6.2 Choosing or developing your research instruments
In this section we will discuss the research instruments you can use to collect your data.
Types of research instruments
In section 6.1 you decided what your research model will be. Within this model you can use several types of measuring instruments. In section 1.6 we already listed a few methods of data-collection (based on Varkevisser, Pathmanathan, & Brownlee, 2003):
Study available information
Interviews (structured, semi-structured, unstructured Ė closed and open-ended)
Surveys and questionnaires
Focus group discussions
Psychometrics (self-report questionnaires, tests)
Data derived from quantitative research is numerical in nature. Qualitative data includes any information that can be captured that is not numerical in nature. Every data collection technique and both research methods have advantages and disadvantages. Thatís why researchers often promote a mixture of qualitative and quantitative research and a mixture of different data collection techniques (this is called triangulation).
Choosing your research instruments
In order to select an appropriate method for data collection, you have to consider the following attention points from Brewerton & Millward (2001):
The method must be:
Appropriate to your research objective;
Able to produce a form of data appropriate to testing your hypothesis/hypotheses or addressing your research question(s);
Practicable given time, resource constraints and the feasibility of using it within a chosen or given context;
Agreed and accepted by your supervisor;
Used appropriately, in the context of its original formulation and development;
One you feel comfortable with.
Using existing measuring instruments or developing measuring instruments?
Once you have chosen a type of measuring instrument you can wonder if there already are instruments like that or not.
If you choose an existing instrument it is essential to do a quality control (reliability, validity and relevance). Donít be afraid to contact the authors with questions about supplementary information.
If you donít find any appropriate measuring instruments you will have to develop your own instruments. This is not easy, you canít just make up questions for a questionnaire! Your research question will be your starting point and your questions will have to be based on strong theoretical arguments.
Tips for developing a measuring instrument:
Make a concept measuring instrument
Test your instrument with a relevant group of respondents who are not part of your final research sample.
Remember quality conditions: reliability, validity and relevance
Task 1 on worksheet 6.2 will help you to choose your measuring instrument(s).
Analyzing your data
Each type of measuring instrument produces different types of research data. For example: Answers to open questions will need a different analyzing procedure then crosses in preset answering categories.
A careful reflection about the nature of the collected information gained from your research instruments is very important. It also means that you will need to check if you will be able to do the correct statistical analyses to test your hypotheses and answer your research questions. For example: can you calculate a mean? Can you analyze the results with an ANOVA or a regression?
It is important to know what level of measurement your data will be because this determines which statistical analysis you can carry out on them. This article from Warrad (2004) gives a clear overview of the four levels of measurement (nominal, ordinal, interval, ratio).
You should also consult some references about the levels of measurement and the analyzing techniques that are permitted on this level. This table of OíLeary (2004, p. 194) is a first resource you can use.
Task 2 on worksheet 6.2 will help you to select the right technique to analyze your data.
Finished with this section and your worksheet? Go to 'Section 6.3: Selecting your research sample'