Tag Archives: academic research tips

Qualitative Methods: How to Collect Data

You may not realize it but you have already been doing simple research almost every day. If you want to know the price of a particular canned good, for example, you may decide to go to the store to get your answer or simply ask someone you think has the answer. This activity per se is an example of simple undocumented everyday research.

The research that is being taught in school, however, is a more complex methodological documented process of inquiry. Since the focus of this inquiry is far more complicated than your everyday exploration, there is a need for an appropriate and strategized set of tools in collecting the answers (called as data) for the questions that you pose (Dawson, 2007). The process is documented as a contribution to the extant set of knowledge as confirmation, negation or addition.

The following are the methods or sets of tools that you could use in qualitative research.

Interview

This is a common method wherein the researcher/interviewer arranges a meeting with the interviewee/participant for a dialogue about a topic that is the subject of the inquiry. In here, personal and social interactions occur wherein the interviewee serves as the source of data (Jupp, 2006). This could be done one-on-one or by group and could be face-to-face, by phone or computer mediated. This is analogical to asking someone (say one-on-one) about the price of canned sardines.

interviewing
A woman conducting an interview (Photo by Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung@Flicker.com).

 

Observation

As opposed to documents, the researcher gathers the data firsthand. He/She does the recording process personally using notes and/or audio/video. There are two ways of conducting observation, i.e., naturalistic and participant. If the researcher wants to retain the natural setting of the data source field so as to minimize the researcher influence, she or he may conduct a naturalistic observation without disturbing the participants in the field. In everyday research, if the individual wants to know how to fish, she may just observe others do it; otherwise she may join them and experience the activity herself. Participating in the setting is known as participant observation. Being a researcher-participant would further enrich the data as the researcher himself has additional point of comparison for analysis as long as he retains reflexivity. Reflexivity is a careful monitoring of the researcher’s biases, assumptions, and own perceptions regarding the experience.

Documents

While observation and interview involve social and personal interaction, and firsthand data collection, these are not available in documents. Documents as extant records of information; e.g., text, voice, sound and images are rich source of second-hand data which are still useful especially as supporting information for triangulation as such. Triangulation is a combination of data from at least two different sources to strengthen the findings. They could be journal entries, pictures, videos, audios, archives and other written (soft or hard) records like affidavits and legal papers.

Facebook statuses or comments on its walls are documents which could be used as data. Analogically, if you want to know the lyrics of a particular song, you may just surf on the net and read on the site.

Survey/Questionnaire

This method does not require personal interaction and/or dialogue as the participant called as respondent may just fill out a set of items or answer a series of questions written on a paper or posted on the internet. This could be self-administered or guided by the prompts of the researcher. It is just like giving someone a piece of paper asking for her name and contact number.

References

Dawson, C. (2007). A practical guide to qualitative research: A user friendly manual in mastering research techniques and projects. Oxford: How To Content

Jupp, V. (2006). The Sage dictionary of Social Science research methods. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications

©2014 December 3 J G Pizarro

Technical Writing Tips: Interpreting Graphs with Two Variables

How do you present the results of your study? One of the convenient ways to do it is by using graphs. How are graphs interpreted? Here are very simple, basic tips to help you get started in writing the results and discussion section of your thesis or research paper. This article specifically focuses on graphs as visual representation of relationships between two variables.

My undergraduate students would occasionally approach me and consult on some of their difficulties they encountered while preparing their thesis. One of those things that they usually ask me is how they should go about the graphs in the results and discussion section of their paper.

How should the graphs and the table be interpreted by the thesis writer? Here are some tips on how to do it, in very simple terms.

Interpreting Graphs

Graphs are powerful illustrations of relationships between the variables of your study. It can show if the variables are directly related. This is illustrated by Figure 1. If one variable increases its value, the other variable increases, too.

graph of direct relationship
Fig. 1. Graph showing a direct relationship between two variables.

For example, if you pump air into a tire, the tire expands, and so does the air pressure inside it to hold the rubber up. This is the pressure-volume relationship. If pressure is increased, there is a corresponding increase in volume. The variables in this relationship are pressure and volume. Pressure may be measured in pounds per square inch (psi) and volume in liters (li) or cubic centimeters (cc).

How about if you have another graph like the one below (Figure 2)? Well, it’s simple like the first one. If one variable increases in value, the other variable decreases in proportionate amounts. This graph shows an inverse relationship between the two variables.

graph inverse relationship
Fig. 2. A graph showing an inverse relationship between two variables.

For example, as a driver increases the speed of the vehicle he drives, the time it takes to reach the destination decreases. Of course, this assumes that there are no obstacles along the way. The variables involved in this relationship are speed and time. Speed may be measured in kilometers per hour (km/hr) and time in hours.

The two examples given are very simplified representations of the relationship between two variables. In many studies, these relationships seldom occur. Graphs show something else. Not really straight lines but curves.

For example, how will you interpret the two graphs below? Some students have trouble interpreting these.

two graphs
Fig. 3. Two graphs showing different relationships between two variables.

Graph a actually just shows that the relationship between the two variables goes up and down then progressively increases. In general, the relationship is directly proportional.

For example, Graph a may show the relationship between profit of a company through time. The vertical line represents profit while the horizontal line represents time. The graph just portrays that initially, the profit increased then at a certain point in time decreased, then recovered and increased all the way through time.

Something may have happened that caused the initial increase to decline. The profit of the company may have declined because of recession. But then when recession was up, profits continued to increase and things get better through time.

How about Graph b? Graph b just means that a variable in question reaches a saturation point. This graph may represent the number of tourists visiting a popular island resort through time. Within the span that the study was made, say 10 years, at about five years since the beach resort started operating, the number of tourists reached a climax then started to decline. The reason may be a polluted coastal environment that caused tourists to shy away from the place.

There are many  variations in the relationship between two variables. It may look like an S curve going up or down, plain horizontal line, or U-shaped, among others. Those are actually just variations of direct and inverse relationship between the two variables. Just note that aberrations along the way are caused by something else, another variable or set of variables or factors that affect one or both variables, which you need to identify and explain.  That’s where your training, imagination, experience, and critical thinking come in.

©2014 November 20 Patrick Regoniel

Qualitative Research: Definition and Principles

What is the difference between qualitative and quantitative research? This article defines qualitative research, its focus of inquiry,  principles, and seven qualitative research approaches.

Research is a process of inquiry. It starts with a question whose answer could be acquired through a chosen approach and designed methods perceived as suitable. There are two approaches for inquiry, i. e., quantitative and qualitative which could also be mixed together if deemed appropriate.

What is qualitative
research?

Quantitative research uses numerical data for analysis while qualitative research uses non-numerical data and those other information which are not amenable to quantitative measurement, for description and interpretation (Jupp, 2006). In simple terms, when numbers are used to answer the question, then it’s quantitative otherwise it is qualitative; e. g., images, statements, and stories.

What is its focus of inquiry?

Qualitative approach is often small-scale and/or micro-level (Jupp, 2006) as it focuses on the ‘thick’ description of a particular phenomenon, culture, social reality, discourse, theory, and experience (Flick et al., 2000). These things could not be substantially inquired about with just the use of numbers. If a researcher wants to describe the life ways of a particular group for example, the data that will be needed involve images, narratives, conversations, text and other documents.

The three world views

The principles of qualitative approach could be summarized into three views, i. e., interpretivism, constructivism, and inductivism (Jupp, 2006).

1. Constructivism recognizes that meanings of things are not objectively discovered; rather they are subjectively created and imposed by people in given contexts. If the context changes so is the construct. For example, meanings created by a Filipino mother for motherhood will be different from the definitions provided by an American mother.

playing at the beach
Mother and child playing at the beach (Photo by: Sagie@Flicker.com)

2. Interpretivism emphasizes that the definitions of both are equally important for analysis and that there is no exact standard definition that requires one universal objective interpretation that is apparent in the tradition of positivism (a view of quantitative approach).

3. In inductivism, the new set of knowledge, meanings or theories are emergent through the process of induction. The approach does not require the testing of a particular extant theory or set of knowledge; rather it aims to produce new ones.

The seven approaches

There are about seven qualitative approaches being utilized across the different areas of Sciences, Humanities and Education.

1. Ethnography is usually useful in cultural studies as it aims to explore, describe and understand an intact cultural group.

2. Case study is particularly being utilized in clinical and health settings. Its goal is to collate and analyze all relevant information about a particular case under investigation such as an HIV patient or an individual with schizophrenia.

3. Grounded Theory focuses on emerging a theory about a particular reality so it undergoes a rigorous process of reflexivity, cross-analysis and emergence.

4. Phenomenology puts into the surface the participants’ subjective meanings of a phenomenon as experienced by him/her.

5. Autoethnography is an approach wherein the researcher himself/herself is the researched. This is usual in queer theory, sexuality studies, research areas, and emotionally loaded experiences.

6. Meta-analysis and discourse analysis are common in philosophical researches. These involve putting together theories or discourses for cross-analysis, confirmation, debates, and/or theory generation.

7. Narrative research is for the exploration and description of events and personal accounts which are chronologically connected, thus historical. This is interconnected with larger events beyond the individual.

References

Flick, U., Kardoff, E.V., & Steinke, I. (Eds). (2000). A companion to qualitative research. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications

Jupp, V. (2006). The Sage dictionary of Social Science research
methods. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications

©2014 November 16 Jemimah Pizarro

Effective Strategies for Engineers Writing Technical Reports in English

The research or report produced by an engineer is extremely important in getting himself established in his field. The hard work he put into his research could not be well presented if not well written. However, novice technical writers face numerous obstacles that prevent them from presenting their information clearly thus create wide readership.

This article shares some tips to engineers who are non-native speakers of English who would like to become successful technical writers in that language. It highlights some strategies to be adopted during writing. Further, the article outlines how various aspects like word choice, paragraph building, tone and grammar of a text could affect the way readers comprehend the text. It also shares some do’s and don’ts to become a good technical writer.

Introduction

Engineers investigate and try to answer questions on the working of things. While writing research reports, not only a sound knowledge of the subject is a pre-requisite but effective communication through correct language use is also important. Technical writers need to adopt a clear and effective way of expression in order to be well-understood by the readers.

This article outlines a few aspects that need attention when writing research reports in English in order to be well accepted by readers and field experts. Particular attention is given to word choice, sentence and paragraph structure, tone and grammar.

Word choice

Choices made at the lexical level make huge difference in how texts are received by the readers. While this is equally true for both verbal and written communication, verbal message especially face-to-face can be accompanied by acts such as gestures, eye contact and body language. This facilitates overall comprehension.

Unfortunately, this facility is not available in written communication. The only way left to convince the reader is through the correct word choice.

There are many factors which are decisive in determining the choices at the lexical level. To begin with, a technical writer needs to have information on the prospective readers of the text. A text written without an imagined reader is like music without soul. They need to identify who is going to read the text – whether they are students with limited knowledge or field experts with vast level of knowledge and experience. The language should have appeal to both sectors and should possess technical depth to satisfy the experts while simple enough to gain attention of novice learners of the field.

There is a possibility that as researchers, engineers writing a report might possess greater domain knowledge than their readers. This situation often results in failing to provide a proper background to their study as they tend to fall prey to the assumption that since they are aware of it, the readers ought to know it as well.

Contrary to their assumption, writing involves putting the reader in the situation. The text should be written by identifying exactly what the reader wants to know and orienting the text to arouse his interest.

Technical jargon

A technical write up usually contains a lot of technical vocabulary which do not pose a problem to field experts. However, a list of acronyms should be provided for students or newcomers in the field as they might eventually be reading the report after it has been accepted by the field experts.

Sentences

Long, complex sentences do not indicate the expertise of a technical writer. These sentences act as a hindrance in readers’ comprehension of a composition. While conveying highly technical information, small connected sentences should be preferred over very long and run-on sentences.

Paragraph building

The essential component of a written piece is the way paragraphs are built. The writers often cram information in a paragraph without any thought on organization. This leads to information dumping rather than information building.

The paragraphs should follow a structure. Each paragraph must revolve around a single idea. The first sentence of a paragraph should be the topic sentence and the rest of the sentences should be written to support that main idea presented in the first sentence (see the TSPU writing technique). The last sentence could either refer back to the first sentence or lead to the idea in the following paragraph.

(Next page please)

Research Focus: Police Involvement in Kidnapping and Extortion

Can you imagine that police officers themselves were the ones kidnapping or committing extortion to the very citizens they are meant to protect? This article examines the issue and poses questions for research purposes. You might want to help shape enforcement policy by doing research along the questions identified.

A kidnapping and extortion incident broke in the headlines a few days ago in the Philippines. Allegedly, a businessman was held at gunpoint by an organized team of gun-toting individuals.

Someone passing through the scene thought of taking a picture and uploaded the picture in the internet—with success, because it took the attention of the netizens, and most importantly, honest police officers who swore to uphold the law.

Why use the term “honest?” That’s because those gun-toting individuals trapping a vehicle using three privately-owned cars in the picture were police officers themselves! The system of CCTV cameras somehow made out the plate numbers.

What ever happened to the police officers who should be the ones protecting the citizens? And to think that the police officers get their support from the citizens through taxes.

A large part of my salary goes to tax. Indirectly, I am paying these police officers for their services. For what?

It is a sad fact  that police officers were involved in that embarrassing situation at broad daylight. How could such thing happen? At least that’s how everyone is treating the whole thing—the police officers are the ones at fault.

This kidnapping incident is actually not the first time that happened in the country. There were similar events that happened in the past. The difference is that those were not so celebrated because nobody documented the operation.

Exploratory Research Questions

I have not yet heard substantial responses from those involved. Is it also possible that they were just victims of a frame up? Who took the picture? Should that person be likewise investigated? Is there a possibility that both sides are actually involved in something nasty or illegal?

Several other questions popped in my mind:

  • Why did the police officers behave the way they did?
  • Are they not aware and mindful that the citizens are their primary clientèle as they are paid by the government?
  • Are their superiors aware of their actions and are also involved? Up to what rank is involved in the illegal activity?
  • Did their training in the police academy fail to inculcate the proper values?
  • Did the educational system fail in general?
  • Did the parents inculcate the right values to their children?

In reference to the last question, Freud advanced that the first five years of a person’s life are crucial to the development of the adult personality (McLeod 2008). Whoever mentored or taught these police officers when they were still young children have influenced their minds and behavior. How were they raised?

Suggested Research Questions to Clarify the Issue

For those taking higher degrees in criminology, answers to the following questions may be sought based on the case described above:

  1. What is the level of commitment of police officers to their duties?
  2. How high is the morale of the officers and the rank-and-file?
  3. Is there a relationship between police officers’ officers’ profile and their propensity to commit crime? Which factor is most influential?
  4. Is there a relationship between the management style of superiors and the behavior of their subordinates?
  5. Is the recruitment system for police officers stringent enough to weed off undesirable individuals from the police force?

Answers to these questions will somehow help institute appropriate government policies to prevent, minimize, reduce or eliminate commission of crimes like this in the future. Research is a powerful tool that well-meaning managers of human resources should consider. Palliative, non-working, hit-and-miss policies or approach that serve to “cure” instead of prevent is more costly.

Reference

McLeod, S. A. (2008). Psychosexual Stages. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/psychosexual.html

© 2014 September 13 P. A. Regoniel

10 Pointers from One of the Winners of a Research Paper Contest

How do you write  a competitive research paper? Here are 10 points that can guide you towards realizing your goal to win.

Getting awarded for a research paper I hurriedly prepared within a three-day period is something that confirmed my approach in research writing. Last Thursday, August 14, the paper I wrote based on a nine-month project completed in 2013 garnered the third prize in the 8th Philippine National Health Research System (PNHRS) Contest under the professional category.

During the convention, I learned that a total of 31 entries were submitted from all over the country for a double-blind review by experts in the field of health. And only three research papers made it – mine included. More than 500 participants nationwide coming from the 17 regional health research consortia participated in the event.

A senior colleague and once the university’s Vice-President for Academic Affairs was instrumental to my success as she prodded me to join the contest although I had misgivings because the deadline was three days away. Despite my apprehension, I confidently nodded and said okay. I thought I might be able to glean useful data and information from recently concluded research project on the economic analysis of household adaptation options to climate change.

I summoned all I could muster to at least beat the deadline despite the limited time frame. I reviewed relevant literature and organized my thoughts as I write, guided by the theme of the celebration.

I did this kind of writing before mainly for compliance; but this time, I thought I’d aim to win — for a change. I’m giving research tips in this site and I’d like to put them to work. My intention was, if ever I win the contest, I would share pointers in writing it here. And that will make this site a more credible reference for colleagues and students in writing their research papers.

So here are  the 10 key points that helped me deliver a winning research paper despite the time constraint.

10 Key Points for a Winning Research Paper

1. Assess your capability and stick to the deadline.

Before writing anything, note the deadline of paper submission. Is it still possible for you to figure out a paper before the deadline ends? You have to assess your capability and resources at hand to deliver a paper within the prescribed period.

My typing speed of at least 60 words per minute helped me write the research paper with ease as my hands can cope up with what’s in my mind. That speeds up my composition as every idea that comes to mind rapidly goes on paper in real-time.

I like blogging and I’ve written hundreds of online articles for the past six years; so putting ideas into writing has not really become much of an issue. This is the reason I encourage colleagues to blog. This will hone their writing skills while at the same time earn something if they join free writing sites that pay their bloggers.

Back to the deadline issue, if the deadline is Monday, then by all means, submit your research paper on or before the deadline. Indeed, during the announcement of the winners, the chairman of the board of judges mentioned that research papers submitted beyond the deadline were no longer accepted. I submitted my research paper in the afternoon of the deadline date.

2. Make your research paper relevant to the theme.

I made sure that the paper I submitted adheres to the theme of the convention. The convention’s theme focused on the role of health research in disaster and emergency health management. Thus, I titled my paper “Climate Hazard Effects on Socio-Environmental Health and Adaptation Strategies in Two Coastal Communities in Palawan Island.” That’s about disaster’s effect on the health of marginalized communities and how two communities adapted to climatic threats. The communities explored “soft” and “hard” adaptation strategies to make their communities more resilient to the negative effects of climate change.

3. Keep to the rules. See the contest guidelines.

I followed the contest guidelines in its entirety. There is a prescribed format for writing the research paper as well as in the slide presentation. I followed the IMRaD format using my favorite word processor. The slides must not exceed 10, so I prepared 10 slides; no more, no less.

4. Do the writing in the morning.

I have fun doing my write-up in the morning. My mind works best from 4:30 to 11:30 am. After lunch, my brain goes into a slumber. There’s something in the food that makes me sleepy.

According to Ben Biggs, increased serotonin in the brain as a result of eating heartily is the culprit. To keep my writing momentum, I will either eat a small meal at lunchtime, or… sleep.

In that three-day writing spree, I took the latter approach, taking a one-hour nap after lunch. I’m alive after that brief trip to dreamland.

Surprisingly, I was able to sustain my writing from the usual drowsy 2 pm writing struggle. Somehow, the adrenalin push caused by the nearing deadline counteracted the effect of serotonin. At 4 o’clock, I regain back my writing momentum.

5. Have a good review of recent and relevant literature.

Many of the published literature on climate effects are in scientific journals that I have no access at the time of writing. Unfazed by this constraint, I resorted to online material that are both relevant and recent, and of course, free.

My references on the weather and disasters were obtained from mostly government-operated sites that I could rely on as these are public service sites. I gathered the most relevant ones and kept my writing concise, summarizing each report as succinctly as I could by applying the 5Ws and 1H technical writing strategy.

third place winner
My certificate of recognition and trophy for winning the third prize during the 8th Philippine National Health Research System (PNHRS) week celebration.

6. Adopt the viewpoint of the reader.

I adopted the viewpoint of the one screening the research paper. I have had experience reading and evaluating the work of others so I tried to take the reader’s viewpoint while I read my own paper. This proved to be difficult because I have my biases. But thinking as if I am the judge myself and using the contest’s judgment criteria, I saw critical areas or arguments in my manuscript that need revision.

Asking colleagues would have been better, but the brief period to prepare the research paper would not allow it. I will certainly do this once another opportunity arises.

7. Be particular about your grammar.

In any contest where English is the medium of expression, a non-native English speaker like me has to rely on previous educational training, readings and references. I did good in English during my high school and college days. Further, I developed my writing skills by reading the composition of great writers as well as practicing the trade, mainly, through blogging.

For me, if it sounds right and not really awkward to read, then it’s probably written right. Further, a good word processor can point out obvious grammatical errors. I made good use of it.

8. Use short sentences.

A veteran research writer colleague reminded me once to keep my sentences brief and concise. This simple suggestion helped me all the way in my writing engagements.

Whenever possible, I see to it that each sentence I write contains one idea or a set of ideas that work harmoniously. This writing style simply works.

9. Provide relevant figures and tables.

Remember the adage “A picture is worth a thousand words?” I selected figures, graphs and tables that contribute to the message I want to put across. Just glancing at these complementary sources of information improves the readers’ understanding of the research paper.

Specifically, for the pictures to include in the research paper, show something controversial or intriguing that will spark a discussion. The picture should be socially relevant if the theme is about people.

As for the tables, I adopt three guidelines: 1) limit columns to a maximum of four as much as possible, 2) arrange the title of each column from the most important to the least important information, and 3) provide explanatory notes under the table for better understanding.

10. Direct your mind towards winning.

When I wrote the research paper, I thought of winning the contest. I didn’t try this mindset before. My write ups were not written to compete but just to comply with the minimum requirements for participation. I didn’t enter any contest for lack of a good reason to do so. I just don’t like to compete as a matter of choice.

How did a changed mindset help me write better?

Adopting a winning attitude forced me to bring my talents and creativity to the fore. One of those things that I determined within myself is the idea that I will not settle for anything less as much as possible. I will make my work as perfect as possible if I can afford it. My work should be more than just enough. It should be as excellent as it should, at least in my point of view. So I read and reread the paper many times over.

Of course, the time pressure did not really turn out the best in my research paper as I realized some loopholes when I read it again and when the panel of judges were asking questions. But during the time of writing, the composition was the best I could muster. And it worked, because it passed the initial screening. The research paper made it to the six finalists out of 31 submitted for review.

A proper mindset allows you to harness your talents and creativity. Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck argues that people with a growth mindset see their qualities as things that can be developed through years of passionate practice and learning. And I believe I just did that.

Finally, connecting ourselves to the Supreme Being and having a noble purpose matters. All these things will not happen without blessings from the One who made it all possible. To Him all glory and honor return. After all, this toil is geared towards the betterment of humanity.

Try these tips and see how you perform. Or if you are a winner yourself, posting your thoughts below will be of great help to research writers.

© 2014 August 17 P. A. Regoniel

Thesis Writing: What to Write in Chapter 5

This article simply tells what a budding researcher must include in Chapter 5-the Summary. It also includes the tense of the verb and the semantic markers which are predominantly used in writing the summary, conclusions and recommendations.

For others, writing the Chapter 5 is the easiest part in thesis writing, but there are groups of students who would like to know more about it. If you are one of them, this article is purposely written for you.

A. Writing the Summary

Your summary may include the following: (1) objectives of the study; (2) statement of the problem; (3) respondents; (4) sampling procedures; (5) method/s of research employed; (6) statistical treatment/s applied or hypotheses tested, if there is any; (7); and results.

If you notice, all the parts mentioned above are already included in your Chapters 1- 4. So, the challenge is on how you are going to briefly write and present it.

First, you must go direct to the point in highlighting the main points. There is no need to thoroughly explain the details. You must avoid copying and pasting what you have written in the previous chapters. Just KISS (keep it short and simple)!

Then, write sentences in simple past and use always the passive voice construction rather than the active voice. You must also be familiar with the different semantic markers.

When I was enrolled in Academic Writing in my masters degree, I learned that there are semantic markers which can be used in order not to repeat the same words or phrases such as additionally, also, further, in addition to, moreover, contrary to, with regard to, as regards, however, finally, during the past ___ years, from 1996 to 2006, after 10 years, as shown in, as presented in, consequently, nevertheless, in fact, on the other hand, subsequently and nonetheless..

Next, you may use the following guide questions to check that you have not missed anything in writing the summary:

  1. What is the objective of the study?;
  2. Who/what is the focus of the study?;
  3. Where and when was the investigation conducted?;
  4. What method of research was used?;
  5. How were the research data gathered?;
  6. How were the respondents chosen?;
  7. What statistical tools were applied to treat the gathered data? ; and
  8. Based on the data presented and analyzed, what findings can you summarize?

Finally, organize the summary of the results of your study according to the way the questions are sequenced in the statement of the problem.

B. Writing the Conclusions

Once you have written the summary, draw out a conclusion from each finding or result. It can be done per question or you may arrange the questions per topic or sub-topic, if there is any. But if your research is quantitative in nature, answer directly the research question and tell if the hypothesis is rejected or accepted based on the findings.

As to grammar, make sure that you use the present tense of the verb because it consists of general statement of the theory or the principle newly derived from the present study. So, don’t be confused because in your summary, you use past tense while in conclusion, you use present tense.

C. Writing the Recommendations

The recommendations must contain practical suggestions that will improve the situation or solve the problem investigated in the study. First, it must be logical, specific, attainable and relevant. Second, it should be addressed to persons, organizations, or agencies directly concerned with the issues or to those who can immediately implement the recommended solutions. Third, present another topic which is very relevant to the present study that can be further investigated by future researchers. But never recommend anything that is not part of your study or not being mentioned in your findings.

After organizing your thoughts as to what would- be the contents of your recommendations, you should write it using the imperative mood of the verb. Imperative mood is to express a request or a command. So, the tense is also simple present tense.

However, there are universities especially in the Philippines that require a specific thesis format to be followed by students. Thus, as a student, you must conform to the prescribed format of your college or university.

Reference

Nordquist, R. n.d. Imperative Mood. Retrieved July 29, 2014, from http://grammar.about.com/od/il/g/impermood.htm

© 2014 July 29 M. G. Alvior

Cite this article as: Alvior, Mary G. (July 29, 2014). Thesis Writing: What to Write in Chapter 5. In SimplyEducate.Me. Retrieved from http://simplyeducate.me/2014/07/29/thesis-writing-what-to-write-in-chapter-5/

Qualitative Research: Three Ethnographic Research Techniques

What is ethnographic research? How is this research approach conducted?

This article explains the meaning of ethnographic research and discusses three ethnographic research techniques namely mapping the block, private language, and body language. A detailed example is given for each of the techniques. 

What is Ethnographic Research?

Ethnographic research is a qualitative research approach where the researcher captures a particular phenomenon by describing or explaining it without the use of statistics. It involves a systematic collection, description, and analysis of data to explain the subject or develop a theory of a “cultural behavior.”

Further, ethnographic research is an in-depth study of a people’s culture,  or of a nation. It may also refer to studies of culture prevailing in different professional fields like education, business, communication, tourism, and language.

The following are three ethnographic research techniques that are easy to follow. These are mapping the block, private language, and body language.

Three Research Techniques Used in Ethnographic Research

1. Mapping the Block

One of the research tools for ethnographic study is called mapping of the block. This approach uses  a vivid documentation of observations made in a place or a street in which a phenomenon that you want to investigate is located.

For example, if you want to study the culture of an indigenous group of people called the “Molbog” living in the remote island of Balabac in Palawan, you have to get as much detail about their village or houses. Or, if you want to study a group of students in the classroom, you have to tell exactly where the classroom is located and how it looks like. A one-time visit is not enough to map a block so you must make repeat observations. I did it once and it took me two weeks to map a block of my study area.

2. Private Language

Another way of gathering data is by capturing the private language used by a participant. Private language may pertain to a single word, an expression or a sentence. (next page please)

For example, a participant may use a common word or a totally strange word where you can’t find its meaning, even if you consult a dictionary of their language or use context clues to know its meaning. That’s because it’s only the participant who knows about it.  You have to make sure, however, that this “private language” is important to your study.

3. Body Language

A third technique of ethnographic research uses keen observation of a participant’s  body language. Once you see something peculiar as to the way he/she moves or rolls his/her eyes, bear that in mind so that you can put that observation into writing once you get the chance. But then again, you must make sure that his/her body language is relevant to your study.

Here are detailed examples for the three ethnographic research techniques:

Detailed Examples of Ethnographic Research

Example 1: Mapping the Block

The Block of XYZ Language Academy

From my dormitory in Molo, Iloilo City, I often pass by M.H. Del Pilar Street with nothing so interesting. Old buildings and newly erected buildings can be seen everywhere with different structures and architectures uniquely designed according to the services and purposes of the establishments. It’s a long queue of banks, hotels, restaurants and offices.

buildings cartoon

But one day, while searching for a language school to conduct an action research, a newly found friend told me to try XYZ. I was not familiar with that school and I didn’t even know its location. So, armed with a letter of request , I rode a jeepney towards XYZ.

XYZ is renting a space in the John B. Lacson Maritime University, the first maritime university in Asia. It is located beside La Fiesta Hotel, just before the newly constructed flyover.

The façade of the John B. Lacson Maritime University building is painted off peach while the pillars are Gothic, like the one I saw in La Salle, Taft; and in the Supreme Court in Manila. The pillars are circular with distinct columns to support the building. The upper part of each pillar has concave spiral designs in both sides which are exquisitely made.

From the ground floor, after walking about four meters ahead, I saw a stairway at the right side. Each stairway has ten small steps.

While making my first step upstairs, I saw that the wall was originally painted off white, but now became gray or dirty white. Once I reached the 10th step, I arrived at a platform, where I saw another stairway with the same number of steps as the first one. That platform, which has space enough for only a few people to pass by, has a well-decorated wall with yellow plastic flowers. On top of the flowers are the crystal cubes. There are 5 cubes in a column, and 15 cubes in a row; a total of 75 cubes. The same is true in the third floor. The only difference is that the color of the flowers at that level is orange.

Once I reached the third floor, I turned right, and then walked a little further. At my right side, there’s a signage of XYZ, at the corner of an aisle. I passed through the aisle and took a passage towards the Korean managers’ office.

The entrance door of the office is made of glass with no tint at all. I can see a divider from outside. To go inside, I must push the glass door.

What is a Statistically Significant Relationship Between Two Variables?

How do you decide if indeed the relationship between two variables in your study is significant or not? What does the p-value output in statistical software analysis mean? This article explains the concept and provides examples.

What does a researcher mean if he says there is a statistically significant relationship between two variables in his study? What makes the relationship statistically significant?

These questions imply that a test for correlation between two variables was made in that particular study. The specific statistical test could either be the parametric Pearson Product-Moment Correlation or the non-parametric Spearman’s Rho test.

It is now easy to do computations using a popular statistical software like SPSS or Statistica and even using the data analysis function of spreadsheets like the proprietary Microsoft Excel and the open source but less popular Gnumeric. I provide links below on how to use the two spreadsheets.

Once the statistical software has finished processing the data, You will get a range of correlation coefficient values along with their corresponding p-values denoted by the letter p and a decimal number for one-tailed and two-tailed test. The p-value is the one that really matters when trying to judge whether there is a statistically significant relationship between two variables.

The Meaning of p-value

What does the p-value mean? This value never exceeds 1. Why?

The computer generated p-value represents the estimated probability of rejecting the null hypothesis (H0) that the researcher formulated at the beginning of the study. The null hypothesis is stated in such a way that there is “no” difference between the two variables being tested. This means, therefore, that as a researcher, you should be clear about what you want to test in the first place.

For example, your null hypothesis that will lend itself to statistical analysis should be written like this:

H0: There is no relationship between the long quiz score and the number of hours devoted by students in studying their lessons.

If the computed value is exactly 1 (p = 1.0), this means that the relationship is absolutely correlated. There is no doubt that the long quiz score and the number of hours spent by students in studying their lessons are correlated. That means a 100% probability. The greater the number of hours devoted by students in studying their lessons, the higher their long quiz scores.

Conversely, if the p-value is 0, this means there is no correlation at all. Whether the students study or not, their long quiz scores are not affected at all.

In reality however, this is not the case. Many factors or variables influence the long quiz score. Variables like the intelligence quotient of the student, the teacher’s teaching skill, difficulty of the quiz, among others affect the score.

Now, this means that the p-value should not be 1 or numbers greater than that. If you get a p-value of more than 1 in your computation, that’s nonsense. Your p-value, I repeat once again, should range between 1 and 0.

To illustrate, if the p-value you obtained during the computation is equal to 0.5, this means that there is a 50% chance that one variable is correlated to the other variable. In our example, we can say that there is a 50% probability that the long quiz score is correlated to the number of hours spent by students in studying their lessons.

Deciding Whether the Relationship is Significant

If the probability in the example given above is p = 0.05, is it good enough to say that indeed there is a statistically significant relationship between long quiz score and the number of hours spent by students in studying their lessons? The answer is NO. Why?

In today’s standard rule or convention in the world of statistics, statisticians adopt a significance level denoted by alpha (α) as a pre-chosen probability for significance. This is usually set at either 0.05 (statistically significant) or  0.01 (statistically highly significant). These numbers represent 5% and 1% probability, respectively.

Comparing the computed p-value with the pre-chosen probabilities of 5% and 1% will help you decide whether the relationship between two variables is significant or not. So, if say the p-values you obtained in your computation are 0.5, 0.4, or 0.06; you should accept the null hypothesis. That is, if you set alpha at 0.05 (α = 0.05). If the value you got is below 0.05 or p < 0.05, then you should accept your alternative hypothesis.

In the above example, the alternative hypothesis that should be accepted when the p-value is less than 0.05 will be:

H1There is a relationship between the long quiz score and the number of hours devoted by students in studying their lessons.

The strength of the relationship is indicated by the correlation coefficient or r values. Guilford (1956) suggested the following categories as guide:

r-valueInterpretation
< 0.20slight; almost negligible relationship
0.20 – 0.40low correlation; definite but small relationship
0.40 – 0.70moderate correlation; substantial relationship
0.70 – 0.90high correlation; marked relationship
> 0.90very high correlation; very dependable relationship

You may read the following articles to see example computer outputs and how these are interpreted.

How to Use Gnumeric in Comparing Two Groups of Data

Heart Rate Analysis: Example of t-test using MS Excel Analysis ToolPak

Reference:

Guilford, J. P., 1956. Fundamental statistics in psychology and education. New York: McGraw-Hill. p. 145.

© 2014 May 29 P. A. Regoniel

4 Elements of a Good Abstract

How do you write a good abstract? Here are four elements of a good abstract.

Abstracts are important references for scientists or students working on their research proposal; particularly, in preparing their review of literature.  The abstract describes an unpublished or published research study in capsule form. It is a brief overview of the investigation so that researchers are able to comprehend the content of the research quickly.

The information provided in the abstract must be sufficient to help the researcher decide whether the work is relevant to his interest or not. It should be brief but not lacking in important elements necessary for understanding of the research conducted. The abstract will also help the researcher decide whether to read the research paper in its entirety or not.

So how should the abstract of a research paper be written so that maximum benefit is derived from it?

Four Elements of a Good Abstract

Specifically, you should write the abstract to meet its intended purpose. The abstract should:

  1. state clearly the objectives of the study;
  2. concisely describe the methodology or method employed in gathering the data, processing, and analysis;
  3. summarize the results, and
  4. state the principal conclusions of the research.

Generally, an informational abstract should give a brief summary of the main sections of the research paper, i.e., the introduction, the materials and/or methods used, the findings, discussion, conclusions, and recommendations.

In some academic institutions or scientific journals, however, recommendations are not incorporated in the abstract. That is because anyone can make recommendations based on the conclusion/s of the study.

The conclusion, in particular, should be given attention in writing the abstract. The conclusion should be well supported by the findings of the investigation; not a sweeping statement without any valid argument based on the findings to back it up. This is what really matters to the researcher trying to find gaps in knowledge that he can fill in.

Number of Words

Normally, abstracts should not exceed 250 words but this number could vary depending on the prescribed number of words, say, when you would like to submit your research paper to a popular scientific journal. Brevity is emphasized.

The limited number of words required for the abstract means that every word included in the abstract is necessary and that this should be presented in a coherent manner.  Important information should fit into one paragraph so this requires a little bit of thinking challenge and practice to the beginning researcher.

Tense of the Abstract

In what tense should the abstract be written?

The abstract should be written in the past tense because the investigation has transpired. However, statement of facts in, say, the results and discussion and the conclusion, must be in the present tense.

Finally, the references (e.g. name of author and date) should not be cited in the abstract unless the research paper involves an improvement or modification of a previously published method used by a researcher.

For more information and tips in writing the abstract of your research paper, visit the online writing lab of Purdue University.

©Patrick A. Regoniel 19 May 2014