Research Questions and Hypotheses

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Information about Research Questions and Hypotheses

Published on March 11, 2014

Author: PedroLMartinez



Introduction to writing research questions and determining what variables to use. Introductory concepts for school personnel interested in action research.

Research Topics and Hypotheses Formulation Educational Research and Assessment Dr. Pedro L. Martinez

What is a Theory? • A theory is a well-established principle that has been developed to explain some aspect of the natural world. A theory arises from repeated observation and testing and incorporates facts, laws, predictions, and tested hypotheses that are widely accepted. • A theory predicts events in general terms, while a hypothesis makes a specific prediction about a specified set of circumstances.

• A hypothesis is a specific, testable prediction about what you expect to happen in your study. • For example, a study designed (imaginary) to look at the relationship between study habits and test anxiety might have a hypothesis that states: “This study is designed to assess the hypothesis that students with better study habits will suffer less test anxiety.” Unless your study is exploratory in nature, your hypothesis should always explain what you expect to happen during the course of your experiment or research. What is a Hypothesis?

• A research hypothesis is the statement created by a researcher when they speculate upon the outcome of a research or experiment. • A hypothesis should be based on sound rationale. It should derive from previous research or theory and its confirmation or disconfirmation should contribute to educational theory or practice. Hypothesis

What is the Difference Between a Theory and Hypothesis? A theory predicts events in general terms, while a hypothesis makes a specific prediction about a specified set of circumstances. A hypothesis is generated via a number of means, but is usually the result of a process of inductive reasoning where observations lead to the formation of a theory. Scientists then use a large battery of deductive methods to arrive at a hypothesis that is testable, falsifiable and realistic.

Operational Definitions • Study habits and test anxiety are the two variables in this imaginary study. A variable is a factor or element that can be changed and manipulated in ways that are observable and measurable. However, the researcher must also define exactly what each variable she is using and state the operational definitions. These definitions explain how the variable will be manipulated and measured in the study.

Defining Operations • In our previous example, a researcher might operationally define the variable „test anxiety’ as the results on a self- report measure of anxiety experienced during an exam. • The variable ‘study habits’ might be defined by the amount of studying that actually occurs as measured by time.

• These precise descriptions of each variable are important because many things can be measured in a number of different ways. • One of the basic principles of any type of scientific research is that the results must be replicable. By clearly detailing the specifics of how the variables were measured and manipulated, other researchers can better understand the results and repeat the study if needed. Why does the researcher need to provide operational definitions for each variable?

• How would you operationally define a variable such as aggression? • For obvious ethical reasons, researchers cannot create a situation in which a person behaves aggressively toward others. In order to measure this variable, the researcher must devise a measurement that assesses aggressive behavior without harming other people. In this situation, the researcher might utilize a simulated task to measure aggressiveness. Some variables are more difficult than others to define.

Supplemental Instruction • Read more: http://www.experiment- hypothesis.html#ixzz0zKSGuVmH • methodology.html

How do I find a Research Question? Find a topic? What do I know? What I have read? Do I know any theories in my area? What experiences have I had related to learning? Do I know of a research topic that could be replicated? Sign up to an organization or to a e-mail list serve

Narrowing your Topic • Examine all the possible handbooks that are available at the O‟Kelly Library: • Handbook of Educational Research Administration • Handbook of Educational Psychology • Handbook of Research on Curriculum • Handbook of Teacher Education

Is your topic researchable and worth pursuing? • Effectiveness of class reminders in reducing instances of pencil sharpening? • Should students be held back? • Should in –service teachers take graduate courses?

Select an aspect of research • If you find a research study such as: • Investigating the Effectiveness of Computer- Assisted Children Instruction in Elementary Arithmetic. • Can I extrapolate the study to include other subject areas? • Of course!

Is your research question applicable to a study? • Turn a non-researchable topic into a research questions: • Do students who are held back increase their motivation to persist school?

• 1. Search the Education Resource Information Center (ERIC) database sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education at • 2. Search the online catalog of books and journals at a local college or university library. Major research in Qualitative Research: • Educational Action Research • Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis (American Educational Research Association) • Educational Insights (Centre for the study of Curriculum & Instruction; University of British Columbia) [online] • Educational Researcher (American Educational Research Association) • Electronic Journal of Sociology [online] • The Elementary School Journal • Emergence: Complexity and Organization • English Education (National Council of Teachers of English) • Ethnography • Exceptional Children (The Council for Exceptional Children) The initial step is to identify and obtain copies of research reports from studies of programs and practices similar to those your school district seeks to improve. Such as:

• 3. Check List Available at O'Kelly Library • 4. Visit the Web site of well-regarded national and local education organizations such as: Other Sources…

• 4. Contact people operating programs in your area of interest, such as juvenile delinquency and community-based arts education or collaborations between schools and arts organizations, and inquire about research they may have available. Often the small studies conducted on specific, localized programs remain unpublished and can easily be overlooked unless you contact the program directly. • 5. Place a query on an education organization‟s listservs. • 6. Use a Web search engine such as Google Continued…

• That depends on your judgment. However, you should always ask does it improve my practice or profession? Research recommended by NCLB: • and Research • and Conducting Research • Education Research North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (2004) discusses and provides examples of the six components of scientifically based research (SBR) must: • Use empirical methods. • Involve rigorous and adequate data analyses. • Rely on measurements or observational methods that provide reliable and valid data. • Use either an experimental or quasi-experimental design. • Allow for replicability and undergo expert scrutiny. (pp. 3-4) Is my research question significant?

1.Pose significant questions that can be investigated empirically. 2. Link research to relevant theory. 3. Use methods that permit direct investigation of the question. 4. Provide a coherent and explicit chain of reasoning. 5. Replicate and generalize across studies. 6. Disclose research to encourage professional scrutiny and critique. For more information on the role of NRC go to: National Research Council uses this criteria: ex.htm

• The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act (2002) defines scientifically based research as "research that involves the application of rigorous, systematic, and objective procedures to obtain reliable and valid knowledge relevant to education activities and programs." • The criteria according to NCLB is: • Persuasive-Persuasive. This attribute refers to research that is moving from "tentative knowledge claims generated at local research sites to become stabilized and transformed into widely accepted facts" (Smith and others 2002). Appropriate research design, methods, and techniques; logic and reasoning; and replicable results can all help to establish persuasiveness. What is SBR?

• SBR is defined in the Elementary and Secondary School Education Act in Title IX, Part A (37). This definition applies to all programs under ESEA except the Reading First Program, which has its own definition. • SBR is defined for Comprehensive School Reform (CSR) by the following six criteria: • Employs systematic, empirical methods; • Involves rigorous data analyses; • Relies on measurements that provide reliable and valid data; • Uses experimental or quasi-experimental designs; • Ensures that studies are clear and detailed to allow for replication; and • Has been reviewed or accepted by independent experts. Scientific Based Research

• Empirical. Research that is empirical is based on measurement or observation, that is, experienced "through the senses" (NRC 2002). • Is it important question? • Appropriate Methods. This refers to the use of designs, methods, and techniques that fit the nature of the question the study is attempting to answer. • Replicable and Applicable Findings NCLB Criteria for SBR

• Nuremberg Code • In 1948 the Nuremberg Code laid down 10 standards for physicians to conform to when carrying out experiments on human participants. The Nuremberg Code was the result of judgment by an American military war crimes tribunal conducting proceedings against 23 Nazi physicians and administrators for their willing participation in war crimes and crimes against humanity. The doctors had conducted medical experiments on concentration camp prisoners who died or were permanently affected as a result. • The Nuremberg Code was developed in response to the judicial condemnation of the acts of Nazi physicians, and did not specifically address human subject research in the context of the patient-physician relationship. • Briefly, the 10 standards of the Nuremberg Code are as follows: • Volunteers freely consent to participate • Researchers fully inform volunteers concerning the study • Risks associated with the study are reduced where possible • Researchers are responsible for protecting participants against remote harms • Participants can withdraw from the study at any time • Qualified researchers conduct the study • Cessation of the study if adverse effects emerge • Society should benefit from study findings • Research on humans, should be based on previous animal or other previous work • A research study should never begin if there is a reason to believe that death or injury may result Why Ethics?

• Declaration of Helsinki (International) • In 1964, the World Medical Association developed ethical principles as guidance for medical doctors in biomedical research involving human subjects. The World Medical Association adopted the Declaration of Helsinki in response to concerns with research on patient populations. The primary purpose of the accord was to declare individual patient interests before those of society. The Declaration of Helsinki was revised in 1975, 1983, 1989, 1996, and 2000. • Briefly, the basic principles of the Declaration of Helsinki include the following: • Physician‟s duty in research is to protect the life, health, privacy, and dignity of the human participant • Research involving humans must conform to generally accepted scientific principles and thorough knowledge of scientific literature and methods • Research protocols should be reviewed by an independent committee • Research protocols should be conducted by medically/scientifically qualified individuals • Risks and burden to the participant should not outweigh benefits • Researcher should stop study if risks are found to outweigh potential benefits • Research is justified only if there is a reasonable likelihood that the population under study will benefit from the results • Participants must be volunteers and informed in research project • Every precaution must be taken to respect privacy, confidentiality, and participant‟s physical and mental integrity • Assent must be obtained from minors, if child able to do so • Investigators are obliged to preserve the accuracy of results; negative and positive results should be publicly available Historical antecendents

Is it Ethical? • It does not harm individuals physically or emotionally. • If someone told you to press a button to deliver a 450- volt electrical shock to an person in the next room, would you do it? • Milgram‟s Study • In the early 1960s, a young psychologist at Yale began what became one of the most widely recognized experiments in his field. In the first series, he found that about two-thirds of subjects were willing to inflict what they believed were increasingly painful shocks on an innocent person when the experimenter told them to do so, even when the victim screamed and pleaded. •

Is this what is meant by Ethical and Legal? In order to determine whether fear was innate or a conditioned response, father of behaviorism, John Watson, used a nine month old orphan he nicknamed Little Albert to test his theory. Watson began the experiment by placing Little Albert in the middle of a room. A white laboratory rat was placed near Albert, who was allowed to play with it. Albert was not scared. For two months he was exposed to various things without any sort of conditioning; a white rabbit, a monkey, masks etc… Watson placed Albert in a room again with the rat, however this time, when Albert would touch the rat, Watson would make loud sounds behind him, such as the striking of a steel bar with a hammer. When this occurred, Albert would get frightened and begin to cry. Watson continued to do this until eventually, Albert became very distressed whenever exposed to the rat. Eventually, Albert associated anything fluffy or white with the loud noise. Little Albert was never desensitized to his fear and was released from the hospital before Watson was able to do so. psych-experiments/

• Dubbed the „monster study‟, the experiment was conducted by speech expert Wendell Johnson, led in part by graduate student Mary Tudor Jacobs in 1939. Johnson believed that stuttering was a learned behavior, attributed to outside factors such as constant criticism from a parent to its child for even the slightest speech imperfections. 22 orphan children with no prior speech impediment were chosen for the experiment. Wendell‟s goal was to induce the disorder in orphans. • One group of orphans received praise for positive speech therapy whereas the other group was belittled, badgered and told they were stutterers. By the end of the study, none of the test subjects in the negative therapy group became stutterers, but the experience caused them low self-esteem and irreparable damage. Another Tragic Example

• • ature=related • Stanley Milgram's experiment • The Tuskegee Syphilis study • The Willowbrook study, • The Laud Humphrey's "Tearoom Sex" study. These studies led to the creation of the Belmont Report and the Institutional Review Board (IRB) which were formed to protect human subjects involved in research. What is the nature of humans?

 Syphilis Study (1932 –1972): • The U.S. Public Health Service conducted a research project from 1932 to 1972 to document the natural progression of syphilis. Six hundred low-income African- American males, 399 of whom were infected with syphilis, 201 were not infected, were recruited for the study. Participants were given free medical examinations, free meals, and burial insurance; however, they were not told about their disease. The physicians conducting the study told the participants they were being treated for “bad blood”. The physicians deliberately denied these men treatment for syphilis and also attempted to prevent treatment from other sources. On May 16, 1997, U.S. President Bill Clinton apologized, on behalf of the government, to the surviving participants of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study and the members of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study Legacy Committee. The participants for the Tuskegee Syphilis Study were disadvantaged, rural black men; however the disease was not confined to this population. Risks to participants were not minimized in this study, instead, participation increased risks. The burden of risk was placed on the disadvantaged, rural black male population while a much broader population benefits from the findings. These findings demonstrate the need for voluntary informed consent, risks not outweighing benefits, and that benefits and risks of research should be distributed fairly. For more information see the Tuskegee Syphilis Study Legacy Committee website. Classical Unethical Research Studies

 Willowbrook School Study (1963 - 1966): • Willowbrook State School, situated in New York State, was an institution for mentally handicapped children. Parents of children in the institution gave consent for their children to participate in a study. The intent of the research study was to follow the course of viral hepatitis and study the effectiveness of an agent for inoculating against hepatitis. Parents were provided with study information describing the drug administration as vaccinations. However, the children were deliberately infected with the hepatitis virus. There is evidence that the school only admitted children to the school whose parents gave permission for them to be in the study.  Jewish Chronic Disease Hospital (1963): • Studies were conducted at the Jewish Chronic Disease Hospital in New York City to develop information on the nature of the human transplant rejection process. Chronically ill patients who did not have cancer were injected with live human cancer cells. The physicians did not inform the patients as to what they were doing. The physicians‟ rationalization for their actions was as follows: (i) they did not want to scare the patients and (ii) they thought the cells would be rejected. •

 Milgram Obedience Study (early 1960s): • Stanley Milgram, a social psychology researcher at Yale University, wondered why defendants in the Nuremberg Trials justified their unethical actions by saying they were just following orders. Even though his studies were designed to learn about conditions of obedience and disobedience, Milgram used deception to recruit participants by calling his projects learning and memory studies. Naïve participants believed they were applying punishment, escalating electric shock, to a “learner”, in response to incorrect answers to word-pair matching questions. Actually, the “learner” was a confederate (i.e., was working for the researcher) and was not being shocked. The deception was revealed at the end of the study. The study was criticized for the extreme psychological stress experienced by some of the participants, and that due to the deception, informed consent was not obtained. There is a short online video of "Obedience-the Stanley Milgram Experiment" available for viewing. This short won the 1997 Best Student Production Award. Milgram Studies

• 1. What right does a researcher have to expose subjects to such stress? • 2. What activities should be or not be allowed in marketing research? • 3. Does the search for knowledge always justify such "costs" to subjects? • 4. Who should decide such issues? • Besides this study, there were other experiments that also brought about awareness to the • issue of ethics. What are the Rules?

• The Belmont Report, U.S., (1979) • On July 12, 1974, the U.S. National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research was created via the U.S. National Research Act. The Commission was to: • Identify the basic ethical principles that should underlie the conduct of biomedical and behavioural research involving human subjects, and • Develop guidelines which should be followed to assure that biomedical and behavioural research is conducted in accordance with the basic ethical principles. • The basic ethical principles of The Belmont Report are as follows: • Respect for Persons – Autonomy of individuals – Persons with diminished autonomy are entitled to protection • Beneficence – Respect persons‟ decisions and protect from harm – maximize possible benefits and minimize possible harms • Justice – Benefits and risks of research must be distributed fairly • The applications of 1, 2, and 3, respectively, are informed consent, assessment of risks and benefits, and selection of subjects. The Belmont Report

• The role of the IRB (Institutional Review Board) is to protect the rights and welfare of individual research subjects. These goals are accomplished by having the IRB assure that the following requirements are satisfied: • 1. risk to subjects are minimized • 2. risk to subjects are reasonable in relation to anticipated benefits, • 3. selection of subjects is equitable, i.e. fair • 4. informed consent is sought form each subject or his/her legally authorized representative, • 5. informed consent is appropriately documented, • 6. when appropriate, the research plan makes provisions for monitoring data collection, • 7. privacy and confidentiality of research subjects is appropriately protected, and • 8. when some or all of the subjects are likely to be vulnerable to coercion or undue influence, additional safeguards have been included. • For ore Information on the IRB Board go to: Additional Ethical Questions

 Tearoom Trade Study (mid 1960s): • For his PhD dissertation, Laud Humphries, a sociologist, was interested in learning what motivates men who have anonymous sex in public washrooms. He was interested in determining their personal characteristics and also the nature of the sexual activity. There were two parts to the study. In the first part, he befriended the men by acting as a “lookout”. Since the public washroom was in a park the researcher was able to take down some of the men‟s license plate numbers. He then obtained identifying information on these men by tracing their car license plates via a policeman. A year later, in the second part of the study, the researcher utilized the identifying information he obtained to contact and subsequently, interview the men in their homes. To avoid being recognized, he altered his appearance and claimed he was conducting a study on health issues. The concerns with this study were the use of deception upon deception and the lack of opportunity for participants to provide informed consent. • Tea for Two?

• Human Behavior Experiments 2007 Produced for Court TV and the Sundance Channel, HUMAN BEHAVIOR EXPERIMENTS revisits three famous behavioral studies to explore some perennial questions about why human beings commit unethical acts under particular social conditions: Stanley Milgram's obedience to authority experiments, in which subjects willingly inflicted pain on another person; Philip Zimbardo's alarming prisoner and guard role-playing study at Stanford; and Columbia University's 1969 experiments which illuminated how being in a group can cause a diffusion of moral responsibility. A Jigsaw Production. Click to read the NYTimes Review Nudity, Violence, Adult Language, Adult Content • Taxi to the Dark Side 2008 Winner of the Academy-Award for best documentary feature, TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE is a gripping investigation into the reckless abuse of power by the Bush Administration. A documentary murder mystery that examines the death of an Afghan taxi driver at Bagram Air Base, the film exposes a worldwide policy of detention and interrogation that condones torture and the abrogation of human rights. This disturbing and often brutal film is the most incisive examination to date of the Bush Administration‟s willingness, in its prosecution of the “war on terror,” to undermine the essence of the rule of law. The film asks and answers a key question: what happens when a few men use the wartime powers of the executive to undermine the very principles on which the United States was founded? A Jigsaw Production. Website: Contemporary Films

Permission Sample #1

Sample #2

• Does it depend on my research skill level? • What is my knowledge in the subject • Are participants available? • Are there instruments that I can use that have been shown to be reliable? • Is it Manageable?

• Quantitative or Qualitative? • Quantitative-topic statement describes the variables of interest, the specific relation among the variables, and the important characteristics of the participants. • (e.g., gifted students, fourth graders with learning disabilities, teenage mothers) Look at this research statement: “ The focus of this study is to determine what effect positive reinforcements have on the quality of 10th graders‟ English composition.” How do I state the research topic?

• “The topic to be investigated in this study is secondary teacher‟s attitudes toward required after-school activities.” • Variables- (I) (D) • Relationship- • Subjects- What are the variables, relationships and who are the subjects?

• In qualitative research the research question is not initially stated as hypothesis. Researchers conducting qualitative research are mainly concern about (a) specific environment where observable behaviors may take place and documented. • Researchers begin with an open mind and later try to formulate a hypothesis based on information and data gathered throughout the study. The researcher will narrow the research question later as the study proceed Qualitative Research Topics

• Why does the quantitative researcher must begin with a hypothesis? • Why does the qualitative researcher does not? What is the difference?

• Choice of participants • Measuring instruments • Design • Procedures • Data Analysis • Conclusions • So what about a theory? In quantitative research a hypothesis establishes

• There are four criterion used to determined its value: • 1) Based on sound rationale from theories or previous studies. It confirms or disconfirms previous conclusions • 2) It is reasonable and provides an explanation for the predicted outcome • 3) States concisely the expected relationship between variables and defines them in an operational and measurable way. (how do we define the variables?) • 4) Is it testable? Criteria to Determine the Value of a Hypothesis

• 1. The hypothesis (quantitative) will determine the research study • 2. My research topic is sound and based on previous findings or reasonable professional judgment • 3. Survey the standard tools of measures readily available. Other things to consider..

• Inductive and Deductive- how are they derived • Directional and Non-Directional-stating the relationship of variables. Hypotheses Typology

Inductive Hypothesis Inductive vs. Deductive Obser vation 1 Observ ation 2 Observ ation 3 Hypothesis

• Deductive Hypothesis is derived from previous research and theory. • Example: An eight grader teacher with 10 years of experience has found that her students tend to be less anxious when taking an essay exams than those who take multiple choice tests. • What kind of hypothesis?

• A directional hypothesis simply states the direction of the relationship or difference. • A non-directional hypothesis-simply states that a direction or relation exists. • Examples: • “The achievement of 10th grade biology students who are instructed using interactive multimedia is significantly different than the achievement of those who receive regular instruction only.” • “Tenth grade biology students who are instructed using interactive multimedia achieve a higher level than those who receive regular instruction only.” Directional and Non-Directional Hypotheses

• The null hypothesis states that there is no significant relation or difference between variables. • “ The achievement level of 10th grade biology students who are instructed using interactive multimedia is not significantly different than the achievement level of those who receive regular instruction. The null hypothesis

• P who get X do better on Y than • P who do not get X (or get some X) • P= participants • X= the treatment (causal or IV variable) • Y= the study outcome, the effect of the dependent variable (DV) • “The purpose of the study is to investigate the effectiveness of 12th grade mentors on the absenteeism of low achieving 10th graders” • “The purpose of the proposed research is to investigate the effectiveness of different conflict resolution techniques in reducing the aggressive behaviors of high-school students in an alternative educational setting” • Write a directional and non directional hypothesis for each of the above. Exercise

• Write directional, non-directional and a null hypotheses for the following examples: • “This study investigates the effectiveness of token reinforcement, in the form of free time given the completion of practice worksheets, on the math computation skills on ninth grade general math students” “The purpose of this study is to assess the impact of formal versus informal preschool reading instruction on children‟s reading comprehension at the end of the first grade.” More examples

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