Research Methods: Advantages And Disadvantages

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For a researcher, it is of utmost importance to have adequate knowledge of the various research methods available. Gathering information has become important especially in relation to works of research. It is also important to be knowledgeable of these research methods to maximize their potential for acquiring information. There are various research methods to collect data. Although each of these is likely to produce the required information, every researcher and student needs to know the advantages and disadvantages of each method.

Data collection methods are divided into two categories the quantitative and qualitative data collection methods. The quantitative methods make use of random sampling and other structured data collection instruments which generates results that researchers can easily compare, generalize and summarize (Leedy and Ormrod, 2001). Moreover, quantitative research has something to do with testing hypothesis from a theory. Participants may be assigned randomly to different treatments, depending on the research question at hand.

However, the researcher can also gather data on the participant and situational characteristic to be able to have statistic control for their influence on the dependent variable. Quantitative research methods include the following experiments/clinical tests, interviews and postal questionnaires. Experiments or tests involve observing and recording events. They generate information on aptitudes, abilities, personality traits. A researcher has control of the situation during experimentation. He can also identify the cause and effect. However, it is difficult to make valid and reliable tests.

On more than one occasion, the situation is artificial, which means the results may not be applicable to the real world. Interviews, on the other hand, may be structured or unstructured, depending on whether the researcher wants to gather specific information or delve into other topics as the interview is in progress. They can be taped or the researcher may take notes during the interview (Adler and Adler, 1994). According to Leedy and Ormrod (2001), interviews are more structured in quantitative research than in qualitative research.

A structured interview means the researcher asks a set of questions and nothing else. There are types of interviews. One is face to face. Its advantage is that the researcher can establish rapport with the participants and gain their cooperation at the same time. Also, the researcher can get immediate feedback and ask follow-up questions right away. Its disadvantage, on the other hand, is that it is impractical when the number of respondents is large. It becomes time consuming and expensive.

Another type of interview is the phone interview, wherein the researcher can gain access to anyone who has a telephone. It is less expensive and also less time consuming. Its disadvantage include response rate is low. The duration of the interview may also be limited. The Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI) is another type of interview. In CAPI, a respondent brings a laptop to enter the information into the database rather than answer a questionnaire. This method is advantageous because it saves time on processing the data and the interviewer is spared from bringing along questionnaires.

This can also be disadvantageous because the interviewers and respondents need to have computers or laptops and typing skills. Postal questionnaires are commonly used when it involves gathering information from a large and geographically dispersed population (Adams, 1982). Use of postal questionnaires is relatively cheaper to distribute. Moreover, there is uniformity on data because all of the respondents are asked the same questions. Postal questionnaires can also be private and anonymous. The respondents are not pressured because they can answer the questionnaires at their convenience.

On the other hand, it is difficult to determine who fills in a questionnaire and the researcher has no way of tracking the respondent if certain information needs to be gathered. Other respondents also disregard answering the questionnaires, which results to low response rate. The researcher must also put in mind that more people are better in expressing themselves orally. Another category of data collection is the qualitative data collection methods. Qualitative methods have important roles in impact evaluation because they provide information useful in understanding the process involved in observed results.

Qualitative methods are helpful in improving the quality of survey-based evaluations through generating evaluation hypothesis, strengthening survey questionnaires design and broadening quantitative evaluation findings. Qualitative methods can be characterized by the following: • They are open-ended with less structured protocols • They depend much on interviews; the respondents may be interviewed a number of times for follow up, clarification or checking of reliability • They make use of triangulation for the credibility of the findings

These are the three broad categories of the qualitative methods: in-depth interview, observation methods and document review. In-depth interviews aim to gather detailed information about a topic. It is advantageous because it can be recorded and observed by the researcher. It is also dynamic, which enables the researcher to dig deeper and ask follow-up questions. It is disadvantageous, on the other hand, when it becomes time-consuming. Observation, as the word implies, involves observing or noting of a behavior, event, experiment or a situation.

Observation is further divided into two types: the naturalistic and laboratory observations. Naturalistic observation happens in the field where a behavior naturally occurs. It is advantageous because it’s cheap and easy to do. However, a researcher may not have control over the conditions and he may change the behavior of his subject, which is biased. Moreover, there is no solid conclusions on the case and effect. Laboratory observation, on the other hand, involves observing subject in the laboratory. Here, the researcher can have control on the conditions.

It is also advantageous because the researcher can employ sophisticated equipment. However, laboratory observation is also subject to bias. The researcher has limited control of the conditions. Moreover, behavior inside the laboratory can be very different from behavior in the natural environment. Documentation review includes reviewing of existing and available documents. It is advantageous in that it is unobtrusive and it provides detailed information. But it needs a skilled auditor to properly interpret the data and to avoid incorrect assumptions.

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