Design of a Quantitative Research Exercise

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In general terms Dyslexia is currently under researched with the exception of its impact on Children in Primary and Secondary School. This has therefore presented me with the perfect opportunity to contribute to this under researched area with the intention of delivering a new insight into Dyslexia's affects in these areas. Currently, my PhD research is taking the form of further exploration into the affects of Dyslexia in Higher Educational facilities such as Universities.

My initial research planned to explore dyslexia in the Public and Private Sectors, investigating policy impacts and managerial interactions with dyslexic staff. However, coming from a primarily educational background, the opportunity to explore the difficulties I personally experienced as a late diagnosed dyslexic in the higher educational system was one not to be missed.

By following this main route of exploration, I have uncovered branches of research linked to the work I am proposing, and in some cases directly impacting on the work I will conduct. These routes will make for interesting publication and include the link between dyslexia and children learning second languages from birth, and those individuals who learn Asian languages (Japanese and Chinese) later in life. This almost parallel research is significant in part to my research as it is believed that children who are brought up in a bi-lingual family are slow to develop, but have advantages later in life, and those who learn Chinese or Japanese have to deal with cultures who do not recognise dyslexia - therefore how can this be accurately measured and supported?

It is important to explore adult dyslexia in higher education, and support those who have slipped through the net to catch and aid dyslexics in the early years. Support for Children and Adults can vary greatly, and it is generally accepted Children learn faster than adults, therefore it is always important to offer early aid and support whenever possible.

This area of research will appeal to many people - especially those in Higher Education. It will offer statistical confirmation of the current situation including number of known dyslexic students, numbers of dyslexic students receiving aid, and how well University support is working for those students receiving aid and support. It will also review lecturer support structures to identify if staff guidance is ultimately benefiting dyslexic students. This work can also benefit those who may wish to learn languages, and will also appeal to educational facilities in other cultures.

From the literature that I have reviewed to date, it is apparent there has been little research undertaken regarding dyslexia policies in the educational sector. What has been researched quite extensively is the educational policies which relate primarily to primary and secondary education. There has been little discussion of dyslexia during college and university participation.

One of the few publications about managing dyslexia in higher education was written by Jamieson, C. and Morgan, E. (2008) Managing Dyslexia at University: A resource for students, academic and supportive staff. This book explores briefly a variety of areas which my PhD would like to explore in more detail, it does not explore other areas which I have previously highlighted. Another area explored briefly in literature has been dyslexia amongst adults. This is quite interesting as most research read stresses the importance of recognising and supporting those with dyslexia from an early age; however there seems to be little evidence of the support structures in place for those who fall through the government net, or consequences of failed identifications. Newspapers up until recently had been quite keen to publish government successes or failings in this area. There have been a few higher education success stories printed in newspapers.

I believe the reason why dyslexia in higher education has been under researched and subsequently has little article or journal coverage supporting theories is because there is still mystery surrounding what dyslexia is and what it encompasses. As with any disability, when undertaking any investigation, great caution must be taken not to offend people and conclusions must have proper evidential support.

As with any research, a research question should be at the forefront of the investigation. If I had to focus my research on one area and ask one specific question, It would be, "Do dyslexic adults who are diagnosed in higher education feel disadvantaged compared to other dyslexic adults who are diagnosed earlier in primary or secondary school." I am intrigued by this area and feel this is a salient point worth further detailed investigation as some people I have spoken to feel disadvantaged whilst others do not.

With a range of willing participants already offering support through the Enabling Support department of UWS, access to subjects will not be an issue. However, if I wish to expand my data range to encompass a wider field of subjects, I will have to approach other Universities which may prove challenging due to ethics and data protection constraints.

Once authorisation is obtained, I can proceed with data collection. If I were to look solely at attaining an answer to my research question, I would simply choose a mix of qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis. However, my main quantitative approach would be a survey strategy which will facilitate the accumulation of large quantities of data from a sizable population, and will take the form of a questionnaire.

A questionnaire is both economical and allows for easy data extraction and comparison which is important due to the financial constraints already surrounding the research project I am undertaking. A weakness of this approach which must be taken into consideration is the time used in designing the questionnaire and analysing the results. Designing the questions will be important, as there are limitations to the amount of questions which can be reasonably asked in one sitting, and it is important to gain data which will be beneficial once analysed.

Apart from the large sample group sizes there are several other factors within this approach to be considered. The move from theory to data, the need to explain relationships between variables, the collection of various quantitative data, the application of controls to ensure validity, definition of concepts to ensure clarity of definition, highly structured methodology and finally the independent nature of researcher from observed subject.

Structured observations and interviews will most likely be used during the data collection process of my research project. Structured observations will allow for an outside perspective to be achieved, where specific characteristics can be observed. During the interview process, a more personal critique can be achieved. The weaknesses of these approaches include time constraints which still apply, not only for the researcher but for the individuals concerned. Where it may be desirable to do more than one structured observation of a person, the subject may not be able to accommodate the request due to other commitments. Bias may also be a strong factor when analysing the collected data.

I also plan to use grounded theory which can be considered as theory building. This is because the data collection starts without the formation of a theory. I have one theory already waiting to be tested, however, other areas are still an unknown in my research. Grounded theory would be suitable as the theory is developed the more data is collected, which will ultimately lead to the ability to generalise and predict patterns that are tested further later. Hussey and Hussey (2007) see this strategy as an inductive/deductive approach as the theory is being grounded in continual reference to data. I believe it to be the theory life cycle - a continuous circle of deduction, accumulation and testing.

By utilising more than one strategy, it will permit a triangulation to take place allowing the use of data collected using the various methods to ensure that what the outcomes are correspond to what I believe them to be. An example of this in my research would be semi-structured interviews which would triangulate data collected by questionnaires.

Other advantages of a multi-method strategy include the use of different methods for different parts of my study, such as carrying out empirical research first before embarking on theoretical research. For example, I could use interviews to get an understanding of other key issues before embarking on questionnaires. This, although time consuming, will allow a build up of confidence that I am exploring and addressing what I perceive as the most important issues.

It is important to understand that there is no correct method in each situation, as it depends on many factors including time, finance, and desired research outcomes. There needs to be a wide spread to ensure validity and consistency which will ultimately help support any theories and hypothesis made. Language used during research also contributes to many of these factors, there will be no point using technical phraseology with those who will not understand its meanings. If this is done, it will be a waste of resources, including time and money.

By planning the questionnaires and using the appropriate language, a lot of information can be gathered more effectively. For example. By using the following terminologies and then seeking to clarify them. Not only will I obtain a clear grasp of the definitions, but my audience and subjects will too.

Dyslexic: Those who primarily have difficulties with reading and writing, but may also experience numerical difficulties.

Academic Student: A person who is undertaking education above college level at a University.

Disadvantaged: Lacking advantages that others have.

For the layout of the questionnaire, I will strongly need to consider demographics as well as the formulation of the collection tables. I will require age and gender to determine if there may be certain years which have been more affected by dyslexia assessment than others, and to see if there may be any correlation between age and gender. There may be cause to make a comparison between male and female since there is always links to gender and a child's performance in their early years.

When attaining perceptions, difficulties may arise if the options I provide for subjects answers do not correlate to what they want to say or how they feel. Therefore, a comment box would be required to allow consideration of this element when analysing the data. Debate as to whether a neutral selection box should be offered is topical, as it is believed everyone has an opinion on every subject. As I do not wish to force my subjects to select "any old box", a N/A box will be available in case they believe the question isn't applicable.

The reliability of data needs to be assessed, and can be done using two points established by Easterby-Smith et al., 1991:41:

Will the measure yield the same results on different occasions? (Deductive approach)

Will similar observations be made by different researchers on different occasions? (inductive approach)

When considering reliability, several factors need to be considered. The first includes subject error, where for example a questionnaire completed on a Monday may differ from that completed on a Friday. This can be influenced by feelings so thought must be taken when writing questionnaire questions. As Bauer and Gaskell (2005) also comments, the use of verbal communication, whether it is formal or informal can influence subjects. Subjects may be confused by formal communication which includes specific terminology.

The second subject is bias. An example of this could be during interviews where candidates only say what they believe their educational facility wants them to say. It is therefore important it is made strictly clear any interviews held will be in private and will be confidential and anonymous. The problem also arises when the interviewees say what they think researchers would like to hear. We need to recognise false accounts, which may say more about the researcher and the research process than about the researched.

Validity reflects the reality of the data and whether the findings are what they appear to be. This can be influenced through identification of the research population, data collection and data interpretation.

When looking at the research population, I have to decide whether or not I am aiming for generalisability, where my theory can be placed in another unrelated context. Or, another example of generalisability is whether my findings can be assumed for a wider populous than the one I had time and finance to measure.

With regards to data collection, it may be unrealistic to assume that good data will be collected.

The final implication of undertaking research and the methods used is the ethical implementations. The research should not subject the participants to embarrassment or any other disadvantage. This will be a difficult area for my research considering some of the views on dyslexia. Some people find this embarrassing, so due care and consideration needs to be taken when looking at the ethical values of my research methodology, approaches and strategies. It is also important to obtain consent from research subjects and inform them exactly what the research will entail so there are no false accusations or assumptions which may jeopardise my academic research.