Potential Influences Of The Hawthorne Effect Psychology Essay

The main purpose of this chapter is to provide an outline of the research methods used and to explain the procedures employed to collect data. It also discusses the literature underlying the methods and the particular reasons for the selected procedures of data collection. This chapter is divided into two parts. The first part presents an overview of the literature on research methodology (qualitative and quantitative approaches) and the data collection tools usually used with each individual method. The second part of the chapter concentrates on the setting for the research, the data collection instruments, data analysis, ethical issues and issues of validity and reliability.

4.2 Research Approaches

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Data can be collected from numerous sources, using different research methodologies. A research methodology comprises a set of techniques used in particular areas of research activity (Nachmias and Nachmias,1996). There is no right or wrong methodology, but the researcher should seek the most beneficial method available given the research questions being posed. According to Huberman and Miles (2002) and Blaxter et al. (2001), collected data can be classified as “qualitative” if they come in word form and descriptive situations, individuals or circumstances surrounding a phenomenon, whereas they are viewed as “quantitative” if they are presented in the form of numbers, counts or measurements that attempt to give precision to a set of observations. Consequently the most commonly used classification is between the qualitative and quantitative approaches (Smeyers, 2002).

Denzin and Lincoln (1994) argue that both qualitative and quantitative can be used appropriately within any research philosophy. The “positivist” approach holds that all genuine knowledge is based on sensory experience and can only be advanced by means of observation and experiments, while the “interpretivist” approach holds that the social word can only be understood from the standpoint of individual who are part of the ongoing action being investigated (Cohen et al, 2008). The choice of research method also depends on the nature of the research problem. In practice, there are certain constraints, such as time and funding, that also influence the researcher’s choice. In the application of scientific method, the researcher must be aware of certain problems (Boyd et al, 1985) such as investigator involvement in the use of the results, imprecise measuring devices, the possible influence of the measurements process on the results, time pressure in obtaining the results, difficulty in using experiments to test hypotheses and the complexity of the subject.

According to Gable (1994), the literature draws a clear distinction between the two approaches, but they are not mutually exclusive, and researchers sometimes apply both. Qualitative and quantitative research techniques can be viewed as the end of a continuum. The differences between the two approaches are detailed in Table 4-1. Remenyi (1998) argues that because research sometimes requires the collection of complex evidence to answer how, why and what questions, the two approaches can often be used in conjunction, as complimentary approaches.

Table 4-1 Qualitative Approach versus Quantitative Approach
Qualitative Approach
Quantitative Approach
Types of questions


Limited probing

Sample size



Amount of information



Requirements for administration

Interviewer with special skills

Interviewer with fewer skills

Types of analysis

Subjective, interpretive

Statistical, summation


Tape recorders, projection devices, video recorders, pictures, discussion guides

Questionnaires, computers, printouts

Degree of reliability



Types of research


Descriptive or casual

Source: McDaniel and Gates (2002)

4.3 The Qualitative Approach

According to Denizen and Lincoln (1994) qualitative research can be described as follows:

“The word qualitative implies an emphasis on processes and meanings that are not rigorously examined or measured (if measures at all), in terms of quantitative, amount, intensity or frequencyaˆ¦Qualitative researchers stress the socially constructed nature of reality, the intimate relationship between the researcher and what is studied and the situational constraints that shape inquiry. They seek answers to questions given meaning” (P. 124).

Qualitative research is an approach sitting within the phenomenological paradigm that involves some form of interaction between the researcher and the individual or the situation being researched (Hussey and Hussey, 2003). Morgan and Smircich (1980) argue that qualitative research is an approach rather than a set of techniques, and its appropriateness, like that of quantitative research, is determined by the phenomena to be studied and the research questions being asked. Furthermore, the qualitative approach to research can be described following four steps: invention, discovery, interpretation and explanation (Kirk and Miller, 1986). However, other views of qualitative research focus on public design constraints, for example, being influenced by individual’s own account of their attitudes, motivations and behavior (Hakim, 2000).

A problem faced by qualitative research is subjectivity, since the researcher is personally involved in working with the measurement tools (Walter and Gall, 1988). A number of features distinguish the nature and design of qualitative studies, such as the holistic investigation of phenomena and the understanding of the study in its natural setting (Walter and Gall, 1988). The nature of the research allows flexibility and responsiveness to ‘Multiple realities’ and complexity. Sample selection purposively rather than randomly helps the researcher to avoid missing sample data that could otherwise be considered as unimportant ‘outliers’. Purposive sampling allows the researcher to design a study that includes both typical and non-typical subjects and thus enriches the outcome of the research (Tashakkori and Teddlie, 1988).

According to Hakim, (2000) the strength of qualitative research lies in the validity of the data being collected. Data is normally collected in sufficient detail for the results to be taken as true, complete, correct and believable reports of the participants’ views and experiences. The sample size however is a major concern. Qualitative projects normally have smaller sample size, and it is suggested that small number of participants cannot really be taken as representatives (Hakim, 2000). This is true even when great care is taken to select a fair cross-section of subjects (Algarfi, 2010)

Methods of qualitative research design include: a) case study, which provides a descriptive data of the subject under study; b) meta-analysis, which is designed to analyze the statistical results from diverse previous research; c)research analysis of administrative records; d) focus group discussions, which allows the researcher to bring together the number of informants who serve the purpose of the issue of investigation; and e) in-depth interviews in the form of structured, semi-structured or unstructured design (Silverman, 2000; Kruger, 2001)

Qualitative research studies the objects in the naturalistic settings, trying to make sense of phenomenon in terms of meaning related to a field (Denzin and Lincoln, 1994). Qualitative research examines situated activity, in which there is an opportunity to participate in and reflect on the process of knowledge production (Flick, 2002). According to Denizin and Lincoln, 2003, qualitative research qualitative research taking place in a natural setting provides the potential to interpret the phenomena. It may use multiple methods to focus on individuals and provide interpretation. In addition, qualitative research design usually involves the practical material of a case study, interviews, a life story, observation and personal experience. It also involves texts that describe routines or problematic moments and meanings in subjects’ lives (Denzin and Lincoln, 2003). Qualitative studies are ultimately interested in how participants fit with their surroundings and make sense of their experience (Berg, 2004) (Algarfi, 2010)

4.3.1 Case Study

Case studies are used for different purposes in different disciplines therefore a clear definition of a case study is difficult to formulate. According to Hussey and Hussey (2003) case study refers to an extensive examination of a single instance of a phenomenon. Silverman (2000) defines cast study as “a general approach to study a research topic”. According to Yin (2003) case studies represent empirical inquiry into a contemporary phenomenon within its real life context. Thus the best use of case study occurs when the researcher believes that the concept of the phenomenon under investigation has an effect on the phenomenon. Yin (2003) further stresses that case studies represent a comprehensive research strategy, which includes particular techniques for the collection and analysis of data. However, Stake (1995) argues that case studies are not a methodological choice, but they are rather a selection of what has to be investigated. The above mentioned definitions of a case study refers to them as being more of a choice of what is to be investigated, such as a community or an organization and not a research methodology (Ryan et al, 2002).

According to Yin (2003), case study has four possible designs. Such as: 1) a single case study with a single unit of analysis; 2) a single case design with multiple units of analysis; 3) multiple-case designs with a single unit of analysis; 4) multiple-case designs with multiple units of analysis. The choice of the case study design depends on the research question, the nature of the cases, and the condition of research. According to Ryan et al (2002), the multiple-case design can be used for two purposes, named as replication and theory development: similar cases might be selected to replicate the theoretical explanations or dissimilar cases may be selected to extend the theory to a wider set of circumstances.

However, the case study approach is not problem free despite its benefits. One of the major criticism the case study approach has garnered is the issue of generalization of findings to a wider context (Yin, 2003), as case study often involves one case or a smaller number of cases (Stake, 1995). However it should be kept in mind that the objective of case study is not to prove or falsify a theory for statistical generalization, but rather to describe, illustrate, explore or explain (Ryan et al, 2002).

Another possible problem the case study approach faces is of researcher’s bias and lack of rigour which is frequently encountered but less frequently overcome (Yin, 2003). This can be dealt with if researchers work hard to not to alter or colour material and report all evidence in a fair manner. According to Ryan (2002), objectivity can be increased and bias can be reduced if a team of researchers with different backgrounds and experiences is involved and their interpretations are taken back to the subjects for their feedback (Algarfi, 2010).

4.3.2 Action Research

According to Valsa Koshy (2005) action research can be defined as “an enquiry, undertaken with rigour and understanding to constantly refine practice; the emerging evidence-based outcomes will then contribute to the researching practitioner’s continuing professional development”. Bassey (1998, P. 93) describes “action research as an enquiry which is carried out in order to improve education practice”. Whereas, Hopkins (2002, P. 41) states that “action research combines a substantive act with a research procedure; it is action disciplined by enquiry, a personal attempt at understanding while engaged in a process of improvement and reform”. According to Bell (1999), it is the practical, problem-solving nature of action research which makes this approach attractive to practitioner-researchers. She further adds that action research is favored more by practitioners due to its quality of being directed towards greater understanding and improvement of practice over time (Algarfi, 2010).

Furthermore, McNiff and Whitehead (2000), stress that action research is normally taken by people who are trying to understand their practice in order to improve the quality of their work with others. It is wisely used to promote personal and professional awareness and development with organizational contexts. Valsa Koshy (2005) state that action research is about working towards practical outcomes and about creating new forms of understanding; which is because action without understanding and theory without action are incomplete. O’Leary (2004, P. 129) highlights few points to summarize action research, such as,

It addresses practical problems in a specific context and attempts to find solutions within it.

It generates knowledge for the purpose of producing and supporting change.

It enacts change to fulfill immediate goals.

It is participatory; practitioners collaborate with practitioners and other stake holders.

It is a cyclical process that takes shape as knowledge emerges and includes planning, action, further observation and reflection (Algarfi, 2010).

4.3.3 The Advantages and Disadvantages of Qualitative

The socially constructed nature of reality is emphasized by the qualitative research as well as the intimate relationship between the researcher and the field. It explores to seek answers as how experience is created and given a meaning. On the contrary, the quantitative research stresses the measurement and analysis of casual relationships between variables, not processes (Denzin and Lincoln, 1994). Qualitative research approach provides the researchers to spend more time in the field to collect rich live data. It gives researchers a chance to witness the field from the inside and enables in-depth understanding of data. The major advantage of qualitative research is that it enables the researchers to collect real and unique data and make detailed explorations of the topic, because studying subjects can be difficult otherwise without the qualitative research methods. According to Cresswell (1998), ultimately, qualitative research provides researchers the opportunity to lay the role of an active learner, and present the actual story from their point of view.

Like all other research approaches qualitative research approach also has few disadvantages for example: a) it is time consuming to cover all stages of data collection (organization and analysis); b) it can be potentially costly to collect data; c) researcher bias is a possibility (Creswell, 1998). In addition to that, qualitative research in a social or human study may lack clear guidelines or a framework, making it difficult to plan, conduct or evaluate (Cresswell, 1998)

4.3.4 Data Collection Methods

Qualitative research approach involves several data collection method, a few of them are discussed below. The Interview Method

Cohen et al (2008), defines interview as an interchange or exchange of view between two or more persons on a topic of mutual interest, enabling discussion of interpretations, and expression of a point of view (). According to Cohen et al (2008), interviews serve three main purposes: 1) They serve as a principal mean of gathering information that has direct bearing on the research objectives. 2) They can be used to test hypotheses or to suggest new ones, r as an explanatory device to help identify variables and relationships. 3) They can be used in conjunction with the other methods (Algarfi, 2010).

Interviews are of three types mainly: structured, semi-structured and unstructured. In the structured interview, also known as a standardized interview the questions are closed-ended, and are asked in the same sequence in every interview. The aim of this approach is to ensure that each interviewee is presented with the same questions in the same order. This type of interview is more objective and comparatively easier to conduct and analyze, but it is not flexible (Nachmias and Nachmias, 1996). According to Blackman (2002), there are three important characteristics that are often used to distinguish between a structured and unstructured interview. First, highly structured interviews require that all interviewers ask the same set of questions to all applicants and must not ask any follow-up or probe questions. Second, structured interview form the basis of tight analysis. Third, interviewers are trained to use a standardized rating form as well as a priori rules while rating or scoring responses to questions (Algarfi, 2010).

The unstructured interview contains open-ended questions, which can vary or can be adapted to the respondent’s intelligence, understanding or beliefs. Although it takes more time and effort to conduct and analyze but it is more flexible and can be used to explore issues in greater depth (Kidder et al, 1986). The semi-structured interview contains both closed-ended and open-ended questions. Which means that all of the questions are not designed and formulated in advance (Algarfi, 2010). The semi-structured interview is a flexible research method that allows new queries to be brought in during the interview as a result of what the interviewee says and enables the interviewer to probe further information. The interviewer in a semi-structured interview normally has a framework of themes to be explored (Blackman, 2002).

Thomas (2003, P. 63), enlisted several strategies that a researcher can opt from when planning an interview. They are:

The loose-question approach: aims to elicit respondent’s interpretations of a very general situation.

The tight-question approach: aims to discover respondent’s preference among a limited number of options, such as yes/no or like/dislike.

The converging-question approach: aims at incorporating the advantages of the loose and tight method. In this approach the interviewer first asks broad, open-ended questions then follows up the replies to probe further to explore the interviewee’s opinions further in depth.

The response-guided approach, in this approach the interviewer begins with the prepared questions and then creates follow-up questions spontaneously, that are logical extensions of the answers given by the respondent to the open-ended questions. This technique allows the interviewer to investigate the interviewee’s opinion in detail about the issues related to the initial question. The Observation Method.

Observation is a part of everyday life. According to Wajnryb (1992), observation is multi-faceted

as a scientific research method, Boehm and Weinberg (1987) stress that observational techniques have been instrumental in developments in many of the sciences, because the data collected is likely to lead to conclusions, decisions or new ideas. Obaidat et al (2002), maintains that many ideas and phenomenon are studied in interviews or questionnaires because of their need to be understood and tested by the researchers in the field directly. Observation is a tool used by individuals to gain information and experience (Algarfi, 2010).

Observation enables the researchers to understand the context of the study under investigation, to be open-minded and inductive, to see aspects which can otherwise be missed and to discover issues that subjects might don’t want to discuss in interviews. Observations in the social contexts can be carried how with ease relatively, whereas scientific observations require detailed planning and systematic recording (Summerhill and Taylor, 1992). Cohen et al (2008) categorizes observations in physical settings, human settings, involving groups or individuals, according to gender, age and class also sometimes, in interactional settings (formal or informal, planned or unplanned, verbal or non-verbal) and in programme setting (for example, of institution, resources, style and curricula) (Algarfi, 2010). The advantages and Disadvantages of
Observation Method

The affordance of the direct experience is one of the major advantages of the observation method, as opposed to the second-hand information that is obtained through other methods (for example, interviews) and the depth of detail can also be achieved through this method (Summerhill and Taylor, 1992). Obaidat et al (2002) speaks strongly of the neutrality that the observation method involves and the accuracy of data because of its recording at the time of the event or incidence. Cohen et al (2008) advocates that observers are relatively more involved in the research environment and therefore possess great opportunity for interpretation as compared to the other methods. Another important advantage of observation method is its directness, as it enables the researcher to study behavior as it occurs and provides the opportunity to record the event as it takes place (Nachmias and Nachmias, 1996).

Apart from its advantages the observation method has few disadvantages also such as it can lead to reactivity on the part of those being observed (Summerhill andTaylor, 1992, Obaidat et al (2002). Cohen et al (2008) stresses that the much preparation time is needed for its implementation and analysis. In addition he claims that the ill-prepared observation can lead to the inaccurate data, as the observation site (for example, classroom) can be influenced by the behavior that can change the direction of the sample. According to Frank (1999), observation is no passive; it needs skilful handling of the process of looking, listening, recording, and even videoing. Furthermore, observation method may not be a valid or realistic option for a large population (Summerhill and Taylor, 1992). Another possible disadvantage of this method can be that it relies heavily on personal interpretation and the observer can be biased or lose objectivity while observing. There may be concentration shifts over time as well as tendency to focus on ‘exotic’ or ‘foreign’ data (Summerhill and Taylor, 1992). Additionally there have been few problems associated with the observation techniques also highlighted by Hussey and Hussey (2003), for example, the researcher cannot control viable in the natural setting, and there can be a problem of ethics, objectivity and technology while recording the subjects’ responses and the observer can also miss or fail to observe some activities due to distractions.

4.3.5 Triangulation

Triangulation is used by researchers to validate their results and give more confidence in them. Triangulation is defined as the combination of different methods, study groups, local and temporal settings, and different theoretical perspectives in studying a phenomenon (Flick, 2002, Algarfi, 2010). There are many advantages of including multiple sources of evidence and methods of analysis in the research. It enables the researcher to address a broad range of historical and behavioral issues, and also leads to the case study becoming more convincing and accurate (Yin, 2003, . triangulation also leads to the strengthening of the study’s usefulness for other settings (Marshall and Rossman, 1989, Algarfi, 2010)

Multiple methods to address given problem, on the basis that different methodological weaknesses can be ruled out to produce more convincing and accurate findings are strongly advocated by Newman (1997). According to Brannen (1995) triangulation allows a holistic picture to develop, by capturing a more complete and contextual portrayal of the filed or topic under investigation(). Neuman (1997) further adds that a combination of more than one method of research can be beneficial in some studies. Whereas, Bryman (1998), thinks that the validity of conclusions in triangulation method can be enhanced through mutual confirmation. Greene et al (1989) enlists five purposes of the combination method or triangulation in a single study: a) where convergence of results is sought; b) where overlapping and different facets of a phenomenon may emerge from complementary methods; c) where use in sequence enables the first method to help inform the second; d) where contradiction and fresh perspectives emerge; e) where using more than one type of methods adds scope, breadth and depth to the study. In the present research study, triangulation involves observation (think aloud protocol and stimulated recall) interviews and focus groups.

4.4 The Quantitative Approach

Quantitative research design is majorly affiliated with the creation of empirical tests, which are meant to support or refute a knowledge claim, and can take a form of descriptive study, primarily concerned with finding out quantity. Quantitative research is based on the positivist paradigm. Quantitative research techniques share the language and logical form of positivism, which separates them from research techniques based on other approaches (Neuman, 1997). Quantitative research is therefore concerned with discovering casual relationships, and giving predictions or explanations of relationships among the variables under investigation (Creswell, 1994; Churchill, 1995).

Some assumptions are presented by Creswell (1994) about quantitative research. They are: reality is objective and singular, without the influence of researcher; the researcher is independent from that which is being researched; research must be value-free and unbiased; formal language should be used in research; the logic of process is deductive; generalization affords prediction, explanation and understanding; it is independent of context; it uses accurate and reliable statistical analysis, and aims at validity and reliability; the researcher uses deductive reasoning; the samples (subjects or cases) used, are large.

The quantitative approach places considerable emphasis on the statistical generalization of findings. Which seek to explain and predict events in the social world, by searching for regularities and casual relationship between constituent variables. Consequently, quantitative research looks over social processes and focuses solely on social structure by isolating the problem from its setting (Hussey and Hussey, 2003). The methods include quantitative approach are experimental design, which has two forms: true experimental and quasi-experimental. Other types are survey designs, which include descriptive surveys or analytical surveys, as well as regular or ad hoc sample surveys. A major feature of sample survey design is accessibility and visibility. Another type of quantitative research study is a correlation study, which includes study that attempt to discover or clarify relationships through the use of correlation coefficients (Churchill, 1995).

There are several steps to be followed while conducting the quantitative research and if these steps are not followed in the correct order it may affect the rest of the research negatively. According to Krathwohl model of the chain of reasoning in quantitative studies the following steps shows: (1) conclusions from previous studies, (2) explanation, rationale, theory or point of view, (3) questions, hypotheses, predictions, models, (4) study design, (5) data gathering, (6) data summary, (7) determining the statistical significance of results, (8) conclusions and (9) the beginning of the next study (Walter and Gall, 1989).

4.5 Present Research Design

The present research design is located within the Qualitative umbrella and collects opinions and views on how individuals make sense of their experiences and socially construct their reality. This research centered on to obtain answers of the questions that concentrated more on ‘how’, ‘why’ and ‘what’. In particular, it examined Saudi students perspective on online reading practices and affordances. Data was collected through multiple ways, using established qualitative data collection procedures such as individual interviews, think aloud protocols, stimulated recalls and observations (live and video recorded). The study employed a triangulation strategy across all methods and across participants to address the research purpose and to answer the research questions. The aim of employing a range of data collection method was to strengthen the overall research process and specifically the validity and reliability of the emerging findings and interpretations. It also aimed at minimizing any issues that might emerge from usig a qualitative research approach, such as, issues related to bias and subjectivity as mentioned in section 4.3

The research also aimed to identify the challenges, preferences, strategies, and the use of digital affordances of Saudi students during their Bachelor in Saudi Arabia and during their Postgraduate study in the UK to follow the changes that have occurred.

The research setting and the data collection methods are discussed now.

4.5.1 Research Sample

According to Cohen et al, (2008), the quality of a piece of research stands or falls not only by the appropriateness of the methodology and instrumentation, but also by the suitability of the sampling strategy that has been adopted and employed. Hence, for researchers a difficult question to resolve is how large their samples should be. Cohen et al, further state “there is no clear-cut answer, for the correct sample size depends on the purpose of the study and the nature of the population” (P. 100). In addition, given the nature of the qualitative sampling, the number of cases samples is often small, because there is no need for scale or need for estimates of statistical significance. Furthermore, a qualitative study aims for depth and as well as breadth. Hence, managing and analyzing a large quantity of in-depth data can become problematic. However, the small-scale approach works only if the researcher has a strong sampling strategy (Ritchie and Lewis, 2003)

Qualitative research uses non-probability sampling, as it does not aim to produce a statistically representative sample or draw statistical inferences (Creswell, 1998). There are several types of non-probability sampling which are used in qualitative research, namely a) convenience sampling, b) quota sampling, c) dimensional sampling, d)purposive sampling, and e) snowball sampling (Cohen et al, 2008). Each of these sampling attempts only to represent itself or instances of itself in a similar population, rather than attempting to represent the whole population (generalization).

The present qualitative research study employed the convenience sampling, which according to Somekh and Lewin (2005), involves choosing the nearest available and accessible individuals (researchers choose the sample to whom they have easy access). Convenience sampling does not represent any group apart from itself and it does not seek to generalize to the wider population. The following paragraphs provide the further details about the sample for the current research. The site of the study.

The research was undertaken at a university in UK that was accessible to the researcher. The university was locatedaˆ¦.(details required)

Data collection was undertaken across (monthsaˆ¦2012..information required about the university, its number of faculty, terms and courses and how much time was allowed to the researcher to conduct the research.) The Students (sample)

The sample of this study comprised of post-graduate Saudi students in UK (further details required)

4.5.2 Data Collection

Data collection is a cr

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