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The research design that will be undertaken for the investigation of the problem being studied is that of survey. According to Gay & Airasian (2003), a survey is a non-experimental, descriptive research method that can be useful when collecting data on phenomena that cannot be directly observed, such as opinions of individuals on certain issues. Creswell (2008); McMillan & Schumacher (2006) and Cohen, Manion & Morrison (2007) all agree with this when they affirmed that survey research is concerned with administering questionnaires or conducting interviews, to a sample of the population in order to collect data so as to describe the attitudes, beliefs, opinions, behaviours and other characteristics of the population.
Surveys are commonly used to collect information about a population of interest from respondents thought to be representative of the population, using an instrument composed of a number of standardised questions. This point is substantiated by Nesbary (2000), who posited that survey research is the process of collecting representative sample data from a larger population and using the sample to infer attributes about the population. Surveys are designed to provide an indication of the way things are at a specific point in time.
Surveys can use either qualitative (open-ended questions) or quantitative (forced-choice questions) measures. Surveys are usually weak on validity since it is hard to grasp a person's real feelings in terms of dichotomies such as agree or disagree, support or oppose, like or dislike. These dichotomies are only approximate indicators of what we have in mind when we create the questions. On the other hand however, surveys are strong on reliability. Survey research presents all subjects with a standardized stimulus, thereby going a long way towards eliminating unreliability in the researcher's observations. The careful wording, format and content of the research can significantly reduce the subject's own unreliability.
According to Dillman (2000), the main purpose of a survey is to estimate, with significant precision, the percentage of population that has a specific attribute by collecting data from a small portion of the total population. For the purpose of this proposal, the researchers will be interested in ascertaining from members of the population their feelings on the inclusion of children with special educational needs into the regular classrooms. As noted by Gall, Gall & Borg (2007), studies involving surveys comprise a significant amount of the research done in the education field. Data are ever changing and survey research portrays a brief moment in time to enhance our understanding of the present (Leedy & Ormrod, 2001). Educational surveys are often used to assist in planning and decision-making, as well as to evaluate the effectiveness of an implemented program (Gall et. al. 2007).
Description of the Survey Method
The survey being undertaken for this proposal is an example of a cross sectional survey. Cross-sectional surveys as hypothesized by Gay & Airasian (2003) and Cohen et. al (2007), are used to gather information on a population at a single point in time, thereby, producing a ‘snapshot' of the attitudes, opinions and beliefs of the population at a particular point in time which ensures that researchers have data which will allow for either a retrospective or prospective enquiry. Cross sectional surveys assess immediately and quickly.
For the purpose of this research paper, the researchers will begin by of identifying the research problem. Within this phase, the researchers will pay attention to the feasibility of the problem so that the can accurately determine the resources needed to conduct the study. They will then create a statement that includes the educational topic or specific problem and the justification for research which thoroughly describes the research problem. According to Wiersms & Jurs (2005), the initial step in this process is to define the research problem and include a good background of the variables to be studied.
This step will be followed by the review of literature. This step entails the sourcing resource materials such as books, journals or electronic documents which provide information on the research problem. These documents assist the researcher(s) to provide a clear, concise examination on the views of informed persons on the research problem as it provides researcher(s) with an understanding of the current state of knowledge pertaining to the research problem. It will inform of what data collection methods have been used for similar research and help make sense of the findings from these methods once data analysis is complete. http://www.utexas.edu/academic/diia/assessment/iar/research/plan/method/survey.php
Having reviewed the appropriate literature, the next step in Wiersms & Jurs (2005) opinion is to develop the sampling plan. McMillan & Schumacher (2006), state that “it is important to define the population or target group to which the researcher tends to generalize” (p. 234). For the purpose of this research, the researchers will analyse their population so as to determine a suitable sample size. They will then select a sample of respondents from a population and administer a standardized questionnaire (instrument) to them.
Once the sample has been selected, the researchers will prepare for data collection by constructing the necessary instruments. Wiersms & Jurs (2005), state that this is a major step within the entire process. McMillan & Schumacher (2006), suggest that the advantages and disadvantages of each technique for reaching the objectives be considered in order to select the approach that will provide the most credible information given the available resources (p. 234). When the measurement instrument has been judged to be satisfactory, the data collection process can begin.
Successful collection of data logically leads to the data analysis phase. Within this phase a number of statistical analyses as well as qualitative descriptions can be carried out. Inferences may also be drawn. Having done this, the final phase is the preparation of the report of the results as well as conclusions.
Discussion of Pros ands Cons
There are many benefits to using questionnaires. Surveys allow the researcher(s) to complete structured questions with many stakeholders within a relatively short time frame. The research produces data based on real-world observations (empirical data).
According to Gay & Airasian (2003) surveys are quantifiable and generalizable to an entire population. McMillan & Schumacher (2006), agrees with this statement by suggesting that small samples can be selected from larger populations in ways that can permit generalisations to the population. This is so because the breadth of coverage of many people means that it is more likely than some other approaches to obtain data based on a representative sample. Surveys are also useful in describing the characteristics of a large population, making the results statistically significant even when analysing multiple variables. No other method of observation can provide this general capability.
Surveys can produce a large amount of credible data from a large population in a short time at a fairly low cost. Gay & Airasian (2003), substantiates this point when they stated that surveys are relatively inexpensive especially if they are self-administered while McMillan & Schumacher (2006), asserted that cost is relatively low if the survey is distributed and collected by mail. Researchers can therefore set a finite time-span for a project, which can assist in planning and delivering end results.
They allow for standardized, structured questionnaires to be administered which will help to minimize interviewer bias and can be administered from remote locations using mail, email or telephone. Usually, high reliability is easy to obtain. By presenting all subjects with a standardized stimulus, observer subjectivity is greatly eliminated. Another strength of survey research, as put forth by Cohen et. al. (2007) is that it gathers data on a one-shot basis and is economical and efficient.
Even though there are many advantages to using survey research, there are also a number of weaknesses which may arise from the utilization of this research method. One of these weaknesses is that surveys are more difficult to collect a comprehensive understanding of respondents' perspective (in-depth information) compared to in-depth interviews or focus groups. It may also be hard for participants to recall information or to tell the truth about a controversial question.
Securing a high response rate to a survey can be hard to control, whether it is carried out by mail, face-to-face or via the telephone. Thus, the onus is on the researcher to ensure that a large number of the selected sample reply. However, according to Dillman (2000), in order to encourage a high response rate, multiple contacts must be utilised.
Surveys require some statistical knowledge, sampling and other specialized skills to process and interpret results and as opposed to direct observation, survey research (excluding some interview approaches) can seldom deal with “context”.
Suitability for Problem under Investigation
As proposed by Gay & Airasian (2003), one of the purposes of survey research is to assess attitudes, opinions, preferences, demographics, practices and procedures. Since the focus of this research proposal is to gather information regarding the attitudes and opinions of the participants for analysis, this method is indeed suitable as surveys are deemed useful in the collection of data on phenomena that cannot be directly observed.
The suitability of this method is also seen from the geographical location of the participants. Angus and Katona (n.d.), cited in an online article, propose that the great usefulness of the survey technique is its capacity for wide application and broad coverage. http://writing.colostate.edu/guides/research/survey/ Thus, it is the researchers' belief that survey research is the most suitable method for this piece of research since the parents will be widely scattered in relation to their geographical location.
Data Analysis (Interpretation of the results)
The first step in analyzing qualitative research involves organizing the data. Since the main arena for the collection of data will be via the method of questionnaires, then the researchers will group similar types of responses together (Best and Kahn, 2006). In this way, it will be easier to pick up the patterns and similarities in the attitudes of parents. Gay and Airasian (2003) give an account for the use of this when they state that developing and analyzing a cluster of items related to the same issue make it easier and more meaningful to report survey results and also improves the reliability of the scores.
Gay & Airasain (2003) propose four major steps within this process for organisation of data: becoming familiar with the data, examining the data in depth, to provide detailed descriptions of the setting, participants, and activity (describing); categorizing and coding pieces of data and interpreting and synthesizing the organized data into general conclusions or understandings based on the data (interpreting). The researchers will seek to follow this process.
In analysing the questionnaires, the response rate for each item will be stated; along with the total sample size as is suggested by Gay & Airasian (2003). The results will then be collated and presented using a statistical chart. Each question will be analysed and the percentage of responses will be given, so that if eighty percent (80 %) of the respondents say that they do not have a problem with inclusion or mainstreaming and twenty percent (20%) say that they have A problem with inclusion, then the study lends favourably to the implementation of inclusion. On the other hand, however, if the results returned indicate that only twenty percent (20%) of the teachers are in favour of inclusion and the other eighty percent (80%) are not in favour of inclusion then the results would suggest that inclusion is unfavourable in the views of parents.
A further analysis of the data collection will also be conducted in terms of the attitudes of parents of primary school-aged students in comparison with that of the parents of secondary school-aged students. In this regard, the results obtained will be used to make a comparison between the two groups.
According to Gay & Airasian (2003), all researchers must be aware of and attend to the ethical considerations related to their studies. They further posit that research studies are built on trust between the researcher and the participants; researchers have a responsibility to maintain that trust, just as they expect participants to maintain it in the data they provide. Thus, it is important to remain cognisant to the fact that as a researcher, any unethical and biased treatment of any research participant(s) must be avoided.
The first ethical issue being addressed is the protection of the respondent's identity. This issue can be addressed by exercising anonymity and confidentiality. Anonymity is exercised when a respondent cannot be identified on the basis of a response whereas confidentiality occurs when a response can be identified with a subject, but the researcher promises not to disclose the individual's identity (McNamara, 1994). To avoid confusion, the cover letter to the participants should clearly identify the survey as being confidential in regards to responses and the reporting of results. Participant identification will therefore have to be kept confidential.
Another ethical issue as proposed by McNamara (1994), is that of informing prospective respondents about the purpose of the survey and the organization that is sponsoring it. The purpose of the study will be provided in the cover letter indicating a need to ascertain feelings of parents of primary and secondary school-aged children regarding mainstreaming. The cover letter will also explain how the results of the study will be used.
- Angus and Katona (n. d.). The Survey Method. Retrieved Wednesday, 11th November, 2009 from website http://writing.colostate.edu/guides/research/survey/
- Best, J. W. & Kahn, J. V. (2006). Research in Education (10th ed.) Boston: Allyn & Bacon, Pearson Education Inc.
- Creswell, J. W. (2008). Educational research: Planning, conducting and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research (3rd ed.) Pearson, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Merrill/Prentice Hall
- Cohen, L., Manion, L. & Morrison, K. (2007). Research methods in education (6th ed.) New York: Routledge
- Dillman, D. (2000). Mail and Internet Surveys: The Tailored Design Method. New York: Wiley.
- Gall, M. D., Gall, J. B & Borg, W.R. (2007). Educational Research: An introduction. (8th ed.) Boston: Allyn & Bacon
- Gay, L. R. & Airasian, P. (2003). Educational research: Competencies for analysis and application (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Merrill/Prentice Hall
- Heward, W. L. (2003). Exceptional children: An introduction to special education (7th ed.) Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Merrill/Prentice Hall
- IAR: Conduct research > Surveys. Retrieved Wednesday, 11th November, 2009 from website http://www.utexas.edu/academic/diia/assessment/iar/research/plan/method/survey.php
- Lewis, R. B. & Doorlag, D. H.(2006). Teaching special students in general education classrooms (7th ed.) Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Merrill/Prentice Hall
- McMillan, J. H. & Schumacher, S. (2006). Research in education: Evidence-based inquiry (6th ed.) Boston: Allyn & Bacon
- Nesbary, D. K. (2000). Survey Research and the World Wide Web. Boston: Allyn & Bacon
- Wiersms, W. & Jurs, S. G. (2005). Research methods in education: An introduction (8th ed.) Boston: Allyn & Bacon