If you choose to take on a qualitative dissertation, you will be able to learn a little about appropriate research methods and sampling techniques in the section of Lærd Dissertation. However, we have not yet launched a dedicated section to qualitative dissertations within Lærd Dissertation. If this is something that you would like us to do sooner than later, please leave .
Qualitative research designs tend to be more evolutionary in nature when compared with quantitative research designs. For example, data collected during the research process can influence the choice of research methods in subsequent phases of a qualitative research design. As a result, it is often only during the research process that potential ethical issues that may be faced in the next phase of a research project become clear. This can make it harder to: (a) understand what ethical challenges you may face; (b) plan how to overcome these ethical challenges; and (c) write an Ethics Proposal and/or Ethics Consent Form that are considered robust; at least at the outset of the dissertation process.
Mixed methods dissertations combine qualitative and quantitative approaches to research. Whilst they are increasingly used and have gained greater legitimacy, much less has been written about their components parts. There are a number of reasons why mixed methods dissertations are used, including the feeling that a research question can be better addressed by:
This is the case whether your dissertation involves experimental or non-experimental research. In the case of non-experimental research, this can often mean that instead of having to submit an Ethics Proposal to an Ethics Committee, you may only have to convince your supervisor that you have addressed any potential ethical challenges you expect to face. This will save you time. However, if you are conducting experimental research, especially involving human subjects, there is a greater likelihood that you will need to submit an Ethics Proposal to an Ethics Committee, which can slow down the research process. Despite this, the pre-planned and procedural nature of quantitative research designs does make it easier to understand what ethical challenges you may face, which avoids potential ethical issues arising during the research process that may affect the way you can analyse and present your data.
One of the problems (or challenges) of mixed methods dissertations is that qualitative and quantitative research, as you will have seen from the two previous sections, are very different in approach. In many respects, they are opposing approaches to research. Therefore, when taking on a mixed methods dissertation, you need to think particularly carefully about the goals of your research, and whether the qualitative or quantitative components (a) are more important in philosophical, theoretical and practical terms, and (b) should be combined or kept separate.
In our Research Strategy section, we introduce these major components, which include research paradigms, research designs, research methods, sampling strategies and data analysis techniques. Whilst all of these components can have ethical implications for your dissertation, we focus on research designs, a couple of research methods, sampling strategies, and data analysis techniques to illustrate some of the factors you will need to think about when designing and conducting your dissertation, as well as writing up the Research Ethics section of your Research Strategy chapter (typically Chapter Three: Research Strategy). The impact of each of these components of research strategy on research ethics is discussed in turn:
Research ethics is not a one size fits all approach. The research strategy that you choose to guide your dissertation determines the approach that you should take towards research ethics. Even though all dissertation research at the undergraduate and master's level should adhere to the basic ethical principles of doing good (i.e., beneficence) and doing no harm (i.e., malfeasance), this does not mean that the approach you take towards research ethics will be the same as other students. Rather, the approach to research ethics that you adopt in your dissertation should be consistent with your chosen research strategy. Since your research strategy consists of a number of components, the approach you adopt should reflect each of these components.
It's been a valuable experience for me it's so different from other stuff. With other essays you can rush them if you have to ... but this is so much work, you can't rush it. It demands more. (Todd, Bannister and Clegg, 2004, p340)
….My reasons for data collection is literature based as my research question involved sensitive subjects which would have been unsuitable for primary data collection. (Level 6 students at Sheffield Hallam University)
I chose primary data because it would enable me to build skills that would be useful for postgraduate study. (Level 6 students at Sheffield Hallam University)
It will involve primary data, secondary data, quantitative and qualitative research methods, lit reviews, theory and policy studies and an exploration of alternatives. My dissertation is to be based around the experience of 'poverty', as poverty is the experience. Theories and policies are not. However, to do justice to the subject, theories and policies will be included so Iam able to demonstrate where failures in the system may exist. (Level 6 students at Sheffield Hallam University)
Each type of research design that you can use to guide your dissertation has unique ethical challenges. These types of research design include , and . The impact of each of these types of research design on research ethics is discussed in turn:
There are also a wide range of potential legal protections that may affect what research you can and cannot perform, how you must treated the data of research participants, and so forth. In other words, you don?t simply have a duty to protect the data you collect from participants; you may also have (in some cases) a legal responsibility to do so. Since this varies from country-to-country, you should ask your dissertation supervisor or Ethics Committee for advice (or a legal professional).
Spend some time looking at general books about research - they will give you an overview of the data collection methods available and help you to make the best choice for your project. Bryman (2004) would be a useful starting point.
For any piece of research you conduct, be it empirically based (quantitative or qualitative) or library based, its methods must be justified. You need to show in the final dissertation how you have given consideration to different methods, and why you have chosen and eliminated these.