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Chapter 2

Research problem
Dr. Aziz Javed

Topics in this chapter are..

Nature sources --- selection and analysis Formulation of statement Concepts and its sources, Constructs ----- definition and its types Place of operational definition in research Determining the feasibility of research

Nature, sources--- selection and analysis of research problem What is a research problem? It is a problem that someone would like to investigate it It is considered a situation that needs to be changed or addressed

The problems consist of Areas of concern Conditions to be improved Difficulties to be eliminated Questions seeking answers

One or more sentences indicating the goal, purpose, or overall direction of the study General characteristics Implies the possibility of empirical investigation Identifies a need for the research Provides focus Provides a concise overview of the research

What do we do with problems

1- Ignore them 2- Talk about them 3- Try to solve them

Research Problems
A general research problem
The purpose of this study is to investigate the attitudes of high school students to mandated drug testing programs

Specific statements and questions

This study examines the differences between males and females attitudes toward mandated high school drug testing programs. What are the differences between freshmen, sophomore, junior, and senior students attitudes toward mandated high school drug testing programs?

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Research Problems

Researchable and non-researchable problems

Researchable problems imply the possibility of empirical investigation
What are the achievement and social skill differences between children attending an academically or socially oriented preschool program? What is the relationship between teachers knowledge of assessment methods and their use of them?

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Research Problems

Researchable and non-researchable problems

Non-researchable problems include explanations of how to do something, vague propositions, and value-based concerns
Is democracy a good form of government? Should values clarification be taught in public schools? Can crime be prevented? Should physical education classes be dropped from the high school curriculum?

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Research Problems

Quantitative problems
Specific Closed Static Outcome oriented Use of specific variables

Qualitative problems
General Open Evolving Process oriented

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Research Problems
Sources of research problems Personal interests and experiences The use of formative tests in a statistics class The use of technology in a research class Deductions from theory The effectiveness of math manipulatives The effectiveness of a mastery approach to learning research
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Research Problems
Sources of research problems Replication of studies Checking the findings of a major study Checking the validity of research findings with different subjects Checking trends or changes over time Checking important findings using different methodologies Clarification of contradictory results
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Quantitative Research Problems

Identifies three specific elements The type of research design The variables of interest and the relationships between or among these variables The subjects involved in the study

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Quantitative Research Problems

Variables A variable is a label of name that represents a concept or characteristic that varies (e.g., gender, weight, achievement, attitudes toward inclusion, etc.) Conceptual and operational definitions of variables

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Quantitative Research Problems

Conceptual and operational definitions of variables
Conceptual (i.e., constitutive) definition: the use of words or concepts to define a variable
Achievement: what one has learned from formal instruction Aptitude: ones capability for performing a particular task or skill

Operational definition: an indication of the meaning of a variable through the specification of the manner by which it is measured, categorized, or controlled
A test score Income levels above and below $45,000 per year The use of holistic or phonetic language instruction

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Quantitative Research Problems

Three types of variables defined by the context within which the variable is discussed Independent and dependent variables Extraneous and confounding variables Continuous and categorical variables

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Quantitative Research Problems

Independent and dependent (i.e., cause and effect)

Independent variables act as the cause in that they precede, influence, and predict the dependent variable Dependent variables act as the effect in that they change as a result of being influenced by an independent variable Examples
The effect of two instructional approaches (independent variable) on student achievement (dependent variable) The use of SAT scores (independent variable) to predict freshman grade point averages (dependent variable)

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Quantitative Research Problems

Extraneous and confounding variables
Extraneous variables are those that affect the dependent variable but are not controlled adequately by the researcher
Not controlling for the key-boarding skills of students in a study of computer-assisted instruction

Confounding variables are those that vary systematically with the independent variable and exert influence of the dependent variable
Not using counselors with similar levels of experience in a study comparing the effectiveness of two counseling approaches

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Quantitative Research Problems

Continuous and categorical variables Continuous variables are measured on a scale that theoretically can take on an infinite number of values Test scores range from a low of 0 to a high of 100 Attitude scales that range from very negative at 0 to very positive at 5 Students ages

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Quantitative Research Problems

Continuous and categorical variables
Categorical variables are measured and assigned to groups on the basis of specific characteristics
Gender: male and female Socio-economic status: low middle, and high

The term level is used to discuss the groups or categories

Gender has two levels - male and female Socio-economic status has three levels - low, middle, and high

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Quantitative Research Problems

Continuous and categorical variables
Continuous variables can be converted to categorical variables, but categorical variables cannot be converted to continuous variables
IQ is a continuous variable, but the researcher can choose to group students into three levels based on IQ scores - low is below a score of 84, middle is between 85 and 115, and high is above 116 Test scores are continuous, but teachers typically assign letter grades on a ten point scale (i.e., at or below 59 is an F, 60 to 69 is a D, 70 to 79 is a C, 80-89 is a B, and 90 to 100 is an A

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Quantitative Research Problems

Hypotheses Hypotheses are tentative statements of the expected relationships between two or more variables There is a significant positive relationship between self-concept and math achievement The class using math manipulatives will show significantly higher levels of math achievement than the class using a traditional algorithm approach
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Quantitative Research Problems

Reasons for using hypotheses To provide specific focus To provide for the testing of the relationships between variables To direct the investigation To allow the investigator to confirm or not confirm relationships

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Quantitative Research Problems

Reasons for using hypotheses To provide a framework for reporting the results and explanations deriving from them When supported, provides empirical evidence of the predictive nature of the relationships between variables To provide a useful framework for organizing and summarizing the results and conclusions

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Quantitative Research Problems

Two types of hypotheses Inductive and deductive Inductive hypotheses are formed through inductively reasoning from many specific observations to tentative explanations Deductive hypotheses are formed through deductively reasoning implications of theory

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Quantitative Research Problems

Two types of hypotheses
Research or statistical
Research hypotheses are conjectural statements of the expected results
Directional Non-directional

Statistical hypotheses are statements of a relationship or difference that can be tested statistically
Null hypothesis Alternative hypothesis

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Quantitative Research Problems

Criteria for evaluating research hypotheses

Stated in declarative form Consistent with known facts, prior research, or theory Logical extension of the research problem States an expected relationship between two or more variables Can be tested Is clear and concise

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Qualitative Research Problems

Identifies a central phenomena (i.e., an issue or process) being investigated
Examples of issues
Drug abuse in high schools Teacher burnout Alienation of children with special needs

Examples of processes
How teachers change to standards-based curricula How students react to high stakes testing programs How students incorporate teachers expectations into their studies

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Quantitative Research Problems

Criteria for evaluating quantitative research problems Problem is researchable Problem is important Problem should indicate the type of research Problem specifies the population being investigated Problem specifies the variables and the relationships between or among them

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Qualitative Research Problems

Includes a single, central phenomena Open-ended General in nature Evolving, that is, problems change as data is collected and reflected upon
Foreshadowed problems Emerging and reformulated questions

Neutral with respect to what will be learned

No predictions No expected outcomes

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Qualitative Research Problems

Criteria for evaluating qualitative research problems
The problem should not be too general or too specific The problem should be amenable to change as data are collected and analyzed The problem should not be biased with restrictive assumptions or desired findings The problem should be written in how and what forms to focus on describing the phenomena The problem should include a central question as well as the participants and the site

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Language of Research
Concepts Constructs Conceptual schemes Operational definitions


Terms used in research

Theory Propositions/ Hypotheses



Language of Research (Concept)

Success of Research
Clear conceptualization of concepts

Shared understanding of concepts

A Concept is a generally accepted collection of meanings or characteristics associated with certain objects or events. Concepts have evolved over time through shared usage.

A Construct is an image or abstract idea specifically invented for a

3-33 given research and/or theory building purpose

Operational Definitions
How can we define the variable class level of students? Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior < 30 credit hours 30-50 credit hours 60-89 credit hours > 90 credit hours


Concept Definition Operationalization Questionnaire Score Organizational Commitment (Mowday, Steers & Porter, 1979) Questionnaire Score Job Diagnostic Survey (JDS) (Hackman & Oldham, 1975) Organizational A situation where the individual Commitment feels satisfied with the organization and its goal and would like to remain affiliated to achieve that goal Job Satisfaction The attitude of a person towards work, as a result oh his/her perception about the fit between him/her and the organization

Perceived Usefulness

A persons subjective evaluation Questionnaire Score PU of the extent of using a system (Davis et al., 1989) would enhance the individuals job performance


A Variable Is the Property Being Studied



Characteristic Trait


Types of Variables
Male/Female Employed/ Unemployed


Ethnic background Educational level Religious affiliation


Income Temperature Age

Types of Variables

Independent Dependent Moderating Mediating Control


Independent and Dependent Variable Synonyms

Independent Variable (IV) Predictor Presumed cause Stimulus Predicted from Antecedent Manipulated

Dependent Variable (DV) Criterion Presumed effect Response Predicted to. Consequence Measured outcome

Exercise 1
A manager believes that good supervision and training will increase the production level of the workers.


Exercise 2
A manager finds that off-the-job training has a great impact on the productivity of the employees in his department. However, he also observes that employees above 50 years do not seem to derive much benefit and do not improve from such a training.


Exercise 3
The manager of the ABC Company observes that the morale of employees in her company is low. She thinks that if the working conditions, pay scales, and the vacation benefits of the employees are bettered, the morale will improve. She doubts, though, that the pay scales are going to raise morale of all employees. Her guess is that those who have good side incomes will be happy with the increased pay and their morale will improve.


Propositions and Hypotheses

Concept A

Concept B

Hypotheses at the Empirical Level

Bonus RM for Sales exceeding quota

Make more than 4 sales calls a day

Hypothesis Formats
Descriptive Hypothesis In Penang, our potato chip market share stands at 13.7%. Malaysian cities are experiencing budget difficulties. Research Question What is the market share for our potato chips in Penang? Are Malaysian cities experiencing budget difficulties?


Relational Hypotheses
Young women (under 35) purchase fewer units of our product than women who are older than 35.
The number of suits sold varies directly with the level of the business cycle.

An increase in family income leads to an increase in the percentage of income saved. Loyalty to a grocery store increases the probability of purchasing that stores private brand products.

The Role of Hypotheses

Guide the direction of the study

Identify relevant facts

Suggest most appropriate research design

Provide framework for organizing resulting conclusions

Husbands and wives agree in their perception about each persons role in the decision making process of household buying


Characteristics of Strong Hypotheses

Adequate A Strong Hypothesis Is


Better than rivals




A set of concepts, definition and propositions that are inter related systematically which is forwarded to explain or predict a phenomenon


Value of theory to research

Reduces the range of facts that needs to be researched Summarizes what is already known about the object of the research Is used to predict other facts that needs to be found


Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA, 1980) and Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB, 1991)


The presentation of a system that is developed to study part of the system or the whole system of relationship The difference between theory and model is that the role of theory is for explanation whereas the role of the model is for representation


Multi Attribute Attitude Model (1973)

Attributes Attrib1 Attrib2 Attrib3 Attrib4 Attrib5 Attrib6 Attrib7 Attrib8 Attrib9 Attrib10 Attrib11 Attrib12 Attrib13

Credit Card Usage


Conceptual Schemes
Conceptual schemes is how a researcher formulates the relationship between the factors identified as important in the study of the problem formulated from: Past studies Logic and belief Helps in the testing and understanding of the variables


Example Conceptual Scheme

Self Efficacy Perceived Usefulness

Perceived Ease of Use

Organizational Support Computer Experience

Internet Usage


Developing Conceptual Schemes

Identify the Concepts

Operationalization of the concepts

Define the Concepts


Explore the relationship between concepts

Characteristics of a Good Conceptual Scheme

Important variables must be identified and labeled Explain the relationship between 2 or more variables based on some theory If there are prior research, the relationship, either + or must be posited Must also be able to explain why such relationship exists A schematic diagram should be presented so that readers can better visualize the relationship


What is Important in this Chapter?

Thinking Styles Inductive vs Deductive Thinking Language of Research
Concept Construct Definition Variable Proposition and Hypothesis Theory Model Conceptual Schemes