The Values Of Pearsons Correlation Coefficient



Over the years, Malaysia has been continuously vigilant about their health care education system. The presence of so many medical schools in this nation is enough to attest that Malaysia is really serious with their aim in providing quality health care not only to its residents but to its tourists, and emigrants as well. The numbers of private institutions of higher learning in Malaysia increased from 291 in 1995 to 720 in 2002 to fulfill the ever growing need of workforce to supplement the dire need of health professionals. (Ministry of Education, 2002).

The health science is a large field ranging from medical lab technology, physiotherapy, pharmacy, environmental health, occupational health and safety security, healthcare management and even to health informatics. Vijayakumari (2003) outlined the student enrolment in the private institution has increased more than twofold from 143,803 to 270,904 in 2001. With the large number of students flooding the health science field, quality of education is a must watch from every angle of the education system, mainly, lecturers, colleges-universities' academic and management team and most importantly the education policy makers.

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Quality of education is reflected through academic achievement which is a function of study habits and study attitude of the students. Pintrich and Degroot (1990) believed studying requires not only the application of methods for mastering bodies of knowledge but also the disposition to exert effort, persist, seek out and often transform information.

Problem Statement

The researchers in the Asian context identify the study habits of the students could play pivotal role in learning process reflected in the academic achievements of the students. Rasul (1968) and Shafiq (1978) concluded that the habits have positive relationship with learning, which results in better achievements. The students may fail to maintain higher level of achievements due to a particular study habit (Aisha, Riaz, Asma, Malik, 2002). According to Kundu and Tutoo (1993) it has also been found that students' study habit of recitation method is better for immediate memory retention.

Western researchers i.e. Morgan (1956) stated that almost every college student feels at one time or another that he should improve his study habits. Many more western researchers consistently have documented a positive relationship between study habits and academic success at high school level (Jones, Slate, Bell & Sladder; 1991; Stanley, Slate & Jones 1999). An association between study skills and academic performance also has been found to prevail among undergraduate students (Jiao, Qun G, Anthony J, 2000). Lammers, Onwuegbuzie and Slate (2000) found undergraduate students at Southern University in USA performed only 53.0% of appropriate study behavior, with weaknesses being identified in the areas of note-taking, reading skills, and time management.

A number of other researchers also speculated differences in academic performance to an extent, be due to individual differences in the way students study (Allen et al 1972; Caballos & Esteban, 1988; Gadzella & Williamson, 1984). Sorenseon (1991) while outlining the good basic study habits stated that one must study with the primary intention of understanding. This requires one not to be hurry in getting through, instead sustained concentration is necessary. And according to Crow and Crow (1992), the effective habits of study include plan/place, a definite time table and taking brief of well organized notes.

However, question arises, in terms of different study programs and educational system, will the same result be produced in Malaysia if the same tools were used. Yip and Chung (2005) agrees that one cannot directly transplant educational research findings collected in Western countries to Asia and I believe nor can one research have the similar findings if put to test in a different country.

Thus, this research is necessary in the Malaysian context to identify the factors that have effect on study habits and academic achievements. This will lead to the proposal of remedial measures and to employ strategies for the development of good study habits which assist in education quality assurance.

Purpose of this Study

To enhance the quality of education and improve academic achievement, it is necessary to improve the study habits of the students. To improve study habits, those factors are needed to be identified which affect this character adversely. (Abid Hussain, 2006).

Good (1973) defined the term study habits as: "The student's way of study whether systematic, efficient or inefficient." Good study habits are perceived to be the determinants of academic achievements. With that notion in mind, this research proposal will be to find out if the empirical results will be consistent with the research findings from other institutions, if were to be tested on health science undergraduates in Malaysia.

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Thus, the purposes of this research proposal will be:

  1. To establish a relationship between study habits of health science undergraduates and their academic achievements.
  2. To determine the specific study habits used by high academic achievers among the undergraduate health science students which in return will be used as a guide to the low academic achievers. These findings will be used as a guideline for lecturers and policy makers to further improvise the students' academic achievements and further ensure quality assurance.

Significance of study

The findings of this research would be beneficial for students since it would be a basis for better understanding and awareness of how their current study habits may affect their academic achievement and improve or change their habits if the need arises.

Lecturers will also benefit from this study as they can improvise or modify the lecture content in par with the general study habits of the undergraduates. Lecturers with health science qualifications without prior lecturing experiences may also change the way they lecture in order to suit the way the undergraduates perceive knowledge, thus resulting in better academic achievements.

Mentor-mentee system would be much more relevant where a mentor can guide and counsel his/her mentee in terms of studying habits to improve their academic results. Using the variables studied in this research, the mentors can identify the gap between the studying process and low academic achievers. And as accordance to Braddock (2001) the purposes of guidance and counseling is to:

  • Improve academic achievement
  • Foster positive attitudes toward school, learning, and work
  • Increase acquisitions and application of conflict resolution skills.
  • Decrease dropouts

Learning institutes offering health sciences qualifications may be also guided in formulation of future modification of educational policies, curriculum, exam questions towards a more effective teaching and learning process.

This research would give an opportunity for education policy planners of learning institutes in Malaysia, to have more accurate planning of educational policy. This will be in par with the Malaysian health science undergraduates' study habits and not simply implement policies derived from the western countries.

The results from this study may also be used for future researchers in other educational field in Malaysia. It is also an opportunity for researchers to use the findings from this research to explore the study habits of post graduate health science students.

Review of Literature

Russell and Pertie (1992) conducted a research study to find out the relationship between study habits and student attitude and academic performance (cumulative GPA) of college students and it resulted in a positive correlation between study habits and academic achievement. Ansari (1980) also found that study habits and study attitudes are both significant variables which determine the academic performance.

In the USA, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in 1994 conducted a study to find out the relationship between study habits and academic achievement. Findings of the study revealed a positive correlation between study habit and academic achievements of elementary and secondary school students. But a question arises here on the validity of the study in the undergraduate cohort.

A similar study was also done by Onwuegbuzie in 2001 and reported positive relationship between study habits and academic success. A number of other researchers also speculated that differences in academic achievements would be, to an extent, due to individual differences in the way students studied (Allen et al., 1972; Caballos & Esteban, 1988; Gadzella & Williamson, 1984). Hence they concluded that differences in study strategies should be crucially related to the differentiation of academic performance of the students. They generally presumed that students getting higher grades would study and learn in a way that was quite different from that of students getting lower grades (M. C. W. Yip and O. L. L. Chung, 2005)

Although most of the researchers varied a lot in their content and nature of the study inventories developed, their studies can generally be classified into three main categories (M. C. W. Yip and O. L. L. Chung, 2005):

  1. Exploration of different variables and their relation to academic performance. Previous work done by Allen et al. (1972), based on the self-reported studying behaviors of students, suggested that time management (study habit ) is a good predictor of the academic performance of students (reflected by their Grade Point Average, GPA) shown by the positive correlation coefficient (Hinrichsen, 1972).
  2. Studying the differences of study strategies between successful and unsuccessful students. Entwistle and Brennan (1971) found out that college students with high attainment tend to have better A-level grades, higher motivation, and better verbal and mathematical ability.
  3. Different study habits and strategies of students in different subjects. Some of the studies have found significant differences in the study habits of students in different disciplines, (Biggs, 1976). This is an interesting fact as the question arises if the same would be observed in the health science undergraduates' academic performance.
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In the category of cognitive processes, a significant area of research has been that of students' preferred learning styles or habits and approaches to study. These investigations have identified many different categories of learners, including those who prefer to study independently and those who prefer to be guided by the lecturer or tutor (Thompson and O'Brien, 1991; Harper and Kember, 1986; Matthews, 1996; Bessant, 1997).

But one of the most interesting journals was by Okpalas and Ellis, 2000. In their research, they explained that a firm's production function describes the maximum feasible output that can be obtained from a given set of inputs. This production function is a powerful pedagogical tool and in its basic form appears applicable to a wide range of areas from education to petrochemicals

(Hanushek, 1987). The educational outcome measured in class grade of a student whereby the inputs was measured in terms of general ability, study habits, motivational factors and the students' prior academic achievement (Okpalas and Ellis, 2000).

Okpalas and Ellis, 2000 defined a conceptual model showing how course grade is influenced by academic effort, weekly study hours and study habits variable in the macroeconomic principle. A part of the conceptual model is drawn below:

Adapted from : A conceptual model by Okpalas and Ellis, 2000, revised from Weisteim & Mayer 1986.

Okpalas and Ellis, 2000 concluded from their research, that the study habits/ strategies of the economic principles students positively influenced their achievement scores. The study was also served a platform for students to improve their study habits and for economic education policy makers to take into consideration of the findings. It will be interesting to see the relevancy of the above tool in the health sciences field.

Other researchers like Jiao and Onwuegbuzie (2000) identified graduate students' predominant study skills strengths and weaknesses. The students were administered the Study Habit Inventory (SHI) ( Jones & Slates, 1992) and findings revealed that students' responses to 62.9% of the 63 study skill statements presented in the SHI were appropriate. The validity of SHI has been demonstrated trough significant correlations with college students' grades at both undergraduate (Jones & Slates 1992) and graduate ( Onwuegbuzie et al, 2000) levels. Examples of study skills strengths researched included study habits like note taking, reading, motivation, time management and study techniques. The relationship between study behavior and academic achievement has also been well documented in the literature (e.g. Greenwood et al., 1989; Sideridis, 1997; Sideridis et al., 1997, 1998; Cooper et al., 1998) and, thus by explaining one's study behavior habits, those may well be described as an index of his or her performance.

Literally there is a gap of research between the relationship of study habits amongst health science undergraduates' academic achievements in Malaysia, it is hoped to be a fruitful research.

In this research proposal the Study Habit Inventory (Jones & Slates 1992) and Okpala and Ellis's (2000) conceptual model will be combined and modified to suit the research on health science undergraduates in Malaysia. The below diagram focuses on the intended study method which will be discussed further in the research design section.

Adapted and merged conceptual model by Okpalas and Ellis, 2000 and Study Habit Inventory (SHI),Jones & Slates, 1992: An intended research approach.

Research Questions

Below are the research questions which is hoped to be answered through this research proposal.

  1. How study habits of health science students influence their achievement scores?
  2. What are the specific study habits used by high academic achievers among health sciences students?

In this study high academic achievers will include students with CGPA of 4.00 in their final examination.

Based on the questions above, the following null hypotheses are stated below.

Ho 1: Study habits of health science students do not influence their achievement scores

Ho 2: The independent variables in study habits I did not significantly influence the study habits

Research designs

In attempt to determine, describe and analyze the relationship between the independent variables of study habits namely, note taking, motivation, time management and study behavior with the dependent variable -academic achievements in the form of student course CGPA (cumulative grade);a mixed methods design is proposed.

Data and results from the questionnaire (qualitative research) based on the independent variables will be followed-up with an interview from high academic achievers (quantitative research) to further strengthen the hypotheses and to ensure the research questions are answered. This method known as 'Explanatory Mixed Method Design' will help refine the general findings of the quantitative datas in two phases.

Explanatory Mixed Method Design

One of the most current definitions of mixed-methods research is provided by Johnson, Onwuegbuzie, and Turner (2005):Mixed research is formally defined here as the class of research where the researcher mixes or combines quantitative and qualitative research techniques, methods , approaches, concepts or language in a single study or set of related studies.

Thus this research will be set to find out if the independent variables significantly influence the dependent variable. This design has the advantage of clearly indentified quantitative and qualitative parts, an advantage for readers as well as for those designing and conducting the design (Creswell, 2005).

Justification of using Explanatory Mixed Method Design

Throughout the years researchers identified the need to combine qualitative and quantitative approaches in a particular study. The Handbook of Mixed Methods in Social and Behavioral Research (Tashakkori & Teddlie, 2003), to date is the most comprehensive textbook in this area, has provided researchers with some theoretical and practical tools for conducting mixed-methods research.

Frameworks for conducting mixed-methods research have been developed for many disciplines in the health or social and behavioral science fields, including education (Johnson & Onwuegbuzie, 2004; Onwuegbuzie & Johnson, 2004; Rocco et al., 2003). This method can be used as part of the validation process (Sechrest & Sidana, 1995) that ensures the variance explained is the result of the underlying phenomenon and not of the method (Campbell and Fiske, 1959).

The advantages of this method according to Jick (1979) and Rossman & Wilson (1985) include:

  1. Thicker, richer data are obtained
  2. Researchers are more confident of the interpretation of results;
  3. Researchers are able to synthesize or integrate multiple theories;
  4. Creative ways of collecting data can be developed;
  5. Instances to uncover contradictions occur
  6. Initiation of new modes of thinking by attending to paradoxes that emerge from the two data sources

Onwuegbuzie (2003) contended that mixed-methods studies allow researchers to combine "empirical" precision with "descriptive" precision. This method is necessary in this proposal as unlike triangulation design, it does not integrate two different forms of data. Thus, in order to answer the research questions of this proposal on the intended samples the explanatory mixed method design method is used.

Sampling and respondents

There are four learning institutes offering health science courses in Malaysia, namely, University Malaya (UM), University Sains Malaysia (USM), University College MAHSA and Masterskill University-College of Health Sciences (MUCH). These learning institutes will be chosen primarily as they are recognized by the Malaysian Qualification Agency (MQA). Courses offered at the above stated learning institutes consist of the below:

  1. Degree and Diploma in Nursing
  2. Degree and Diploma in Physiotherapy
  3. Degree and Diploma in Pharmacy
  4. Degree and Diploma in Healthcare Management
  5. Diploma in Medical Lab and Technology
  6. Diploma in Health Informatics
  7. Diploma in Occupational Therapy
  8. Diploma in Paramedic
  9. Diploma in Environmental Health

The samples from these institutes will be intended for this research as they represent the health science undergraduates. The same individuals for both the quantitative and qualitative data collection will be used, so the data can be more easily converged or compared. Creswell (2005) stated that selecting different individuals will introduce personal characteristics that might confound the comparison. The sub-sample from stage 1 for the follow-up interview will be selected using simple-random sampling technique, from a pool of respondents who will indicate on their questionnaires that they are willing to be interviewed and to provide contact details. This is as par with this particular research design as from the data analysis from stage 1, high achieving students will be identified and they will be the respondents for stage 3 of the research.

Since the health science undergraduates is more than 10,000 students, which Neuman (2006) defines as moderately large population, about 10% is needed for student sampling. Simple random sampling technique will be used for both stage 1 and 3. Thus the sample size would be 1000 respondents for stage 1, 250 samples would be chosen from each UM, USM, MAHSA and MUCH. UM and USM are public learning institutions and MUCH and MAHSA are private learning institutes. Institutes from both private and public sectors are chosen to ensure non-biasness in sampling. For stage 3, the target sample would be 10% of students with CGPA of 4.00 to represent the high academic achievers. All the respondents will be chosen from 2nd year, as the health science courses are taught for 3 years.

A simple random sampling method will be chosen as it uses a pure random process to select students from each department so that each sampling in the population will have an equal probability of being selected (Neuman, 2006).Students from the respective learning institutes will be assigned a number to each individual, and then using a random table which is available in many statistic books, the individuals will be selected from the samples.

Advantages are that it is free of classification error, and it requires minimum advance knowledge of the population other than the frame. Its simplicity also makes it relatively easy to interpret data collected via SPSS. Since the research purpose is to identify a relationship between study habits and academic performance, this sampling method will represent students from all faculties with both good and poor academic achievements and eliminates the factor of biasness.

Research Survey-Data Collection

Participants in this study will be on voluntary basis and students will be required to give their consent by signing a consent form (appendix 1). Students will be told that in no way this research would affect their overall course grade. Stage 1 of the research survey will be in the form of questionnaire; to analyze the independent variables. And stage 3 of the research survey will be in the form of follow-up interview.


This method is chosen for this research proposal as it is very cost effective when compared to face-to-face interviews for stage 1. Since the sample is large, questionnaire is more cost effective as the number of research questions increases. Below are the advantages of questionnaire (

  1. The availability of many computer softwares in the market easily enables data analysis from questionnaires.
  2. Questionnaires are familiar to most people. Questionnaires generally do not make people apprehensive.
  3. Questionnaires reduce bias. The direct way of data collection does not allow researcher to influence respondents verbally as questionnaire eliminates middle person bias.
  4. Questionnaires are less intrusive than telephone or face-to-face surveys and the respondent is not interrupted by the research instrument.

With reference to the adapted and merged conceptual model by Okpalas and Ellis (2000) and Study Habit Inventory (SHI),Jones & Slates (1992), the questionnaire (Appendix 3) will be based on the four variables of study habits namely:

  1. note taking,
  2. motivation,
  3. time management
  4. organizing and processing information

Addition: variable e) Place of study

The questionnaire will consist of 34 questions with lichter scale of always, usually, sometimes and never. The questionnaire is the adapted version of the study skill assessment questionnaire from the department of Counseling Services, University of Houston Clear Lake (2008). Three elements of the questionnaire namely; concentration, test strategies and test anxiety and writing is omitted as it test on study skills rather than study habits.

But, the questionnaire does not include the variable 'place of study' which reflects the students' habit of choosing their appropriate study place which may affect their academic performance. Thus it will be included as an additional variable.

In order to ensure from the questionnaire is stable and consistent, the questionnaire needs to be administered before hand through a pilot test. This pilot test is to be administered to 30 health science undergraduates from one of the either learning institutes. These students will not be involved in the future research again. This pilot test will determine if the individual answers certain questions consistently with related questions in the same way (Creswell, 2005) which will reflect the reliability of the instrument.

To ensure validity as accordance to Standards of Educational and Psychological Testing (1999), the results drawn from the pilot test needs to reflect a good conclusion which will answer the problem statement and the hypotheses drawn.

Follow-up interview

To answer on what are the specific study habits used by high academic achievers among health sciences students, a follow up interview will be conducted on 10% of health science undergraduates who have obtained CGPA 4.00 from the total population of 1000 samples in their respective studies. A simple random sampling will also be used to obtain the samples from the participating 4 learning institutes for this third stage of research.

This interview will consist of one-on-one interview. This method of interview will provide comments that go beyond the initial questions in the phase 1.Interviews will lead to high response rate as the sample participants typically feel obligated to complete the interview (Creswell, 2005)Questions raised in the interview will follow the format of the variables namely; note taking, motivation, time management and organizing & processing information.

Care should be taken care to avoid bias and prejudice participant answers knowingly or unknowingly (Creswell, 2005). Answers from these interviews will be used to analyze and summarize the specific study habits of high achieving health science undergraduates.

Quantitative Data Analysis Plan

This research proposal is set out to study the relationship of the independent variables of study habits and its affect on the dependent variable of academic performance and subsequently identify the specific study habits of high academic achievers.

Since, this research will investigate the correlation between the independent variables and the dependent variable, and also to which extend the variables are related, the Pearson Product Moment Correlation @ Pearson's Correlation method will be used to analyze the data obtained from the questionnaire.

Pearson's Correlation Coefficient, r is a technique for investigating the relationship between two quantitative variables. Pearson's correlation coefficient (r) is a measure of the strength of the association between the two variables (Kuzma & Bohnenblust,2004). Thus, each of the independent variables of study habits; note taking, motivation, time management, organizing & processing information and place of study will be co-related with the dependent variable academic performance, to see the degree of association between the both variables and to identify which has the strongest co-relation.

Significance of Values of Pearson's correlation coefficient

Pearson's correlation coefficient (r) may take on values ranging from -1 to +1. If the data analyzed results nearing -1 value, the independent variable is said to have a inversely proportional affect on the dependent variable. E.g. the higher the note taking value, would result a lower academic performance. Below is the sample of r=-1 value.

If the data analyzed results nearing +1 value, the independent variable is said to have a directly proportional affect on the dependent variable. E.g. the higher the note taking value, would result a higher academic performance. Below is the sample of r=+1 value.

Interestingly, this method can also be used to analyze if the study habits are after all the variables that affect the academic performance of the health science undergraduate. The Pearson's Correlation method will be used through the SPSS to analyze the data (Stage2) collected through the questionnaires of Stage 1. The above diagrams are adapted from The University of West England's statistical website.

Quantitative Data Analysis Plan

In order to minimize the potential bias introduced in analyzing and interpreting focus group data, Krueger & Casey (2000) point out that the analysis should be systematic, sequential, verifiable, and continuous (Rabiee, 2004).

The results from the semi-structured interview from stage 3 will be coded or arranged into a machine-readable form for statistical analysis. Coding data is the hard work of reducing large amount of data to more manageable piles (Neuman, 2006). The coding process ( Neuman, 2006) is outlined below for this intended research.

Through the coding process, the generalization on the specific study habits of high achieving undergraduates will be identified from the samples.


This research proposal focuses on study habits rather than study skills which may affect the academic performance of health science undergraduates. As, study skill is a large domain by itself future researches may fill in the gap between study habits and study skills.