistically show that the null hypothesis is likely not true

6 Basic Research Designs
Qualitative “research designs”: Misnomer in qualitative research; perhaps “research plans” Questions tend to be more open-ended (might even emerge during the study) More difficult to specify methods at the outset Several approaches exist: Case studies—particular individual, event, or program is studied Ethnographies—in-depth study of a group Phenomenological studies—studies of individual perceptions of a particular situation

7 Basic Research Designs
Specific qualitative approaches: Case studies Detailed study of a single setting, subject, or a particular event Begin with a broad approach to topic; as study progresses, study becomes more focused Observational case studies: Most common type; involve study of particular organization or aspect of the organization Requirement to select focus within the setting

8 Basic Research Designs
Specific qualitative approaches (cont’d.): Observational studies: Similar, but focus is more broad Researcher becomes integral part of the study Participant observation is key Participant-observer continuum:

9 Basic Research Designs
Specific qualitative approaches (cont’d.): Constant comparative method—design for studies involving multiple data sources, where analysis begins early in data collection, continues throughout collection, and is nearly completed by the end of data collection Data collection actually begins prior to specific topic or focus being identified Cyclical process (good fit with action research)

10 Basic Research Designs
Quantitative research designs: Require the use of quantitative methods and data Four broad categories of quantitative designs appropriate for teacher-led action research: Descriptive designs Correlational designs Group comparison designs Single-subject designs

11 Basic Research Designs
Quantitative research designs (cont’d.): Descriptive designs—purpose is to describe and make interpretations of current status (i.e., as it exists) of individuals, objects, conditions, or events Observational research Focus is on a specific variable (not to be confused with qualitative counterpart) Observations of the single variable are made Survey research Acquiring information from representative individuals A “snapshot” approach to studying many variables

12 Basic Research Designs
Quantitative research designs (cont’d.): Correlational designs—purpose is to measure and describe statistical relationship between two or more variables Requires calculation of correlation coefficients Reports strength and direction of relationship Typically range from to +1.00 Interpretation of positive and negative coefficients (direction; indicated by + or -) Interpretation of numerical value (strength; indicated by number) Remember: Correlation ≠ Causation

13 Basic Research Designs
Quantitative research designs (cont’d.): Group comparison designs—attempt to investigate cause-and-effect relationships by comparing two or more groups that differ on some characteristic Only one approach will show if one variable can cause another (experimental) Causal-comparative designs: Explore reasons behind existing differences between groups Ex post facto = “after the fact” Presumed cause has already occurred (prior to study)

14 Basic Research Designs
Quantitative research designs (cont’d.): Pre-experimental designs: “Preliminary” experimental designs Incorporate only some of critical aspects of experimental designs One-shot case study:

15 Basic Research Designs
Quantitative research designs (cont’d.): Pre-experimental designs: One-group pretest-posttest design:

16 Basic Research Designs
Quantitative research designs (cont’d.): Quasi-experimental designs: Come closest to experimental designs; only missing component is no random assignment Pretest-posttest control group design:

17 Basic Research Designs
Mixed-methods research designs Explanatory mixed-methods designs:

18 Basic Research Designs
Mixed-methods research designs Exploratory mixed-methods designs:

19 Basic Research Designs
Mixed-methods research designs Triangulation mixed-methods designs:

20 Research planning template
Action Research Design Development

21 Ethical Considerations
Must be incorporated into development of a research plan Permissions from students, parents, teachers, others May require formal permission—HSRBs or IRBs NIH human subjects training ( Consent and assent Informed consent form (see Figure 4.5) Guiding principles to be included: Principle of accurate disclosure Principle of beneficence Principle of honesty Principle of importance

22 Action research checklist 4
Developing a Research Plan for Conducting Action Research ☐ Using Table 4.1 as a guide, determine if a qualitative, quantitative, or mixed-methods design would be more appropriate for your action research study. ☐ Develop one or two research questions to guide your study. ☐ Depending on your selection of a qualitative, quantitative, or mixed-methods design, weigh the advantages and limitations of specific research designs. ☐ Determine the most appropriate design for conducting your action research study. ☐ Evaluate, and address, any potential ethical issues in your study. ☐ If appropriate, develop consent and assent forms. ☐ Develop a reasonable timeline for conducting your study.

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