Designing Quantitative Research

In the context of research design, two types of validity, which speak to the quality of different features of the research process, are considered: internal validity and external validity. Assuming that the findings of a research study are internally valid—i.e., the researcher has used controls to determine that the outcome is indeed due to manipulation of the independent variable or the treatment—external validity refers to the extent to which the findings can be generalized from the sample to the population or to other settings and groups. Reliability refers to the replicability of the findings.For this Discussion, you will consider threats to internal and external validity in quantitative research and the strategies used to mitigate these threats. You will also consider the ethical implications of designing quantitative research.With these thoughts in mind:Post an explanation of a threat to internal validity and a threat to external validity in quantitative research. Next, explain a strategy to mitigate each of these threats. Then, identify a potential ethical issue in quantitative research and explain how it might influence design decisions. Finally, explain what it means for a research topic to be amenable to scientific study using a quantitative approach.4-5 Paragraphs. APA Format. In-text citations and additional resources to support writing. Babbie, E. (2017) Basics of social research (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.Chapter 3 Burkholder, G. J., Cox, K. A., & Crawford, L. M. (2016). The scholar-practitioner’s guide to research design. Baltimore, MD: Laureate Publishing.Chapter 7


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Litmus Test for a Doctoral-Level Research Problem
Background on these “litmus test” questions
• The distinguishing characteristic of doctoral-level research (as opposed to masters level) is that it must
make an original contribution to the field. However, students may struggle to identify what will
authentically contribute to their field or discipline.
• The most critical step in making such a contribution is to first identify a research problem with the 4
doctoral hallmarks below. Identifying a doctoral-level research problem is “necessary, but not
sufficient,” to produce doctoral-level capstone.
In Walden’s scholar-practitioner model, a research problem shows
promise of contributing meaningfully to the field ONLY if the answer
to ALL of the following questions is “yes.”
Is there evidence that this problem is significant to the professional field?
There must be relevant statistics (expressing an unjust inequality,
financial impact, lost efficiency, etc.), documentable discrepancies (e.g.,
two models that are difficult to reconcile), and/or other scholarly facts
that point to the significance and urgency of the problem. The problem
must be an authentic “puzzle” that needs solving, not merely a topic that
the researcher finds interesting.
Can the problem be framed in a way that will enable the researcher to
either build upon or counter the previously published findings on the topic?
For most fields, this involves articulating the problem within the context
of a theoretical or conceptual framework. Although there are multiple
ways to ground a study in the scientific literature, the essential
requirement is that the problem is framed in such a way that the new
findings will have implications for the previous findings.
For research doctorates (Ph.D.):
Does the problem reflect a meaningful gap in the research literature?
For the professional doctorates (Ed.D. and D.B.A.):
Does the problem describe a meaningful gap in practice?
Can a scholarly, systematic method of inquiry be applied to address the
The framing of the problem should not reveal bias or present a foregone
conclusion. Even if the researcher has a strong opinion on the expected
findings, scholarly objectivity must be maximized by framing the problem
in the context of a systematic inquiry that permits multiple possible
This worksheet is designed to help a student researcher anticipate and manage possible ethical concerns
that are relevant to planning and executing a study. After proposal approval, the IRB (Institutional Review
Board) will evaluate your study based on the 40 ethical standards below.
INSTRUCTIONS: To ensure a smooth ethics review, build your proposal and your research design so that
the answer to each question below is “yes.” You should be as objective and self-critical as possible during
this self-evaluation in order to spot and resolve any potential ethical challenges in advance. While you may
not complete the IRB application until your proposal has been approved, the IRB recommends that you
make notes on each ethical standard below while planning your study (since the IRB application will ask
these same 40 questions).
Researchers proposing to complete research in the following specialized areas should first review the
relevant research ethics FAQs on the IRB website:
Clinical or Intervention Research
Educational Research
International Research
Research in One’s Own Workplace
Research about Bullying or Other Potential Issues Related to Safety
If you don’t know how to address one of the ethical standards below, just email for
Hover the mouse over the blue footnoted words to view tips
and definitions.
The first 13 questions apply to all studies (even when the researcher is not interacting with participants to
collect new data).
Answer each question below with yes, no, or N/A.
If you cannot easily answer “yes” or “N/A” to
each of the ethical standards below, then you
probably need to build extra protections into your
research procedures.
1. Has each data collection step been articulated in the
method section of the proposal?
2. Will the research procedures ensure privacyb during data
3. Will data be stored securelyc?
4. Will the data be stored for at least 5 years?
5. If participants’ names or contact info will be recorded in
the research records, are they absolutely necessaryd?
6. Do the research procedures and analysis/writeup plans
include all possible measures to ensure that participant
identities are not directly or indirectlye disclosed?
7. Have confidentiality agreementsf been signed by anyoneg
who may view data that that contains identifiers? (e.g.,
transcriber, translator)
8. Has the researcher articulated a specific planh for sharing
results with the participants and community stakeholders?
9. Have all potential psychologicali, relationshipj, legalk,
economic/professionall, physicalm, and other risks been fully
acknowledgedn and described?
10. Have the above risks been minimized as much as
possible? Are measures in place to provide participants with
reasonable protection from loss of privacy, distress,
psychological harm, economic loss, damage to professional
reputation, and physical harm?
11. Has the researcher proactively managed any potential
conflicts of interesto?
12. Are the research risks and burdensp reasonable, in
consideration of the new knowledgeq that this research
design can offer?
13. Is the research site willingr to provide a Letter of
Cooperation and/or Data Use Agreement granting
permissions for all relevant datat access, access to
participants, facility use, and/or use of personnel time for
research purposes? IRB staff will advise which type of site
agreement is needed. Site agreement templates are posted
here. State whether you will be obtaining written site
approval before or after Walden IRB approval.
The remaining questions only apply to studies that involve recruiting participants to collect new data.
14. Is participant recruitment coordinated in a manner that is
non-coerciveu? Coercive elements include: recruiting in a
groupv setting, extravagant compensation, recruiting
individuals in a context of their treatment or evaluationw,
etc. A researcher must disclose here whether/how the
researcher may already be known to the participants and
explain how perceptions of coerced research participation
will be minimizedx.
15. If vulnerabley individuals will be specifically sought out
as participants, is such targeted recruitment justifiedz by a
research design that will specifically benefit that vulnerable
group at large?
16. If vulnerableaa adults might happen to be included
(without the researcher’s knowledge), would their inclusion
be justifiedbb?
17. If anyone would be excluded from participating, is their
exclusion justified? Is their exclusion handled respectfully
and without stigmacc?
18. If the research procedures might reveal criminal activity
or child/elder abuse that necessitatesdd reporting, are there
suitable procedures in place for managing this?
19. If the research procedures might reveal or create an
acute psychological state that necessitates referral, are there
suitable procedures in place to manage this?
20. Does the research design ensure that all participants can
potentially benefit equallyee from the research?
21. Applicable for student researchers: Will this researcher
be appropriately qualifiedff and supervisedgg in all data
collection procedures?
22. If an existing survey or other data collection tool will be
used, has the researcher appropriately complied with the
requirementshh for legal usage?
Questions 23-40 pertain to the process of ensuring that potential participants make an informed decision
about the study, in accordance with the ethical principle of “respect for persons.”
23. Do the informed consentii procedures provide adequate
time to review the study information and ask questions
before giving consent?
24. Will informed consent be appropriatelyjj documented?
25. Is the consent form written using language that will be
understandablekk to the potential participants?
26. Does the consent form explain the sample’s inclusion
criteria in such a way that the participants can understand
how/why THEY are being asked to participate?
27. Does the consent form include an understandable
explanation of the research purpose?
28. Does the consent form include an understandable
description of the data collection procedures?
29. Does the consent form include an estimate of the time
commitmentll for participation?
30. Does the consent form clearly state that participation is
31. Does the consent form convey that the participant has
the right to decline or discontinue participation at any time?
When the researcher is already known to the participant, the
consent form must include written assurance that declining
or discontinuing will not negatively impact the participant’s
relationship with the researcher or (if applicable) the
participant’s access to services.
32. Does the consent form include a description of
reasonably foreseeable risksmm or discomforts?
33. Does the consent form include a description of
anticipated benefits to participantsnn and/or others?
34. Does the consent form describe any thank you gift(s),
compensation, or reimbursement (for travel costs, etc.) or
lack thereof?
35. Does the consent form describe how privacy will be
36. Does the consent form disclose all potential conflicts of
37. Does the consent document preserve the participant’s
legalpp rights?
38. Does the consent form explain how the participant can
contact the researcher and the university’s Research
Participant Advocate? (USA number 001-612-312-1210 or
email address
39. Does the consent form include a statement that the
participant should keep/print a copy of the consent form?
40. If any aspect of the study is experimental (unproven), is
that stated in the consent form?
In order to weigh potential risks against benefits, the researcher first needs to plan and clearly articulate all of the following that
how existing data or contact information of potential participants will be obtained,
format and context of the initial contact with potential participants,
informed consent procedures,
assignment to groups (if applicable),
description of any pilot activities,
data collection steps,
transcript review and/or membercheck (if applicable), and
how results will be shared with stakeholders.
Privacy risks might include unintended breach of confidential information (such as educational or medical records); being
observed/overheard by others while meeting researcher or providing data; or intrusion on the privacy of others who not involved in
study (e.g. participant’s family).
Secure data storage requires password protection on electronic files and locks for physical data.
Note that consent forms do not require signatures if the participant can indicate consent by some action such as clicking on a link,
returning a completed survey, etc.
Participant identities might be “indirectly” and unintentionally disclosed if a researcher’s final research report fails to withold
demographic details or site descriptions that might permit a reader to deduce the identity of a participant. So the researcher needs to
think about which demographic descriptors are most important to collect and report, while ensuring that the identity of individual
participants is protected. Also, the name of the site/organization is typically masked in scholarly research such as the dissertation
though in some cases, the organization can elect to publicize their name along with the research results.
A sample confidentiality agreement can be found on the IRB website.
Confidentiality agreements are required for transcribers or interpreters but not for the researcher or Walden faculty/staff who are
automatically bound to confidentiality. Some professional transcribers/statisticians/etc address confidentiality in their work agreement
and this is acceptable.
It is important that the format is audience-appropriate. Stakeholders may lack the time or inclination to digest a full research article
or dissertation. Typically a 1 to 2 page summary or verbal presentation is most appropriate.
Psychological risks include stress greater than what one would experience in daily life (e.g., materials or topics that could be
considered sensitive, offensive, threatening, degrading).
Relationship risks are present if the recruitment or data collection process are likely to alter the existing dynamics between the
researcher and participant (who may be coworkers or have some professional relationship), among participants (if they know one
another), or between the participant and the participant’s friends, coworkers, or family members.
Legal risks are present if data collection might result in a participant’s disclosure of violation of laws.
Economic/professional risks are present if data collection could result in the participant disclosing violation of workplace policies,
disagreement with leadership decisions, poor work performance, or anything else that could be damaging to the participant’s position,
professional reputation, promotability, or employability.
Physical risks are not common in social science research but would involve risk of serious physical injury.
Minimal risks are acceptable but must be identified upfront. Minimal risk is defined as when: “the probability and magnitude of
harm or discomfort anticipated in the research are not greater in and of themselves than those ordinarily encountered in daily life.”
A conflict of interest is caused when the researcher has some sort of dual role in the research context, such as being a teacher,
therapist, investor, business-owner, manager, etc. Conflict of interest must be managed to ensure that the research reveals “truth,” not
just the outcome that the researcher might desire to see due to their other role. The simplest way to ensure this impartiality is to
conduct research OUTSIDE of one’s own context but other methods are possible (e.g., using anonymous data collection to encourage
honest responses).
All research activities place some degree of burden on the participants by asking the participants to share personal information,
volunteer time, and assume risks.
Examples of “new knowledge” include: effectively addressing a gap in the literature, generating new theory, enhancing
understanding of a phenomenon, assessing effectiveness of a particular professional practice, addressing a local practical problem via
data analysis.
If a site requires the researcher to obtain Walden’s IRB approval before they can provide their written approval, that’s fine. (Walden can issue a “conditional IRB
approval” letter to the researcher and then Walden’s IRB approval will then be finalized once the Walden IRB receives the community partner’s letter of cooperation.)
No Letter of Cooperation is required (a) if the researcher will simply be asking organizations to distribute research invitations on the researcher’s behalf, or (b) if the
researcher is using only public means to identify/contact participants.
Note that when medical, educational, or business records would be analyzed or used to identify potential research participants, the site needs to explicitly approve
access to data for research purposes (even if the researcher normally has access to that data to perform their job).
For example, anonymous surveys and/or low-pressure communications such as email invitations permit potential participants to opt
out with minimal fear of retaliation or other negative consequences.
It is not ethically acceptable to invite a “captive audience” to participate in research on the spot (i.e., to ask an entire class or a group
of meeting attendees to complete a survey during their session). Such a dynamic would not provide sufficient privacy or respect for
their right to decline research participation. However, a researcher may use the last few minutes of a class session or meeting to
introduce a study and distribute materials, such that the potential participants can then take their time to decide later about
Generally, data collection cannot be approved during work hours or school hours unless a “free period” has been identified (e.g.,
lunch, study hall) so the research activities can be separated from the participants’ regular activities. It is important to maintain an “opt
in” dynamic rather than implying that employees/students/group members are expected to participate.
Doctoral research directly benefits the student (allowing him or her to obtain a degree), and so the researcher should minimize the
potential for either (a) conflict of interest or (b) perceived coercion to participate. Researchers who are in positions of authority or
familiarity must take extra precautions to ensure that potential participants are not pressured to take part in their study.
-a professor researcher may recruit her students AFTER grades have been assigned
-a psychologist researcher may recruit clients from ANOTHER psychologist’s practice
-a manager researcher may conduct ANONYMOUS data collection so that subordinates do not perceive their responses or
[non]participation as being associated with their job standing
Vulnerable participants include students, patients, the researcher’s subordinates, children, prisoners, residents of any facility,
mentally/emotionally disabled individuals, crisis victims, or anyone else who might feel undue pressure to participate in the study or
be in any way limited in protecting their own best interests. Pregnant women (and their unborn children) are only considered a
vulnerable population when a study involves physically risky data collection.
Targetted recruitment of children as participants can only be approved when a majority of the IRB votes that the study’s benefits
justify its risks/costs (such as disruption to instructional time). For recruitment of adult vulnerable populations, IRB staff will
determine on a case-by-case basis whether approval to must be issued via the full board’s vote (as opposed to expedited ethics
It is ethically acceptable to unknowingly include certain vulnerable adult populations if screening for that particular status would be
overly invasive, given the research topic: for example, a researcher might unknowingly have participants who happen to be pregnant,
residents of a facility, mentally/emotionally disabled, victims of a crisis, or elderly. We don’t expect researchers to screen for these
statuses routinely for minimal risk research. However, minors may never be unknowingly recruited; adult recruitment procedures must
deliberately avoid recruiting minors and/or include a reliable way of discerning that participants are 18 or older.
Usually, studies possibly involving unknowing inclusion of vulnerable adults are still eligible for expedited ethics review.
When applicable, the exclusion criteria should be listed on the recruitment material (flyer, invitation email,etc.) or consent form to
prevent situations in which the researcher rejects volunteers in a stigmatizing manner.
Any limits to confidentiality (i.e., duty to report) must be mentioned in the consent form.
Control groups must be eligible to partake in the intervention after the study, if results show the intervention to be beneficial. If the
design does not involve a control group, then the researcher only needs to ensure that all participants have equal access to the study
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